When you’re writing, do you find that you procrastinate "accidentally?" Would you say any of the following items describe you? Me? Never! But YOU...
• Are distracted easily (aI claim ignorance about this experience, but I hear that for some, the initial distraction is distracted by a secondary distraction, which is interrupted by a third and a fraction of a fourth distraction, leading back to the first.
• Have you witnessed the Trail of Partially Completed Thoughts? You are missing out. The last transpired in the kitchen. I had to make the man's lunch. So I stacked a colorful array of meat and vegetable sandwiches. I realized I was hungry, too, so I started cutting up a pineapple until I realized there were no clean bowls or forks. I was there, so I started replacing dinnerware and measuring spoons—until I remembered I wanted to check Edith's mythology for something on my site. My man boy began discussing the anatomy of mussels and their preparation, so naturally I had to pull out a reference book to look it up, but leave the open book on the couch. I saw The Art of War on the table and sat down and started reading it. Then he reminded me about the sandwich.followed by a partially cubed pineapple and a hallway-emptied dishwasher. An anatomy question had to be known at once, so a book was open, spine resting on wood, on the kitchen table. The travesty was hardly over, as the living room was jealous. spilled into the living room. A large biology tome splayed itself across the grey fabric, its glossy arms mocking me with images of sea cockroaches. I wanted to know which of the three parts of the tree's shell protrusions was toxic, okay? To answer a question about what part of a mollusc is toxic, I grabbed "Edith's Mythology" and "The Art of War" on my way back to the kitchen because I forgot to fill the filtered water picture. "Hmmm. Who wanted a sandwich?" I wondered.
• Tend to work for long periods without breaking until you burn out?
• Have a less-than-ideal concept of how much time it takes you to do something?
• Feel irritable, foggy-brained, and depleted at the end of the workday?
• Don’t get as much done as you think you could?
Embrace the power of the tomato. Does this sound downright crazy to you? Same, I rolled my eyes like a 15-year-old looking at life. I love to cook and counting time in food units made me giggle, so I figured I’d give it a go. Then I tried it. The bloody thing WORKS.
It was the late 1980s. The chorus of the 1989 hit “She Drives Me Crazy” was stuck on repeat inside university student Francesco Cirillo’s head, “her” being his schoolwork. His professors evilly forced him to study and complete assignments and he was too overwhelmed to know where to start. As his other option was failing out of school and becoming a street performer, he grabbed a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, parked himself at his desk, and set the thing for 10 minutes. He promised himself he could focus for that long, and to just start SOMETHING. ANYTHING. It was a success. In his glee, his extended the time to 25 minutes. The Pomodoro (Italian for “tomato”) Technique, ladies, and gents.
I sure am. It is a silly way to just get you over the trepidation and overwhelm of starting. Many times, once we start a task, we figure out it wasn’t as bad as we made it out to be. Then, we keep going. Perfectionism can be a big reason for procrastination, and we distract and avoid. Guess what! It doesn’t matter if it is perfect. It can always be edited or fixed! Starting is the first and most daunting step.
Another cool thing it does is teach us how to break up large projects into logical and attainable bites. It makes big assignments feel less scary and makes sure you work on them steadily. Slow and steady wins the race. The days of frantic and panicked freakouts the day before an item is due will plague you no more.
Many of us have no concept of time so we underestimate how long we think it will take to finish something. It’s a shared delusion, so don’t feel bad. The Pomodoro Technique makes time tangible rather than a nebulous abstract free-floating thing that always seems to run out on us. This can really help you better plan the day and give you a more accurate idea of how much time you need to factor in for tasks.
Start small, but keep at it! Seeing all those pomodoros add up every day is bound to boost your confidence, make you more productive, and help teach you a few things about time and product management. Especially valuable to me was learning how to break up large projects, like a book, properly so I’d make progress. I used to just avoid and cram. NOT recommended!
Plan how many hours you need to complete a work day, and figure out how many pomodoros you need. For example, a 9-10 hour workday would consist of 16 pomodoros (8 hours) plus three 15-30 minute breaks. It’s healthiest to cap it at 16 or less.
You may find that 25 minutes is too short of a sprint, especially as a writer. You can try longer blocks of time, but be sure to add to your short break time to keep yourself refreshed so you can focus. Personally, I like 50 minute pomodoros with 10 minute short breaks, and I’ll take a 30-45 minute break after 4 pomodoros. DO NOT SHORTCHANGE YOURSELF ON BREAKS! It’s part of the process to keep your brain working efficiently. You need the time to refresh.
Now go forth and be productive!
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