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Pomodoro? Isn’t That a Pasta Sauce??

Boss Lady Mom Tip #3

CHUNK UP YOUR TIME – I worked with a wise business coach a couple years back; she herself ran a dance studio in California and was also a mother, so I trusted her experience in helping me figure out how to be a smart Boss Lady, as I was preparing to add “Mom” to my title. She introduced me to the Pomodoro Method, and it’s a tool I still use daily when tackling tasks.

From Wikipedia:

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are named pomodoros, the plural in English of the Italian word pomodoro (tomato), after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student.

There are six steps in the original technique:

  1. Decide on the task to be done.

  2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).

  3. Work on the task.

  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.

  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.

  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase tasks are prioritized by recording them in a "To Do Today" list. This enables users to estimate the effort tasks require. As pomodoros are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement.

For the purposes of the technique, a pomodoro is the interval of time spent working. After task completion, any time remaining in the Pomodoro is devoted to overlearning. Regular breaks are taken, aiding assimilation. A short (3–5 minutes) rest separates consecutive pomodoros. Four pomodoros form a set. A longer (15–30 minute) rest is taken between sets.

A goal of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow. A pomodoro is indivisible; when interrupted during a pomodoro, either the other activity must be recorded and postponed (inform – negotiate – schedule – call back) or the pomodoro must be abandoned.

So this technique may seem very formal to you, or you may even be complicated by how it’s described, but in a nutshell – choose a task/project/goal to work on, work on it for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break to do something else (grab a snack, check social media, stretch, walk around the room, do sit-ups, whatever), and then get back to working on the same task for another 25 minutes. The idea is that the 5-minute break helps to reset your mind, so that you can re-focus your energy on the task at hand and stay productive until the task is complete.

In the Wiki description, they describe 4 rounds as a set, which is roughly about 2 hours. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have 2 fully uninterrupted hours each day (sometimes I get lucky during my daughter’s nap time), so I utilize this technique with 3 rounds. This carves out 90 solid minutes for me to work toward my daily goals. If I don’t complete my goal within the Pomodoro Set, then I’ll add a 4th round until I’m forced to stop from interruption, or I’ll carve out time later in the day to do another set.

Again, this may sound like an overwhelming process to you, but I challenge you to try it! Once you get used to the flow, it is really very effective. The 5-minute breaks allow me to have “scheduled self-care.” I can do a yoga stretch, put on some makeup, make a cup of coffee, or do sit-ups (if I’m feeling particularly motivated), and because it’s just 5 minutes, it doesn’t feel like it’s taking away from my precious time for productivity. It helps me stay balanced and free of distractions while I’m working.

I’m actually using this technique to write my blog post today! I allotted 25 minutes to write the post, I made a cup of tea during my 1st 5-minute break, I used the 2nd 25 minutes to edit the post, choose a picture to post with it, and upload it to my blog, tidied up my daughter’s toys in our living room during the 2nd 5-minute break, and since my task was complete after just 2 Pomodoro Rounds, I used the final round to start working on my next daily goal, which was to balance my accounting records – a task that I knew I would likely be able to complete within just 25 minutes. After the Pomodoro Set, I took a long break to prepare lunch and feed my daughter, and I know I’ll be able to fit in another Pomodoro Round or 2 after she goes to be tonight!

Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Method? Try it, and let me know if you find it helpful! Comment below.

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