Have you ever needed a little extra boost of motivation to get some work done?

For instance, I could not convince myself to write this short article. "Only a minimum of 300 words," I tell myself. But, I keep checking my email. Training my dog. Cleaning dishes. Anything to avoid having to sit down and focus for 30 minutes. So, I grab my trusty pomodoro (Italian for "tomato") timer. Yep, I even have one shaped like a tomato for extra fun!

My tomato Pomodoro timer

There are different variations of the Pomodoro technique, but this is the method I use:

  1. Decide on a task to do.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes. More or less depending on you or the task.
  3. Concentrate on that one task for the entire time. Shut down your email. Silence your phone. Put on headphones and play your favorite concentration music. The goal is to minimize the disturbances so that you can get into flow.
  4. Once the timer is complete, stop doing the task. Seriously, pencils down!
  5. Take a short 5 minute break. Get up, walk around, let your mind diffuse the short burst of deep work you just did. Check email if you must, but if you have more time left for the task, I find it's best to keep in the same frame of mind.
  6. Repeat!

The original Pomodoro technique method suggests taking a long break (15-30 minutes) after a series of 4 short breaks (3-5 minutes).

Along with the traditional mechanical timer, there are web and software options available. However, I find the sound of the mechanical ticking adds to my level of concentration and flow. I admit that sometimes I jump when the timer rings.


Huh, look at that. I just finished writing the draft of this article.