The Pomodoro Technique: Working parenthood & the battle to finish just one task

by Mindful Return
Baby Yum Yum - The Pomodoro Technique Working parenthood & the battle to finish just one task
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By Lori Mihalich-Levin and Stormme Hobson

The ever-growing to-do list haunts most mothers: does your mind ever jump from place to place, to-do! to-do! to-do?  Do you ever do hand-to-hand combat with distraction? Or get to the end of the day and have 100 open (and incomplete) tabs on your computer or in your mind? Or worse, get to the end of the day and realise you started but never completed an important task you meant (or had) to do?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, read on….

This issue is very common and has come up before in the Q&A section of Mindful Return’s weekly Saturday Secrets Newsletter. It is a challenge that really resonates with many working parents, so we wanted to share one of the strategies that we have found works particularly well when we’re trying to implement goals and resolutions.

The Pomodoro Technique

Question from New Mamas: 

I’m so distracted! Both at work and at home, I have a million and one things on my to-do list. So I hop from one to the next. I never feel like I have a solid stretch of time to work on anything, and it’s hard to get deep into those projects that require more than just a few minutes of effort. My house is a mess, and work projects are coming out my ears. HELP!

Mindful Return Response: 

Oh, we hear you, mama!  We are big fans of being fully present at work when you’re at work and being fully present at home when you’re at home. But that’s so hard to do when it seems like a million unfinished things are hanging in the air and it’s so easy to get distracted by the long “to-do-list” constantly running through your head.

The Pomodoro Technique: how you can focus and get more done while at work?

One technique we have adopted (from the amazing Rachel Cook’s “Fired Up & Focused Challenge”) and simply love, is called the “Pomodoro Technique“.  Named after the Italian tomato (and a tomato-shaped kitchen timer). What most of us will know as an egg-timer and would have likely had in our kitchens growing up.

The idea is to commit to working in a focused way on one project for 25 minutes. 

Then, take 3-5 minute breaks between your 25-minute sessions. If your mind starts wandering, or if you think of other things that need to get done while you’re in the middle of that 25 minutes, you simply write those things down on a piece of paper and go back to the task at hand.

We’ve never been so efficient and productive – or gotten such a charge out of being focused – as we have when we’ve used the Pomodoro Technique for getting things done at work.

The Pomodoro Technique - Baby Yum YumIn fact, only when we started using the method did we realise how distracted we get during any given workday. The constant flurry of emails, a random thought that pops into your head to buy nappies, pay a bill, follow up with a friend or your to do lists – all of these can be really distracting.

How can I use the Pomodoro Technique at home when I have kids?

At home, of course, the situation can be and generally is VERY different. We don’t know about you, but when it comes to the life of a new working mama, setting aside a solid chunk of 25 minutes (awake!) may as well be like sneaking away to the spa for an entire afternoon: IMPOSSIBLE. 

So, at home, we lower the timer to a more realistic (for this stage in life) interval. We like to tackle clutter and home/family tasks in the evenings with the timer set for 10 minutes. And we use Insight Timer in 5-minute intervals to fit in micro-self-care.

We really encourage you to try out just one or two “pomodoros” (as the plural form of the 25-minute increment is called!) and see if you get the same sense of focus and psychic boost that we do!

And then, at the end of the day, let it all go. Let whatever you did today be enough. Parenting IS distracting, mama. There is no two ways about it…. now excuse us…. we have to run… our kids are calling and there is apparently some critical Lego emergency that needs our immediate attention!

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