Need to Keep Yourself on Task? Try the Tomato Technique Badge


Tomato Timer01

While looking up blog designs and doing my research, I checked out the site of an illustrator and writer I really admire. I have loved Debbie Ridpath Ohi ever since I discovered her work in an interview by Dan Blank last year.

Debbie has a brilliant idea to but up a badge for wordcounts.

She created a badge you can use to post on your site if you commit to writing 250, 500, or 1000 words 6 days a week.

I recently found that word counts don’t work for me unless I’m deep in a long draft. Even then, they are a bit of a stressor. I find myself anxious to get through it rather than sinking into the process.

Instead, I found a technique that works better for me from a wonderful Massive Online Open Course called Learning How to Learn.

In this class, Professor Barbara Oakley describes the Pomodoro Technique, using the fancy Italian word for tomato.

Apparently (though I have never seen one away from the Internet) timers often look like tomatoes. I guess the ‘egg technique’ isn’t as elegant.


My own timer looks like an iPhone. This could be distracting if people called or texted me at 4:30 am when I am writing but I suspect most people are asleep. (Shortly after writing this first draft my son’s school district did call to say there was a 2 hour delayed start at 6:00 am. So it’s possible.)


I set my timer for 25 minutes of focused attention and then dial into what I am doing. After 25 minutes, I take a 5-10 minute break to get tea, check Facebook, or talk to my husband as he gets ready for work. If I have more time before the day job, I set the timer once more and get back at it. When I went on my writing retreat, I worked three 25 minute sessions in the morning and then one or two in the afternoon, too.

The professors in Learning How to Learn say that this sort of focused time is crucial when learning anything new (like how to write a darned novel or draw a tomato). They also say the breaks are vital. Our brains need the down time in order to process the information and come up with creative solutions like we do in the shower or while driving.

At the top of the post, I have a Tomato Technique Badge. I’m calling it by its English name because the poet in me likes the sound of the t’s.

My favorite Online Etymology Dictionary also told me this about the word:

‘tomato (n.)
1753, earlier tomate (c. 1600), from Spanish tomate (mid-16c.) from Nahuatl (Aztecan) tomatl “a tomato,” said to mean literally “the swelling fruit,” from tomana “to swell.”‘

I find it even more poetic and encouraging to think of my writing and other creative work as a ‘swelling fruit.’

Anyway, feel free to save my hand drawn tomato for your blog and link it back here. Or use Debbie’s badge if the word counts work better for you. If you don’t have a blog, you could print and post it to your wall. You could even draw your own!

However you do it,  the badge you choose shows your commitment to wordcounts or focused time on any creative endeavor you want to dial into 6 days a week. 

May you find time to create your own swelling fruit-

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