I felt silly the first time I tried this.  I had to talk myself into it over and over again.

I mean …REALLY.  You set a plastic mechanical timer (preferably one that is shaped like a tomato because it’s traditional) for 25 minutes, and then you go do a thing you’ve been putting off (like writing a blog or a poem, for instance).   When the bell rings, you stop and rest for at least five minutes.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  (It’s also traditional to do the sequence four times.)

Finding the old tomato timer at the Kula Iki thrift shop was a sign that I HAD to do this, I told myself.

The plastic tomato (or whatever other silly mechanical timer you can find) is supposed to help you develop a new habit.  You have to set a particular task or project  before winding up the tomato and  then you do that task while the silly thing sits there going tic-tic-tic.

A funny thing happened, though.  This bit of silliness actually worked!  Done stuff kept piling up as I went through the ritual every day for weeks on end.  That silly tomato and me got to be great friends!

This bit of silliness, which is called the “Pomodoro Technique,” is an actual time-management exercise.  It was developed by a very successful entrepreneur named Francesco Cirillo when he was a university student in the late 1980’s.  (An authentic Cirillo-authored book about it costs some bucks these days.  It’s become a collectible.)

Cirillo named the technique after his plastic tomato timer.  The technique is supposed to help you develop your focus.   Other folks have taken up the banner and run with it.


All you really need is a timer that ticks and dings after you reach the end of a time period and a small piece of paper and pen.

The Pomodoro Technique is a six-step process:

  • Decide on the task you want to do.
  • Set your Pomodoro (or plain old mechanical timer) to some number.  (You don’t have to keep it at 25 minutes.)
  • Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • When the timer rings, put a checkmark on the piece of paper.
  • If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3 to 5 minutes), then go back to Step 1.
  • If you have more than four checkmarks, take a longer break (15 to 30 minutes), then reset the checkmark count to 0 and go back to Step 1.

Four checkmarks = one Pomodoro “set.”  Each Pomodoro is “indivisible.”  If you’re using it the regular way for developing focus, every time you get interrupted you ignore, postpone or record  whatever it is and get back to it after you finish your Pomodoro.

If you can’t ignore or postpone the thing (or if the person who’s interrupting you is a persistent little person who keeps playing with the tomato), then you have to abandon that Pomodoro set.  When you get back to it, it’s like you are starting a whole new set-of-four.

People who know say you really should use the low-tech method, even though there are all kinds of electronic substitutes.  The physical act of winding the timer confirms your determination to start the task.  The timer’s ticking externalizes your desire to complete the task.  And the ringing announces a break.  (Me, I just like the physicality of it all.  It feels like a ritual, and I’m big on ritual.)


Design Gifts has tomatoes, lemons, apples, peppers and a bunch of other silly ticking timers.  They are fun, they’re under $10 and they work.   You can get one at


Since I tend to get OCD about things and really hyper-focused for hours on end, I also used this technique to STOP me from getting lost in a project that was particularly entrancing.  The tomato helps to make me stop every twenty-five minutes and take a break, then stop completely when I’ve done my four.  This, too, is a very good thing.

The point of all this is that this technique is a beauty.  If you are easily distracted or very good at talking yourself out of doing a thing you want to do , the Pomodoro will help you start to work on your Someday Project and  actually help you form a habit of working on it until you’re done.  If you’ve got the other problem and tend to get lost in some project or other to the detriment of the rest of your life, it helps you stretch your attention back to the normal world.  How cool is that?

And here’s another poem….


Sometimes I think boring would be just FINE….

Walking ’round with cotton stuffed up my ears,

Mouth all set to pout and whine.

What could be cooler than numb and dull,

Without a thought in an empty skull?


It’s gotta be better than all this rattle-and-roll.

Trauma and drama that shakes the soul,

Ducking puzzle pieces flying around,

Catching the 2x4s, prat-falling down and down.


Okay…where is it?

