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Home » Business Owners

How a tomato can help you get things done

Sometimes opportunities present themselves and you have to take advantage of them.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the readers of my newsletter what they thought I should write about in the month of April. Lana wrote to me and asked for some articles on time management.

Then last week I came across 2 great posts featuring the same technique so I thought I should share it with you. The reason why I’m sharing it rather than sending the link through Wednesday Wisdom will be clear in a moment.

Two great writers: Maren Kate of and Mars Dorian ( both mentioned a time management life hack invented by an Italian named Francesco Cirillo in 1992 called the Pomodoro Technique (you can get a free PDF of the book by clicking the link).

I personally have used a very similar technique for sometime although I hadn’t known it to be called the pomodoro.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, hence that’s why I’m writing about it on The Big Red Tomato Company blog!

Frencesco called it Pomodoro after the tomato shaped kitchen timer he used.

To get started you will need a timer and a blank sheet of paper and a pen.

The Pomodoro Technique

The basics of the technique is this:

You break down all of your daily ‘tasks’ into 25 minute segments called pomodoros.

But first you write down on the sheet of paper all the things you have to do, for example:

  • Write a blog post
  • Comment on 50 websites
  • Call 5 prospects

If your tasks don’t all take 25 minutes, no problem just group the tasks together so that they make 25 minutes, because you must always finish the pomodoro once you’ve set the timer going.

Likewise, if your task will take more than 25 minutes to complete that’s not a problem either, you’ll just use more than one pomodoro to complete it.

I personally use e.ggtimer or  my iPhone alarm clock app, but you could easily use a kitchen timer or even a tomato shaped one like the one above!  Before you set it going remember, pomodoros are whole – which means you can’t break them down into smaller units.

So now you have to dedicate the next 25 minutes to the first 25 minute task (or group of tasks). But first get rid of all distractions.

When your pomodoro rings, beeps, or whatever noise. You stop what you’re doing and take a 5 minute break. Do whatever you like for 5 minutes, email, twitter, surf or as Mars says he dances around like a monkey!   Then after this 5 minute  break is finished, get back to your task if you’ve not finished it or start a new task.

After you’ve finished 4 pomodoro’s back to back (2 hours  including the 5 minute breaks) you must take a 30 minute break – this big break should be used to do things completely non work related, like go for a walk, have something to eat etc.

You will be amazed at how much MORE you get done. If the phone rings during your 25 minute  pomodoro or you get distracted, then you have to start the timer again.

So what do you think, can a tomato make you more productive?


  • Eleanor Edwards said:

    Sounds great Matthew. (And thanks for the tweet)

    Fortuitous for your how it’s named after a tomato. I’m terrible for getting too easily distracted so I shall definitely try it (tomorrow – right now I’m planning on allotting 14 tomatoes for some sleep ;))

    El x

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Sensible plan!

  • Christine Livingston said:

    Ah, now all has become clear!

    I’m normally pretty good at managing my time, but as I was sharing with El earlier today I have so many exciting things on at the moment that I’ve been feeling a little distracted and jumping from one to another. This could well be the method to help get my focus back.

    Thanks so much, Matthew 🙂

  • Dov Gordon | The Alchemist Entrepreneur said:

    Hi Matthew,

    I was skimming your site and came across a link to this article. Funny thing is I have that EXACT tomatoe timer sitting right here on my desk, tick-tick-ticking way.

    I had no idea that this is such a classic design when I picked up up for about $3 at a local hardware store after I couldn’t find a digital timer.

    Turns out I much prefer this mechanical one now that I have it. That tick-tick and watching how fast 33 minutes goes by.

    Dov Gordon

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Thanks for the comment here Dov, much appreciated. It’s funny that a tomato can be so useful to your business! Matthew

  • Dov Gordon | The Alchemist Entrepreneur said:

    Yep. Another reminder that true leverage lies in simplicity.


  • ck said:

    Today was the first day that i started with Pomodoro, its amazing how you want to do the 5 minute break, i have a timer but am using “pomaodoro desktop for mac” there is are 2 good short good YouTube video explaining The Pomodoro Technique.
    THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE by Greg Head, Ep 61
    I bumped it the pomodoro months ago, and was not excited about it, i find the original pdf has to much to follow, I think its worth to start with one step at a time and then add more. It helps for adult ADD.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi CK. thanks for the comment. Thanks for sharing the videos they are very good. I agree the PDF makes it look quite difficult, but it’s really very simple.

    Best wishes, Matthew

  • said:

    How a Tomato Can Help You Get More Done – The Pomodoro technique…

    How to get more done using a simple kitchen timer. Focused time with regular rest breaks. Very effective time management and productivity tip to get more done in less time….

  • Tea Silvestre said:

    As the Word Chef, I like the idea of using food to make me more productive. Had heard of the technique before, but hadn’t tried it. I think it was the PDF (felt too complicated). But you broke it down quite nicely. I’ll be using on all my marketing stuff.

  • Matthew Needham said:

    Hi Tea, thanks so much for the comment here. I’m really glad you found it useful. I use it a lot and it really makes a difference. Good luck!

  • Pomodoro technique said:
  • Matthew Needham said:

    This actually looks quite good.