Sometimes writing at your own pace is all you need, when there’s no deadlines or schedule to follow, and just a blank document to fill at your leisure.
But sometimes, there are deadlines, there is a schedule, or a word count to reach. For example, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, can not simply be done at leisure.
But how do you write more? What methods or techniques are there to increase the amount of words written?
First thing to do is increase the amount of time worked—I mean actually worked. I could spend 8 hours “working” on a novel, but spend at least half of that unproductively staring at the screen. The next step is to increase the focus of the time worked and optimize breaks between periods of work to prevent burnout or loss of motivation.
What if I told you a tomato could help? This is the Pomodoro Technique.
I discovered this technique during one of my Camp NaNoWriMo experiences. It was a busy month, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to write 50,000 words while taking my time. And so I sought a more efficient way to write. Using the Pomodoro Technique I was able to write 60,000 words in just 12 days!
And more than that, the novel has become one of my favourite projects. The success of the novel and the efficiency in which I wrote it not only made me believe in the power of the Pomodoro Technique, but also in its usefulness and practicality.
Essentially, the Pomodoro Technique, which means ‘tomato’ in Italian, is based on a time management theory surrounding a standard kitchen timer. The technique breaks tasks into 25 minute increments called pomodoros. In between each pomodoro is a 2-3 minute break and after four pomodoros is a 15-20 minute break.
25 minutes is the goldilocks amount of writing time. It’s not too short; it’s not too long. Any shorter and just as you get into the groove of writing, the time runs out. Any longer and you risk the focus you’ve worked so hard to maintain. It’s just right.
The short breaks allows you to rest your eyes and wrists and take a walk around the room, grab a snack or sit and enjoy a sip of that cup of coffee that’s been cooling next to you.
And the longer rests are good for stretching, taking your mind off the project, reminding your family that you exist. The longer rests are perfectly balanced. After 15-20 minutes it’s not too difficult to get back into the writing mindset as the story is never far away, but any longer than 20 minutes, and I lose momentum.
The trap I fall into while writing leisurely is losing time daydreaming (not a bad habit, but quite distracting at times), or stressing over the order and choice of my words more than getting my story down. Then I tire of writing and take a half hour break that ends four hours later after I’ve scrolled to the bottom of Pinterest.
Someone once told me that “minutes are wasted more often than hours” and my solution to that is the Pomodoro Technique. When there’s only 25 minutes to write, each minute, each second must work to my advantage. I don’t have time for daydreaming or fretting over finicky grammar when there’s only 25 minutes to write. And so, I go full out for that 25 minutes trying not to stop, not to edit, not to worry about that spelling mistake. I tune out the world and immerse myself in the story I want to tell.
The same focus is employed with the breaks. When there’s only 2-3 minutes of breaks, you better believe I sprint to grab a glass of water, change my position and take a break from my computer screen.
In short, the Pomodoro Technique makes the most of those potentially wasted minutes by ensuring all are put to use, resulting in a highly effective way to approach writing when leisure just won’t do.
If you want to try using the Pomodoro Technique, there are a variety of apps and websites that provide the service, the one I personally enjoy can be found here.
Did you try the Pomodoro Technique? I’d love to hear about your experience in a comment down below!