I have never been very good at staying on task. I am distractible and can at times, be a hopeless procrastinator. Years ago I started following the Fly Lady, a woman (now a movement almost) who touts the benefits of, among other things, tackling tasks with a timer. I still have that timer I went out and got years ago, and it works just fine. But with the almost mind boggling amount of apps for the iPhone (which I have) I thought I’d try and find something slightly more sophisticated. Which is when I stumbled upon the Pomodoro Technique. It follows a kind of keep-it-simple-stupid logic: tasks can be divided up into 25 minute increments. These are called “Pomodoros.” Between your first and second “Pomodoro” you get little breaks, say 2 or 5 minutes. As you do more, you get longer breaks. What I like about this is this, unlike more specific methods where, say you de-clutter a room for 15 minutes only, moving onto another task when you are done, this is more open ended. If it takes two hours to de-clutter a room (which is possible if you have three monstrous children) then you simply keep doing the same task only with breaks.
The app I like best, though I haven’t tried many is Pomodoro Pro. It’s $2.99. And yes, you can use your kitchen stove timer which is free but there is some satisfaction to having the app track how many I’ve done. Like gold stars for grownups.
I used Pomodoro today to stay on task with getting all the laundry put away (I am famous for leaving baskets around, half put away), getting writing done, and finishing up a few small “I’ll do it later” house projects. If you know you only have to do something for 25 minutes, you are much more likely to get it done and stay on task. The timer, an egg-timer like sound, on the app, lets you know when you have a break and when your break is over. For the easily distracted person like me, it’s a great way to knock stuff off your to do list. And 25 minutes seems like a long enough time to actually make progress, without you losing steam.