Kitchen timer for cooking and working productively.

Getting the Most From Your Writing Time

Jac Harmon

How many times have you heard yourself say, “If only I had more time to write”? Probably far too many. One popular and well-proven method of increasing your productivity within your available time is to alternate periods of focused work (also called “sprints”) with short rest breaks. 


The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro technique is a time management system developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. While there are many phone apps available, you can easily use the timer on your phone or, as Cirillo did, use a kitchen timer—tomato-shaped or otherwise.

Cirillo’s five steps follow:

  1. Choose your task
  2. Set a timer for twenty-five minutes
  3. Work for twenty-five minutes
  4. Take a five-minute break. Repeat.
  5. Take a longer break after completing four Pomodoros.

Obviously, these steps are not prescriptive. If you have an hour available, you might want to do shorter Pomodoros, so divide the sixty minutes into two fifteen-minute writing periods, two five-minutes breaks, and wrap up with a twenty-minute writing sprint. It’s all about discovering what works best for you.

Motivation, Goals, and Rewards

Sprints work very well when done in groups and are great for maintaining motivation and focus. They have the added benefit of accountability as, during the shorts breaks, you can catch up with the rest of the group and share your progress. Writing is an isolated activity, but this camaraderie makes it less so.

During sprint sessions, you can also give yourself small rewards for hitting self-imposed targets. These can be as simple as a cup of coffee, an episode of a favorite show, or a gold star on your calendar, but they can make a huge difference to your word count.

Why not give Pomodoros and/or Sprints a try? They can be quite productive, add variety to your daily writing, and offer a fun yet effective way to reach your writing goals.

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