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Manage Procrastination With the Pomodoro Technique

Something really boring that's gotta get done? Do it (but just for 25 minutes!)

This simple technique developed by productivity consultant Francesco Cirillo makes use of an adorable timer shaped like a tomato ("pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato)—it even has little green leaves at the top. ADHD coaches use the Pomorodo Technique to support clients who simply must plow through some piece of work which is boring or hard or both.

For you, that boring task might be documentation or billing. For someone else, it might be tax preparation or thank-you notes following a wedding. If there is something that really must be done, and you can’t outsource it, and you can’t bribe your brother or your spouse to do it, the Pomodoro Technique is a great way to commit 25 minutes of your time to that boring task—and to allow nothing else to come between you and that task. You wind up the Pomodoro timer and it tick, tick, ticks for 25 minutes, then the buzzer indicates it is permissible to get up and take a break.

When you use the Pomodoro Technique, you are committing to yourself to a 25 minute burst of work on this difficult or boring task and allowing no interference. Oh, and there will be interference, especially if the job at hand is super hard or dull. Great idea for a screenplay? Jot a quick note and come back to the boring task. Remember an email that needs to be sent out today? Great, make a note and then get back to the boring task. When you complete the Pomodoro, you are free to take a break or write a screenplay or send out an email.

Or—you are free to wind up the Pomodoro for another round. It's a great feeling, when your head is full of 50 things that you could be doing right now, to know for certain that

I'm in exactly the right place and doing exactly the right thing right now.

I have one of these physical Pomodoro timers in my office, but actually find it much more practical to use the various Pomodoro applications available for iPhone and Android devices.

You can, of course, use the (boring) native timer on your phone for 25 minute periods, but if I’m working on something really hard, I like the big red Pomodoro application, and my brain's reward circuitry likes the clanging sound at the end of the period, kind of boxing gym type bell.

Read more about the Pomodoro Technique here, or check out these Lifehacker posts on the technique and related apps.

More from David D. Nowell Ph.D.
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