The Tomato Cure

Almost every week several clients tell me what a hard time they have getting started on writing, how overwhelmed they feel when they face their writing time, or how easily distracted they are when trying to write.

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Often, I prescribe The Pomodoro Technique®. This simple strategy was developed by Francesco Cirillo who found that he was more productive when he used his kitchen timer to work in twenty-five minute increments which he termed “Pomodoro.” After every twenty-five minutes, he took a short break (3-5 minutes), and after every four Pomodori, he took a longer break (15-30 minutes). Cirillo’s kitchen timer was shaped like a tomato – hence the term “Pomodoro.”

The key to making this work is that the 25 minutes cannot be interrupted by any other activities. You can throw your laundry in the dryer or get a cup of tea between Pomodori, but if you break up the 25 minutes with another activity, it doesn’t count.

I often have clients reporting back to tell me how many pomodori, or how many “tomatos”

they completed each day. For many people, there’s something almost magical about how much easier it is for them to start writing or to stay focused when they know that they only have to stick with it for 25 minutes at a time. It is much easier to knock out four pomodori than to write for two hours.

For those who enjoy paraphernalia, you can log onto Cirillo’s site http://pomodorotechnique.com/get-started/ to buy a book on the method or to purchase your very own tomato timer. And there’s a small industry of apps with names like Tomighty and Pomodorable. But most people find they can use any timer they have, and get on with the writing!