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Crossing things off the to do list

Sticking to it:

Inevitably when we approach a new year we hear talk about goal setting. Certainly a fresh start on the calendar can be a great time to examine our lives and our habits and determine if we want to make changes. Ultimately, goal setting can happen any time during the year and can help spur us to move forward in our lives – both personally and professionally. 

In my world, one of the things I like to do is list the things that I would like to accomplish in the short term and long term. 

If I’m completely honest, I struggle sometimes with my lists. Why? Because I put off those difficult tasks. You know the kind I’m talking about, right? The tasks that take a long time, or the ones that are the most challenging. They tend to sit there, untouched on my list. 

I was recently taught about the Pomodoro technique, and I became interested and read more about it. This technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s is named after the Italian word for tomato, because Cirillo utilized a simple kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato to help him meet goals while he was a student at university. 

Basically, the Pomodoro Technique utilizes a timer to help ensure that one stays on task for a specific amount of time before a break is taken. Then, through a series of working and taking a break, the task eventually is complete. This process helped Cirillo stay on task while working on large and small projects for school and I’ve learned that it helps me stay on task while completing projects for work (like grant reports and other difficult projects) and also at home (like cleaning out a cluttered closet). 

The Pomodoro Technique follows six steps:
1.    Decide on the task. 
2.    Set a timer for 25 minutes. 
3.    Work on the task and do not split your attention to other things (no email, texts, etc.)
4.    When time ends (timer rings), put a checkmark on a piece of paper. 
5.    If you have fewer than 4 checkmarks, set the timer for a short break (3 – 5 minutes) and then return to step 2
6.    If you have 4 or more checkmarks, set the timer for a longer break (15 – 30 minutes) 

Of course, if you finish the job before the timer goes off, you are done! 

What I like about the technique is that it allows for brief breaks but encourages sticking to a task. For me, timing the breaks is as important as timing my focused work time.

If you struggle, like I do, in facing an item on your to-do list, I recommend giving it a go. Once one begins and stays focused, the task is more apt to reach its completion. 

Wow! It feels good to cross that difficult-to-do item off the list! 

By Audra Kenneson, LMSW, Mental Health and Foster Care Coordinator