Management Hack: Grab a Tomato Kitchen Timer

Is there something on your to-do list that keeps sinking to the bottom? Have you been putting off what you’ll know is a boring or avoidable task?

Big-picture planning and important business decisions, such as strategic plans, quarterly financial reports and HR recordkeeping take time and focus. But, to really maximize your time for those tasks, build in time for short breaks. That’s right, hours on one task can lead to less productive work.

Business owners should use the Pomodoro Method, says CEO adviser and leadership coach Susan Drumm, who as managing director of Meritage Leadership has trained C-suite executives for 20 years.

pomodoro method

This time management technique was invented in the 1980s and is named after the classic tomato-shaped kitchen timer. (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato).

Drumm says the Pomodoro method is simple and effective.

Step 1: Set a timer for 25 minutes and give one task your undivided attention for that time.
Step 2: When the timer dings, take a break and do a totally different task for five minutes.
Step 3: After your five minute break, spend another 25 minutes working on the original task.
Step 4: Take another five minute break and lather, rinse, repeat!

After you’ve completed four “pomodoros,” take a nice, long 30-45-minute break. 

“The Pomodoro method works for several reasons,” Drumm says. 

First, we can usually work on any task—no matter how boring or difficult—for 25 minutes.

Second, when we take a break to do something totally different, it gives our brains a rest and allows us to recommit to the task at hand surprisingly refreshed.

“We can stay focused because we’re working in relatively short bursts, rather than asking ourselves to commit to three straight hours of work we’re not that excited to do,” she says.

Kickstart Your Strategic Plan

The Pomodoro method reminds me of an approach Top Producer Columnist Sarah Beth Aubrey uses for strategic planning. Her system, called the “Strategic Plan On A Page In One Hour Or Less,” combines long-range thinking with short-term goals.

“The plan-on-a-page concept is a strategic-thinking tool for individuals or teams,” Aubrey says. “One hour is set aside to work through five sections to create strategic direction. Shorter and more frequent planning efforts shouldn’t replace major initiatives, retreats or professionally facilitated sessions. But there is a case to be made for short quarterly planning bursts.”

Learn more about how to create your plan in an hour.

The Pomodoro Method is one of several leadership strategies Drumm recommends. Learn more: 6 Unexpected Productivity Tips for Leaders and CEOs