Julie’s Week 4: Tomayto, Tomahto, Pomodoro

I can always tell when the semester is in full swing because my apartment looks like a particularly studious frat boy lives in it: clothes, papers, and books on the floor, half-unpacked parcels and unopened mail on the kitchen table, dryer still full of clothes when the buzzer went off last Saturday. Usually, I shrug it off and keep going at a frenzied pace; the work gets done but I feel disheveled and out of control. This week, however, there was a fairly serious emergency at work, and so I made an executive decision to STOP for 24 hours and tend to my gushing limbs instead of charging ahead wounded (all metaphorically of course).

So, giving myself a day today will allow me to put out any raging fires, and to establish a new habit—one I should have had for years. Despite having two graduate degrees in creative writing, earning a Ph.D. in composition (with completed dissertation!), getting a handful of creative and critical publications, and directing a writing center (!) I’ve never been able to maintain a stable writing routine. If there’s one thing I know about writing, it’s that you have to actually fucking do it. And yet that seems to be the one thing I cannot do with any amount of regularity. In high school I attended the now-defunct Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts on a poetry scholarship, and spent a lot of my time there crying. I made it through college and grad school by writing in fits and starts, always painful. During my comprehensive exams, I told my mother that the act of writing felt like struggling to stay alive while someone was trying to drown me.

Pomodoro Timer for OS X.

Pomodoro Timer for OS X.

So, to build a routine that I have a fair chance at sticking to, I’m going to use something simple: the Pomodoro Technique. Popularized by Francesco Cirillo, it’s a productivity strategy that involves 25-minute focused work sessions interspersed with 5-minute breaks, with a 15-minute break at the end of four “pomodori” (the plural of pomodoro! TIL). There are tons of dedicated apps for using the PT, and the one I’ll be using is Pomodoro Timer ($1.99 iOS, $2.99 OS X). I’m going to set the initial goal to do four writing pomodori per day, at a time in the evening when I’m less likely to be interrupted, between 8pm and 10pm. If I end up going out or doing something else during that time, I’ll schedule my pomodori for another time in the day, or else pick up a second session the next day.

Week 3: I’m behind on the morning person quest; I need to take a few minutes and do some thinking about my nightly routine. However, I have managed to get up, washed, and dressed first thing every day, even on the weekends.

Week 2: I did a lot better this week and managed to do about 60/40 paleo. Also, I LOST FOUR POUNDS! Yay!

Week 1: I missed a few days and broke the chain, but I’m mostly remembering to stick to my two nightly hours of distraction-free work. I’ve learned I need to block a few more sites on my computer, though.

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