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Can a Tomato improve Your Time Management?

The Tomato inspired Time Management Technique that gives results

Can a Tomato improve your time management?

Way back in the late-1970s, when I was preparing for my Matriculation Board Exams in Jakarta, my Class Teacher taught me a study technique that helped me combat the overwhelm of revising for my first major exams. It was a good technique since I topped the Board Exams. There were no tomatoes involved but it was similar to the Pomodoro Technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.

Creativity has no age limits and I understand that Cirillo first used this technique when he was a university student. His technique involved using a timer and breaking down work into intervals that were 25 minutes in length with short breaks in between. He named the intervals “pomodori” after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that he used. Pomodoro is the Italian word for Tomato.

From a learning perspective, the idea of taking frequent breaks to improve mental agility is similar to Distributed Practice Learning, the method that my teacher taught me.

In Distributed Practice Learning, the principle of work and rest is followed. Here the learner is not required to memorize the assigned material in one continuous time period but is allowed intervals of rest. Distributed practice is likely to be a superior method for performance skills like driving or typewriting. It is often though not always advantageous when verbal material is being memorized such as poetry or chemical formulas. Shorter study periods are beneficial for young students, slow learners and particularly when motivation level is low or the material is complex and difficult to understand. It also helps to maintain attention, break monotony and reduce fatigue.

How to use the Pomodoro Technique

There are 5 simple steps to implement this technique:

Step 1: Plan the tasks to be done using a “To Do List” and then prioritize them. At this stage, make a realistic estimate of the time required for each task and note them down against the task. Decide on the task to be done.

Step 2: Set your timer to ‘n’ minutes (traditionally 25 minutes). This time interval is your ‘pomodori’

Step 3: Work on the task until your timer rings. Record your progress with an X , tick mark or even use a highlighter if colours motivate you.

Step 4: Take a short break of 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 5: Go back and repeat Steps 1 to 4.

When you have completed 4 “pomodori”, take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

The beauty of this technique is that every time you complete a “pomodori” and record it, you experience a sense of satisfaction that you have achieved something. It enables you to get information on where you can improve your time management and how realistic you are about task times.

So what happens if you are interrupted in the middle of a pomodoro? Well, the bad news is that a pomodoro is not divisible. In other words, you cannot do a task for 5 minutes and then come back to resume it. If you are interrupted during the task, then either you have to record that activity or abandon the pomodoro and move on.

In time, you will see how interruptions impact your time management and if necessary will learn how to keep distracters at bay.

Even though downloadable “Pomodoro Technique” software is available on the internet, I personally prefer the traditional method of using a timer, a paper and a pencil or pen. I actually maintain a beautiful folder where all my To Do List tasks are recorded on a daily basis.  Somehow, just writing down the tasks and time required gets me motivated. The sound of the timer and the tick mark on my sheet makes me eager to get onto the next pomodoro.


What about you? Have you tried this technique? Why not share your thoughts with me in the comments box below?

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Written By: Vatsala Shukla

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4 Responses to “Can a Tomato improve Your Time Management?”

  1. Debra Jason says:

    I never heard of this method, but my mentor used to set a timer for 33 minutes. He’d write away and then stop.
    It is important to take breaks – and I need to do it more often.
    Thanks for the reminder.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Hi Debra. Taking breaks, especially during learning or creative activities enables the mind to assimilate the learning. I remember my teacher told me to study for 30 minutes and then take a 10 minute break which was usually spent playing with my then dachshund Jinny and returning to my studies. I often forget to take breaks when I am completely focused and find a good old timer works well!

  2. Raspal Seni says:

    Hi Vatsala, even though I don't use Pomodoro now, I do take breaks. Taking breaks in themselves is helpful too. IMO, there is this simplest thing we can do during those breaks in addition to relaxing or listening to music, or talking a walk, chatting with family etc.Ask yourself, what I accomplished in the previous break? Was I productive? What else can I do? I found that if I don't ask these questions, and if I say start answering e-mails or check newsletters etc, I end up wasting a lot of time and not realize it till I get out of the chair. Your putting check-marks on the paper also works, similarly.I didn't know Pomodoro is Italian for Tomoto. I love Pomodoros and eat them daily. Even make sauce from them, myself. :-)In writing as well as programming too breaks help a lot. If I leave my draft and come to it after a few hours to a day, I'm able to make it better.Same way, if I'm unable to do something on a piece of code and come back to it later, I'm able to do what I want. I'm sure breaks help in every other aspect of life too.I too am a paper and pen guy. These digital devices take away our time, themselves. I haven't gone back to using the apps on my phone since last December.Thanks for writing. Was an interesting read as I thought. Where are the other posts in this series?

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Glad you enjoyed learning more about the Pomodoro Technique, Raspal. Just go through the Time Management category of the blog and you will find an entire collection there. Thanks for your feedback!

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My mission is to help career professionals with drive and passion who who suddenly find themselves in a mid-career crisis or have lost sight of their original life aspiration to reclaim control of their careers and lives by reconnecting them to what they really want through a better understanding and more effective application of their unique strengths, abilities, passions and values. I guide my clients back to living a full life unapologetically using their new inspired and empowered perspective

I live my  life on my terms according to my Unapologetic Manifesto and encourage my clients to live by their personal Manifesto. But it wasn't always like that. 

I, like you am a corporate professional of over 25 years work experience who has struggled and won the battles of stress management, life balance and career nurturing to emerge in a place where I can confidently say that I live my desired.

When my clients first come to me, they are not in a very happy place and need clarity about themselves and their career. Many have life balance problems and I intuitively help to identify their real issues with exercises to still their mind and allow their inner feelings to emerge in a place of confidentiality and trust. I support their decisions to live their lives rather than one that is expected of them.

If you are an ambitious professional who strives to be at the top of your chosen profession but know that somewhere along the way, you have lost sight of what really makes your heart sing or suddenly find yourself overwhelmed and questioning yourself about your choices, then my journey to becoming the Karmic Ally Coach will sound familiar.  

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Email: Vatsala(at)karmicallycoaching(dot)com Phone:91 9818517664
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