Pomodoro Technique for Writers

Tomato TimerWhen I am at home on my computer all manner of distractions keep me from writing. It one of the hazards of having a home based studio instead of going to an office to work. While I enjoy the freedom of working from home, I am also distracted by the various temptations being self-employed brings. My main distraction is social media and reading blogs and forums. I enjoy accumulating odd facts and information, it does help me with my writing, but there comes a point when it is too much of a good thing. Temptation hurts word count.

My initial training as a writer comes from Nanowrimo. There I learned of techniques to help gain focus as I write. One of my favorites is the “word sprint” where a group of writers get together, set a certain amount of time to write, and then the group focuses on the task until the timer goes off. At then end, we all compare word count. Take a short break and then repeat the process.

To simulate a “word sprint” here at home, I use what is known as the Pomodoro Technique. This technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1990s and is a simple concept. Write down a task, work on the task for 25 minutes without interruption, and then take a five minute break afterward to reward yourself. What I like about this technique is that I gain a log of tasks that I’ve done during the day and it allows me to see a visual progress at a glance. The term Pomodoro comes from the Italian word Pomodori which means tomatoes.

The basic steps to using the Pomodoro Technique are:

Decide on the task to be done. Write it down.
Set the Pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
Work on the task until the timer rings. Record that you completed the task with an X.
Take a short five minute break. (Time to check facebook!)
Repeat the process with a new task.
Every four pomodori, take a longer break of fifteen to thirty minutes.

The timer you use can vary. It is possible to use an old fashioned egg timer that you set for the required twenty-five minutes and leave on your desk. People that get into the technique have been known to use analog tomato shaped timers for this purpose. However, I have found that there are a number of free timer sites you can use and run in the background of your computer that work wonderfully. Below are listed a few of my favorites.

MyTomatoes – This is my favorite pomodoro timer on the net. You do need to register to use it, but it is free to use. This timer only has traditional pomodoro time units, but it allows you to write in the task you have worked on once you complete it and it has the breaks built in. As you work, it keeps a log of the tasks you have done so you can see your progress.

E.ggtimer.com – This site will allow you to do this traditional work block of time, but it also has other timers that could be interesting to use for other purposes. Such as a timer for brewing tea, a few workout timers and a custom timer that you can set to whatever time you need.

Focus Booster – This is another online timer, but they also offer a free desktop app as well. It defaults to the 25 minute Pomodoro timer blocks. I find this one to be very simple and a good one to test out the Pomodoro technique.

2 thoughts on “Pomodoro Technique for Writers”

  1. Wendy, I love your line, ‘Temptation hurts word count.’ Right now, in addition to my WIP open in a Word document, I have 8 Internet tabs open: Goodreads, StumbleUpon, my blog, Facebook, my email, your blog, Twitter, and research on a future post for my blog. I have so much to catch up on in my social media circles and am so far behind on my blog posts that I need a clone to do it all for me (several clones would be nice, actually!). Instead, now I’m going to close all these tabs, set my timer and get to work.

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