Are you looking for a technique that helps you accomplish more, faster? If so, consider using the Pomodoro Technique for writing.
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time-management method invented by Italian Francesco Cirillo. He said, “I discovered that you could learn how to improve your effectiveness and be better able to estimate how long a task will take to complete by recording how you utilize your time.”
Don’t worry, this technique is portable and easy to learn. In this short article, I’ll explain how to use it to write and edit faster and more frequently.
What Writers Need to Use the Pomodoro Technique
- A timer
- A pen
- A notebook
- Something to write about
- Somewhere to write
How to Use the Pomodoro Technique for Writing
- Pick one part of your writing project to focus on.
- Set a timer for 25-30 minutes, and start writing or editing. When the buzzer sounds, take a two-to-three-minute break.
- After four sessions, take a longer break.
- Track your writing sessions on a piece of paper. An X or tick will suffice.
The Pomodoro Technique is useful if you get distracted while working on a project or want to understand how long a task takes. It’s ideal for many types of creative work, including writing first drafts, editing a manuscript and researching articles or stories.
Professional writers can also use this technique for other tasks in their businesses, such as wading through a busy inbox.
A 25-minute Pomodoro session is long enough to write several hundred words but not so long that it feels painful or overwhelming.
Unlike trying to write without a break for hours, this technique makes it relatively easy to repeat small sessions.
Four Pomodoro sessions can represent a productive, creative morning. It’s surprising how much you can accomplish in short bursts of focused work. After that, it’s time for lunch or even a nap.
How I Used the Pomodoro Technique to Write
I read about the Pomodoro Technique in 2012. I use it to write first drafts of articles I am procrastinating about and also for self-editing sessions.
I use the Pomodoro Technique for creative work early in the morning when I’m fresh and want to write fast. When I start a 25-minute Pomodoro session, I know I can’t check email, social media or the news. It’s kind of like brain training.
Sometimes, I go hardcore and disable my internet access during a Pomodoro session. As I have a Mac, I use the app Be Focused Pro. I also use the apps Freedom and RescueTime to disable my internet access and track my blocks of focused work.
Sometimes, I wear noise-canceling headphones and listen to ambient music on repeat during a session. That said, fancy apps and equipment are an extra step. All you need is a timer, pen, and notepad for tracking sessions.
I increased my Pomodoro sessions to 30 minutes, as I prefer a round number. Some advocates aim for 60-minute blocks of focused work. You can go the other way too. If 25 minutes feels too long, try 15 or a random amount of time like 18 minutes. Remember, the goal is to cultivate blocks of focused, creative work.
You don’t need to stack four Pomodoro sessions on top of each other like the technique prescribes, although it helps. One or two Pomodoro sessions a day sets a tone whereby you feel more focused and creative, even if you’re not up against a self-imposed timer.
I’m guilty of occasionally stopping and resuming a timer rather than voiding Pomodoro sessions altogether. That’s because I have small children. I try to get around this by regularly setting myself goals to see how many Pomodoro sessions I can complete in a day, week or month, depending on the creative project I am working on.
How Effective is the Pomodoro Technique for Writing?
Adapting to a short burst of creative work takes time. That said, it’s far easier to write for 30 minutes than sitting and working on your manuscript for hours without a break. I recommend this technique to new writers a lot.
Tracking Pomodoro sessions is good practice, even if you’re recording X’s in a notepad, as what gets measured gets managed. That applies to writing, too.
This technique can help any writer who feels distracted or overwhelmed to focus on what matters. Considering the onslaught of distractions writers face today, that’s a superpower.
Get your 101 writing prompts today
Need help getting started writing? Use these proven writing prompts. I'll also send you practical writing advice and more as part of my newsletter.