Monday, February 16, 2015

Pomodoro and Procrastination

by +J. Lea Lopez 

If you've been hanging around our little slice of the Internet for a while, you may remember when I created and shared some slow writing memes last year. Including this one:

It's true that I tend to take longer to write a draft, and I favor a cleaner first draft that doesn't need as much rewriting and hair-pulling in the editing stage. It works for me as a writer, and maybe it works for you, too. But in addition to being a fun way to show solidarity with my fellow slow writers, this graphic I made hides a deep, dark, shameful secret...

I'm a world-class procrastinator.

Oh, the shame! The horror!  But it's true. When left completely to my own devices, my time management skills leave a little something (maybe a lot of something) to be desired. When I worked retail, time management wasn't really an issue. There were schedules and timelines to stick to, and there were only so many hours I could work in a day. And there were consequences. I obviously wanted to keep my job. But as a self-employed, self-published author, the only thing keeping me accountable for self-imposed deadlines is a Candy Crush-playing, dog-cuddling, daydreaming, deadline-shifting procrastinator who needs more coffee. AKA me. And to be honest, I don't really get mad at myself when I say this story is going to be finished by this date, and then that date comes and goes. I'm not going to fire me. Sure, you can argue that I'm losing sales or... something? But I'm too damn laid back for that. Those kinds of consequences just roll right off my back and I keep doing whatever I'm doing. Or not doing.

Obviously this is not the best long-term business strategy. I've been a hardcore procrastinator for literally as long as I can remember. Dr. Phil or some other (probably every other) pop psychologist on TV used to say that you wouldn't continue a bad behavior or habit if you weren't getting some kind of payoff from it. Perhaps if I had bombed even one major class project or assignment after leaving it until the last minute, I wouldn't be such a procrastinator. But the truth is, it has always worked for me. The looming deadline gave me the kick in the pants I needed to focus and get the work done. I do some of my best work at the very last minute, which I suppose is why I keep doing it, even when I drive myself nuts.

I'm getting to the tomato sauce part of this post title, honestly. As a way to (supposedly) increase my productivity and keep me accountable, several writing friends and I have an ongoing Facebook group chat going throughout the day to discuss word counts, daily and weekly goals, and to swap knowledge about various writing, publishing, and marketing things we have going on. It helped a little bit. Sometimes. At first. The act of saying to my friends, "I'm going to get some writing done" made me want to do it so I wouldn't look foolish. But that didn't last long, and now the shame factor isn't much of a factor at all. "Ha ha, just kidding, I've accomplished nothing/very little/only part of what I wanted to do," quickly became my battle cry. You might hypothesize that I don't place the same value in myself, my own time, and my work that I do in other people and other things and therefore don't feel that time spent writing is important... but let's not psychoanalyze, mmkay? *gets too close to truth, shifts focus to something else... dog picture time!*

Cuddling > writing, amirite??
Ahem, where was I? That's right, the pomodoro part. My group of friends introduced me to the Pomodoro Technique and a cell phone timer app. You may be used to pomodoro on your pasta, but this is a time management technique, named after a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. The basic gist of it is you set a timer and do 25 minutes of focused work, followed by a short break. Repeat. There's a bit more to it, and you can check out a short video here about mastering the technique, but so far I've only used it to help me focus and do some short writing sprints. I downloaded an app on my phone and made sure to tell it to disable my phone's Internet connection so that I wouldn't be distracted by the beeps and noises of emails syncing, or Twitter, or whatever. Twenty-five minutes felt like a much easier time limit than, say, an hour, if you're familiar with the 1k1hr sprinting method. I was skeptical, since very little seems to keep me focused on getting words down without one of those elusive sparks of inspiration. But after a few rounds, I discovered I liked it. And it worked! Some rounds are slower or faster than others, but I can get in a few hundred words in 25 minutes usually, which is still slow by many standards, but just right for me, considering I would sometimes struggle to get much more than that in an hour. I know that I need to keep going until I hear the timer go off. Maybe it's that clear goal of waiting for a timer combined with a more manageable time frame that makes it work for me. I'm not sure exactly what the psychological trick of it is, and as long as it keeps working for me, I don't care.

So if you too are a procrastinator looking to reform, or if you just need a better time management tool, grab yourself a kitchen timer, or download an app (the one I downloaded is called ClearFocus: Pomodoro), and try the Pomodoro Technique. And maybe make some pasta for dinner. Mmm... pomodoro sauce...

Do you struggle with procrastination and time management? Have you had success using this technique? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

J. Lea López, also known as Jennifer, Jen, J, JLo, jello, and the Mistress with the Red Pen, is a romance and erotica author who strives to make you laugh at, fall in love with, cry over, and lust after the characters she writes. She also provides copyediting services with a special focus on the sexy stuff.


Debra McKellan said...

That sounds cool. I love that chart, lol. SO accurate! I think rereading what I wrote is even bigger for me. My excuse is that it helps me finish where I left off. It works 50% of the time.

J. Lea Lopez said...

Yeah, some of the daydreaming and re-reading and all that stuff does legitimately help me, but some of it is also just another name for procrastination lol. Let me know if you give the pomodoro technique a try! Of course there's still the hurdle of actually setting that timer.... ;-) But I'm doing pretty well!

Theresa Milstein said...

I can totally relate. Even though I work quicker than some, I've done all of the above!

Connie Arnold said...

I hate procrastination, but that doesn't mean I don't do it! I can certainly relate to what you say, although I have the best of intentions. Thanks for sharing about the pomodoro technique.

Sophie Perinot said...

I am also, generally, a slow first-drafter. But my first drafts tend to be such that I wouldn't be embarrassed for my agent to see them without an editing pass. Just the way I work.

SC Author said...

This sounds amazing, actually. I'm on my...I don't even know, 12th? full-on revision and I'm procrastinating so hard even though this is the last revision pass (for now). This might just be my life-saver! Thanks!