Why isn’t boring part of my fate?

Why is it always ridges for running, thin ice to skate?


Ah, well…here I go, back to the grind.

Boring’s another country of the mind.

Can’t buy a ticket there, it seems…

Gotta get back to chasing those dreams.

By Netta Kanoho

photo credit:  by Erato at Italian Wikinews via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.


  1. Loved the post and the poems. I am definitely going to do the Pomodoro regularly. Soon as I buy that tomato (I love tradition) . Thanks !


  2. The Pomodoro technique is a fascinating concept that unfortunately a lot of people are just not aware of.

    I first came across it a couple of years back when gourging on some business books from the likes of Robert Kiyosaki and Rob Moore and at first I didn’t believe that it could make such a difference. Took me at least another 6 months before I gave it a try but im so glad that I did.

    Good for you sharing this technique with people, its a shame that we have to learn these things by accident.

    1. Mark, thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  The Pomodoro is an old technique that works well, is inexpensive, and is apparently grounded in practicality.  Like many good techniques, it’s gotten lost in the welter of newer methods.

      Please do come again….

  3. Hi Netta,

    I have read your article of as the tomato tricks doing the pomodoro and I loved the post and the poems. I am definitely going to try the Pomodoro regularly. Soon as I am going to buy that tomato I love the tradition. Thank you very very much for publishing your article. I appreciate your work. 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, tawhid.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again….

  4. Vince Enzo says:

    That was ‘boring’ lol. Boring enough to take a puff of the stuff that makes us blush, like the oxygen that touches air, creating a dream of glare. Gone with the wind grows fond within until the seconds of a moments notice exhales a grin. Like the proverbial grind of motionless pins scratching the echos of notions within. Full circle is encoded in times end 🙂 

    1. Thanks for your visit, Vince.  I do want to point out that it’s amazing how boring works more often than “the stuff that makes us blush” when we’re chasing our dreams.

      I love your poem, by the way.  Good effort!

      Please do come again….

  5. I love this website. Being a retired special education teacher, I was thinking of all the ways this could benefit challenged kids. I think you should try to use some keywords like autism or ADD  throughout your posts to attract people who are in desparate need of help to focus on a particular subject. Otherwise, I love how you organized the article and added the final poem. 

    This is a great technique that some special ed teachers use already and using the red pomodor timer will add fun to the task. I think you’ve hit on something here. Do you have any links to purchase such a timer? That could be an added plus to your website.

    Kudos to you. I like it a lot.

    1. Nina, thanks for your visit and for your suggestions.  I had not thought specifically of challenged kids as part of my audience.  It’s a great suggestion.  

      Please do come again.

  6. Nice. Love the Pomodoro technique and was just googling to see if anyone else had ever written a poem about it as a Time Management technique. To find the concept of writing poems under Pomodoro pressure is something I love the concept of.

    1. Elliot, thanks for the visit. I’m glad you found the post useful.

      Please do come again….

  7. This has been an inspiring post. And I will look for a timer. If I am able to find a tomato, it would be even cooler.

    Time management is one of the most important things if we want to be successful. Or even if we just want to be entrepreneurs. Not having somebody to tell us what to do can be counterproductive when we’re getting started.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Paolo.  I’m glad the post was helpful to you.

      Myself, I think that it is the literally overwhelming abundance of good ideas, great advice, and hacks, tips and other gifts from the world at large that has the disconcerting effect of making me come to a dead stop, mess up my hair in total frustration, and moan a lot.  

      Hey…that’s another good use for the ticking tomato!  You could give yourself a Pomodoro session just focused on that urge to grab hold of that enormous mountain of good ideas and hacks and such, allow yourself to get all dizzy, hold your head, and REALLY groan about it all.  Be over the top dramatic about it and really wail.

      After a while, it’ll feel really silly, I bet….and then you can get on with doing whatever it is you’re supposed to actually be doing to move some project along better.


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