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🍅 Pomodoro? Wait, isn’t that a tomato?

I learned about the Pomodoro Technique the summer between my master’s and Ph.D. I was attempting to complete my final thesis section and I remember feeling exhausted and burnt out. I was constantly worrying if and how I was ever going to finish my writing. When my new department at Queens offered an online Summer Bootcamp, I decided to join in. Why not? It turned out to be the final push I needed to complete my thesis. Dr.Tamara de Szegheo Lang and Dr. Dan Vena lead the writing bootcamp and helped me develop an effective working strategy known as the Pomodoro Technique. 

Pomodoro? Wait, isn’t that a tomato? 

Yes! Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. 🍅

The Pomodoro Technique was developed by a university student Francesco Cirillo. He shared his story, “I was a student at the university in 1987 and I had to take the sociology exam in September. I couldn’t keep my mind focused on my book. I was constantly getting distracted. I made a humble bet with myself: ‘Can you stay focused for two minutes without distraction?’ I went to the kitchen, grabbed a timer and came back to my table. The timer was red and shaped like a Pomodoro (tomato in English). I wound it up to two minutes and started reading my book. When the timer rang I had won my bet against Time. Surprised, I began to ask myself why it had worked? I gradually increased the amount of time when I set the timer. I got to one hour, but that was too much. I didn’t take too long to realize that, for a number of factors, the ideal unit of work was 25 minutes followed by a 2-5 minute break”. He continued “For the first time I used time instead of running away from Time. I decided to use Time, spend it to take a break, favour my mental processes, allow my mind to organize the information it had acquired in the working time and put me in the best situation to start my next Pomodoro.”

A Pomodoro or Pom is very basic, and you don’t have to love tomatoes. 

  1. Choose a goal to work on. 
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes to focus on your goal. 
  • Acknowledge your work: 
  • Take a five-minute break. 
  • Repeat steps 1 – 4. After 4 repetitions, take a longer break. 
  1. Goals: 

Set yourself up for success. Remember to divide larger goals into smaller goals. Your goal for each Pom should be realistic to achieve in 25 mins. 

  • A) Timers:

Find the timer that works for you. This may be a physical timer, a visual timer or an app. 

  • In Crillio’s style, try a tomato shaped kitchen timer. 
  • Try the free desktop or mobile pom timer: https://pomofocus.io/
  • While working with Pom Partners, try a visual timer such as https://clock.clearleft.com/
  • I use the free mindfulness app Still Mind because I like the chime sounds, the interval settings and the quote after each set. 
  • Focus:

Commit to focusing on your goal for the entire 25 minutes. You can do it! 

  • If your mind wanders, have a post-it-note beside you and write down the unrelated and important thought or task you were thinking about to come back to later. 
  • Re-set your timer if you start checking your email, phone or working on another task. If you have Pom Partners, the entire group also has to restart! 
  • Adjust the time increments to meet your needs. 
  • Acknowledge your work: 

When you have completed a Pom or Pomodoro even if you haven’t completed your goal, give yourself and your Pom Partners a sticker or draw a happy face. Get your Pom Poms out! You focused and made progress! 

  • Breaks:
    To make the most out of your break, I recommend four things:
  • First, take your break! 
  • Second, take a screen break. Try not to jump right onto your phone or email. Remember to look into the distance away from your screen and rest your eyes. 
  • Third, move your body. Stretch, shake out your hands, roll your shoulders back. Take a short walk. If you are able, get some fresh air. 
  • Forth, reward your hard work with a nourishing drink and snack. My go to is an apple and peanut butter or cheese and crackers and a cup of Earl Grey tea. I find it helpful to have these prepared in advance so you can take a real break. 
  • Repeat

Take a longer break after your complete 4 repetitions. 

As you practice the Pomodoro Technique, I hope you can see your focus, productivity, and sticker collection increase. 

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