Dear Writer – Three Tips To Help You Get Your Pomodoro On


You’re not alone

Few new authors, and sometimes even established ones, have the luxury of hours on end to write. They, too, have to work, feed their brood, and change the cat litter. You’re not alone. The sooner you accept that you are probably never going to have that elusive chunk of uninterrupted time to sit and write, the sooner you can get your Pomodoro on.

Of tomatoes and kitchen timers

Francesco Cirillo developed a simple yet effective tool in the 1980s called the Pomodoro Technique to manage time and increase productivity. In crude terms, you divide your work into focused, distraction-free 25-minute bursts (called Pomodoros) interspersed with five-minute breaks and a longer break every four Pomodoros. He used a kitchen timer that looked like a tomato, hence the name.

In good company

I’m not suggesting that you embrace the Pomodoro technique in all its tomatoey glory. I do think, though, that clever writers make use of the time they have, and that thirty-minute bursts of focused writing are better than not writing.  Elizabeth Gilbert calls it ‘that little humble block of time’. She writes in airports, in hotel rooms, in taxis, between interviews, backstage at the TED conference – in half-hour segments that resulted in her new book growing like a weed (her words, not mine). Lauren Beukes also likes this approach to combat procrastination. She says, ‘I know writers who wrote their novels in half-an-hour a day, every day, sitting in their car in the parking lot of their office during their lunch-break. If you want this, make it happen.’

Here are 30 minutes for you … and for you … and for you

This works for me. It’s practical. It’s doable. It makes me want to go all Oprah Winfrey on you, and dish out kitchen timers so you can also discover the joy of ‘that little humble block of time’.

Here are three tips to help you get your Pomodoro on:

  1. Incorporate it into your routine: have at least one Pomodoro at a set time every day so that, come what may, you’ve put pen to paper or cursor to screen every day.
  2. Carpe sliverum: okay, that’s not really Latin but my way of encouraging you to make use of every unallocated 30-minute sliver of time in your day. If I asked you to schedule seven and a half hours of writing time in your week on top of your normal schedule, you would most likely balk at the prospect. However, doing three Pomodoros a day – one when you wake up, one during your lunchtime at work, and one before you go to bed, for only five days a week, gives you exactly that. You can do it!
  3. Buy a timer or install an app on your phone: you can’t control what you can’t measure, so quantify the time you spend writing. My Pomodoro app on my phone has an interesting effect on me. The fact that I’m being ‘timed’ makes me twice as effective as I would be in a normal, ‘untimed’ half an hour. I literally race
    against the clock.Game on. Bloody Mary, anyone?

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course.

 by Donna Radley

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