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I Married an Italian

This comes with many wonderful things - like Sunday vespa rides, a Nonna in the cupboard, Panettone every Christmas and…tomatoes. Loads and loads of tomatoes. Tomatoes are a staple in our house – next to relentless reruns of The Sopranos. One thing I learnt quickly when marrying into an Italian family – there’d be tomatoes with everything. ‘Pomodoro’, they call it. Pronounced ‘Pomo’ – meaning fruit – and “D’oro” meaning “of gold”. The Fruit of Gold. And it really is a fruit of gold in Italy. We have pomodoro with pasta, pomodoro with soup, pomodoro with bruschetta, pomodoro with espresso (just kidding, not with espresso - unless of course we run out of biscotti, then, maybe).


Why do I share this with you?


I’ve been inspired by a tomato experiment that can help writers, leaders and dreamers (especially dreamers) to manage their time effectively; it’s a solution to our writer’s block; the answer to the busy mind; a remedy for the rat race we subscribe to and a breakthrough method for big, overwhelming projects. This is a tool that can actually help us say ‘No’ to 322 distractions in a given minute and ‘Yes’ to focus time. And it starts with a tomato.


If you, like me, are a recovering multi-tasker turned self-confessed (or closet) procrastinator, this little exercise is going to 10X your time management shimmy, so you can actually write that book or meet that deadline or finish that project. And it’s fun to do too.


Cue the Italians. And bring the Pomodoros!


It’s called The Pomodoro Technique® and it’s an old experiment based on a

tomato-shaped kitchen timer.


Discovered by a smart Italian man in the 80’s, Francesco Cirillo, who had a “bad habit” of multi-tasking, this technique began as a social experiment. Francesco decided to use his kitchen Pomodoro to set 2-minute time blocks for himself, to try and complete his tasks.


He called these time blocks ‘Pomodoros’. They lasted only two minutes at a time, with a 5-minute break in between. This meant, Frankie would apply extreme focus to his task for only a couple minutes, and whenever his pomodoro buzzer went off, he’d take a 5-minute break.


Frankie discovered he got more done with 2 minutes of focus, than 2 hours of multi-tasking. With practice, his focus became sharper, his small wins became bigger. He challenged himself with longer Pomodoros: 10-minute work sprints; 15-minute sprints; 25-minute work sprints. Just him, his tasks and the Pomodoro. Focus-break-focus-break-focus-break. It worked. And it still works. Ask Tom Hanks!


Today, the Pomodoro Technique® is used by hundreds and thousands of writers, students, leaders, CEOs and scholars, to add more productivity, and less panic to their schedule. More advanced Pomodorians set their work sprints to 45 minutes of focus time, with a 15-minute break. When we heard that Tom Hanks finished writing his debut 448-page novel, using the Pomodoro Technique we were like…Mamma Mia!


So, where to start?

Start small. Like Frankie and Tom - you can divide your day up into short Pomodoros. Set your timer to 10-minute work sprints with just a few Pomodoros per day. Work your way up to 25-minute Pomodoros. Easy. The trick is to use a silent timer, of course, and to only work on one task per Pomodoro. And, for the love of tomatoes, to switch your phone to flight mode!

Pro tip: For deep-zone writing we recommend 40-minute Pomodoros, bridged with 20-min daydream breaks. This is super useful for writers and creatives completing proposals, dissertations, novels, presentations. It’s working for us – and it might just work for you too.


Give it a go, just one Pomodoro at a time. Focus-break-focus-break. And if all else fails, put the pen down and go make yourself a Bolognese instead. 


Or, you could sling it our way and we’ll Pomodoro the job for you. Finito!

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