I worked with a wise business coach a couple years back; she, like me, ran a dance studio, but was also a mother. I trusted her experience in helping me figure out how to be smart Boss Lady, as I was preparing to add “Mom” to my title. She introduced me to the Pomodoro Method, and it’s a tool I still use daily when tackling tasks. And don’t worry, you don’t have to run out to the store and buy a tomato for this!
You can quickly read about the origins and basic concept of the Pomodoro Technique, but I’ll help you wrap your head around it. Here it is in a nutshell:
Choose a task/project/goal to work on, work on it for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break to do something else (grab a snack, fold laundry, check social media, stretch, walk around the room, do squats, whatever) and then get back to working on the same task for another 25 minutes. The idea is that the 5-minute break helps to reset your mind, so that you can re-focus your energy on the task at hand and stay productive until the task is complete.
(I can hear you asking: “But why tomatoes…?” The technique was named after those 30-minute kitchen timers shaped like—you guessed it—tomatoes.)
Wikipedia describes four rounds as a set, which is roughly about two hours. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have two fully uninterrupted hours each day (sometimes I get lucky during my daughter’s nap time), so I utilize this technique with only three rounds. This carves out 90 solid minutes for me to work toward my daily goals. If I don’t complete a goal within the Pomodoro Set, then I’ll add a fourth round until I’m forced to stop due to interruption, or I’ll carve out time later in the day to do another set.
Again, this may sound like an overwhelming process to you, but I challenge you to try it! Once you get used to the flow, it is really very effective. The 5-minute breaks allow me to have “scheduled self-care.” I can do a yoga stretch, put on some makeup, make a cup of coffee or do sit-ups (if I’m feeling particularly motivated)—and because it’s just 5 minutes, it doesn’t feel like it’s taking away from my precious time for productivity. It helps me stay balanced and free of distractions while I’m working, and being a working mom, every precious minute counts!
Here’s a real life example of how I used the Pomodoro Method:
- I allotted 25 minutes to write a new post for my blog.
- I made a cup of coffee during my first 5-minute break.
- I used the second 25 minutes to edit the post, choose a picture to post with it, and upload it to my blog.
- I tidied up my daughter’s toys in our living room during the second 5-minute break.
- Since my task was complete after just two Pomodoro Rounds, I used the final round to start working on my next daily goal—a task that I knew I would likely be able to complete within just 25 minutes.
- After the Pomodoro Set, I took a long break to prepare lunch and feed my daughter after her nap, and I knew I’d be able to fit in another Pomodoro Round or two after she went to bed that night!
The coolest thing about this method is that I’ve applied it to productivity in other areas of my life, too. If you’re Type A like me and thrive by having a routine or rhythm in which you do things, the Pomodoro Method is a great guide for time management. Sometimes I’ll use it for activities in my life that are unrelated to work, just to chunk up my time and maximize efficiency.
You could apply it to projects you need to get done around the house, fitness goals you’re trying to fit in, or even to how you divide the time spent with your kids. You could dedicate 25 minutes to reading books with them, take a snack break and then do arts and crafts for 25 minutes, take a cleanup break, and then get outside for a walk for the final 25 minutes. Within 90 minutes, you will have felt like you really maximized quality time with your littles! 25 minutes may not sound like long enough, but let’s be honest: most kids have short attention spans anyways and need to take breaks or change things up, in order to stay engaged.
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Method? Try it! I’d love to know if you find it useful.