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Why The Pomodoro Technique Doesn’t Work for Writers and What to Use Instead

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Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Ben Oakley

Why the pomodoro technique can be bad for writers and slow down productivity.

The pomodoro technique (little tomato technique) is used by millions of people worldwide to increase productivity, speed up thought processes, and get more stuff done! You’ve seen the headlines:

  • ‘I use the pomodoro technique to better my whole life.’
  • ‘The pomodoro technique is a godsend’
  • ‘I get so much more done using the pomodoro technique’
  • ‘Without the pomodoro technique, I wouldn’t be where I am today.’

It’s easy to see why a case of the FOMO (fear of missing out) can strike anyone looking to improve productivity. Especially when it works for so many people across the world.

It’s an incredible method that if used in the right context and with the right type of working style, can improve productivity ten-fold with some businesses.

But here’s the crux – it doesn’t work for everyone, and it won’t work for everyone.

Especially writers!

How does the pomodoro technique work?

The pomodoro technique consists of many steps but the main six steps are known as the pomodoro core process. The pomodoro name is trademark registered, so I won’t be copying verbatim, though I’m unsure how one can trademark the Italian name for tomato!

  1. Choose a task you want to complete.
  2. Set a timer to go off after 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the timer goes off.
  4. Make a note that you’ve completed one 25-minute session.
  5. Take a short break (5-15 minutes).
  6. Take a longer break after every four sessions.

Sounds simple, and it is. The trick is to keep on refreshing yourself after 25 minutes work then get right back into it with your mind ready to roll.

Why is the pomodoro technique bad for writers?

There is a constant battle at the heart of every writer’s productivity:

  • Flow vs Breaks.

To put it another way, it’s that feeling you get when you’re pouring high quality paragraphs onto a page and don’t want to stop, versus the constant nagging belief that you should step away and take a break.

Flow is important to a writer; it allows us to crack out prose at a phenomenal rate and provides that all-important voice to proceedings.

Imagine being a creative writer, fully immersed in the world you’ve built, about to write an important character piece that could change the course of the entire story – then pomodoro says no!

When you’re in the flow then you need to stay with it until the flow begins to dwindle and only then should you look at breaking.

Writer’s need to take breaks but the concept of breaking twice an hour doesn’t always work. The pomodoro technique is designed for people who lose concentration easily.

The 25-minute timer almost acts as a mindfulness tool, allowing you to relax your mind before going back to the work stuff. This can work well for those who suffer the great and mysterious writer’s block, and for those who need an extra boost to get them started.

But it may not work for all writers, especially creative writers. That’s not to say it doesn’t work, because many writers do swear by the pomodoro technique.

What to use instead of the pomodoro technique?

Don’t fall into the FOMO trap! Forcing yourself to use a method that might not ever work on you, is one way to decrease productivity levels.

If a method, like the pomodoro technique, works well for someone then it should be applauded! They’ve found something that works for them, but you need to focus on what works for you.

Try it and find out for yourself!

Instead of the pomodoro technique, try using lists and productivity tools to plan your writing session and get into a routine. Even improving your sleep has a huge effect on productivity.

If you write for an hour at a time then take a break on the hour, every hour. Many of us need to at least stretch our legs out on the hour mark before sitting back down.

Build exercise into your routines. Perform 20 jumping jacks, squats, or standing jumps, when you stand up from the chair. Your body will thank you for it as the years progress!

The most important aspect of productivity is to develop a system that works for YOU.

Developing your own productivity system.

As individuals, we are as unique as each of the zillions of stars in the known and unknown Universe. Each of us may use the same support systems but have extremely different DNA set-ups.

I’m drifting – you’re unique, deal with it!

Developing your own unique productivity system takes time to implement and master. It’s important to try methods out, test systems, and use what works. Just because people have different systems, doesn’t mean they get any less or more done.

Examples:

  • Mr Merv Gerver uses the pomodoro technique to write a 2,000-word chapter or article over a three-hour period. He’s thrilled and has achieved his three-hourly goal.
  • Miss Daisy Darling uses her own system, taking two longer breaks across a three-hour period, and produces the same output as Mr Merv Gerver. She’s thrilled and has achieved her three-hourly goal.
  • Elliot Honeysuckle uses their own system, writing for two hours straight, taking an hour-long break afterwards. They produce the same output as the above two angels. Elliot is thrilled and have achieved their three-hourly goal.

All three may feel refreshed and ready to go again after the initial three-hour period.

Look at the longer term benefit of your own productivity system.

The point is to not view the pomodoro technique as failing after the first hour, but to look at it in longer terms.

Think of it the same way as trading stocks. You might be down 15% before noon but by the end of the day, you’re up by 10%. Or you could be down 20% on the week and up by 50% at the end of the month – stranger things have happened.

Developing your own system doesn’t mean to box it, bag it, slap it with FOMO marketing, and sell it to the masses. It means to find something that truly works for you.

The most important aspect to all productivity is to ensure you are achieving a healthy work/life and work/health ratio. If you’re getting that right, then most other things will fall into place.

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Ben Oakley is a bestselling author, researcher, publisher, blogger, and mental health advocate from Camden, England. Usually found on Twitter or in the bars and parks of Camden. Agathokakological is his favourite word!