03 October 2010

how i found time to post this blog

Usually I hate it when someone gives time management advice, or evangelises about a time management system. Most of the ones I've come across aren't flexible enough to adapt to different work situations, involve spending as much time managing the thing as they do using it, and don't scale well.

I do even worse with the common suggestions for writing routines. Keeping a word count minimum and/or writing first thing in the morning have the opposite effect: I get so wound up about meeting the goals that I don't write at all. Deadlines can help — I've sucessfully completed NaNoWriMo more than once — but all this stuff about "goals" and "milestones" leaves me clammy.

Sure as I started out this blog post with the above paragraphs, I think I've found a method that works, at least for me. It's called the Pomodoro Technique, and it's been around for twenty years. But it's new to me, and it seems to be new to the people I've been evangelising to telling about it.

Instead of worrying about your word count, or letting the whole whatever-it-is at hand loom over you, you just concentrate on working steadily on one task, for twenty-five minutes straight, without interruption. When the twenty-five minutes are up, you take a five-minute break to do other things. Then you start the timer for twenty-five minutes again. Each twenty-five minute work period plus five-minute break is called a Pomodoro. The details of how to apply the technique are available for free from the Pomodoro web site.

Note: I have no idea how good or bad the stuff they're selling on the site is. My enthusiasm is strictly for the free book you can download. I also found a free timer for my cell phone that was made to manage Pomodoros. Apparently there are several out there for both phones and computers, although the book just recommends a regular kitchen timer.

What I like is that the technique gets rid of all the anxiety that was making me freeze up. I wrote five nights out of seven last week, and got 4,631 words completed — 369 short of the 1,000 words a day x 5 days a week I was aiming for previously (and failing miserably to obtain). I only wrote one Pomodoro per day, averaging 840 words per session. At two Pomodoros per day, someone could comfortably win NaNoWriMo writing at that rate.

Every technique has its pros and cons, of course. But if your current routine isn't working for you, Pomodoros are definitely worth trying.

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