How to Increase Your Productivity With the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique completely changed the way I work and organize my time.

I started using the Pomodoro Technique without any research or real understanding. I had read a piece from Zen Habits about setting a timer and working for the entire time. When I was playing with the idea a coworker introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique. Built in breaks?!? I was sold.

My productivity increased greatly! It was easier for me to end procrastination and tackle difficult tasks with the timer ticking. Even the most challenging thing on my to-do list doesn’t seem so bad if I only have to do it for 30 minutes. Of course most tasks take more than that, but mentally it’s easier to handle.

How to increase your productivity with the pomodoro technique-increase-productivity-pomodoro-technique

 

8 Tips to Increase Your Productivity

1. Stay on task. It’s so tempting to jump around your to-do list or get stuck in your inbox. But when the timer is running, you are only doing one task at a time. I frequently move the tab or application I am working in to its own desktop so I can’t be tempted to play in other tabs. It’s only 25 minutes. You can stay focused for that long.

2. No cheating. No pausing your timer so you can surf the web or otherwise procrastinate. I will, however, pause for bathroom breaks. When you are on your third liter of water for the day, waiting for 20 minutes can get dicey.

3. Keep the momentum going. It feels great to finish 25 minutes of an uninterrupted task. It feels even better when you finish the day with five or six solid sessions.

4. Respect the breaks. When it’s five minutes, don’t take 30. On the other hand, when I’m in the flow I will often skip the breaks and go straight into the next session. This is great for writing or staying on task, but eventually I burn out. Keep track of how many breaks you skip and reward yourself at the end with the total (skip three breaks, enjoy 15 minutes of free time).

5. Tell people about it. No, I don’t mean try to convert everyone, but letting your coworkers or family know that you are working for an intensely-focused 25 minutes at a time can help prevent distractions. Make it clear that when you are working or you put up some sort of signal like headphones you are not to be interrupted. It can be a bit of an awkward conversation, but explaining how much your productivity has increased and how it makes you more focused on the task at hand can go a long way.

6. No phone. Turn all the noises and bright flashes off. Put it in the drawer. Whatever it takes. No phone, no texting, and definitely no social media. Everyone that I normally text with throughout the day knows that I might not respond for 30 minutes or so. Or more because I’m terrible at checking my phone.

7. Schedule. Block off your calendar for uninterrupted blocks in the length of your Pomodoro session. It takes a little while to know exactly how much time specific tasks will take you, so be generous when you are first starting out.

8. Make it work for you. The Pomodoro Technique is meant to help you stay focused and get your work done. If you work better in 45 minute bursts with 15 minute breaks, do that! If you need shorter chunks later in the day, go for it.

While the traditional method is 25 minutes of work and a five minute break in between, I changed my timer to 30 minutes of work with a five minute break. I track my time for freelance projects, and trying to tally up a hoard of 25 minutes was a severe pain.

Resources

I use the free Pomodoro One timer on my computer. It’s also a phone app. I like that it has the time increments built in and it tracks my sessions. I’m much more honest with the app than with a plain timer I’m setting myself.

This video breaks down how it works. I love their six objectives and how to customize the Pomodoro Technique to fit you and your work/study needs.

Any timer works. However, I would recommend not using your phone – it’s too tempting to read your message or notifications when you are checking to see how much time you have left. Tim Ferriss notoriously uses a plain kitchen timer.

Why Everyone Needs a Tailor

The key to a fantastic, minimalist wardrobe? A fearless tailor.

Finding a great tailor can transform your wardrobe. From making everything in your closet look like it was made for you to helping you mend your favorite pieces, a tailor can keep your clothes sharp.

why everyone needs a tailor

So happy to have this dress back in my life! My brother and I circa 2011.

If you are anything like me, you hate pretty much everything you put on in the dressing room. It never fits right. Love everything about a piece except for the details of its fit? A tailor customizes the clothes to your body and taste.

Even better, a tailor can extend the life of your clothes. I recently brought in a dress (picture above) that I had taken in when I was in college. A few years later (and some new muscle mass), I could no longer breathe or sit down in it. Necessities in my book. I took it back in and they let it out in just the right places so it fits like a dream and I won’t pass out. Score!

