Writing is a difficult pursuit. Oftentimes people want to write, but it can be difficult for them to focus even if they’ve found the time to do the work. Setting aside scheduled time is important, but using specific timing methods can help even more. There’s something about the tyranny of the ticking timer that forces productivity more than just vaguely knowing you have an hour or so to get something done.
There are three different timing methods, that I’m aware of at least, and if you haven’t tried using these, I think they might help. You can play around and find the one that works best for you, or you can even mix and match depending on your time constraints or the specific task.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is perhaps the most well known of all the timing methods. Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the method derived its name from a tomato timer that he used. The idea is to work in sprints of 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks in between. You can line up several of these increments in a row or use it as a way to stay focused during a half hour of free time.
If you’re new to using timing techniques, you should probably start with this one. It’s the shortest burst of work and focus, so you can gradually train yourself to power on for longer, if you want, but it will help to start building some of your focus stamina.
You can also just line-up multiple Pomodoro sessions and work through a larger block of time in that way. I recommend trying to do 2-4 sessions in a row. Personally I find more than that draining, at least if there isn’t some longer break in between.
You can adjust the Pomodoro Technique to longer than 25 minutes. In fact the two following timing blocks I recommend basically do just that, but I wanted to discuss the specific work to break ratios they use and why.
The Power of 48 Minutes
Don Crowther, who runs 101 Business, swears by a slightly different timing method of 48 minutes of focus followed by a 12 minute break. He says that by organizing his day into four of these blocks, he managed to write a 200 page book in two weeks. You may not have the time to set aside four hours a day, but even using one of these blocks can help you hone in on an important task.
I think this method is a great way to break down a larger chunk of time, say if you have two or three hours to get work done. Trying to work continuously through that time period will likely end with you being distracted at some point and losing valuable time. Having the specific timing blocks forces you to really focus while giving you those built in periods for breaks and letting your mind wander.
The Rule of 52-17
A study in 2014 revealed that working for 52 minutes and then breaking for 17 was the optimal work flow schedule for some of the top productivity performers.
This is similar to the 48 minute working schedule with slightly more time spent focusing and a slightly longer break. It is a little harder to cleanly fit into a schedule because of the weird timing set-up, but I think the method is worth considering.
This style seems to work best if you work on writing full time or if you happen to have an entirely free day where you can string together several of these blocks. While that’s true of the other techniques, I think they are both more suited to filling up small chunks of free time, whereas this technique is better to plan a whole day around.
Have you tried using any of these timing techniques? Do you find that they help? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.