Try the Pomodoro Technique

For Time Efficiency

Photo by Michael Meyer on Flickr

I never felt I would be sharing a post on a time efficiency technique, because I don’t feel like time efficiency is my greatest strength. But because I’ve had some frustrations in meeting my goals and finding or managing my time to work on them, I looked into this technique recently and tried it.

“Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato. I have some funny associations with this word. When I was a teenager with a singing and drama group, our leader, an Italian-American, and another teen on the team had a running joke about “pomodoro.” They would say it very dramatically, with Italian inflection and hand gestures, and joked that if you said it just like that, others would be convinced you were saying something important in Italian.

Well, I’m not sure that’s true, but I remember those funny guys when I think about this technique, which is named for the tomato “pomodoro” kitchen timer. The idea is that you choose a task and then set aside 25 minutes for focused work on that task. You set the timer for 25 minutes.

When the time is up, you record your progress and then take a five minute break. After the break, if you still need to finish the task, you set the timer once again for 25 minutes and then another five minute break. A 25-minute work session plus a five minute break equals a pomodoro. After four pomodoros, you can take a longer, 15 minute break. Then, you start over again, perhaps choosing a new task. You can find an online pomodoro timer here.

I have recently used this technique for different computer work related jobs: writing emails, writing on one of my Creature Kingdom children’s stories, creating the slide visuals for a YouTube video and even for writing this blog post.

Lately, my break rewards have been watching YouTube videos for fun that are unrelated to my projects. I’m not sure I will always go with that reward. One article I read suggested doing something not involving a screen during your break times. I may sometimes decide to get up and move around for a bit. Some fitness YouTubers even create mini fitness routines for, say, the duration of a five minute song. I can see how something like that might be useful if you’re in a situation where you are working from home. (I understand you might not be able to get away with this in an office situation!) You can stretch out and avoid some of the tension that comes from working on a computer for long periods. I sometimes find that movement and music help inspire my creativity anyway, so if you are like me in that sense, this might actually help you to work better.

Here is a video from a fitness YouTuber I follow who has several of these “five minute sweat sessions.”

I have had a number of struggles with fitting in my creative projects. Lately, I’ve had to attend more to my aging parents and some of their physical and other needs. I also work in doggy care, and the demands of caring for dogs, particularly young and active ones, cause frequent disruptions. Thankfully, my parents are having some improvement in their health, and I am finding more blocks of time when I can create. When I do have this time, I don’t want to complicate things by sabotaging myself.

Photo by Jonas on Unsplash

Years ago, I read a book about Sweden and Swedish culture. The writer compared Swedish friendliness to a ketchup bottle, saying, “At first, nothing comes out, but once it starts coming, it’s hard to stop it.” (In spite of the quotation marks, this is not a quote verbatim. In fact, I have forgotten the book title and author, so I can’t give it a proper attribution.)

I’ve known some Swedish-Americans and have a bit of Swedish heritage myself. The saying seems to be true of people I know. I have since then often thought about that ketchup analogy but applied to a completely different subject — creative writing. Though it’s unintentional, it seems we are sticking with the tomato theme in this post.

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

There are times when creative ideas are flowing fast in my creative writing, but if life causes me to neglect a project for a while, at first coming back to it, the ketchup bottle of creativity requires a little pounding. It’s also at these times when I might be tempted to procrastinate or do some Internet wandering that is not necessarily pertinent to the task at hand.

While writing, I do find it necessary to search the Internet for, perhaps, thesaurus use, visual inspiration for writing a scene or what I call “mini research.” For instance, I just recently named a minor character in my children’s story, a fox. Foxes are supposed to be clever, so I looked up “boys’ names that mean clever,” found a list on a baby name site and chose one … Redmond. Redmond is a good name for a fox, isn’t it? I only now see the similarity to Redd Foxx, the lead actor in “Sanford & Sons,” but I still think, Redmond it is.

