The Pomodoro Technique for Writers: Definition, Usage, and Apps

Welcome to this article on the Pomodoro technique, specifically for writers and authors.

We are all trying to get more done in less time, but doing so often leads to burnout and discouragement. 

But with the technique we’re talking about today, you can not only be more productive and focused, but also stave off burnout.

Today I’ll tell you all about it, how it applies to writers, and give you my top recommendations for apps you can use.

Let’s get into it.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. What the Pomodoro Technique is
  2. How it can boost your writing productivity
  3. How to do the Pomodoro Technique
  4. What not to do
  5. Apps to help you in your Pomodoro journey

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a time-management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It involves using a timer for a period of hyper-focused work, followed by a short break.

It is called “Pomodoro” because that is the Italian word for tomato, and when Cirillo first developed the technique, he was using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer.

The idea behind the Pomodoro method is that when you work for several hours straight, you lose focus, drive, and mental clarity. By breaking the day into smaller chunks, with small breaks to help rejuvenate, you’re able to stay focused longer and get more done.

A typical Pomodoro sequence goes something like this:

  • 25 minutes of focused work
  • 5 minutes of an intentional break
  • Repeat 3-4 times
  • 15-30 minutes of a longer break

However, though the 25/5 ratio is the most common, there are many who like to change it up, and most apps will let you do this. For example…

The 52/17 Rule

Another similar division of time is 52 minutes of focused work and a 17 minute break.

These seemingly random time segments used here actually come from research that was done on highly effective employees. 

The study found that many worked for approximately 52 minutes, then took a 17 minute break. And it was the use of effective breaks that marked the truly productive employees.

Random, I know, but apparently it works.

How Long Should Your Pomodori Be?

I’ve personally put both methods of 52/17 and 25/5 to good use to test them out. 

While the 52/17 method worked for me for a while, I ultimately found that going 25/5 felt more manageable. 25 minutes didn’t seem like too much, and 5 minutes for a break wasn’t long enough that I got pulled out of my work.

I definitely recommend you start with a 25/5 Pomodoro, as that has worked for a lot of people. But most apps will let you change the exact increments, so you should definitely consider experimenting.

If 25 is too short, try 35 or 45. If 5 minutes isn’t enough of a break, extend that as well. 

You can also adjust the frequency of your longer break (and don’t forget to take these). Traditionally, you should take them every 3-4 pomodori, but you can easily change this. 

Personally, I take my long breaks after 3 hours of work (aka 6 pomodori), which might be a little extreme, but it works well for me.

Does the Pomodoro Technique Actually Work?

Yes, the Pomodoro Technique has been known to work for thousands of individuals who have put it to the test. It has clearly shown a correlation between the method and increased focus, productivity, and a decrease in fatigue.

Let’s take a look at each of the benefits:

  • Increased Focus: because you’re using a timer, this technique will help you keep focused, especially because you only have 25 minutes before the Pomodoro session ends, so it really helps to buckle down and get your head in the game.
  • Increased Motivation: since motivation is primarily caused by achievement and success, the Pomodoro definitely helps you have both.
  • Higher Productivity: with increased focus usually comes increased productivity.
  • Decreased Fatigue: one of the best parts of the Pomodoro timer, because it leans so heavily on breaks. When done correctly, these breaks help to clear your mind, rejuvenate the body, and keep you from burning out. It helps to get all the way to the end of that work day without feeling like death.
  • Helps to Overcome Procrastination: timers are great for beating procrastination. They force you to sit up and get working because your brain is tricked into thinking you only have a short amount of time left.
  • Removes Distractions: When you increase your focus, it becomes easier to remove distractions like social media. With the timer going, you’re much more aware of what you’re doing, so it’s harder to lose yourself in some distracting pursuit.

The Pomodoro Technique isn’t going to work for everyone, though if it’s not working for you, I suggest playing around with it a bit before abandoning it entirely. 

Perhaps there are ways that you could make them more effective, like taking more rejuvenating breaks. 

Experimentation is key to finding the perfect fit.

Is the Pomodoro Technique Good for Writing?

The short answer is, yes. Writing is one of the most brain-intensive tasks that someone can do, which means you need breaks. The Pomodoro Method is designed for just that.

It also helps to be focused, otherwise you can find yourself at the end of the day, with little written, feeling exhausted, and wishing you didn’t have to write that book, blog post, or email.

In my own experience, I find I can often procrastinate my writing process, so using a timer really helps me to overcome this, get more writing sessions in, and complete each task as it comes in.

How Writers Should Use the Pomodoro Technique

How you use the Pomodoro Technique is up to you, and you should definitely experiment to see what writing process works best. 

That said, here are some pointers for getting started:

  1. Make a list of everything you need to do that day
  2. Decide approximately how many Pomodoros you want to spend on each task
  3. Schedule out your Pomodoros (optional, I find that just hitting the timer and starting at any ol’ time works for me)
  4. Set the Pomodoro timer
  5. Mark off tasks as you complete them
  6. Take your five minute breaks to move around, get a drink, have a short chat with a coworker, etc.
  7. After 3-4 sessions, take your long break

It’s a really simple process, though there are varying ways to do it. 

For example, I don’t like to decide what I’m working on in each Pomodoro, because I work in a task-based system, and some tasks may end up taking more or less time than I estimate.

But if you block out time, such as 2 hours for writing, 2 for marketing, etc. then planning out your Pomodoros can work well.

