Writing with a tomato

The Pomodoro Technique is a method of time-management many writers find useful. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s and takes its name from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Crillo originally used. (Pomodoro is Italian for “tomato”.)

There’s a whole website devoted to it, but you really only need three items to get started:[

  • A timer of some sort.
  • A pencil.
  • A piece of paper.

You can use a timing app on your computer or cellphone, but Crillo recommends a mechanical timer – the type you twist and set – because the physical action of doing so helps you focus on the task. (And personally, I find the quiet tick-tick-tick in the background a subtle prompt to keep going.)

A pomodoro is 25 minutes. It is absolutely indivisible! There’s not such thing as a half-pomodoro or three-fifths of one. If you don’t complete a pomodoro, it’s just not counted.

Here’s how to “pomodoro”:

  1. Decide on a task; writing, revising, editing, etc.
  2. Set the timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the timer rings.
  4. When it rings, put a tick on the piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four ticks on the page, take a five-minute break then go back to step 2.
  6. If you’ve accumulated four ticks, put a line through them to cancel them out and take a 15-20 minute break. When you return, go back to step 1.

The advantage of working this way is that it breaks time up into manageable units and helps you keep focused. (“No, I won’t check my email till the timer rings.”) What’s more, the pomodoros don’t have to be contiguous. I know of one writer who makes her four-a-day by doing two in the morning before work, one at lunchtime, and one in the evening. Writer Kat Loterzo even credits it with helping her draft a book in just three weeks.

There are plenty of reasons for not writing, but surely you can fit in a pomodoro or two…?


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