September 2021 -->

Walden University Writing Center

Where instructors and editors talk writing.

Keep Your Motivation on Track with the Pomodoro Technique


Two of our recent blog posts on motivation (and several other Walden Writing Center resources created in the past) mentioned the Pomodoro method as a helpful technique for productive writing. The technique was developed by university student Francesco Cirillo,  who was inspired to develop a time-management system based on a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. The heart of the system is breaking down tasks into three 25-minute sessions of uninterrupted work followed by a 5-minute break, and then one final 25-minute work session followed by a longer break after the completion of four consecutive sessions, or about two hours of work. For clarification, the traditional schedule for following the Pomodoro method looks like this:

- 25 minutes work
- 5-minute break
- 25 minutes work
- 5-minute break
- 25 minutes work
- 5-minute break
- 25 minutes work
- 20-30-minute break

The Pomodoro Technique can be a great motivator in any stage of the writing process. Rather than focusing on completing an entire piece of writing or a specific page or word count, you commit to engaging in a part of the work for a defined period of time. A 10-page paper, a research project, or a thoughtful discussion post for a class assignment can seem overwhelming--but pledging to work on a portion of the assignment for 25-minutes is an achievable goal. 

Here are some key factors that I find make me more successful in implementing the Pomodoro Technique:

Tailor the System

I recommend that you experiment with the system and find the time spacing that works best with your own neurology. If 25 minutes of work and a 5-minute break doesn’t quite fit, you may find you work better in 30-minute chunks of time with 10-minute breaks. Maybe you will need to write for 10 minutes and take a 3-minute rest. Don’t be afraid to work the system to meet your working style.

Treat Yourself

A reward system tied to achieving your goals might also be helpful. Some folks are motivated sufficiently by the act of checking items off a to-do list, but I confess that I like a more tangible reward. The short break is a type of reward, but If I have a particularly challenging day where I cannot find the motivation to stay on task, I may add more rewards into my short breaks to keep me interested in pushing forward. In a five-minute break, I can do a quick game or dance party with one of my children, which is not only fun, but allows me to reconnect with family before getting back to writing. Throughout the day, I track how many Pomodoro sets I have completed, and if I have met my daily writing goal, I have a small reward like a square of dark chocolate and a cup of Earl Grey tea. When I meet a weekly writing goal, I want a more significant reward like a 2-hour binge of my latest favorite show or a grown-up playdate (NO KIDS!). What brings you joy? Use that to reward yourself for getting the job done. 

Tackle Distractions

During your work time, set yourself up for success by keeping distractions at bay. Mute your phone, don’t answer the door, find a quiet space or put on sound-canceling headphones, and take advantage of tools and apps on your computer (such as Microsoft’s Focus Assist or the Stay Focusd Chrome extension) to avoid the distractions of instant messaging, social media, and email notifications. If random thoughts intrude that you can’t ignore, quickly jot the ideas down in a notebook to deal with later and get right back on task.

Don’t overthink the Pomodoro system, or you might plan yourself into procrastination. You don’t need the perfect timer, a semester time grid, or a reorganized workspace to get started. Any digital or analog timer will do, so you can start right now. What can you write about for 25 minutes? I hope you’ll report back on how it went, maybe over a cup of Earl Grey.

Lauri Barnes is a Writing Instructor at Walden University, and has worked in online writing centers since 2014. She has over two decades of teaching experience and loves supporting writers through the writing process.  She is an aficionado of coffee, tea, mysteries, data, Star Wars, Doctor Who, all things nerdy and geeky, science, faith, kindness, and hope. She lives in the panhandle of Florida with her husband, daughter, two sons, and their cat.

Send me new posts by e-mail! button
Never miss a new post; Opt-out at any time


Post a Comment