My tailor has fixed holes in my sleeves, rips along seams, and gaping waistbands of stretched jeans. While I would love to be able to do these things myself, the reality is that it will never happen. Being able to take it to someone with the expertise and equipment is worth every penny to me.

If I’m not sure about an item, but I see potential, I buy it and bring it in to my tailor to see what we can do with it. If I still don’t like it after seeing my options, I take it back.

I feel great in every item in my closet. I know they all fit the way I want them to. Instead of constantly tugging at hems or trying to tuck things just right, I don’t think about my clothes or how they look once they’re on. I have no tolerance for clothes that don’t fit. I either get them fixed or they’re out. This means that I love, and wear, everything in my closet.

6 DIY Cleaning Recipes

I’m in a huge cleaning mode right now. There’s something about the warm weather that makes me want to open all of the windows and scrub until it shines.

While I’m one of those people who enjoys cleaning (I’m a sucker for instant satisfaction), I can’t stand excessive scrubbing or time wasted. I’m very conscious of the chemicals that I bring into my house. The cleaning products we use end up rinsed down the drain and flushed into our oceans, bays, and rivers. Sewage treatment plants cannot pull the bleach and other caustic chemicals out of the waste water before it is discharged into the environment.

All of these DIY cleaning recipes are effective and safe for you and the environment. They will help you clean your home from top to bottom!

DIY Cleaning Recipes

5 DIY Cleaning Recipes

Homemade Stain Remover
Remove tough stains from your laundry, carpet, and upholstery with this two-ingredient recipe.

DIY Castile Laundry Soap
Use your food processor and have six months of laundry soap done in five minutes. If only you could do the laundry the fast.

Hardwood Floor Cleaner
All you need is this easy spray and a microfiber cloth to make this effective hardwood floor cleaner. The cleaner removes dirt and grime without harming the finish of the wood. You can use any flat mop or even re-use an old Swiffer mop.

Homemade All-Purpose Spray
From counters to sinks, this cleaner cuts grime just about anywhere. I mostly use it for sticky bits on the counter and tough grease on the cabinets and stove-top. It’s also great to disinfect the counters before making jam or rolling out cookie dough on them.

Castile Soap Toilet Bowl Cleaner
There isn’t much, if anything that I won’t clean with castile soap. A teaspoon or two is plenty to clean even the dirtiest toilet. You can clean the whole bathroom with it! For a sparkling toilet, squirt a teaspoon or so of castile soap into the bowl before scrubbing with a brush.

Smelly Shoe Spray
Goodbye, stinky shoes! Beat the feet smell with this easy spray. Use it after each wear to keep your shoes and feet fresh.

Related:

Paper towel alternatives

Cheap and effective dorm cleaning

Do you know what’s in your cleaner?

Minimalist Wardrobe Inspiration

I cannot get enough minimalist wardrobe inspiration. I could spend all day looking at people’s capsule wardrobes or tiny closets.

In the process of creating my own minimalist wardrobe, I sought out inspiration from all different sources. Whether you love fashion and want to mix up your wardrobe every three months or you just want to not have to think about what to wear anymore, there’s inspiration in here for everyone.

Minimalist Wardrobe Inspiration-minimalist-wardrobe-inspiration

Minimalist Wardrobe Inspiration

Blogs:

Project 333
One of the first “capsule wardrobe” bloggers, Courtney from Be More With Less started a movement around wearing 33 items for 3 months. Her 33 items include clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes. Her blog has helpful tips for trying out Project 333 yourself as well as outfit posts and encouragement. Need a little more help getting started? Check out her course with worksheets.

Unfancy
Caroline’s blog was my first real introduction to capsule wardrobes. Her photos are stunning, and I love her outfits. While she isn’t doing a strict capsule anymore, she is still posting guides on defining your style as well as her uniforms. Her photos are full of light and mostly classic pieces. Added bonus – she is beginning her foray into ethical fashion! Follow along for brands to keep an eye out for and how to curate an ethical wardrobe. Don’t miss her free wardrobe planner.

