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I admit it. I often spend more time looking for new productivity tools than I actually spend writing. I probably download at least one new productivity app a week, and that’s on a slow week.
Each productivity app and tool I’ve ever tried comes pre-loaded with promises and claims- it’ll be the Next Big Tool, I’ll find extra minutes throughout my day like spare change on bus seats, and I’ll knock out my book magically overnight.
I delete most of these apps and tools within a couple days. But one tool remained and more often than not, it’s the tool I use both during my regular workday as a freelance writer and when I’m plunking down to knock out my manuscripts and short stories: The Pomodoro technique.
So, What Is It?
Francesco Cirillo wanted to get stuff done (but don't we all?). And so sometime in the late 80s, he sat down and developed what eventually turned into the Pomodoro technique.
The concept’s pretty simple. Pick one task. Let’s say you’re knocking out a blog post. You’ll single-mindedly focus on this one task for exactly 25 minutes, which you’ll time with a timer.
Once you’ve completed each task, you’ll make a check mark on a sheet of paper to show you’ve completed your first (and subsequent) tasks and you’ll have the opportunity to take a 5-minute break between each 25-minute session.
As you proceed, you’ll gain the ability to take longer breaks. Complete 4 25 minute tasks and allow yourself to take 15-minute breaks. Rinse and repeat.
A lot of people just use a kitchen timer (or a timer on their phone) and a sheet of paper to track their tasks. But there’s also apps you can download (I, for one, use the free Pomodoro Time app available for Mac) if you’d like to have something that tracks all your sessions for you.
The Possibilities Are Endless
You really can use the Pomodoro technique for everything. Household chores, work related tasks, and so on. I usually like to do it when I’m running through a day’s work and have a few blog posts or articles to knock out.
The nice thing about the Pomodoro technique is that I find that timing myself unlocks something of a competitive streak, which really motivates me to settle down and work. Since you’re not working for long periods of time, work (and well, writing a book) automatically seem more manageable and a little less intimidating.
I wrote my Nanowrimo novel last year (and I won) using the Pomodoro technique and have finished several short stories and flash fiction pieces. My productivity has shot up practically overnight and considering a short attention span tends to be my downfall, the Pomodoro technique has worked wonders.
Whether you favor a low-tech method or prefer apps, the Pomodoro technique (if you haven’t given it a shot already) could be the one for you. Got a productivity app you swear by? Let me know what you think in the comments.