This time management technique has really revolutionized my writing sessions. Before, I would find myself staring off into space or taking a “break” to check my phone. I used it for Camp NaNoWriMo, and it totally helped to keep me on track and reach my goal of 75,000 words!
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique, and I am probably (definitely) being overdramatic when I say it’s life changing. But it’s effectiveness on my writing sessions was evident in not only my Camp NaNo success, but also in my emotional connection to writing.
You set a timer for 25 minutes, and then take a break for 5 minutes! It’s that simple. After four 30 minute chunks (25 minutes plus 5 minute break), you’re supposed to take a 15-20 minute break. That part is up to you, but for me, I’m never really sitting down and working for long periods of time without having to eat/go to work/go to school/go to wherever the heck dark magic calls me. You can keep time however you want, but for me I use my iPhone!
- not too long to give your dreams and goals undivided attention
- manageable chunk of time
- breaks down large, time consuming tasks
- sometimes all or nothing (if I can’t complete 25 minutes I mine as well not work at all)
- too much micromanaging
- you can fall into the trap of taking your 5 minute break and turning it into 10
For me, 25 minutes isn’t a long time for my undivided attention. If I try to just plow through a task for an undefined amount of time, I find myself checking my phone every few minutes, getting up too often to reheat my coffee, and wandering away for no good reason at all.
Almost every single thing in my life can wait for at least 25 minutes. Which for me, makes this one of the most effective ways to handle my time.
It also makes time more manageable! I can plan things around chunks of half hours, which is really helpful when I’m trying to break up whatever little spare time I have now between my internship, job, dreams, and friends/family.
Here’s what I learned from using the Pomodoro Technique with my writing the past 4 months.
USE YOUR 5 MINUTES WISELY
I don’t mean find ways to multitask to make the most of your 5 minutes. I don’t necessarily mean find a “productive” way to spend your break, because this is your break! Find something to do that is actually going to be good for you. (Like eat a piece of kale or go for a run. . . jk. . . kind of.)
I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to derail your 5 minute break. One time I checked Twitter to find the tweets that had links to my blog posts were suddenly choosing to display random gifs instead of the beautiful images I make for the post. (What is modesty I do not know.)
I spent a good hour and a half on that problem until ALL my time for the day was gone.
What not to do:
- Twitter — For the previously mentioned reasons. I’ve also found that I can sometimes pick up some bad vibes that kind of funk up my productivity.
- Another task — I’ve tried to use my breaks to work on blog posts. It’s a good time to jot down some ideas, but I find it defeats the purpose and isn’t fair to give my posts sporadic 5 minutes of focus.
- Online shopping — This is really hard for me to tear myself away from lol
What to do instead:
- Catch up on texts — Personally, I’m disciplined enough to put my phone away when the 5 minutes are up. It also makes me feel a lot better about ignoring my phone for 25 minutes of productivity when I know I can respond to any texts that might be urgent. (But hopefully I’m never getting any urgent texts!)
- Get more coffee — When I’m working at home it’s nice to walk away from my work space and downstairs to the kitchen to get some coffee.
- Grab a snack — In the comments below, share your favorite snacks to munch on while you work!
- Find a pet and love it — Nothing makes me more productive than rubbing my dog’s belly and imagining the huge house I can buy the two of us with all the money I’ll make from being productive. (Okay, but like if only it worked like that)
- Breathe — Focus on your breathing and just let your mind wander for 5 minutes. Take this time for you!
- Bathroom break — An obvious, but sometimes I find myself taking a bathroom break during my 25 minutes to procrastinate, when it can obviously wait another 10 or 15.
- Play a game — Sudoku, a crossword puzzle, a quick Internet game that’s your guilty pleasure.
DO A FUN PART OF “WORK”
When I’m working on my novel, I’ll do the fun rabbit-hole research here. It’s a good way to keep my mind on the task, but also rewarding myself. 5 minutes of WIP aesthetic making? Yes. 5 minutes of watching a video on how to surf? Yes. 5 minutes of reading a tarot blog? Yes, yes, yes!
It’s all the stuff I like to pass off as “working on my novel.”
Except now I have the time and the reason to do it. (Again, just make sure when the timer goes off, you’re done with Pinterest!)
DON’T MAKE IT A CONSTRAINT
Don’t put a constraint on your productivity or creativity. What do I mean?
Two ways I find myself using the Pomodoro technique as an excuse NOT to work:
- If I have, say, a writing session scheduled from 9-11, if it somehow becomes 9:37, I’m more likely to think “eh, I’ll just wait until 10 to get my 25 minutes on/5 minutes off synched up nicely with the time.” Then I end up only doing 3 time chunks instead of 4 because I want the start of a new time chunk to line up every hour and half hour on the clock.
- Sometimes I’ll call a day early because I don’t have time for another 25 min/5 min block
In other words, don’t see this as a limitation. Don’t get caught up in the perfection of having 2 exact hours of productivity, starting at 9 and ending at 11. If you can’t start until 9:14, then fine! If you can only get 1.78 blocks in instead of 2, fine!
Don’t use the rules of the game as an excuse for less work or procrastination.