the silver linings pixlet: staying productive with pomodoro;

Last week was such a good one for me, professionally, that it was easy to forget I’d spent the better part of 20 years working my tits off for it. On Tuesday morning, I got out of the shower to find I’d missed a call from a researcher at BBC Radio Scotland: they were planning an item on some recent research by Spotify about how people’s music taste changes as they get older, and did I fancy coming on and talking to Kaye Adams about it? This researcher and I had tried to set something up before and it hadn’t worked out but this time, after clearing it with the day job of course, they sent a taxi for me around 10:30am and the next thing I knew I was getting guided into the studio, popping on some proper headphones and talking about Taylor Swift like it ain’t no thang.

Although I’m fairly sure my first appearance on national radio was overshadowed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the phone-in earlier on the show, I had a good time and my mum was so excited that she cried when she heard it later. Given that in the same week I hit 3,000 followers on Twitter and lined up a couple of exciting opportunities, it was really no surprise that by Friday I was somewhere between completely overwhelmed and a bit of a wreck.

Last Year's Girl hits 3,000 Twitter followers

Still tho.

I’ve been struggling with my concentration lately, which is a particular problem given the complexity of some of the material I handle at work. When you also have emails and phonecalls coming in, it can be easy to let yourself get distracted and tasks can end up taking as much as four times as long as they ought to if I’m having a really bad day. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying the Pomodoro technique as a means of keeping me focused on my writing for concentrated periods of time. Pomodoro (it’s Italian for tomato, after the shape of the kitchen timer used by the guy who first developed it) is a time management technique based on breaking work down into intervals separated by short breaks. Instead of looking at my list for the day as this insurmountable pile of work, I now just need to concentrate for 25 minutes. It’s like a real-world version of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s 10-second rule: you can handle anything for 10 seconds, and you can concentrate on anything for 25 minutes. Particularly when it’s your bloody job.

I started my Pomodoro journey with with a free app on the iPhone App Store, and after seeing a dramatic rise in my productivity – both in the speed with which I was getting things done, and in the quality of my work – it was only fair that I stump up the £1.49 that the full version cost. With the paid-for version, I can put my music or my podcasts on, leave my phone on the app screen and get a subtle, colourful cue when it’s time to work, time to check my messages and time for lunch. And it’s subtle enough that I can get the best out of myself in the workplace without drawing unnecessary attention to my muddled brain.

Now over to you, readers of a mentally interesting persuasion: how have you managed to hack your brain to get through the working week?



  1. May 5, 2015 / 9:37 am

    I was first introduced to the Pomodoro method in a book recently and decided to give it a go when finishing my coursework, it really made a difference! I used a website to time it however I’ll definitely give the app a go as there’s a bit less chance of me accidentally clicking on Pinterest… xx

    • May 5, 2015 / 10:27 am

      Haha, yeah, that could easily be an issue… Plus, the work I’d be doing is on a computer anyway, so clicking over to another screen to see how I’m getting on is a recipe for disaster. Oh, just a quick peek at my email..! x

  2. Shelley
    May 5, 2015 / 1:16 pm

    I have a timer, but sometimes struggle with 25 minutes and have to put it down to 5! However, I’ve been using Noisli, which generates ambient noise designed to improve your concentration. It’s a bit weird at first, but really works for me. It also stops me from singing along to the lyrics, or wondering ‘ooh who sings this, I’ll just find out…’.
    Good luck with the Pomodoro, sounds like it’s working for you! I might give the app a try as I usually just use the timer on my phone/desktop.

    • May 5, 2015 / 2:38 pm

      That sounds really great. I suspect my concentration would be better if I could give up my music/podcasts, but then I’d never get through my playlists…

      The timer app I use allows you to set your working and rest periods, so hopefully you’ll still find it useful x

      • Alex Mauzon
        May 6, 2015 / 12:03 pm

        I use pomodone app ( as it lets me customize timers length as well as breaks ones and it works on top of my favourite todo app 😉