How tomatoes can help you do your accounts

We all have tasks we avoid doing. For some, it’s writing blog posts, while others struggle with keeping on top of email. Nearly everyone, though, will do anything to avoid accounts.

Sometimes we think that by staring at the screen, the task will magically complete itself. Nope. Surprisingly, tomatoes could be the answer.

The Pomodoro Technique

Devised by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is designed to improve focus and productivity. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato and refers to those novelty kitchen timers that gather dust in the drawer. Here’s how it works:

  1. Make a list of your tasks
  2. Choose a task to be accomplished
  3. Set a timer for 25 minutes (it doesn’t have to be a tomato)
  4. Work on the task until the timer sounds (don’t do anything else!)
  5. Give yourself a big tick and then take a 5-minute break
  6. Start again, giving yourself a longer break for every 4 pomodoros (or pomodori, for pedants) completed

The science behind the Pomodoro Technique is that our brains get bored after 25 minutes and we lose focus. By breaking down our tasks into these tomato-sized chunks, we can use time much more productively. This only works if you are completely focused on your task. No checking email, making a cup of tea, or talking to the cat.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Tomatoes

With practice, you’ll start organising your life around tomatoes: “That’s a one-tomato job.” Setting yourself limits, especially for unattractive tasks, increases momentum. If we’re bored, we get slower and sloooower, which just prolongs the agony.

There are dozens of Pomodoro timers out there and trying them all provides an excellent work-displacement activity. My favourites are mytomatoes.com, a web-based timer, and BrainFocus, an app that works on Android and iOS (it also blocks your internet connection to stop you faffing about on Twitter).

Here are seven ideas for tomato-based activities:

  1. Logging your spending (weekly)
  2. Issuing and chasing invoices (weekly/monthly)
  3. Checking your credit card statement (monthly)
  4. Claiming expenses (monthly)
  5. Completing your tax return (annually)
  6. Anticipating and planning for future expenses (annually)
  7. Researching cheaper alternatives for insurance, utilities, etc (annually)

Establishing regular financial habits reduces stress and also improves your cash flow. And often these tasks take less time than we think – if we use that time intentionally.  You’ll probably never enjoy doing your accounts, but at least they’ll get done a lot quicker.

Catherine Pope

I'm a financial coach who loves Victorian novels, technology, and big books about pensions.

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