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By Amrita Mandal, PhD

Tomato timerGetting things done on time is the goal for many of us. Nothing gives as much joy as ticking off items on the “To Do” list at the end of a work day. But let’s accept that it’s hard to complete tasks in an unprecedented time like now, when many of us are learning to work from home while caring for family members, or in isolation without the relief of social interactions common in a work place. If this sounds familiar to you, perhaps the Pomodoro technique could come in handy.

The Pomodoro technique is a simple yet effective tool for focused work with planned breaks in between. Francesco Cirillo coined the term “pomodoro,” which translates to tomato, in the late 1980s after the tomato-shaped timer he used as a university student. So, how does it work? Let’s break down a pomodoro interval step by step:

  1. Choose your assignment/work to do
  2. Set the timer to 25 minutes
  3. Work until the timer rings
  4. Take a five-minute break
  5. Take longer breaks (15 to 30 minutes) for every four pomodoro intervals

It helps to plan how many pomodoro intervals you need in a day to finish your tasks. Complete the required number of intervals and, voila, you have accomplished your work within a preplanned timeframe. Use your break time to take a short walk, check on a family member, call a friend, stretch, meditate, deep breathe, doodle, refill your water bottle or do anything that makes you happy.

Now, in actual practice, the 25-minute work/5-minute break may not work for you. In that case, find a time frame that does work. The idea is to break bigger tasks into smaller ones with uninterrupted focused work, followed by breaks to relax your mind. Regular breaks are important to do efficient work. After you finish each pomodoro, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. You will also gain a blueprint of your productivity.

To set the time, a kitchen timer is recommended to avoid digital distractions, but there are plenty of apps available. Once you find your timer of choice, focused work with planned breaks might help limit distractions and check off a few more items on that “To Do” list.