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The Tomato on My Desk Is Ticking

One tomato, two tomatoes, three tomatoes, four...

Charlie Martin


August 7, 2013 - 10:00 am
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Of course, I’ve got three columns a week, so those take up a fair part of this. I find a column usually takes me about two pomodori to write. Then I’m working on a book and have some assigned articles to write, so there’s always plenty to do, and sometimes, especially on weekends, I’ll find myself doing more tomatoes, or coming back after lunch to do another two or four tomatoes on some project.

If I get distracted for a short time, I treat it like a stray thought while meditating: I observe that it happened, and remind myself I’m not doing that thing right now. I may write a quick note to remind myself of the thought later, which helps me keep the intruding thought at bay.

This works well at my day job too, although I don’t use a mechanical clock there because I have an open cubicle and the ringing causes people to leap from their seats three cubes over. Instead, I’ll use a timer on my iPod or Kindle that I can hear through headphones.

(Okay 13 seconds left. I’m going to go take a spin.)

The full-blown Pomodoro technique adds some parts to this. First, you track how many Pomodoros you’re done in a day — for example, I’ve concluded that I want to write for three tomatoes (“pomodori”) every morning, and add two tomatoes on weekend mornings. One of those pomodori always goes to Morning Pages, which is a ritual I’ll describe another time. (It comes from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which I recommend to anyone who feels as if their creativity is blocked.) For the others, I take something from my list of things I want to write and attack them.

Cirillo recommends some other things, for example keeping a piece of paper at hand so that every time you’re distracted, you can check off that you’re distracted and why. This I generally don’t bother with, because once I’ve gotten started on something it’s hard to distract me — it’s that slow “OMG what should I write” part at the beginning that’s hard. With those things, if I’m distracted, I may well go do whatever is on my mind, and come back. Then I reset the timer for the full 25 minutes.

That’s really (almost) all of it. I’d recommend if you’re interested either reading the original Pomodoro book, which you can buy from Amazon or download for free from the author’s web site, or buy this book, which I just found a few days ago. Amazon has a million kitchen timers. I have probably 6 real live tomato timers scattered about the house in places where I Do Things, but any kitchen timer will do.

(Two tomatoes exactly. I think I’ll go to Wal Mart now.)

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Charlie Martin writes on science, health, culture and technology for PJ Media. Follow his 13 week diet and exercise experiment on Facebook and at PJ Lifestyle

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All Comments   (3)
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I've got a pomodoro timer on my iphone. I used to use it prior to Siri. Now I tell Siri to set a timer for "X" amount of time. I don't need the distraction of the extra ticking.

If I am having a really distracted type of day, I can look at a clock (have them in every room) as I set the timer and note when my time will end. Then, if I need to, I can check the clock to see how close I am to time.

Taking the time to mark each distraction??? No, I don't see that as productive at all. First, I am already distracted. Now I take more time and get even more distracted to make a note of it? Doesn't work for me. But to each their own.

It's a fun technique. I should use it more often.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I use the Pomodoros App on my iPhone as well and love it. This technique has been the best thing that's happened to my writing since Scrivener.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah. That's why I just treat them like distracted moments in meditation. Maybe I should write about meditation in Buddhism this week and make it a trifecta.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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