Posted by Alexia Melocchi

I am an obsessive multi tasker.
Some call me a master juggler.

I can work on any given day on multiple projects and activities. I'm not sure if it is because I love variety or because deep down I am a masochist. Or a control freak.

From buying films on behalf of our theatrical distributor clients, selling and marketing those films, developing content for film and television, and representing personalities, influencers or media companies, I do it all. I also consult for Wall Street and do story development consultations.

My phone should be surgically attached to my body, as I receive and write an average of 500 emails a day. And while I do all of these things, I kid myself than I can also find the time go to the gym, follow my social media, and have a semblance of a personal life. At times I get so involved in what I am doing (including writing and pitching) that I forget to eat.

 

How a Tomato Can Help You Meet Your Writing  Filmmaking Deadlines

Or, to another extreme, I completely forget my boundaries and let meaningless phone calls, emails, or meetings take me to the land of nowhere and off focus. Bottom line, I sometimes think I'm Super Woman. But at what expense? My master juggling super power can leave me drained and unable to say NO or to prioritize because I want to be able to do it all, and do it great.

I end up getting lost in activities that aren't really at the top of my priority list and when I have to meet a deadline, I am so stressed by the passing of time that I start forgetting what was the first thing I started this morning. My to-do list scribbles become more and more disjointed and everything becomes a matter of life and death.

But is EVERYTHING truly that important?

There has to be a way to control this do people like you and me who write, produce, create, direct, and sell, or suffer from plain old ADD. And there is.

 

The Discovery of the Tomato

After the Cannes Film Festival I went to Italy to visit my family. While on the freeway I stopped by a gas station that also had a store with various items, including books. My lucky stars must have shined on me that day as my eye caught the title of a book by Italian author Francesco Cirillo, called The Pomodoro Technique (Pomodoro is tomato in Italian.)

It appears this is a very famous method for time management for the individual and for an entire team. The image was that of a kitchen timer shaped like a Tomato. I just had to buy it. In a very fast and easy read, I could not believe how simple the solution was to a calmer, more effective way to work with focus and to actually complete actions by order of importance. Upon my return to the US, I decided to test this technique, and it does work. Even now, as I write this Stage 32 blog, I am using the Pomodoro Technique. I am three tomatoes in at this point of my writing and should be finished in another two tomatoes.


How a Tomato Can Help You Meet Your Writing  Filmmaking Deadlines

 

How many times have you been drowning in your own work, with little time, distractions, interruptions, delays?

The objective of the Pomodoro Technique is to increase concentration, awareness of decision, and give the right estimate of completion of any given given task. This is done through a different way of looking at time.

Here are the only there things you need

  • Kitchen Timer (It doesn't have to be shaped like a tomato, although I bought a cute one for myself in the shape of a black cat as I love cats!)
  • Some paper
  • A journal

The paper is for a TO DO list, and should include the date, a list of things to be done within the day in order of priority, and a separate column that should be titled: Unexpected and Urgent.
The journal is to log activities that are made of your to dos and should n be marked completed at the end of the day.
Next to it will also be the number of tomatoes it took to accomplish that activity.

The tomato itself represents a fraction of time of 25 minutes. That is what you set your timer for. For each tomato time fraction concluded, there needs to be a 5 minute break (water, bathroom, check your email, write new tasks and reminders that came to mind), but they need to be done within 5 minutes. These 25 minute segments are used only for ONE TASK, whatever that task may be. You cannot absolutely break from that and start something else.

No distractions are allowed and you need to exercise some discipline.

 

How to Use Tomatoes in Scriptwriting

If you want to write a script, those 25 minutes are for scriptwriting only. When you are on the 5 -minute break, if you check your email or Facebook, it is not recommended you respond (not even a like or love button push), as it can take you away from the task. If an email or voicemail came in during the 25-minute activity segment, you will have to hold on responding and send all your messages to voicemail. So basically, if there is an action to be done, it can wait till you are done with your goal. (For example, writing 5 pages of a script).


How a Tomato Can Help You Meet Your Writing  Filmmaking Deadlines


Make sure you write these new to-do things (that may have transpired during breaks and have nothing to do with writing) in your journal in order of priority. Then forget about them for a while. Every 4 tomatoes (or every 2 hours) your break becomes longer. Eventually it will be 15 to 30 minutes. This is the perfect toime to make coffee, take a walk, do breathing exercises, play with your pet, or respond to simple emails and messages. Do not do anything too involved.

If you finish the task before the tomato (timer) starts ringing, you can use the rest of the time to reflect on what you just did and acknowledge it in the activity at hand. Or go back and review your writing, for example. Once you're done with the entire task, you'll know how many tomatoes it took you so next time you can estimate your time better.

Segmenting time in this way can be incredibly therapeutic for many reasons.

To begin with, you do not panic if you have to write an entire screenplay or presentation because every 5, 10, 15 pages you write, you'll be able to celebrate your victories. This, of course, applies to even personal activities like cleaning, working out, or meditating. When it’s time to make calls, do them all at the same time, in a focused way.

The tomato also allows you to get good at boundary setting. Say a friend texts you to go to dinner that night. Is that a life or death situation? Can it not wait till you at least get through four tomatoes? It will be helpful also as you log in your tomatoes to put small x marks on how many times you were interrupted by others because it will clearly indicate how you manage your boundaries as you get good at this.


How a Tomato Can Help You Meet Your Writing  Filmmaking Deadlines

Helpful Tomato Tips

Here are some helpful tips for you:

  1. If you are unable to finish the tomato and fall victim of distraction (by your own doing or an outside source), do not get mad at yourself. Just start a new tomato.

  2. If you're working with others, let them also do the Pomodoro Technique with you. This way you can all meet up at break, and everyone puts in the same effort on any given project.

  3. Really use a kitchen timer. There are apps on the App Store that you can download, if you search for the Pomodoro Technique. They are pretty great but until you master it, the loud sound of the kitchen timer is an excellent way for your brain to really understand the start and stop process.

  4. Protect your tomato at all costs. If someone interrupts you, the best course of action is to inform them of your unavailability and briefly negotiate to postpone the interruption. You can return the call or answer that email after one, two, three tomatoes, depending on the urgency.

 

There are the basics principles. As I write this last paragraph I am thrilled to say I finished within schedule. I can’t wait to hear feedback on this and on how this technique worked for you.

My confidence of being able to work on something distraction free has skyrocketed as has my boundary setting ability. Saying no has just become easier to me and all this because of a tomato!

Now a real Italian tomato is something else, and is best used to make great sauce for pasta, which you can cook for yourself to celebrate your new time management skills.

One Tomato, Two Tomatoes, Three Tomatoes.
Start counting!

 

 

Other Stage 32 Posts by Alexia:
How Body Language and Buzz Words Can Drastically Improve Your Pitch
Think Like an Ad Man [Using Creative Agency Techniques to Build Project Identity]
How Do I Sell My Movie? [An Objective Look at Distribution]
4 Ways to Fail as a Producer (And 4 Ways to Succeed!)

How Body Language Buzz Words Can Drastically Improve Your Pitch

Alexia Melocchi is a partner in LITTLE STUDIO FILMS and has had a successful career in the international marketplace, as both a sales agent and buyer’s rep for eleven territories, giving her diverse exposure to all types of films and functions in the entertainment industry. As producer and development and distribution consultant, she works on packaging films, securing co productions, casting and arranging for the US and International Distribution of several projects of her clients using her expertise in international sales, international acquisitions, high-level relationships in Hollywood and a global film marketing approach.

 


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