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Fabiola Carletti, January 28, 2011 at 7:37 PM

WHAT DO TOMATOES HAVE TO DO WITH TIME MANAGEMENT?

WHAT DO TOMATOES HAVE TO DO WITH TIME MANAGEMENT?
How a Green College time management experiment led me closer to productivity, one tomato at a time.

By Fabiola Carletti

 

Let's see if I can get this blog post done in the span of one tomato. (It'll make sense soon . . . stay with me on this one.)

Quick background: Last semester, I was part of a small cohort of residents here at Green College who pledged to keep track of their daily activities in order to answer one simple question - "Where does the time go?"

About 20 of us signed up - probably to shame ourselves into productivity - while other residents dismissed it as a masochistic little experiment.

We had originally planned to do this for a week . . . but by the end I had to admit to my brethren that I had epically failed. It wasn't because I wasn't keeping track of my time. Actually, I failed because I'd kept a ridiculously detailed log, and it slowly degenerated into excuse-making on my own behalf. (I'll be honest: it got weird.)

By the end, it was impossible to sort the minutiae into the standardized hour-long blocks, as the group had set out to do. That's when I discovered a different system online.

You might like it if you're as neurotic as I am.

 


A friend kept telling me to try the pomodoro technique ("pomodoro" is the Italian name for tomato), which I'm finding really effective for keeping track of work that is untainted by what the Green College experiment calls "low work." (That is, pretending you're working while checking Facebook or going down a YouTube wormhole.)

The Pomodoro technique was named after the inventor's kitchen timer, which was in the shape of a tomato. The official website explains the time management strategy in five simple steps:

  •     Choose a task to be accomplished</li>

  •     Set the Pomodoro (tomato timer) to 25 minutes</li>

  •     Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then write down what you accomplished

  •     Take a short break (5 minutes is the standard)

  •     Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (30 minutes is the standard)


That's it.


I know, it sounds so unimpressive that you may wonder why I'm bothering to blog about it. Here's the thing: it works.

And, yeah, you can pay for the official pomodoro timer and booklet and what-not ... but you can also find ways to be a broke student and still take advantage of this simple work rhythm.

I found a free website called my tomatoes, a free online timer designed in Pomodoro style. As I finished tomatoes and typed in what I was doing, a list of my accomplishments simply made itself. 

Here's an example from a productive day:

(well, productive aside from the Jesus Christ Superstar binge)

Apparently there's also an iPhone app for this.

Obviously, people at the college were skeptical at first . . . but many have since come up to me and told me that there's really something about 25 minutes that just, well, works.

There's no harm in getting a taste for it.  Personally, I'm kind of addicted to this friendly little vegetable, not to mention the joy of accomplishing something in under 30 minutes.

Speaking of which, I've finished this post AND my timer says...

Community Question: Do you have any time management tips? Share them in the comments section!

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Marc Schutzbank(3 years ago)
This one is really great Fabiola, thanks!

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