A Tomato Changed My Life

It really did.

A couple of years ago when I was struggling with my studies, I was lucky to have several sessions with Student Support at University, thanks to my Disabled Student’s Allowance.

I explained how overwhelmed I felt, all the reading, essay-planning, writing up. Not only that, also tackling the physical realities of life with MS; keeping on top of the laundry, the garden, the housework.

I was failing big time.

We talked it through and I realised I gave up doing things as I wanted to do the entire job or task in one go, and when I saw that I couldn’t, I threw the towel in and walked away, burying my head in the sand.

She thought about it then suggested I needed a tomato. Of course. A tomato would solve everything.

She clicked on an app in her phone, something tomato-related. It was simply a timer. So where was the wonder in that? She advised that I break tasks down into tomato-timers, like those old-fashioned kitchen ones. Set the timer for up to 25 minutes, get on with the task at hand and then stop when the timer rings. Have a break and then, when you’re ready, pick up where you left off.

Um, yeah? A humble tomato was going to sort my life out. I was pretty sceptical, but downloaded the app in good faith.

I did a bit of research. Apparently it’s a time-management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s, using his kitchen timer to break down tasks. He called it the Pomodoro Technique (Italian for tomato, lol).

It’s so utterly simple and obvious, it just couldn’t work for me. I was absolutely certain. We were told the same thing in school – ‘take regular study breaks, do something fun like playing with your hamster’.

Not long after, I was up against a gruelling essay deadline, with no hope of achieving it. The laundry basket was full and the house was submerged in dust. I found my tomato and clicked on 10 minutes – easing myself in gently.

Well, long story short, it worked. Ten minutes later, the washing machine was humming away. Break. Twenty minutes writing, break. And so on. I was chalking up tomatoes like there was no tomorrow.

I still feel a bit embarrassed at how elementary it is, but it really resonated. My back-garden is in a terrible Winter-state and it scares me how much time I need to make it Spring-ready. Tomatoes.

I spent twenty minutes the other day, clearing weeds, picking up the mouse-heads (thanks, cat), and sweeping up some leaves. The immense amount of satisfaction I felt more than makes up for feeling ever so slightly silly.

Aside from studies, it helps enormously with MS. I now feel more capable, and less overwhelmed. It’s taken the burden of pressure from me.

Try a Tomato Today. It might just change your life.

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8 thoughts on “A Tomato Changed My Life

  1. Joan (Devon) says:

    This is a good idea! When I was first diagnosed with MS my husband printed off copies of a book which I first saw in physiotherapy about managing with MS. In it, it says do chores in small chunks, the same idea. Trouble is you lose sense of time, so invariably do more than is wise, so a timer makes sense.

    I suppose I am odd in that when I have a lot to do, even before MS, I like to get the little jobs out of the way first before I start on the big job in hand, so most of my energy has gone, but I still feel that I have accomplished something getting the little jobs out of the way and there is always tomorrow for that big job.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      That’s really interesting – that it comes as MS advice too. I tend to set the timer on my phone, so I’m almost forced to stop what I’m doing and take a break!
      I know what you mean about getting the little jobs out of the way first! I also love crossing them off my to-do list 🙂 X

  2. love this! You don’t need to have MS to benefit. I have no excuse for the pickles I get in! I’m gonna try it today
    Thanks Barbara!

  3. Roger Cook says:

    I am soooo going to put this into action. It’s well and good having a/the ‘to do’ list (I have several), but actually getting them done…
    I hear a tomato calling!
    Great blog!

  4. Nanette Lewis-Head says:

    Every time I see a tomato I will think of you and have a little giggle!Always so wonderful to read your blog Barbara.I couldn’t agree more about timing it takes the hassle out of my to do list.Thinking of you as you work,study,look after the cat,and the need to rest to help you along.Happy thoughts of our chats and putting the world right
    with best wishes

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Thank you Nanette! We’ve had some great chats over the years 🙂 Hopefully I’ll see you at some point soon. X

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