Private Life of a Girl
Transparency, quality, and key pieces are all a focus for Sophie from Birmingham, UK. Her posts feature the key pieces of her minimalist wardrobe as well as tips on how to create your own. She digs into slow fashion and how to keep a minimal wardrobe exciting.

Reading My Tea Leaves
Erin is very thoughtful about what she adds to her wardrobe (and puts on her blog). Her simple approach to her closet is refreshing. Want to be really impressed? Check out her wedding dress that she still wears.

Into Mind
This blog is perfect for the Type A, Just Tell Me What To Do people. There are so many guides and worksheets to help you wrangle your closet into the minimalist wardrobe you dream of.

Articles:

These articles will get you ready to clean out your closet and start your minimalist wardrobe. While I highlight the one post from each of these bloggers, I highly recommend a dip into the rest of their site for more inspiration.

A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes
Ten steps to get you to your goal plus a dose of motivation to keep you going.

Cait Flanders’ Teeny Tiny Wardrobe
If you are looking to create a micro-wardrobe, or just want to see one in action, Cait’s where it’s at. She inspires me to make my items do quadruple duty and donate the ones that just don’t need to be there.

Vivianna Does Makeup’s Spring Capsule
While I may think the best part of this video is her accent, I love seeing what she puts in her capsules. I also really appreciate that she shows clothes I can’t buy since she’s in London. No temptation, all inspiration.

5 Reasons Why You Should Have a Minimal Wardrobe – Joo Joo Azad
Sometimes you just need a little nudge to finally leap.

Pack Like a Minimalist
And make your next trip of any length a breeze. (Am I the only one obsessed with seeing what other people pack?)

More:

See my 53 piece minimalist wardrobe.

My workout clothes.

How to Create a Minimalist Wardrobe From Your Closet

My Experiment

When I got laid off  at the beginning of this year, I was so excited to figure out what I wanted to do with my life – until I realized I actually had to make decisions.

The decisions were weighing on me. I felt like I was at a crossroads with 20 different paths leaving it and no idea if any of them ever converge again. Journalist? Publisher? Editor? Marketer? Copywriter? Freelance writer?

I don’t know what I want, and it’s scary. Terrifying actually.

For the first two months or so I would find myself saying out loud “I don’t know what I want to do with my life” while driving or washing dishes or trying to read a book. Each time I would get more and more agitated, more and more desperate to just have a damn answer.

San Francisco Pier

What’s the Plan?

When I set out to decide my next step, I didn’t plan on thinking myself into hysteria. I planned on figuring out what I wanted to do next and what I thought would add value to my life (and ideally the lives of others).

A couple months ago I realized that what I really want right now is to explore, to experiment, and to be able to try as many things as possible in a short time. That means I’m forgoing a traditional job in a company and creating my own.

Hello, freelancing.

I’m dividing my time between freelance writing for publications, copywriting and marketing for companies, and creative projects for myself. I’m giving myself a year to learn new skills and see where I can take myself. I’m paving my own path, and I’m equal parts fired up and shaking in my running shoes.

Enjoy the Experiment

Forget enjoying “the journey,” I’m working towards making this experiment of mine into something memorable and fun. This is my chance to step outside of what I’ve always done and really explore what I’m capable of. It’s my time to learn how to do all of the things I think it would be great to know how to do. It’s a time for what I learned to count nearly as much as where it got me.

This is my version of graduate school – my chance to try new things and not be afraid to fail.

My grandmother and I celebrating another year of trying new things.

I’m back to saying “I don’t know what I want to do, but I’m trying this right now.” After leaving Sunset, I treated my job at a start-up as an experiment and a way to build experience. I could get more experience doing things that a lot of publishing companies were looking for (running an editorial calendar, managing social media accounts), and the whole time I could tell everyone that I was still working toward The Dream.

It made me realize that I do best when I’m experimenting and letting myself naturally grow into a new thing.

Sure, I’m still reading books about finding the job for you (don’t you dare use the word “calling” or I’m out). I’m putting more emphasis on my guiding values/principles and seeing where those can take me.

I realized that this exact moment isn’t when I have to decide what I want to do for the rest of my life. I have the rest of my life to figure that out. Instead, I need to decide what my next step is. I don’t need to know where I’m going. Sidesteps, even going backwards are all on the table. Every direction is movement. All directions are growth.

