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Tomato + Number of Words

My top ten time management tips

I’m writing a series of posts on my top ten time management techniques and promised to tell you how each applies to the writing life along the way. Here’s why, in case you want the background. Yesterday I talked about a popular one using the humble tomato. Here’s how writers can use it to make progress, to avoid procrastination or to establish a habit.

Mini-chunks of time

In a nutshell, your kitchen timer can provide you with a mini chunk of time when you can work distraction free. This is known as the Pomodoro Technique. You can find out more here.

So how can it help writers? In lots of ways, but here’s a fun thing to try. Decide through experimentation how many of those mini-chunks of time you like to use for one writing session. How many Pomodoros = one session, for you. Make sure your space works for you too, as that has a huge impact on how long you can write for (or want to write for). You probably won’t get to your ideal, in terms of space or time, immediately – or at all – but make it good enough for now.

Worked that out, roughly? Great! Now practise for a few sessions, to get the hang of it.

Tomato + Number of Words

The next stage is to note down how many words (on average) you write – in a 25 min chunk and in whatever length of writing session you prefer. That way you begin to understand, using actual evidence, how much time your writing typically takes and therefore how long it will take you to write and redraft a particular project. In particular, know what one tomato = in terms of words. AND know how many tomatoes it usually takes you to get to 1000 words. Try writing for four Pomodoros and see what happens. Once you’re satisfied, stop recording the number of words, because it could drive you mad. You can also experiment with working out how many mini-chunks of time it takes you to edit 1000 words.



  1. Here’s your challenge (if you choose to accept it)! Write and edit a 2,000 word short story. Schedule the number of mini-chunks of time you need to get it done. Don’t guess! Base this on your experiments with the Pomodoro Technique.
  2. Here’s a further challenge: find an opportunity to submit the story to in advance of writing, so you can use an external deadline and any theme they provide to motivate you to turn up. Here’s a list of places that publish short stories or that share calls for submissions.
  3. If you find yourself procrastinating, tell yourself you will ‘only’ write for 5 mins. Set the timer. Write in a notebook, so the process is easy and immediate. If you feel like carrying on, set the timer for 10 mins more, and another 10 after that, then have a break.

Let me know how you get on!

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. There are more challenges like the one above in my book on finding time to write – follow the links from here.

P.P.S. Here’s the next blog post in the series – all about context switching when planning. 

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