Bullish: Productivity Tips for People With Short Attention Spans

Having trouble concentrating long enough to really get things done?

There are totally solutions for that.

It occurred to me to write this column when I read a friend’s Facebook status update: “Just completed my third pomodoro!” Um … like the pasta? I Googled. It turns out that there is something called the Pomodoro Technique.

According to the website, “The Pomodoro Technique™ has been used successfully by many different kinds of people doing all sorts of activities: from software developers to schoolchildren; from university students to lawyers and executives; whether organizing events, doing project management or getting homework done on time.”

“Pomodoro” is, in fact, the Italian word for “tomato.” The technique arose when its founder was having trouble studying for long periods of time, and happened upon the idea of using his grandmother’s kitchen timer, which was shaped like a tomato. (You can now purchase just such a timer from the website, along with a T-shirt and a special to-do list notepad!) Linguistic note: “pomodoro” refers both to the timer and to the 25-minute work periods. Hence, “I completed three pomodoros before I accidentally dropped my pomodoro in the sink.”

If you want to learn more about this, have a blast: here’s the free ebook, which goes into way more detail than you need. I pretty much gave it away already. But the ebook will cover such earth-shattering circumstances as getting interrupted during your pomodoro! (“Read all about how to deal with interruptions in the The Pomodoro Technique™ book, including ‘Protecting the Pomodoro’, ‘Voiding the Pomodoro’, and keeping track of interrupted Pomodoros.”)

Allow me to say it: you should not need a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato in order to work for 25 minutes without stopping.

What’s next? I will invent a timer shaped like a cherry tomato for Generation Z, who will need this device to work for 10 minutes without stopping. Then, for Generation AA (like the training bra!), people born between 2015 and 2028, I will invent a timer shaped like a single lentil, although a holographic one, which will help its users concentrate for up to thirty seconds at a time; at that point, in my dotage, I will also introduce the concept of Single-TaskingTM, which will be regarded as potentially revolutionary, but completely unrealistic. Oh, brave new world!

But seriously, what if you need a kitchen timer to concentrate? Hrrm. Here are some ideas (other than a kitchen timer).

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