Some distract easily; others over-focus and forget to take breaks.  Either way, it can create problems when trying to get tasks done effectively.  Distraction detours accomplishment, and over-focus fatigues the body and mind.

So how do we best stay on task?

Eric Evenstad, of Mountain Mobile,, one of my business accountability partners, told me about the Pomodoro Technique of time management.

Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s, this time management technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals.  The intervals are known as “pomodori” – Italian for “tomato”s, named after the tomato shaped timer Cirillo used as a university student.

This method alters intense work time with frequent breaks to improve mental agility.

The five basic steps are:

  • Choose a task.
  • Set the time for 25-52 minutes.
  • Work on the task until the timer rings; record time worked.
  • Take a break (3-18 minutes).
  • After four pomodori (focused work times) – called “a set”, take a longer break (15-30 minutes).

This strategy of planning, tracking, recording, processing, and visualizing are important.  They provide focus, flow, measurement, completion, and a sense of accomplishment.

For your convenience, here is the Pamadoro Technique timer:

Cindy Rogers, Simplification Expert and Lifestyle Concierge, of All Things Organized,  also uses the following technique with her clients.

“If my clients have a task that seems overwhelming to them, I suggest they choose a particular time of day, set a timer for how long they want to work on the task ( 10 – 60 minutes).  When the timer goes off they can choose to stop or set the timer again.  I mention that it’s best to do it daily, which helps with the repetition part of the process; and hopefully they’ll feel differently about the larger tasks when they arise in the future.”

Whatever time management method you choose, what is most important is that you appreciate that it is designed TO GET THE TASK DONE, not to chain you to the task.  Be firm, but gentle with yourself.