How to use the Pomodoro Technique as a Busy Mom?

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The Pomodoro Technique is a great tool for overwhelmed, busy mamas. So What is the Pomodoro Technique? The Pomodoro Technique is setting a timer for 15 or 20 minutes and focus on one task. I use this technique not only for myself but also for my kids.

In our house, we have 1 mom with ADD and 2 daughters with ADHD. There is a whole lot of rabbit hole chasing and not getting much done. So to stay on track and get stuff done we use this technique every day.

Why is it called the Pomodoro Technique?

Such a weird name right? I had been using this technique for years without knowing about the official name or that others used it too.

So Pomodoro means tomato in Italian. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the early 1990s. He likely suffered from ADHD himself and used a little tomato timer during his university days to stay on track with his work. He broke down big tasks into smaller intervals that he called Pomodoros. Between Pomodoros he allowed himself short breaks.

Why I use the Pomodoro Technique

I spent most of my childhood struggling with ADD without any outside help. People didn’t always know what girls with ADD looked like or acted like when I was kid. And that left so many of us struggling. Struggling to pay attention, struggling to stay organized, feeling like we are drowning in life. So I had to figure out ways to cope.

By about 4th grade I realized that there was a length of time I could focus. And after that time was over my brain was off in its own land. At that age it was about 10 minutes. So I would set a timer for 10 minutes and work really hard on just one thing.

Pomodoro for Tidying

An accurate representation of what I thought was pretty tidied in my room. You should have seen messy! 😂😂

That helped so much for school. But it wouldn’t be until high school until I realized I could use this in other areas of my life. Cleaning my room! Ugh I hated it. I cried. I didn’t want to do it. It felt insurmountable. I would spend hours on a mess that might have taken a typical person 30 minutes to an hour.

Around the age of 15/16 years old, I figured out my homework helper could help in my tidying too. And the mess that took me all day, took me a few hours at most.

How I use the Pomodoro Technique Today

Today I use the Pomodoro Technique to help with every aspect of my life. I set a timer for 20 minutes and work on cleaning my kitchen or doing a quick family tidy up.

We use it in our homeschool. I set a timer for 15-20 minutes and I work with one child on one lesson (math, reading, writing) when the timers up, I tell them to go take a brain break and I work with another child. They retain the information much better than when we would try to sit down and do all of their school work in one or two sessions.

I even use it for my blog. The hardest part of everything for me is starting and staying on track once I’m started. So I set my timer and say, “I just have to write for these 20 minutes then I can take a break.” Guess what? By the time the timer is off, I don’t want to take my break. I’m fired up and I want to finish my blog post or my social media sessions or whatever I was working on.

How the Pomodoro Technique works

So I’ve told you the basics of how the Pomodoro technique works. Breaking a big task into smaller timed intervals. Giving yourself a small break between intervals. But let’s dig into how this simple technique that you only need a timer to use can increase your productivity.

Having a Successful Pomodoro Session

Here is what you need to do to have a successful Pomodoro session with some of my twists added.

Choose One Task

Just pick one task and work on it for the entire time. Examples: Clean the kitchen, write a blog post, edit photos, read a book, study for a test

Eliminate Distractions

Eliminate all distractions that are going to pull you off task. Turn off the TV, put your phone on do not disturb, even turn out lights in rooms you aren’t working in.

Set Your Timer

Pomodoro Technique says 25 minutes is a good amount of time to set your timer. But if you are just starting and you are highly distractible or have ADHD set that timer for 10 minutes. Add time as you become comfortable focusing on one task. Also if you have children under the age of 5 at home, you want to set that timer for about 10 minutes. Anything more you are just going to get lots of interruptions.

Track your Internal Distractions

Put a sticky note next to what you’re working on. Every time you feel your mind wander and off task. Just put a little tally and go back to work. When you are having less than 5 tallies during a session up your timer a minute or two next time.

Do One Task Only

Work for the entire time. Use the entire Pomodoro session to work on your task.

Pomodoro is done. Take your break.

Take a short break when your timer goes off. I do 5 minutes for 10-15 minutes of Pomodoro and 10 minutes for 20-30 minutes of Pomodoro. Here is the kicker. Set a timer for that too. Otherwise, you are going to be sucked into your break and never finish your task.

Take you’re break but don’t get sucked into an all day break.

After you do 4 Pomodoros give yourself a longer break. And if you have ADHD make sure the break has movement in it, go for a walk, dance with your kids, stand up stretch, wiggle, just move. Trust me it will help if you have lots to do.

That’s the basics of doing Pomodoro technique with a couple of my twists. The original doesn’t have you tally your off task thoughts. But it will help you see how much better your brain is getting at focusing at short bursts of time.

The original Pomodoro Technique is 25 minutes on task and 5 minutes on a break. But if you have ADHD or other focusing issues that is a long time to start using the Pomodoro Technique. Start with smaller amounts of focused time for your Pomodoro.

How do you deal with distractions?

Distractions are going to happen. There are two types of distractions, internal and external. First, you have 100% control over and the other you have much less control over. I have some tips for dealing with distractions both internal and external.

Internal Distractions

Internal distractions are going to happen a lot when you start this technique. Your brain is going to fight if you have ADD and probably if you are a typical person who just always has more to do than time to do it. This is why I use the tally method.

