An somewhat oldie but goodie, dusted off and updated from an original post on the Rocket Matter blog from April 2010.

Pomodoro is Italian for tomato. The guy who invented it lives in Italy and had a wind-up tomato timer in his kitchen. The idea is simple: you wind up the timer for 25 minutes and work on only one thing. The timer rings, and you reward yourself with a little break and get ready for the next Pomodoro.

A month or so into practicing the Pomodoro Technique, I’m finding it has definitely helped me avoid getting side-tracked, especially in the area of interruptions.

I have a friend who’s a litigator at a big law firm down here in South Florida. He’s constantly working nights and weekends, because he’s finishing work that gets interrupted during the day. When I told him about the Pomodoro Technique, he said it would be impossible to implement in his situation.

In the case of a judge calling, sure, I can understand that. But in a more typical case, can the interruptor wait less that 1/2 hour for a response? What would happen if, during the course of your day, someone came into your office while you were working and you asked them, “can I get back to you in x minutes?”

On average, x is 12.5 minutes, with a minimum value of 1 and a max value of 25. Even in matters considered urgent, people can usually wait a handful of minutes.

According to the rules of the tomato, when someone interrupts you, there are specific rules:

1) Inform the interruptor you can’t talk right now.
2) Negotiate a time to get back to them.
3) Call them, and be true to your word, so that the next time they interrupt you they can believe you when you say you’ll get back to them.

Then, record the nature of the interruption on your daily To-Do sheet. Add a dash (-), which will allow you to track the interruptions you’ve avoided.

And by the way, guess what happens if you switch gears? You’ve lost your pomodoro. You don’t get to count it for the day. It’s null and void.

In my case, I tell people: “I’m in the middle of a tomato.” And that’s enough – they know I will get back to them in a handful of minutes.

You can visit the project’s homepage here, or take the shortcut and download a cheat sheet here.