Pomodoro: Italian Tomatoes, Focus, and a Time Management technique for getting things done

 As coaches we have several tasks that can pile up, some more irksome than others. One of the biggest keys to successfully clearing off the desk or getting through that “to do” list is focus. From answering a myriad of recruiting emails to travel planning; from developing game strategies to practice planning; from meeting with players to fund-raising, the list could go on and on. Some tasks are easy and quickly accomplished. Others are a bit more unpleasant and we can easily be distracted while trying to accomplish them. These are the tasks which remain on our to do list over a period of time and where use of the Pomodoro technique can be particularly useful.

At its core the technique involves a few very simple steps.

1.     Decide on the task to be tackled

2.     Set a timer to 25 minutes

3.     Work with intense focus for 25 minutes

4.     Take a short 5 minute break

5.     Return to the task at hand or start a new Pomodoro

6.     Every four Pomodori take a longer 15-30 minute break

The word Pomodoro stems from the Italian word for tomato.  The creator used a simple kitchen timer in the shape of, you guessed it a tomato.  The root of the technique is to reduce the impact of interruptions of our focus and flow of work. How many times have you sat down to begin a task only to be interrupted by an incoming phone call, email or text?  That interruption can rob you of productivity and get you off track only to have to work to get back on task.

As you work through a problem or task, your ability to focus intently will vary but is certainly not unlimited.  To maximize our time we need to recognize and accept that I cannot sit down and study Organic Chemistry for 3 hours straight and expect to the have the results I want. Also the harder I try to extend this period the more prone I become to losing focus and having my productivity wane. 

 While there exist many online tools and websites to help you along the path the easiest way to start is with a simple timer either online, a phone app, or even a kitchen timer and a piece of paper and a pencil.  Begin with your “to do” list and start chugging away a task for 25 minutes. You may be amazed at not only what you are able to get done but the rate at which you are able to check off those tasks that in the past would often seem to linger.

After some time and familiarity with the basics you may want to expand the technique.  The next steps include attempting to estimate the total time or number of Pomodori it will take to complete a task or combine a few quicker tasks into one Pomodoro. You may also spend the first few or last few minutes reviewing what you have done.  You can set up a timetable to work alongside your Pomodori.  Finally you could use the technique to achieve your own personal improvement goals.