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  • Writer's pictureAna Pineda

What do tomatoes and productivity have in common?

Updated: Apr 16

This year has been crazy. Remember when everybody thought that a single person could NOT change the world? Well, think now on that single person in the Wuhan wet market where Covid-19 started. Or think how the murder of a single person, George Floyd, has changed your view of the world about race, with millions of people opening the eyes to a reality that they were not aware of. So with this, please don’t underestimate what YOU can do for the world ;)

But to change the world, we need to stay focus and stop scrolling our phones. And in the last months, being productive has been a challenge for many of us. If you are reading this, you probably want to know more about productivity (or about the link with tomatoes…). Because who does not want to be more productive? It may sound counterintuitive, but can you imagine that you do your work in half of the time and the rest of the time you can be hiking, laying on the beach or chilling on your sofa? You may dream about it (I do!), although probably what you’ll get is more things done from your to-do list (and not yet having all that spare relaxing time). In any case, how to do it?

With the pomodoro method! (pomodoro is tomato in Italian, so here is your link with productivity)

This is a strategy famous among project managers, named by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The idea is to put a timer for 25 min of focused work and you’ll only work on a single task. One. If you have been reading me, you can imagine which task is that…writing!!!. You´ll rock it if you have one of those kitchen timers with the shape of a tomato that you may get as a present for buying 3 kg of tomato sauce. The method has several phases, here adapted to writing:

First, decide ahead what task you´ll do

Have clear which parts of your article or grant proposal you are going to write. You could think about the specific words, or talk about what you are going to write. And you can do this on your way to work, or during an I-need-some-sun walk. Try to create some sort of division of your scientific writing plan into smaller tasks you can finish in this 25 min period. 

Then do the task for 25 min

Here is very important that you only focus on that single task. And for this, it is crucial to shut down all the distractions, as I already emphasized in this post about working from home. Here is where I often introduce changes…if I am inspired, there is no way I’m going to stop writing because a tomato is ringing. Far too precious. On the other hand, certain tasks, like revising what you wrote, may take you less than 25 min. But take it as a guideline, and once the ring goes, try to finish!

After that, take a short break of 5-10 min

I love that on their website already mentioned that these breaks should be mindful…yeah!!! So here I have some things you can download, like a super simple breathing exercise or a 7-min mediation that will feel like a brain massage.

After 4 rounds, take a longer break of 20-30 min

These longer breaks are great to let your brain to settle and process the ideas you have been working on. If you need to revise your work, this is a great moment to create a distance with your writing. Go for a walk, eat or maybe even an office yoga class you can watch right here!

The idea of the pomodoro method is to stop multitasking, which is not effective. But there is also something magical on pushing yourself to get things done once the alarm goes. People swear this method has changed their life. A modified version has changed mine too. But re-designing it to our moment is key (my pomodoro were my kid's interruptions). Please go ahead and experiment with new strategies to focus and write! And if this does not work…we can always blame the tomato ;)

Have a happy and mindful writing!


P.S. I use this timer in my computer, so no excuse to have your phone next to you ;)

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If you'd like to build a meditation routine for a more productive, creative and happier scientific life, I have for you some tips (as seen in Nature!), and a "meditation box" to start. 


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