6 Healthy Cookbooks – Part 2

As much as I love browsing Pinterest for recipe ideas, it just can’t beat flipping through a solid cookbook. These healthy cookbooks have me all jazzed up about getting creative in the kitchen this summer.

healthy-cookbooks-part-2

Love and Lemons Cookbook
You’ll be hard-pressed to find another book as beautiful as this one. I love flipping through it. The book is full of gorgeous full page photos for every recipe, and the whole thing feels light and calming. Jeanine Donofrio’s recipes include a healthy mix of foods. Notes about how to modify recipes to be vegetarian and/or gluten free are peppered throughout so you can make her dishes to suit your needs.

Bowl
Get ready to crave ramen like crazy. I couldn’t stop myself from flagging nearly every recipe. Vegetarian pho? Yes please! This cookbook has everything from a vegetarian spin on popular Asian bowls to Buddha bowls stuffed with veggies.

Eating Clean
This is the only cookbook I have ever read from cover to cover. Amie Valpone’s story is fascinating, and enjoyed getting some ideas for recipes without dairy or gluten. I won’t follow her meal plan, but I would like to incorporate some of her principles (and snacks!) into my daily eating.

Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking
Confession, I still haven’t actually seen this one. There’s a long list of us waiting for it from the library. But given how create The Minimalist Baker’s recipes are, I’m confident it’s worth my wait and your time. Her vegan (and mostly gluten-free) recipes are flavorful and full of nutritious ingredients.

The Sprouted Kitchen
From yet another blogger I love, this cookbook is pretty and functional. She makes vegetarian food feel innovative and homey at the same time. Her gluten-free cornmeal pancakes are on my short list.

Protein Ninja
Looking to add more vegan protein into your diet? This book is for you. While I loved Veganomicon, I was a little disappointed in this book from Terry Romero. I didn’t realize when I requested it from the library that nearly ever recipe would include protein powder. I also had a hard time finding gluten-free recipes in it.

What are your go-to healthy cookbooks?

In case you missed it: Healthy Cookbooks Part 1

Self-Care

Self-care doesn’t have to involve your credit card or some time-intensive, luxurious body treatment. I’m a huge fan of incorporating little things throughout the day. Taking time for yourself is important, and we should all be doing a better job at it.

My friend recently made a comment about how great I am at self-care. It’s something I never really thought about before, but the more things she listed off, the more I realized maybe this is something I innately do.

Self-Care

What I Do for Self-Care

1. Exercise. Yoga feels indulgent to me, but a sweaty workout of any kind is often just the thing I need. I leave with a clear head and a calm body. I typically go for a walk (or run when I wasn’t injured) when I’m feeling particularly stressed or like I’ve spent too much time sitting or in my head.

2. Listen. I trust my gut and I listen to my body. When I just can’t work anymore or something doesn’t feel right, I stop.

self-care

3. Healthy foods. I may treat myself more than I should with sweet treats, but for the most part I work in nutritious foods that I actually enjoy at every meal.

4. Lots of sleep. If I’m not in bed for nine hours, I’m quite upset. I take sleep very seriously. Even if I don’t sleep for that entire time, just being in bed for at least nine hours improves my next day and my body’s ability to recover immensely. I make sleep a priority because my whole next day, and sometimes the days after too, are dependent on it.

5. Happiness. I do the things that make me happy. A cup of tea when I want it. A mellow start to my morning. A killer podcast session at lunch. Whatever it may be, I incorporate the things that make me happy into my day.

6. Quiet time! As an introvert, I thrive on my quiet time. It’s crucial for me to have time in the day to just sit and be. I try to read daily – the more time I spend with a book the better.

Self-Care

7. Triggers. I know what makes me feel stressed and annoyed and I do my best to avoid them at all costs. I clean up my room each night so when I wake up I feel calm and relaxed instead of overwhelmed with clutter. I get all of the dishes out of the sink and wipe all of the counters. I also try to tackle the nagging to-dos that annoyed me that day so they don’t drag on into the next. I set myself up for a positive experience instead of a negative response.

