Pomodoro planning: Step-by-step guide to track and finish work with 🍅s (incl. free template)







February 18, 2023

By tracking your 🍅 average, you get a more accurate picture of how much productive work you can do in a day or week.

In the previous article, we explored how 25 minutes of attention per day can help with progress toward a goal you've been putting off. Today, let's look at how breaking down projects and tasks into 25-minute "tomato" blocks (as per The Pomodoro Technique) can make planning easier and improve productivity.

One 🍅 = 25 minutes.
On average, it takes me 10 🍅s to write one of these articles.
I usually complete 10 🍅s per day.

With this knowledge, I can plan and finish this article on time each week by writing:

  1. One whole day—10 tomatoes.
  1. Every weekday—two tomatoes daily.

Let’s say I choose option two.

On Monday, I hit my two tomatoes.

On Tuesday, my second tomato doesn't count as I get interrupted ten minutes in.

On Wednesday, I’ll now do three tomatoes to stay on track with my writing.

And so on.

Use 🍅 goals to plan work and stay on track

I set a weekly tomato budget for my main projects and life areas:

  • Six 🍅s, five days a week, to write articles for my job at Animalz, a content marketing agency.
  • One 🍅 on Saent, six days a week.
  • Six 🍅 on Saent, one day per week.
  • Three 🍅s for administrative tasks.
  • Three 🍅 for learning and studying.

These budgets aren’t coincidental. By tracking how many tomatoes an activity took in the past, I know how many to allocate in the future.

Tomatoes help with daily planning

Imagine an extreme example: you work a whole morning, but someone interrupts you every ten minutes.

When you loosely pay attention to the clock, you might not realize how bad your morning was.

When you budget and track 🍅s, you didn't earn a single tomato that morning and will have to make up for it in the afternoon or evening.

The opposite is also true: when you start early and hit your tomato goals by noon, you can call it a day or work on something fun after lunch.

Tomatoes automatically exclude meetings, breaks, and downtime

By tracking your 🍅 average, you get a more accurate picture of how much productive work you can do in a day or week.

With eight hours a day for work, you might assume most of that time is productive. That assumption would be incorrect since those hours include meetings, lunch, toilet breaks, and a hundred glances at your phone.

When tracking tomatoes, you only earn a 🍅 after completing a 25-minute block of work. Without distractions, meetings, and breaks, you might only reach eight tomatoes on an average day (about 3.5 hours of work).

Two ways to track tomatoes: Manual or semi-automatic

There are two ways to track and plan with tomatoes: manual and semi-automatic.

📝 Manual: Take control with a timer and spreadsheet

You need just two things for manually tracking and planning your tomatoes:

  1. A timer.
  1. A spreadsheet.

Count your 25-minute work blocks with the timer.
Assign each completed tomato to a goal or project in the spreadsheet.
Stay on track towards your 🍅 goals by course-correcting throughout the day.

At the end of the first week, count all the tomatoes you’ve earned—this total is your 🍅 budget for the next week.

Once you have data for more than one week, calculate a weekly average. The longer you do this, the better your average will predict how many tomatoes you can complete the next week.

💡 Use this free spreadsheet template to plan and track your tomatoes and calculate your averages.

⚙️ Semi-automatic: Make tracking easier with a Pomodoro timer app

A Pomodoro timer makes tracking tomatoes much easier. For example, with Lifeline, our Pomodoro app, you can:

  • Check the visual progress bar at the top of the screen to see how much time remains in a session.
  • Count only completed 25-minute sessions towards your tomato tally because Lifeline suggests ending a session when you become inactive.
  • Review how many tomatoes you’ve earned each day with Lifeline’s visual history view.
  • Add text and emoji labels to sessions to categorize them by project or life area. (Pro feature)
  • Schedule tomato sessions in your calendar. These will appear in Lifeline, and you can launch them from within the app. (Pro feature)
  • Use the Review activities and stats feature to quickly check your total number of tomatoes earned in a day, week, month, or year. (Pro feature)

These features make data collection much simpler and faster. Then follow the instructions under 📝 Manual 🍅 tracking to input the information into the free spreadsheet template.

Get started with Pomodoro planning

Begin with these steps if tracking all your activities feels overwhelming:

  1. Estimate a daily or weekly tomato budget for one project, goal, or life area. Record the number in the spreadsheet template.
  1. Plan time for these tomatoes in your calendar.
  1. Track tomatoes whenever you work on that activity. Use an app or other timer, and manually add the sessions to your spreadsheet.
  1. Review the total tomatoes spent on the activity at the end of the day or week. Consider if you planned too many, too few, or the right amount of 🍅s—adjust your budget for the next day or week accordingly.
  1. Repeat steps two to four until you know the average number of tomatoes this activity requires, and you hit that number consistently every day or week.

You can keep repeating these steps until you’ve covered all work you want to plan and track with tomatoes.

💡 Another way to get started with Pomodoro planning is to pick one goal you've procrastinated on for a long time. Read The Power of Pomodoro: Achieve anything with a tomato a day to learn how to do this.

Need help with your Pomodoro planning? Just reach out

I've worked with the Pomodoro Technique for a long time and know it can lead to extraordinary focus and productivity. But it also takes time and some effort to set up.

If you have any questions or need help, please contact me via email or Twitter. I'm happy to answer questions and help you get the most out of your Pomodoro practice.

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