The Pomodoro Technique for Productivity

“The Pomodoro technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s.[1] The technique uses a timer to break down periods of work into 25-minute intervals called ‘Pomodoros’ (from the Italian word for ‘tomato’) separated by breaks…”Wikipedia

I just came across this technique today, after falling down one of the endless internet rabbit holes the technique itself should help combat.

The basic idea is this: set a timer, work (write) for 25 minutes, take a five minute break, repeat. You get the reward of a quick break just when it’s most likely that your mind has started to wander.

I bought a timer (digital, though manually-wound is recommended) and gave it a shot. Other than the fact that I cut out early to watch a show about Voodoo, it worked well. Knowing that I had a break coming up freed me to concentrate on my story without feeling like I was glued to the chair all night. It’s a simple thing, but it seems to be working so far. And hell, I’ll take all the help I can get.

PS – The technique is called “Pomodoro” because its inventor used a tomato-shaped timer. I like to think of each of my “pomodoros” as being one of the mutant tomatoes from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!. Take that, lack of focus. I WILL DESTROY YOU.

Writing Game: Race the Commercials

Just a quick game, because I know you don’t have time.

In fact, that’s what this game is for.

Next time you’re watching tv, keep a notebook (or your laptop) nearby. When the commercial break starts, GO. You have 2 minutes and 20 seconds to scribble (or type) like mad. How many words can you get down? Can you write a paragraph? A whole conversation? I’ve read that an hour-long show ends up being only ~40 minutes when you delete the commercials. That’s 20 minutes of time you didn’t think you had.

When your show comes back, your pen goes down. You’re free to completely ignore your story until the next break.

You may find, like I did, that you’d rather work the story than watch the show. And that your 20 minutes of writing just became 40. But if not, you’re still 20 minutes ahead on your story. Congratulations!

Writing Game: Pick the Next Word

I was reading Pillars of the Earth last night (and I’m NOT FINISHED so no spoilers please!) I reached the bottom of one of the pages and noticed it cut off mid-sentence; the rest of the phrase would be on the next page. I caught myself guessing which word would complete the sentence. It so happens that when I turned the page, I was right!

What does it mean? Absolutely nothing! But it’s a fun little game to see if you’re on the same wavelength as the author. By guessing the next word, you’re putting on your writer-hat and interacting with the book and its language.

Maybe you can see right away why the author went with that particular word choice; it might have been used for brevity’s sake, or because it was the most descriptive. Maybe it’s a signature word the author uses frequently (Ayn “Sanction” Rand, I’m looking at you).

If you guessed a different word, does your word substantially change the meaning of the original phrase? Or are they synonymous? Do you like yours better?

Try it! I’d love to know how it goes.

Writing Game: Get in Their Heads

Pick someone you loathe.

Come on, everyone has one. Yours could be someone famous, I suppose, whose morals or actions you disagree with. But that’s no fun. I want you to think of someone in your real life that drives you batshit. It could be a family member. A neighbour. That one woman at work whose voice makes you want to pull your own ears off so you can more easily stuff something, anything inside the holes and finally have some blessed silence.

I mean, if you know someone like that, you could use them for this game*.

Okay, so you’ve got your loathee picked out. Your job is to get into his or her head. What do they do at night? What’s their guilty pleasure? What’s in their bank account? How do they view themselves? What’s their secret? Set up shop and poke around a little.

Now experience an obstacle, as your loathee. The plumbing has burst, and there’s a jet of water shooting across the room. The car broke down, and the next paycheque isn’t due til next week. And by the way, that promotion went to someone else.
What does your loathee do? What are they thinking? What’s their mood like? Do they lay blame, and if so, on who?

You can play this game in two ways:
1. For the greater good.
Maybe by imagining what’s going on in this person’s life and thoughts will help you to understand them a little better. Maybe you’ll learn to let old grudges go, to be more accommodating to the quirks and nuances of someone you never much cared for. You’ll better communicate with someone you understand.

OR

2.Sweet, sweet evil.
That weird smell your loathee gives off? That’s because he sacrifices cats by the light of the full mooon: what you’re smelling is singed fur. And the reason she doesn’t listen is because she’s stuffed cork in her ears to compensate for a tragic deformity wherein her brains leak out if she tilts her head (which also explains why she’s so dumb). Run with it, ascribe any horrible fictional trait you like, but base it loosely in fact. Flex your imagination.

But why someone you don’t like?
Picking someone you don’t like gets you outside your comfort zone. It’s easy to imagine someone just like yourself; simply plug in your own ideals and reactions and it’s done. But often the people we don’t like are the people we don’t get. There’s the challenge: you have to get out of your own head before you can get into anyone else’s. (Like, oh, I don’t know…a character? They can’t all act/think/speak just like their authors, if the story is any good.)

(This is the part where writing books would tell you to write this shit down. Why? So you can relive it later? Nuh-uh, this is a GAME, and it won’t be FUN anymore if you make it too much like WORK. Besides, if you play only in your head, you can play in public…this broadens your target candidate base exponentially. Mwuahahaha.)

Give it a shot, and let me know what you think.

*Why “game”, when most people call it a writing “exercise”? Because one of these things sounds like way more fun than the other, that’s why.