How to Fit in Self-Care

The same friend also asked me how I find the time for self-care. I make time. My workout is on my calendar. I pick up my room every night so it takes me five minutes instead of a marathon session.

You don’t have to set aside an entire evening to take care of yourself. Small bursts throughout the day go a long way!

Instead of stressing about how to fit in self-care, pick one thing you can do in 5-10 minutes. Do it today, and make a plan of when you will do it tomorrow. Once that item turns into a habit, add another. We all have the same amount of time in the day. We all choose how to spend it.

Self-care looks different for everyone, and it should! Do what makes you happy and feel refreshed. Skip the things you “should do” and embrace the weird things that work for you.

Why You Should Learn How to Cook

I dragged my feet on cooking. It was one of the last “adult” skills I finally accepted I needed to know how to do. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I started to learn how to cook.

The idea terrified me. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. Scrambled eggs unsupervised stressed me out. It was so easy for something to go wrong! What if I cut myself? What if it tasted terrible? What if I burned the whole dinner? Or worse, me!

It took me a long time to finally stop putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect at cooking and let myself explore, learn, and “fail.”

Now I’m confident in the kitchen. I frequently look at a recipe once or twice, and then do my own thing roughly based on it. I never would have dreamed of doing that a few years ago.

Why You Should Learn How to Cook

Why You Should Learn How to Cook

It shocks me how few of my friends know how to cook! It may be intimidating at first, but learning how to cook is a quick life-changer. Gross microwave meals and takeout be gone!

1. Cooking for yourself is so much healthier.

2. It’s cheaper.

3. You know exactly what’s in your food.

4. When it’s something you made, you appreciate it more.

5. Cooking is relaxing once you get the hang of it.

6. There is a distinct satisfaction and comfort in nourishing yourself and the people around you.

7. You can make your favorite dishes anytime, just the way you like them.

8. Your friends will be blown away by your skills in the kitchen (even if you really just chopped a few things and pushed it around a pan for a little while).

Why You Should Learn How to Cook

Where to Start

The basics. I highly recommend taking a cooking class or learning from someone you know. Being able to ask questions and have someone tell you there is no need to panic will make you feel infinitely more comfortable in the kitchen. You can also watch tutorials on how to do specific things like make scrambled eggs and roast vegetables.

Equipment. You don’t need much to have a functional, efficient kitchen. Get yourself a nice, sharp knife (trust me, you will enjoy cooking infinitely more if it’s easy) and learn how to use it. Worry about the fancy stuff later. You really only need a cutting board, a solid chefs knife, a baking sheet, a medium sized pot, and a good stainless steel frying pan. You’d be surprised how much you can cook with just those five things.

Ease in. Start by cooking one meal per week from scratch (you don’t have to make the pasta, but you do have to make the sauce and side veggie/salad). Be sure to make enough that you can eat it for leftovers. Nothing encourages me to cook quite like knowing I won’t have to scrounge for lunch or dinner the next day.

Embrace the weekends. There is something magical about cooking on the weekends. The lack of stress and excess time make cooking relaxing and enjoyable. Invite a friend or cook with you or your roommate or significant other. Don’t worry about how anything turns out and instead treat it like an adventure. An adventure that will give you killer leftovers instead of sad salads to eat for lunch during the week.

Quick and easy weeknight meals. I have general rules for weeknight meals: nothing with too many steps or dishes, 30 minutes or less of active kitchen time, and only a handful of ingredients. Save the marathon cooking and the obscure ingredients for a luxurious weekend. I also stick to techniques, and for the most part recipes, that I have done before. Weeknight dinners can easily be fast, easy, and nutritious.

Recommended Recipes

Some of the first things I learned to cook:

High Protein Oatmeal in the microwave. I got you.

Mason Jar Salads: Cook is a strong word here. But hello, weekday lunch!

Vegetable Stir Fry: Made at least twice a month around these parts.

Veganonicons Miso Udon: Hands down my favorite recipe of the bunch. I make this nearly weekly in some variation. You can swap in broccoli, carrots, zucchini, or just about any other vegetable for the mushrooms. Bonus, it’s really hard to screw up.

Want more ideas? Check out my Pinterest board for healthy, vegetarian ideas.