The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique has been around since the late 1980s. It’s a variant of timeboxing workload-management methods. It’s simplicity itself, and - for me - it works. Here’s how:

Your work period is divided into half-hour chunks. Say that you’re going to write for a couple of hours. That’s four lots of thirty minutes each. The trick is to work for 25 minutes, and then rest for 5. And then repeat.

The Pomodoro Technique takes its name from the clockwork plastic tomato (other fruits and vegetables are available) kitchen timer. Use the timer to keep track of the minutes. If you prefer, there are no end of browser plug-ins and downloadable apps that you can use instead, but there’s something pleasingly low-fi about the old-school approach. Plus the ticking of the clock adds an incentive.     

A 25-minute Pomodoro usually means that I’ll write about 600 first draft words. There’s an element of race-against-time, plus the nearness of the finishing line doesn't give time to slacken off. The 5 minute break allows for a regroup and/or a reward. If the rest itself isn’t enough, then make a drink / have a smoke / go for that pee you’ve been holding off from / whatever. And then back into it for another 25 minutes.

So in that two hours, I’ll get down about 2400 words.

As a first-draft tool it works really well for me. Also, it can be useful for making use of relatively small periods of downtime. Got an hour between TV programmes? 2 x Pomodoros, and another thousand words in the bag.

It’s not an all-day tool for writing; a couple of hours first thing, and then another couple later in the day would be my preferred option. 

Try it out! And if it doesn’t work for you, then at least you’ve found another method that’s not perfect for your writing.


The Prospect of This City is out now and is available from me (signed if you prefer!) and also in both paperback and ebook via Amazon.