Tallying you’re internal distractions can also give you insight on when you may be better suited to do different jobs. You may see that when you work on a Pomodoro during the morning for example, that you have tons of tallies. That task may not be a good one to schedule in the morning. You may try another time ago the day and see that you have fewer tallies and accomplish more during your Pomodoro.

Before bed, I can’t write well. I get tons of internal distractions. Morning and afternoons are better times for me to write. I have tons of internal distractions when I try to clean first thing in the morning. Afternoon and evening are better times for me to clean. I notice my kids work on their school work at better at different times of the day.

Using the tally method can help you see when your Pomodoros are going to be the most productive. And that’s what we are working towards, better productivity. Doing more in less time by focusing on one task at the right time of the day.

External Distractions

External distractions are going to happen. A coworker will come by for a chat, an important phone call will come right when you are mid-Pomodoro, your toddler is going to have a diaper emergency, your preschooler is going to have a major frustration, you are going to have to break up a fight between your kids.

Cirillo has outlined a way to deal with external distractions in the Pomodoro Method. Inform, negotiate, and call back.

  • Inform- Tell the person distracting you that your working on something
  • Negotiate when you can get back with them.
  • Call the person back whenever you scheduled to do so or when your Pomodoro is over.
This is something my kids do when I get too focused during the day. 😬😬

Okay, that works for grown-ups but how in the heck can that work with kids? This technique can work with kids distracting you if what they need is nonemergent, like a snack, a juice cup being filled, a book being read. Say, “Mommy/Daddy is working on {whatever your working on}. This is important. I only have a few more minutes to work on this and then I can {help with whatever they need}.”

Guess what? Some kid things are urgent and sometimes emergent. My first tip for this is setting shorter Pomodoros. My kids can do well for about 10-15 minutes at a time. So I set my Pomodoros during the day for 10 minutes. I make sure I change diapers, fix cups and give cuddles on my breaks. When it comes to something urgent you will have to stop your Pomodoro, solve the problem and restart it once everyone is settled in and maybe set it shorter. You will be surprised what 5 minutes of focused work can do if that’s all you have.

How to use Pomodoro Technique as a Busy Mom

The Pomodoro technique can be used just for you as the busy mom, or you can use it for your kids or it can be used as a family.

Pomodoro for Busy Moms

I feel like Spongebob here when I’m not using the Pomodoro Technique. Trying to do all the things but really getting nothing completed.

When you have big tasks to complete that feel overwhelming, use your Pomodoro technique to break it down into smaller tasks that feel manageable. Use it to start tasks that you really really hate doing. Those tasks that you put off until it’s a nightmare. Those are perfect Pomodoro tasks. And I bet it doesn’t take you as a long as you imagine it does.

Use Pomodoros to keep tasks from overtaking your day. ADD is weird. Sometimes you can’t focus on anything and sometimes your laser focus means you can’t not focus on the task your doing.

Just a few weeks ago, I went to tidy my bedroom, make the bed, pick up the floor, straighten surfaces. What happened was I spent the entire day deep cleaning my bedroom. Awesome right? No not at all. I had other things to do that day. The next day I had an awesomely cleaned room and a to do list twice as long. A Pomodoro would have been an external reminder that I needed to move on to a different task.

Pomodoros for Kids

We use pomodoros all the time for my kids. We use them to clean up their room. I set a 10 minute timer and give them a specific task like cleaning up their stuffed animals. Then when the timer goes off we check and see how well they have done.

We use it in our homeschool and I used it for homework when my oldest was in public school. I set a timer for 20 minutes and if they give me really strong focused work they can take a 10 minute break to do whatever they want. Typically my homeschooled kids can get through a math or reading lesson in that time. My public school kid usually needed two of those to get his homework done. But that 10 minute video game break he was working for made him really, really work hard.

Pomodoro for the family

We use Pomodoro as a family when we are cleaning up and during our daily routines.

During our cleaning time, I set a timer, sometimes we put on some music and we all work together in one room to clean it before moving to the next and the next. Other times we do a two-team race to clean rooms. Mom’s team and Dad’s team. When we are done we have time to read a book together for our break.

We have a big family. 7 kids, 2 parents and 1 grandparent. Our daily routines could take a long time. But using Pomodoro Method to get through our routines helps.

The kids get a timer for their baths. 15 minutes. I give them a halfway warning to let them know they need to be washing and stop playing. Our morning routine and bedtime routine are also run on our timers. It helps us stay focused and get our day going.

2 thoughts on “How to use the Pomodoro Technique as a Busy Mom?”

  1. I have just started to read Crillo’s book and after reading a few pages I started to wonder whether it is possible to use it with a 5 year old attention monster son, online courses I am giving as an EFL teacher on these quarantine days and all the household chores never ending. I saw your entry just on time. Thank you so much for these nice advices. You encouraged me!

    1. I’m so glad this helped. I think I started following this method when I was in middle school. I was struggling so much. So sorry It took me this long to get back to you. Geez. I am just learning how to do this. I didn’t know this comment was there. In fact, I didn’t know that comments were available on here.

      Since it has been a few months since you posted this has this helped? Is there anything I can do to support you more?

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