Tip #2: Embrace the pomodoro

A series of posts where I try out various Writing Tips to see if they help or hinder my development of a writing habit. 

In the first of the series of Writing Tips blog posts I discussed setting a target that you will meet every day. A target helps you identify when you reach your goal of the day or not, and therefore a target has to be something reasonably achievable, but still challenging enough to boost your productivity. 

I started my challenge with the goal of writing 15 minutes a day. I thought that it would fit well into my busy life. 15 minutes a day? That's manageable. I had a good week of writing 15 minutes every day, and I was moving along, checking off the scenes on my outline. How much actual writing did I do in the 15 minutes? I thought a good chunk of it was putting something down on paper, but then I was researching things and looking up pictures and OH LOOK <--insert something shiny here-->. Of course most days if I got my butt on the couch, I was writing longer than 15 minutes, but how much of it was actually producing content? Not sure. 

Then I found out about something called the "Pomodoro Technique" on Lifehacker. The reason the post jumped out at me is because of the bright red tomato timer. "How silly," I thought. "What the heck is a pomodoro and what does it have to do with tomatoes?" 

A pomodoro is a productivity technique designed by Francesco Cirillo. It's very simple. When you are working on a project, you work on it in blocks of time (25 minutes = 1 pomodoro, because of the tomato timer). You can decide on whatever blocks of time you want (variations can be 10, 20, 30, etc.) and you ONLY work on your project during that time. But after you complete a pomodoro, you would then take a short break of 5 minutes. This forces you to recharge your mind to go get a drink, go for a bathroom break, and then you come back refreshed and ready to go for another pomodoro. After you complete 4 pomodoros, the 4th break is a longer break (~15 minutes). 

My mind was of course, immediately resistant. You mean I can't multitask at all? I have to write for 25 minutes? That seems way too long! And what do you mean I have to take breaks? That's ridiculous! What if I hit a writing groove? 

But then I was willing to give it a try, because I have to time myself anyway for 15 minutes a day, so I downloaded some sort of web browser app and set the timer for 15 minutes. 

I sat down and I wrote. 

I wrote for 15 minutes. 

And it was like a revelation. 

I actually concentrated on the task for 15 minutes. After that I took a break but then when I returned, I felt like I could focus hard for 15 minutes again. 15 minutes goes by LIKE THIS. The blink of an eye, but then there are a ton of words that magically appeared on the page! Because I wasn't checking Facebook. Because I had to have my research lined up and ready to go. Because my brain was focused: your job, write. 

After giving the 15 min pomodoro a try I felt 15 minutes was actually a little on the short side and I could stretch that time for more productivity. 25 minutes was actually a perfect time chunk simply because of the ease in which you can start every half hour. It makes sense. I focused on writing for 25 minutes, knowing that I had a break coming up in which I could check my email or look at my phone, and then I was ready to go again. 

I love the pomodoro technique. It has helped me solidify my writing habit. 

You can give it a try using a simple kitchen timer or the actual tomato pomodoro timer (it looks pretty cute, you can order it on Amazon), or there are a few apps you can try out either on your computer or on your phone. 

I started out with Tomighty, a fairly simple one for the computer. I have since moved onto A Clockwork Tomato for my Android phone and Pomello for my computer (syncs with Trello, another useful app that I will discuss in another blog post).  

Let me know when you think in the comments!

Tip # 1: What is your daily target?

A series of posts where I try out various Writing Tips to see if they help or hinder my development of a writing habit. 

When I first tried to write every day I felt a bit lost. I wasn't sure what counted as writing every day. What was a reasonable goal to set? I've tried word counts before (during Nanowrimo at least), but that turned out to be a failed process for me. I kept on checking my word count to make sure that I met my daily goal and I would be disappointed if I didn't. Having that number in mind actually distracted me from the actual purpose of what I was doing: writing!

And then one of the writing websites that I've followed for a few years: DIYMFA and its creator Gabriela Pereira shared some great news. She was publishing a book based on her DIYMFA 101 program. When she launched her program a few years ago, I wanted to sign up but I didn't have the funds or the time to do it. I regret it very much now. But the next best thing was to be an advance reader for her book, which I eagerly signed up for. She generously hosted a master class to her "Street Team" members and the title of the class hit true to home from the start: "Stop Dreaming Start Doing". She outlined a lot of great tips to becoming a writer, but one of the ideas that stayed with me was this quote by Samuel Beckett: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." She was giving me permission to fail, but what matters is that I try again. 

She said during the class that even if you just start writing for 15 minutes a day, that counts and that's a variable you can track to see if it works for you. Mind blown! You mean I don't HAVE to write a set number of words every day? I can write for 15 minutes and call it a day? And I might be able to get a novel from this? That amazed me. 

So I set a simple goal of writing for 15 minutes a day, and I found that this goal was what worked for me. I didn't have the pressure of meeting a word count, and I could write freely in that time. Just by committing myself to 15 minutes a day, I found myself writing 15, 30, 60 minutes a day, depending on what other commitments I had. 

I challenge you to find a goal that works for YOU. It might be word count, it might be time or it might be writing 1 page a day. Find what works for you and just start writing.