Question: What is the Pomodoro Technique, and how can I use it to improve my writing productivity and get my book finished?



Writing a book can be very challenging, not only because the task of writing takes skill and effort, but because it can require a lot of dedication to actually complete a book. For many writers, finding the time to get the manuscript done is the biggest hurdle. Some chip away at the manuscript slowly by writing as time allows, while others write a little bit every day. Ultimately, that works well for one writer may not work well for another.

No matter your writing process, three things that are essential for getting to the finish with a book are time management, self-discipline, and goal setting. One proven way to ensure you approach your writing process intentionally and wisely is to set SMART goals:
It's important to set SMART goals as a part of your writing process when writing a book.

S – Specific – set target dates to reach specific milestones.

M – Measurable – monitor your progress based on word count, pages, scenes, or chapters.

A – Achievable – ensure goals are attainable given your work schedule, family life, and physical or mental capacities.

R – Realistic – avoid setting goals that seem impossible or overly difficult to reach.

T – Time-based – give yourself a set time frame to accomplish tasks.

There are many tools and resources available to writers to assist with setting and reaching these goals, and one of the more popular time-based approaches for creating a structured writing schedule is the Pomodoro Technique.

How the Pomodoro Technique works

Developed by T Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management tool that uses a timer to break tasks into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a “pomodoro”, from the Italian word for tomato, named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used.

The original technique includes six steps:

The Pomodoro Technique can be used by writers to improve productivity and eliminate distrations.
1.  Determine the task to be done.
2.  Set a timer (typically for 25 minutes).
3.  Work on the task for the set time without any distractions.
4.  Take a short break (typically 5 to 10 minutes).
5.  Go back to Step 2 and repeat until you complete four
6.  At the end of four rounds, take a longer break (typically 20 to 30 minutes). Then, return to step 2 and repeat if time allows.

Cirillo found that by breaking down big, intimidating tasks into more manageable chunks, he was able to stay committed and focused. The Pomodoro Technique can be very beneficial when trying to complete a manuscript, but it’s not just for writers. This tool is used by individuals in many occupations to increase focus, maintain motivation, and improve productivity, while reducing overwhelm, procrastination, and distractions.

The benefits of timed writing

Writing is one of the most brain-intensive tasks you can perform, so setting time limits and giving yourself meaningful breaks are both essential to your overall productivity. Timed writing, such as the Pomodoro Technique, is a great way to set expectations and give yourself a structure to follow, without feeling too taxing. Timed writing can range from just a couple of minutes in length up to an hour or more, depending on your goals and the amount of time you are able to dedicate.

Timed writing practices have many benefits including creating positive habits and combating writer's block.There are many benefits to a timed writing practice including:

You are more likely to make the time – Scheduling writing time that is manageable can greatly increase your chances of following through.

It helps create positive writing habits – Creating a structured, consistent routine for writing will go a long way in helping you exercise your writing muscles and reach your goals.

It can clear your mind if feeling stuck or blocked – Having a set amount of time to get some focused writing done is a great motivator, especially if you are blocked due to self-doubt or distractions.

You can set yourself up for success the next time you sit down to write – By stopping your writing when the timer runs out, you leave an unfinished idea or vision in your mind which can serve as inspiration for your next session.

If you find that the 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off interval of the Pomodoro Technique is too much or too little, you can try different intervals. Just make sure the breaks are productive and not disruptive to your creative flow. Do things that will benefit you physically and mentally like a short walk, light housework, meditation, and hydration, and avoid checking social media and email, snacking, or playing video games.

You can use the basic, built-in timer applications on your smartphone or tablet to set timers, or for a little more fun, one of these Pomodoro-specific applications:

•  Pomofocus
•  Pomodor
•  TomatoTimers
•  Forest
•  Marinara
•  Nesto

Additional strategies for improving your writing productivity

There are numerous tactics and tools writers can use to get their rear in the chair and write. Some are meant to spark creativity and flow, while others encourage a more disciplined approach. You might have to explore a few different strategies before you find what works best for you. Here are a few ideas:

Dedicating a comfortable writing space can be a great way to create positive writing habits.Block writing time on your calendar and treat it as an appointment – Maybe it’s every day, every other day, or just on the weekends. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of solid, undistracted time, establishing a schedule can go a long way in keeping you focused and helping to prioritize your writing.

Write every day, even if only for short periods of time – There are huge benefits to writing every day, even if just for a few minutes or while you are on-the-go. It’s important to keep the creative juices flowing and continue working on improving your craft.

Dedicate a space for writing – Having a comfortable and inviting space that is free from distractions can help you get into the right mindset when you sit down to write. Some writers listen to music or burn a scented candle to help create the right atmosphere.

Practice writing exercises and promptsExercises and prompts are short drills that encourage writers to look at their own story or topic from a new perspective, or, approach familiar topics in a new way. Some common writing exercises include writing a scene from your story using a different character’s perspective, writing a letter to your future reader, or writing about a real-life experience in the third person he/she voice. Writing prompts are statements or visuals that generate new ideas or stimulate creativity. Some common writing prompts include an opening sentence of a short story that you need to complete, a problem for which you need to write out the solution, and a photo of a setting or character that you need to describe.

Employ writing sprints – Like the Pomodoro Technique, a writing sprint is a set amount of focused writing time, but is typically just a single session ranging from ten minutes in length up to an hour, where the writer produces as many words as possible without stopping to edit or revise. These short bursts of output can be helpful if you have a daily word count goal you are trying to achieve or are struggling with writer’s block. You can do them on your own or even find group writing sprints to join online through social media platforms like YouTube.

Reward yourself for reaching important milestones – When you feel particularly discouraged, it can be useful to implement incentives. Rewarding yourself when you reach certain goals or when you've pushed past a tough hurdle can give you a tangible reason to continue pushing forward. The reward can be as small as treating yourself to an ice cream when you finish that pesky chapter that’s been plaguing you, or purchasing a book that’s been on your reading list.

Find an accountability partner – Developing a support system may help you stay motivated and on track. Family, friends, or peers can remind you of your goals or provide validation on days when your determination is waning. Writing groups and communities like the Author Learning Center can be great places to find support.

All of the planning and scheduling in the world doesn't matter if you never sit down and actually write, so most importantly, write, write, write! You might need to make sacrifices to find time for writing, like cutting back on non-essential activities, and make adjustments as your writing goals evolve and you gain more experience.

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