I think the Pomodoro Technique helped me a good deal. I stayed off of email and Facebook during my focused blocks of work. I forced myself to concentrate on the matter at hand, and soon the ideas were flowing more easily. After each pomodoro, I recorded my progress in my tasks. With my writing tasks, I recorded a word count but also summed up any revisions and recorded any Internet searches.

With the timer going, I was also more motivated not to linger on Internet information that wasn’t pertinent. For instance, I looked up information relating to carnival rides for my Creature Kingdom story on Hyacinth Mouse. I didn’t remember what a tilt-a-whirl ride was like, but after looking into things, my imaginary ride became a hybrid of a tea cup ride and and a tilt-a-whirl ride. I didn’t need to watch an entire video of a tea cup ride, since that is already familiar, so I stopped it and didn’t linger on that information.

My own illustration of Hyacinth Mouse in her tea cup ride

This is very silly, but around midnight, after my first day trying this method, a song was in my head, “Pomodoro, pomodoro, pomodoro!” It wasn’t a “pomodoro” song. It was Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” song from the 80s, but I had mentally replaced the repeated “Amadeus” with “pomodoro.” I wasn’t even particularly trying to be clever. My brain just made an instantaneous, almost subconscious association. The two words do have the same number of syllables and some similar sounds in similar places. Note to self: midnight brain might be creative? Maybe, a “pomodoro” song will come to your mind if you are feeling successful.

Seriously, I think the method has helped me to set aside some focused time and limit distractions. It is also easier to focus for a short period when you know you have a break coming up. I would recommend it for writers and students with studies as well as those doing other types of work on a computer.

Would you try this technique? Have you already tried something like this or some other time efficiency techniques? Let me know in the comments.

17 Quotes on Love and Friendship for Valentine’s Day

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1. “There is nothing I would not do for those who are truly my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves. It is not in my nature.” — Jane Austen

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2. “Close friends are truly life’s treasures. Sometimes, they know us better than we know ourselves. With gentle honesty, they are there to guide us and support us, to share our laughter and our tears. Their presence reminds us that we are never truly alone.” — Vincent Van Gogh

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3. “Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you may hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.” — Alan Cohen

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4. “The beginning of love is to let those we love be completely themselves and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” — Thomas Merton

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5. “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” — C.S. Lewis

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6. “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung, and possibly be broken. If you want to be sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the coffin or casket of your selfishness, but in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable… To love at all is to be vulnerable.” — C.S. Lewis

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7. “You don’t love someone for their looks or their clothes or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” — Oscar Wilde

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8. “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.” — Sylvia Plath

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9. “The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. That’s why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind; love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice. It is seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.” — The Great Kamryn

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10. “If we love someone, but do not love God, we demand total perfection and righteousness from that person, and when we do not get it, we become cruel and vindictive; yet we are demanding of a human being something which he or she can not possibly give. There is only one Being who can completely satisfy to the depth of the hurting human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Oswald Chambers

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11. “I don’t know any perfect people, only really, really flawed people, who are still worth loving.” — John Green

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“They say love is blind. I disagree. Infatuation is blind; love is all-seeing and accepting. Love is seeing all the flaws and blemishes and accepting them. Love is accepting the bad habits and mannerisms and working around them. Love is seeing all the fears and insecurities and knowing your role is to comfort. Love is working through all the challenges and painful times. Infatuation is fragile and will shatter when life is not perfect. Love is strong, and it strengthens because it is real.” — Unknown

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13. “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” — Charles Dickens

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14. “A five-year-old asked his friend: ‘What’s friendship?’ He replied, ‘Friendship is when you steal my chocolates every day, and I still keep them in the same place.'” — Unknown

15. “I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest versions of themselves.” — Dr. Steve Maraboli

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16. “When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of ‘Me too!,’ be sure to cherish them, because those weirdos are your tribe.” — Unknown

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17. “If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance and care.” — Marvin Ashton

10 Ways to Reduce Stress and Lift a Low Mood


I know a number of people going through stressful situations right now, and I also have some stress. It’s important to take a little self-care to reduce stress and its effects.

