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You might call me crazy. And you'd be well within your rights to do so, I'm sure. I won't lie, double-takes do generally abound when I tell people I've begun to live my life under the dictatorship of a productivity-enhancer-cum-torture-device in the shape of a pixelated tomato. That's it, inch slowly away. I'm used to it by now.
But before you sidle ever so subtly out of the door and run screaming for the hills and your mother, hear me out. Not least because I think I need help – my Pomodoro is out of control (not a euphemism. I almost wish it was.) An enlightening article by the ever-sublime and deliciously rude Charlie Brooker first put me on my very own tomato trail. Because, like Mr Brooker, I tended to worship at the shrine of the God of Procrastination rather than the Almighty of Productivity, despite being burdened with a to-do list so long I began to use it as a bath towel. I stumbled across his article while trawling through online back catalogues of anything and everything, in an increasingly desperate attempt to shrug off the feeling of doom emanating from a particularly ominous essay deadline. I wasn't proud. I was sick.
But you may note the important use of the past tense here, dear readers. For now, my life has been revolutionised by the Pomodoro Technique; the unholy creation of some sadist somewhere who decided to implement a 'cure' for helpless procrastinators using just the tomato-shaped egg timer in his kitchen. Or so the legend goes.
Of course now, in an era when techno-whizzes and geek-gadgetry abounds, lacking an egg timer disguised as a fruit disguised as a vegetable is no obstacle. There's a fully-fledged Pomodoro Technique app, and browsing through the online store to find it is perhaps the last off-puttery offence you'll commit for a while. Downloads in 30 seconds, and your life is ever changed for better – or, as seems more likely from my perspective, worse.
The premise is dazzlingly, brilliantly simple. 25 minutes work (one 'Pomodoro', for recent converts and those in the know), 5 minutes play. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat again, and rest for half an hour. Or wrap your arms around your waist and rock soothingly in a corner with your eyes wide open in shock for half an hour. Granted, productivity immediately goes through the roof, but psychological well-being deteriorates at an alarming rate.
There is no pause, for one thing. Picture it. 17 minutes remain on that punishing clock before you can knock back a cup of tea so scalding it strips off your tastebuds and melts your oesophagus. Then your phone rings. Surely, the most basic, logical and fundamentally kind thing Mr Pomodoro could have done would have been to implement a pause function that would allow prisoners a moment or two of grace before continuing on their 25 minute marathon. But no, you must either continue on, ignoring the fact that someone requires your attention urgently enough to want to speak to you rather than tweet aimlessly at you or splurge rubbish all over your Facebook wall. Or, alternatively, you must stop, eradicating all trace of those precious 8 minutes of work already completed. And you have to make this decision while watching precious seconds tick away. It's enough to make you weep.
Why did I watch that mote of dust floating in that sunbeam? That cost me a minute and 30 seconds, which must now be deducted from my five minute downtime!
You begin to see each day, and the rest of your life, as irretrievable, wasted seconds waving goodbye as they tumble down into a murky abyss of oblivion. Well, that may be a tad too apocalyptic, but the Pomodoro app certainly forces you to cherish every precious second. Not because you want to use it to skydive, ask out the unfeasibly attractive stranger in the bookshop or tick off the more outlandish items on your Bucket List (a to-do list for the very worst procrastinators), but because wasted Pomodoros mean spending most of your days under a dark cloud of self-loathing. Why did I watch that mote of dust floating in that sunbeam? That cost me a minute and 30 seconds, which must now be deducted from my five minute downtime!
A friend of mine has come up with a revolutionary solution to Pomodoro Traumatic Stress Disorder. Delete the app and throw away the masquerading egg timer. Watch the motes drifting lazily in the sunbeam. Frolic happily on iPlayer, Spotify and 4oD; those eternal pantheons of time wastage. Or maybe chuck the egg-timer, grab a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive and just start writing the essay. Now that really would be novel.