It is definitely not the beginning of the semester anymore. Nor is the end in sight. It is thus the perfect time for me to introduce a little trick to boost your writing productivity: the pomodoro technique.
Using a timer is a great way to keep track of your writing. I have used timers for years to measure how much time I spend writing, and to minimize the amount of time I spend surfing the web or checking email. The pomodoro has turned out to be the best timer I have used.
I have been using the pomodoro for about a month now, and am consistently amazed at how productive I am when I use it. In addition, I have shared this technique with several people, all of whom seem to become instant fans of it.
I decided to download a pomodoro technique app to my iphone after hearing the buzz about it for a while. Two academic productivity experts I follow, ProfHacker and Gina Hiatt, recommend the pomodoro timer, and I heard a few people mention it on Twitter on Facebook.
At first I thought it was just another timer, so there was no need for me to check it out. However, the pomodoro is more than a timer. It is actually a time management and productivity system. And, it is remarkably effective.
Here is how it works, from the Pomodoro Technique website:
THE BASIC UNIT OF WORK IN THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE® CAN BE SPLIT IN FIVE SIMPLE STEPS:
1. Choose a task to be accomplished
2. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
3. Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
4. Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
5. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
Pretty, simple, right? Here is why I think the system is so effective.
The pomodoro timer ticks.The pomodoro timer ticks while you are writing. I find that ticking sound to be effective at keeping me concentrated. It is like a subconscious reminder that I am supposed to be writing. Of course, my fingers are never keeping pace with the tick-tick-tick of the timer, but I can always try.
25 minutes of concentration.There are many different theories out there about how long people can concentrate on one task. I used to think I could concentrate for 50 minutes; I have tried concentrating for 90 minutes to no avail. However, now that I am using pomodoro, I am finding 25 minutes of concentration to be optimal. I definitely can concentrate for 25 minutes.
The 5-minute breaks.Oftentimes, I feel as if I could go longer than 25 minutes of concentration. However, I decided to try out the system and take a conscious break after 25 minutes. It turns out that, if I take a 5-minute break every 25 minutes, I actually can get in more 25-minute segments. Thus, even though I don’t always think I need the break every 25 minutes, I take it anyway, as it permits me to have longer writing endurance. Amazing.
One other reason I like the pomodoro iphone app is that the app keeps track of how many pomodoros (25-minute sessions) I have done for the day. That way, I don’t have to worry about keeping track myself. I can just look at my iphone and see how many pomodoros I have completed.
It may turn out that the pomodoro technique does not work for me forever. It might just be a new trick that has energized me for now. However, the effect has lasted long enough that I am confident in recommending this technique to you, especially if you feel as if you are in a writing rut and would like to get out of it.
Let me know in the comments section if the pomodoro technique works for you.