Here is a sample schedule of what that might look like:

  • 8:00-8:30 – Write Book
  • 8:30-9:00 – Write Book
  • 9:00-9:30 – Write Book
  • 9:30-10:00 – Check Email
  • 10:00-10:30 – Long Break
  • 10:30-11:00 – Write Blog Post
  • 11:00-11:30 – Write Blog Post
  • 11:30-12:00 – Write Blog Post
  • 12:00-1:00 – Lunch
  • 1:00-1:30 – Amazon Ads
  • 1:30-2:00 – Facebook Ads
  • 2:00-2:30 – Social Media
  • 2:30-3:00 – Check Email
  • 3:00-3:30 – Long break
  • 3:30-4:00 – Personal Development
  • 4:00-4:30 – Personal Development
  • 4:30-5:00 – Plan/Brainstorm

As I mentioned above, I prefer to just set the Pomodoro timer and get to work on my tasks, without dividing it up into designated sections like this, and that allows me for more flexibility. But a schedule like the one above can be highly useful for a lot of people.

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What to Do in Your Breaks

The key to a good Pomodoro writing session, is to take good breaks. But obviously, five minutes isn’t a lot. You can’t exactly relax on the couch and binge Netflix in that time, neither would that be very productive.

So what should you do?

You want to do activities that will best rejuvenate your brain. This is the key to everything. If you can get your brain refreshed every time you have a five minute break, you’ll be good to go for hours.

There are three things in particular that I recommend you do to refresh your brain.

  1. Move around: your brain starts firing on all cylinders when you move, so it’s a great way to get it working for you. A short walk, a few pushups, or doing a tiny bit of house work/tidying up, will accomplish this.
  2. Take deep breaths: your brain requires oxygen, which can be maximized with some deep breathing techniques. Take 10 deep breaths, inhaling till you can’t inhale anymore, then exhale slowly. You could even combine this with a yoga pose or two so you get that movement aspect as well.
  3. Hydrate: in addition to oxygen, your brain requires water to work well, and most of us do not drink enough. Take the time to drink a small glass of water with each Pomodoro, and, if you’re hydrating correctly, also a short trip to the bathroom.

There are other things you can do, like talking to a friend, loved one, co-worker, etc. And these will all help. 

For myself, I go on a 200-step walk (I counted) to the end of my street and back, take a few deep breaths and get plenty of water, and I find it helps enormously.

What Not to Do in Your Breaks

It’s a mistake to think that you can do whatever you want in those breaks. You shouldn’t.

First of all, five minutes isn’t really time enough to do anything. Second of all, doing the wrong things will lead the writer to burnout faster than you can say Pomodoro.

Here is a brief list of items that you should not attempt in your five minute break.

  • Checking social media
  • Checking email
  • Playing video games
  • Watching a YouTube video
  • Eating

All of these items usually lead to the “just five more minutes” effect, which can quickly spiral out of control and throw off your groove. 

Also remember that digestion is one of the most energy-intensive things your body does in a day. So snacking constantly between pomodori is a sure way to lose energy, not gain it. Reserve the eating for your lunch break.

What is the Best App for the Pomodoro Technique?

Since there are constantly new apps and plugins coming on the market that work as Pomodoro timers, I’m only going to highlight two for each category: mobile, web, and computer software. Depending on your situation, any of these would work fine:

Mobile

For mobile, I suggest one of these two:

Focus Keeper

focus keeper app

Price: Free, with Pro version of $1.99/month

Platforms: iOS, Android

Focus Keeper is what I personally use. It’s simple and clean in its design, has a lot of customization options like timer adjustments and sound choices. 

I like to set this up on my phone next to my computer so I can constantly see how much time I have left in my Pomodoro, as you can see here:

pomodoro technique in use on my desk

Forest

forest app for productivity

Pricing: Free

Platforms: iOS, Android

Forest is a fun app that lets you figuratively plant trees, and every time you get distracted from your Pomodoro, to use your phone for example, you will let your tree die. So it simultaneously acts as a Pomodoro timer, and keeps you from getting on your phone.

Web

If you want a web browser version, try one of these two:

Pomodor

Pomodor web app

Pricing: Free

Platforms: Web

Pomodor is a simple web timer that you can access and immediately start your Pomodoro session. It’s customizable and easy to go on, though it doesn’t have advanced features like task tracking.

Marinara Timer

marinara timer

Pricing: Free

Platforms: Web

Marinara Timer is another simpe and free Pomodoro timer with several customizable modes to choose from. Though like Pomodor, it lacks in more advanced features.

Computer

If you’re using a PC or Mac, I’d use one of these two:

PomoDoneApp

pomodone app

Pricing: Free, with premium plan starting at $2.29/month

Platforms: Mac, PC, Linux, iOS, Android, Web

PomoDoneApp is nice because it integrates with apps like Trello, Evernote, Asana, and Todoist. So if you use any of those platforms and want to ramp of your productivity game, this is a good place to start.

Focus To-Do

focus to do app

Pricing: Free

Platforms: Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Web

Focus To-Do is another standard version of the Pomodoro timer that also has advanced features and syncs across devices. It’s great if you’re really getting into the planning and task-oriented aspects of the Pomodoro method.

Get Started!

Now that you know everything there is to know about using the Pomodoro technique for writers, I want to know what you plan to do next.

Have you tried the Pomodoro technique before? Is it new and you’re eager to give it a try? Let us know or share this article with a friend!



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