Applying the Pomodoro Technique in Writing

Pomodoro TechniqueMarathon runners don’t prepare for marathons by running for miles. They start small and build up. It’s that muscle memory thing. Some of our writing assignments can be big and daunting. So we attempt to write only to let ourselves be interrupted many times in the course of an hour.
Meet the Pomodoro Technique. This procrastination busting approach can work great for writers. If GTD works for you (Pomodoro doesn’t replace GTD — it only contains a small part of GTD), there’s no reason to try something different or change it unless you think it’ll work better. After all, if we stick with status quo, we forgo opportunities to find ways to do things better, faster and more efficiently.
If you’re on a roll and can’t stop writing; by all means, don’t! The Pomodoro gives you an option when you’re struggling to write at all or without interruptions. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do. Stop.
Focus on one task at a time as the following steps quickly show you how the Pomodoro works:

  1. Pick a task and do that task for 25 minutes straight.
  2. Take a short break — about five minutes.
  3. Work on the task again or pick another one to do for another 25 minutes.
  4. Repeat until you’ve done this four times.
  5. Take a longer break.

While I don’t struggle to get work done, I gave it a shot and it worked well by the second round of 25 minutes. I gave in to my powerful urge to check email during the first one — I’m gosh awful about that.
The tasks can include doing research for a story, writing an article for X publication, blogging for Y client, doing your marketing for the day, completing your administrative work, replying to emails. You get it. Just stick with one thing for those 25 minutes. You begin with a sprint and work you way up to completing the marathon of an article, book, whatever without feeling like, “Oh, man. I have 24 miles to go.” Instead, “I’m going to do two miles. No problem.”
In a way, you’ll build your muscle memory. You complete these tasks in short, doable bites. Maybe you’ll find that this works so well for you that you’ll stretch the time or go on an writing spree. (Remember to take a computer break for the sake of your eyes and hands.)
Of course, you might be anti-GTD and everything and it works for you like it does for Jamie.
How do you complete your writing tasks or projects?

12 thoughts on “Applying the Pomodoro Technique in Writing”

  1. I use a timer to keep myself on task. I’ve found I am a better sprinter than marathon runner, so I do short intense sprints, break, sprint, break. Its amazing how much I can get done this way. For particularly onerous jobs, I may schedule shorter sprints with longer breaks. I find I can actually take longer breaks and accomplish more this way than if I forced myself to work straight through.
    .-= Judy Haley (CoffeeJitters.Net)’s blog …Dear Gem – Month 7 =-.

  2. Judy, thanks for sharing your experience. I think that our knowing “it’ll be over in just a few minutes” keeps us hanging in there… and it becomes a good habit.

  3. Hey:
    I just discovered your BLOG and LOVE it!
    I’m a procrastinator and a sprinter. What I find works BEST for me (especially when I commit to DOING it) is to write a list in the morning of the things I MUST do today and then schedule my writing around it. And, I work best if I get my workout in first. If I get my blood rushing, usually my writing gets rushing too.
    Thanks for pulling this together Meryl. I am going to visit here often!

  4. Teri, great to see you here! Not often I see local friends in my blog. I hope the tips work for you.
    Busse, thanks for linking so Mac users can check out the app.

  5. Nice to hear the PT (i.e. Pomodoro Technique) is going to be used in several fields. I think also layers would benefit from applying this technique.
    I’m a PT enthusiast, I find it extremely useful when I have to get through boring tasks.
    I use PomoTime for the timer and the To-do sheet, it’s my own software app, for Windows platforms. If you like you can get a free copy at
    Your feedback is welcome.

  6. Xoring, thanks for letting us know about the Win app. I think the PT is a great system that is easy to get going — and to take it as far as you want it to go.


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