Monday, June 9, 2014

Increase Your Writing Productivity with the Pomodoro Technique

If you're like me, then you know that time has a way of moving fast, leaving you with many undone to-dos.

Over a month ago, while getting back into my dissertation writing, a friend of mine told me about the Pomodoro Technique, and since I've started implemented it into my daily goings on, I have seen an increase in my productivity in many areas, specifically my writing and my workouts.

For those not in the know, "The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as 'pomodori,' the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for "tomato" ("Pomodoro Technique").

Image from Wikipedia

There are five basic principles to the pomodoro technique:

  1. Pick a project you'd like to work on.
  2. Set your pomodoro to a certain amount of minutes. Traditionally, this is 25 minutes; however, you can set this amount to whatever you like.
  3. Work on your project until the time elapses and then record the interval.
  4. Take a break. Traditionally, the break is five minutes; however, you can set this amount, too.
  5. For every four pomodoro intervals you do in a row, take a longer break. ("Pomodoro Technique")


When I am at my computer, I use Tomato Timer to pomodoro. It's preset for a 25-minute pomodoro session and short (five minutes) and long (ten minutes) breaks.

On my tablet and phone, I use Pomodoro Timer Pro (if you use iPhone or iPad, you can go here or here to check out apps).

With this app, I can add a task and the expected amount of pomodoros I will need to do to complete a task.

 
Image from Pomodoro Timer Pro via Google Play

I can tweak settings for sounds and for lengths of my short and long breaks.

Image from Pomodoro Timer Pro via Google Play

I can keep a running tab of tasks, those that are completed and those left to complete; I can also see how many pomodoros I have done for each task.

Image from Pomodoro Timer Pro via Google Play

In the first week I used the pomodoro technique, I was able to finish writing my latest dissertation chapter, adding about 7,000 words to the chapter as well as organizing material for the next chapter.

I have also used the technique to write a few short stories, and there is something about that time factor that works great as an accountability partner for me, and I feel more driven to work faster.

But it also allows me to work SMARTER.

Often, I will sit, for HOURS in front of my computer as I work on a particular project. During that time, my body gets stiff, other tasks get placed on the back burner, and I'm left tired after working on that one task.

The pomodoro technique helps me to non-linearly work with various tasks. I'm not so focused on thinking I must complete ONE task before moving on to the next. For example, I pomodoro on a project, and then on my break, I go wash some dishes or I workout, or I make phone calls, or I meditate and pray, or I do something else short on my to-do list.

I have really gotten into the habit of writing/editing and exercising during a pomodoro interval.

I will write/edit for 45 minutes and workout for 15 minutes. In four hours, I have completed an hour of exercise (over the course of four hours so it keeps the body nice and warm and limber) and three hours of writing/editing, and though that may not seem like a lot of time, it's surprising how much more you actually get done when using the technique.

Since I've started using this technique, I find myself thinking more in increments when it comes to to-dos, and I find myself wanting to do most of my tasks using the technique. For example, when I clean the house, I pomodoro, cleaning for 25 minutes, and checking email or doing something else small with my 5-minute break.

For writers, it can be a hassle trying to find the time to write; in fact, this is one of the biggest whines from writers. I know I whine a lot about it. But for me, the Pomodoro Technique seems to be one that caters to my need for accountability (in some form), my need for variety (in tasks completed), and my need for efficiency (work smarter, not harder).

If you haven't checked out the technique, I would urge you to do so. It's always good to look into other ways to be more productive.

What techniques do you use to write more efficiently?

Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.

22 comments:

  1. This is intriguing. It gives direction and holds you accountable. I'm dating myself, but in the working world, I found Franklin Planner helpful. I had daily "to do's" I needed to cross off and because they were there in writing I felt compelled to get to them. Whether designed as a tomato or a planner, structure and forethought help.

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    1. You are SO right, Liza. I totally remember the Franklin Planner, and I actually still keep a paper planner because I need that physical accountability, too.

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  2. This is a good tip. I tend to get lost in projects and look up hours later and the day is mostly gone. The more you work a routine, the more natural it becomes. I read somewhere that it takes at least 7 days to become a habit.

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    1. I've read from some 21 or 28 days for that habit to take form. Whatever the case, we know it takes TIME, and when we find something that works well for us, it deserves to become a good habit.

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  3. Lately, I've been doing the dog in the yard method. I set my timer every twenty minutes or so, then go outside and see if she looks too hot, and should be brought in. Maybe these breaks are what's letting me get more done lately. lol

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    1. hahaha. I am sure that's one of the reasons, Morgan. And there's something about that timer, that being under the clock, that lights a fire under the bum and makes you work.

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  4. And here I thought I'd get a recipe for pasta! We all do what works. In fact, there's a Writing Process Blog Tour going on (my day was today) and it's interesting to see how others write. If you want to see how a 'non-structured' writing day goes, you can find the post here: http://terryodell.com/the-writing-process-blog-hop/
    And I think I know what I'm having for dinner.

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    1. hahaha. Love that response, Terry. I am definitely going to check out the Writing Process Blog Tour. That sounds SO awesome!

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  5. Using Promodoro would probably help me get more organized. I find myself stopping to go wash dishes or vacuum or some other task. But I do try to be sort of chaotically organized. I'll write a while, then I'll go check email, then I'll go back to writing/editing, then start figuring out what to fix for dinner, then...so on and so on.

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    1. I think it could help definitely, Helen. I, too, consider myself chaotically organized. This, for me, lessens the chaotic factor considerably and lets me work on a few things at a time and still be productive.

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  6. Shon, this is such good advice. I have a similar routine with working at my computer for a set period of time, then breaking to exercise or do chores. I've just never used a timer or kept track of the time spent on tasks so closely. Whether you use the tech approach or not, the most important thing is to take those breaks. I liked your suggestion to vary what you do in the break, too. Sometimes I break just to walk around my house slowly and read a chapter in a book I'm enjoying.

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    1. You're right, Maryann. Those breaks are SO important. If for anything because they help to keep you active and alert through whatever you're working on.

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  7. No doubt a good idea, Shon ... but clocks and me are a bad mix ... which may explain why it takes me forever to do anything ... but it's just how I roll.

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    1. And that's totally fine, Chris. We all try to find what works for each of us. :-)

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  8. Oh, wow....I REALLY needed this!! Thanks so much! I've been bemoaning my lack of time management skills for quite a long time. I know it's not that I don't have enough time to get things accomplished. The problem is ME and my lack of focus. This also reminded me that I stuck to a similar time schedule a couple of years ago (??) and it worked for me...but somehow I got away from it and forgot about it. I'll definitely give this a try. THANK YOU, Shonell!

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    1. You are more than welcome, Becky. :-)

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  9. Interesting idea, Shon. I can see how this could increase my focus...which really needs some tweaking from time to time. I'll give it a try.

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    1. Awesome, Linda! Let me know how it goes.

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  10. There are many stuffs that keep importance in terms of the writing aspects, but the one which makes a better management of those writing in terms of boosting the productivity is quite impressive.

    One major term in terms of writing is the time management. I am very bad at time management and that's why being a writer, I prefer the usage of hours tracking tool from Replicon as to be the tool to be considered.

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    1. I'll have to check out that tool, Sonia.

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