How a tomato made me more productive

People with desk jobs: be honest. How much time do you sacrifice every day to the temptations of Facebook, Twitter, online shopping, Buzzfeed lists, etc.?

Or, how much time do you spend “doing email” and resorting to other low-priority items when you have a big deadline looming?

Finally, if you lock yourself in your office for four hours with the intent to really “get some work done” because you’re swimming in it, do you really get four hours’ worth of value from that time?

I bet every single one of these scenarios has your head ruefully shaking. And guess what? It’s even worse for those of us who work from home at times. (*waves hand*) There’s always the temptation to run a load of laundry, pick up a cluttered room, or load the dishwasher instead of writing that speech, that ad, that tagline.

I knew that in order to keep doing what I love, I had to come up with a productivity trick. What I stumbled across was “Pomodoro,” which isn’t a style of red pasta sauce, but is a technique (popularized by Francesco Cirillo) for cranking out work in a counterintuitive way. Want to shop online? Check Facebook? Pay bills? Go ahead! Just mind the timer.

The way Pomodoro works is that you set a timer for a certain length of time (for me it’s 30 minutes) and focus just for that period on the project at hand. You ignore Facebook, non-project email, anything that isn’t The Thing You Need To Do. Then when the timer dings, you set it again (for me that’s 15 minutes) and give yourself permission to scratch all those itches. “Like” that status. Retweet that joke. Etc. Then when the timer dings again, you get back to work.

Despite taking frequent breaks, what I’ve found is that I’m FAR more productive (and far LESS guilt-ridden!) with a block of time when working this way. Plus, if a project is engaging, I’ll just re-set the time for another 30 minutes and keep working.

I haven’t gone deep into it (i.e. I won’t be getting my Certified Pomodoro Master badge any time soon) but it’s a trick that works for me. What productivity tricks do you use?

On Monday, I’ll talk about another trick I’ve recently discovered, this one a bit more technological…

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