Below is a list of 10 ways to reduce stress and lift a low mood. Most of them involve distracting yourself from the cause of stress. When you have some problems and issues, you may have to schedule some time to think out creative solutions. Often though, our thoughts on our problems are not constructive and are just worries. Learn to recognize when your thoughts are constructive or worries. Worry is not helpful, and often we worry over things over which we have no control.

  1. Pray
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You may or may not be a person of faith, but it is very stress relieving to turn over situations you can’t control to Someone who can.

2. Exercise

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Exercise is healthy both mentally and physically. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Runners sometimes talk about a “runners’ high.” I like dance exercise which has a number of benefits. It is good exercise for your brain, since it involves learning choreography. Some studies seem to show it can help prevent Alzheimer’s. There may be social benefits if you go to a class, which may also help your mood. If you dance or do other exercise to music, you will also be ticking off two items on this list at once.

3. Do something creative. 

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Doing creative things is a fun outlet for self-expression and emotion and helps to relax you. Both visual art and writing can have therapeutic benefits. Both visual art and writing have been scientifically proven to help people with trauma and negative emotions. You could sketch, scrapbook, journal, do creative writing or participate in any number of artistic hobbies. You could even combine writing and visual art in an art journal. Adult coloring books have been trendy for a while, and some doctors are recommending them to their patients for their therapeutic benefits. Even if you don’t feel you’re Michelangelo, you can play with colors and enjoy an adult coloring book.

4. Read a good book.

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Reading for fun in a quiet atmosphere is also relaxing and an escape from stress. The same may not apply to reading a computer manual or a textbook. When a friend read my novel, Action Men with Silly Putty, he wrote to me saying, “I laughed so hard that I may not have depression or anxiety anymore.” It was nice to hear, and I considered it quite a compliment. If you’re in a low mood, be selective with your reading. This may not be the time to break out Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, (as much as I like that book, play and movie.)

5. Listen to music.


Music can also play a part in emotional well-being. Speaking from experience, I believe the right music can aid sleep and be therapeutic for migraine pain relief. As with books, be selective with your listening. I remember reading how some teenagers committed suicide after listening to songs that seemed to encourage it. Some people are also very sensitive to songs in a minor key that have a sad sound. Listen to songs that are uplifting or encourage a cheerful or peaceful mood.

6. Talk to someone.

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Sometimes, it just helps to talk to someone about your troubles. If you have such a someone in your life, you have found a treasure. Some may try to help you solve your troubles. Others may just listen and sympathize. It may just be helpful to know you have an ally who understands your feelings.

7. Make an effort to think on positive things.

Photo by Krista Margulson on Unsplash

Yes, looking at cute animals like the ones above is good for your health. Cuddling one, if you have a pet at home, is even better. It isn’t just cute animals that put positive thoughts in your brain. Sometimes, when I am stressed, I look at my Pinterest collections of inspirational quotes, uplifting Scripture verses and photography of nature scenes, flowers and animals. It’s good to remind yourself of hope and beauty in the world.

8. Read up on uplifting news and acts of philanthropy.

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Headline news is full of tragedy, crime and controversy, but there are other stories. Focusing on negativity in the world can be depressing. As a reporter, I was often informed of churches and other organizations and their philanthropic efforts. They help the hungry, the homeless, orphans, abused children and animals and victims of natural disasters. They advocate for and raise funds for disease research. For every issue you can imagine, there are people helping to make things better. It’s better to focus on this aspect of things.

9. Watch and/or listen to comedy.

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Laughter isn’t just frivolous. It’s actually good for you. Laughter relieves your stress response, soothes tension, improves your immune system, relieves pain and improves your mood. Watch or listen to some comedy in your down time to help relieve some tension. Sirius radio has a comedy station or two that you can listen to during your commute.

10. Do something kind for someone else.

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Doing a kind act for someone else can feel very satisfying. It helps to get your mind off of yourself and your own difficulties. Going through some difficulty can also encourage your sympathetic feelings for someone else also going through a hard time. You can tick two items off this list by creating a handmade card of encouragement for someone you know.