skip to Main Content
You Say Tomato, I Say Pomodoro

You say Tomato, I say Pomodoro

Head and shoulders shot of David Penny looking thoughtful but with a twinkle in his eyeThis Writers' Wednesday, Historical novelist David Penny offers his insights on using the Pomodoro Technique to work with time and not against it.

I’m a blitz writer. I’m not boasting about it, because I wish I wasn’t, I just am. I can sit down at my desk, put on headphones and play loud, loud music and just write for several hours at a stretch. At the end of it I’ll come out with three or four thousand words and a pain in the neck. Not to be recommended.

Another thing I do is read everything to do with writing, even if only peripherally. Which is how I found out about a thing called Pomodoro.

tomatoFor those of you who don’t speak Italian (my hand is first up) it means Tomato. Why tomato? I have no idea. If you want to find out more about the concept you can visit the website here.

We live in an age of constant distraction. I don’t know about you, but I only have to see that little balloon pop up in the corner of my desktop that says “Debbie Young replied to your post” before I click on it. Pomodoro doesn’t stop you doing that, but it does make you start to think about the necessity.

In essence Pomodoro says you must do whatever you do in bite sized chunks. The recommended default is 25 minutes. At the end of that time you take a break. Again, they recommend 5 minutes, but you can pick your own intervals. There are a whole bunch of applications you can download that will help you with this. You can find a link to some of them here.

Using these techniques I can write 1,500 words in two 25 minute sessions. I’ve used this fact so I actually now only write for two hours a day, but I write busy-manwithout distraction for that time, leaving me the rest of the day to chase Pokemon (no, not really… oh, go on then…), browse the web and make inappropriate comments on Facebook.

Once those two hour are done I’ve reached my target for the day. The rest of the time is for editing, research, following endless Google trails, taking the dog for a walk and all those other chores that have to be done.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned since starting to use the Pomodoro technique are:

  • When your 25 minutes are up and you get a 5 minute break, don’t use it to check your email. Take a walk, make coffee, stare out the window.
  • Turn off your email and internet. I link to some of the apps you can download to help with this above.
  • Concentrate on the words, even if at first they don’t come. Sitting at a screen doing nothing might feel dumb, but eventually you will start to write if you are disciplined enough not to do something else.
  • If you need to look something up (and hey, who doesn’t?) don’t go straight to Google. Make a note somewhere and come back to it. Each session is for writing and nothing else.
  • Remember, nothing is perfect, and never will be. Your first draft is just that, a draft. Don’t edit as you go. Each session is for putting words on paper. Fix it later.

So I guess the summary of this short post isn’t really about Pomodoro or writing technique or anything else. It’s about this question:

How important is your writing to you?

Are you willing to turn off all distractions and concentrate on putting down the words. Even if it is only for 25 minutes at a time.

You may not be able to write 750 words in those 25 minutes, you may be able to write more, or a quarter of that. But focusing on the work will definitely make you more effective as a writer.

Enjoy your tomatoes.

Author: David Penny

David Penny was first published at the age of 24, with four novels and several short stories appearing during the 1970’s. Near-starvation led him down the slippery slope of work, which distracted him from his true calling. He has now returned to writing and the first two books in his Moorish mystery series, The Red Hill and Breaker of Bones, are currently available. www.david-penny.com.


This Post Has 12 Comments
  1. Great post, David – I discovered and started using this technique at the beginning of the year and it’s been a great help. Like you, I’m a blitzer (love that word!), and the 25 minute spurts of concentrated activity work really well – I have an app on my laptop that acts as a timer, so I can just concentrate on the writing.

  2. Thanks for this, David. Straightforward and simple like all the best advice. It’s similar to what I do now, but I like the idea of calling myself a ‘Pomodoro Master’ 🙂

  3. David, The explanation of the word Pomodoro is given in the Zapier link by Sean Kennedy, which mainly concerns Pomodoro timer apps. But you said you were going to link to apps that temporarily shut down internet usage. Did I miss that link?
    Thanks for the article. I need a better approach than I’ve had in the past and I will give Pomodoro a try.

  4. I heard of this technique a while ago but didn’t consciously take it up. However, personal circumstances changed recently and my writing schedule (if there ever was one) flew out the window. After some struggles, I’m back to it, more or less in the vein of the Pomodoro technique. When I sit to write it is ALWAYS without the internet (I switch the wifi off!).

    1. Yes Elaine, it’s amazing how much more productive we become without the constant itch of distraction we tend to live with day in, day out in the modern world.

      No wonder Dickens was so productive 🙂

    2. Yes, I’ve read this technique several times and thought it interesting but forgot each time to give it a go. Now written a post-it note and stuck it on edge of computer. We will see what happens tomorrow, if I can stick to it.

      Thank you, David, for reminding me. Now got to find out how to turn off Wifi, and worry that I won’t get it back again!

    3. Yes, I’ve read this technique several times and thought it interesting but forgot each time to give it a go. Just now written a post-it note and stuck it on edge of computer. We will see what happens tomorrow, if I can try it out.

      Thank you, David, for reminding me. Now got to find out how to turn off Wifi, and worry that I won’t get it back again!

  5. I love this approach. I get a guilty feeling every time I stop writing, although, like David I can rattle off my target of 2000 or 4000 words at once. However, I then get to feel that I am not being a ‘proper’ writer as I am not glued to my chair each day for eight or nine hours. Thank you for making me feel better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Fairly Trained

Fairly Trained Certifies First Ethically Trained Large Language Model: Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

In this episode of the Self-Publishing News Podcast, Dan Holloway brings attention to Fairly Trained, the first platform to certify ethically trained large language models, highlighting a major advancement in AI ethics. Dan also explores HarperCollins' innovative environmental efforts in reducing paper usage through font changes and the carbon footprint disparities between print and audiobooks. Additionally, he discusses the new partnership between Draft2Digital and the social reading app Fable, a development that offers fresh opportunities for authors to connect with readers.
Read more
Back To Top
×Close search