Reclaim Your Workday With Tomato-Style Time Management

Modern office life means spending a lot of time in front of screens. On the one hand, you probably need time-management skills to keep yourself focused. On the other, we get, on average, up to 124 business emails every day. That kind of overload (and lost productivity) can make a person just want to retreat into "cyberloafing" mode.

So, what do you do? You want to get ahead in life, but you're less likely to nail that promotion if you spend too much time de-stressing from your workload. It's not actually an easy question, especially if your office is literally making you sick. But some simple tools could give you some much-needed structure. All it takes is a kitchen timer.

You know those old timers shaped like tomatoes? Turns out they've inspired a whole school of time management, called the Pomodoro Method (sometimes the Pomodoro Technique — either way, named for the Italian word for "tomato"). The idea is that creating little deadlines for yourself can help break a task into manageable bites. You're also more likely to focus on what you're doing if you only have a short amount of time to complete it.

A "pomodoro" is a 25-minute work period, followed by a mandatory five-minute break; rinse and repeat for as long as you need. Not only will the workday fly by, but you might feel less compelled to check your email if you tell yourself you can get to it in a few more minutes. You've probably read the stats that office workers need more than 20 minutes just to get back on task if they're interrupted, and yet those same workers face interruptions or task-switching every three minutes. The Pomodoro Method can help you take control of your time and set the boundaries you need to do the work you were hired to do.

You don't need any kind of "official" setup to do pomodoros — the timer on your phone should be fine — but there are all kinds of free apps and websites to keep you on point if you want. A big task can seem daunting, even if it's simply getting through your workday. But you can do anything for five minutes (or 25) if you give yourself permission.