Focus on the tomato!

Thursday, September 27, 2018
Who doesn't love a good, fruit-based, time-management technique? I know I do. When I get stuck on a plot or character problem, I use the Pomodoro Technique(R). Pomodoro means tomato in Italian, and the idea behind this technique is based on the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by its developer, Francesco Cirillo, to maximize his study time when he was a university student.

Here's the plan. Sit down, write (or work) for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Then work for 25 more minutes, and take another 5-minute break. Within an hour, you've worked for 50 minutes, which is enough time to produce a surprising amount of words, editing, or ideas.

I first heard about the Pomodoro Technique at a faculty meeting a few years ago. I don't use it all the time, but regardless of whether I have an hour or two, or am looking at a long weekend and need to finish some writing or grading, it works surprisingly well. The idea that I can do anything for 25 minutes forces me to sit down and begin, which is usually the most difficult part of writing.

Working in short bursts also helps my productivity, and the breaks ensure I don't get burned out, fatigued, or suffer from brain overload. During the short breaks, the simple act of looking away from the screen helps, or I can use the them to fix another cup of tea, let the dog out, or throw in a load of laundry.

For instance, I wrote a book review recently, and was having trouble coming up with a way to approach the analysis. Reading other book reviews didn't help, and finally I decided to try the Pomodoro Technique. I looked at the clock and reminded myself that I can do anything for 25 minutes; I just needed to focus and remember that something is better than nothing.

By taking the pressure off, I freed my mind to explore several ideas. I finished the first draft of the review during one session, and edited it in another. The Pomodoro Technique helped me focus, which helped me begin, and helped me finish!

Mary Horner is a writer and teacher who sometimes uses the Pomodoro Technique.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I love the Pomodoro Technique. Another way that it works for me is when I have so much time to get this done that . . . can you guess . . . I'm not doing anything towards my goal. Set that timer and get to work!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--I forget to take short breaks--which are times I could presumably exercise or at least get off my butt. ;)

Thanks for the reminder.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great advice, Mary! Like Sioux, I often forget to take short breaks and will sit for a couple hours, which is obviously terrible and my back suffers the most. Maybe I should try this. I take a long time to get warmed up though and feel like I'd just be hitting my stride at 25 minutes. I'll give it a shot and let you know. :)

Renee Roberson said...

This is a neat idea and good pro tip for productivity. Unfortunately, there's usually so much going on in my house while I'm writing (at night and on weekends, usually) that I don't need any reminders to get up and work on something else! I'll have to check it out for other chores, like housecleaning (which I hate and get overwhelmed by). I'll bet it would make that process a whole lot more enjoyable, especially throughout the week, to get little tasks done here and there.

Margo Dill said...

I know that Camille Faye is currently using the Pomodoro Technique to write her 4th book. It's going well for her. I have read up on it. I just haven't implemented it yet...

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