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The Pomodoro Technique

I’m not very good at sticking with the job in hand. I get side-tracked. Then I get side-tracked again. If I wander upstairs, I have to spend time wondering what I went upstairs for. Yes, definitely getting on in years! But I’ve recently come across something that is helping me to be more organised. It’s called THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE.

             It’s a time management system that breaks your day (or any part of a day) into 25-minute sections, known as POMODOROS.

  1. You set a timer for 25 minutes and get going on a particular task.
  2. When the timer goes off, you stop – even mid-sentence.
  3. You then have a 5-minute break.
  4. Then you set the clock again for 25 minutes and resume your task.
  5. If you do three or four pomodoros in a row, then you should then have a longer break, anything between 15 minutes and half an hour.

For me, it works!

What are the advantages of the Pomodoro Technique?

  • It is designed to make you focus on just one task at a time, working for a concentrated 25 minutes. (If you have all day then, according to Parkinson’s Law, you will take all day!)
  • It instills a sense of urgency.
  • It makes you have regular breaks, particularly important if you are working on a computer.
  • After a break, you will feel better, and you will have a fresh outlook on a task.
  • It can increase productivity.
  • You tend to waste less time.

Now the History bit!

The Pomodoro Technique was created in the 1980s by an Italian student, Francesco Cirillo. He was having trouble studying, getting distracted and losing focus. One day, he saw a tomato kitchen timer and set it, initially, for 10 minutes. He found it helped his concentration and after a test period, settled on 25-minutes as the most productive time. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato – and The Pomodoro Technique was born!

You don’t, of course, have to buy a tomato timer! I didn’t particularly want one with an audible tick-tock sound, so I chose an ordinary timer that is silent, albeit I chose the red one.

And there are a number of apps you can download onto your computer, tablet or phone. Here’s a website that has tested the six best apps.

https://zapier.com/blog/best-pomodoro-apps/

I would suggest that it’s definitely worth a try. If it works for you – great! If it doesn’t, no harm done at all. There are other time management techniques out there – just don’t spend too much time Googling!

Janus words

Janus is the Roman god of beginnings, gates, doorways, time, and endings. He is usually shown as having two faces, symbolising looking forward and back, and the beginning and ending of conflict.

Janus words are those that have two different and opposite meanings. They can also be called contranyms, antagonyms, or auto-antonyms.

Here are some examples:

FAST
Meaning 1: to move quickly eg The man being chased was running fast.
Meaning 2: to be held securely eg He was held fast by the chains.

SANCTION
Meaning 1: To allow eg The teacher sanctioned the use of calculators in the examination.
Meaning 2: To restrict, punish eg The UN imposed sanctions against South Africa in the 1970s.

CLIP
Meaning 1: to cut a portion of something eg He took a clip of her hair.
Meaning 2: to attach something to something else eg I clip all my receipts together.DUST
Meaning 1: to remove something eg I have to dust the kitchen counter after using icing sugar.
Meaning 2: to add something eg I dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

WEATHER
Meaning 1: to withstand something eg The house on the beach weathered years of storms
Meaning 2: to wear away eg The cliff face was weathered away by the force of the sea.

Other Janus words include bill, bolt, cleave, buckle, refrain, leave, peruse, transparent

Can you supply the meanings of these words?

Just make sure when using them in your writing that the context makes it clear which meaning you intend. 

Prompts and Exercises – what’s the difference?

A writing PROMPT is a tool that aims to get the creative side of your brain working. You probably used them way back in schooldays, when your teacher set the task of writing about “My Holiday” at the start of the autumn term! One of my writing group members calls then NUDGES. “I just need a nudge, Linda,” she says, “then I can get going!”

Writintg PROMPTS can take many forms:

  1. The opening line of a story
  2. The last line of a story
  3. A seasonal topic eg a winter walk
  4. A poem or haiku
  5. A review of a book, play or meal
  6. Mindmapping a topic
  7. Creating a story from a picture
  8. Creating a piece of writing from music
  9. Making a list of all the colours in your room
  10. Making a list of all the moods you were in yesterday

PROMPTS are designed just to get you going. On occasions, you might find you want to write for more than the suggested five or ten minutes. Or the prompt leads to you writing a whole story or article. Great! Or it just serves to get you in the mood for resuming a current writing project, such as the next chapter of a novel, or a story for a competition.

Writing EXERCISES can also be used as prompts – to get you going. Exercises, however, have a more precise goal. I use them, for myself and my writing groups, in order to practise specific aspects of writing.

For example, you could choose a picture of a particular setting, let’s say a fairground, and write 200 words describing a young teenager walking through that fairground. Then choose a different person, an elderly man, for another 200 words, and perhaps a third person, like a woman who feels she has no excitement in her life, for another 200. It’s amazing how the descriptions will vary from the different points of view.

If you feel your dialogue needs improving, then choose two characters, such as a businessman and a homeless teenager, and write a page of their conversation. Read it out loud and see if you have created two distinctly different voices.

I know I’m not very good at describing clothes, so I tend not to! But once in a while, I set myself an exercise of choosing a character and then describing his/her appearance in two different settings eg going for an interview and going out with friends for a walk.

If a writing buddy has said to you “but I want to know what your character is feeling”, write a page in the first person, delving into their thoughts and feelings about a particular issue eg whether they are going to confess to an affair.

In doing these exercises, you can either invent completely new characters just for the exercise. Or you can use characters in your current story or novel. The exercise might not find its way into your project story, but it will give you more of an insight into your characters’ personalities.

If you Google WRITING PROMPTS, you’ll find hundreds of ideas, which will include what I call both PROMPTS and EXERCISES. If you need a warm-up, or want to practice, just have a go. It will be time well spent.

My book “A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction” has 366 writing prompts and exercises.

Trying something new

I love going on courses and learning something new! And I really enjoyed the one-day course I took one Saturday last month to learn how to make a leather bag. I’ve been making very simple fabric bags for sometime now and I think it’s watching The Repair Shop that made me think of trying leather.

I found Rosanna Clare’s courses on Facebook and when she couldn’t fit me in on the date I originally chose, she kindly fitted me in on another Saturday, alongside two people doing half-day courses in the morning.

I wanted a Saturday course because her workshop studio is just south of Guildford, and I couldn’t face the M25 on a weekday! On a Saturday, it was an easy journey down to the A3 and then off into the lovely Surrey country lanes down to Smithbrook Kilns – former brickworks that have been converted into a collection of artistes’ studios, shops, businesses, a restaurant and flats.

Rosanna’s workshop is an Aladdin’s cave of leather-working: skins in so many colours to choose from, all sorts of tools, sewing machines, all the hardware you need for bags, key-rings and belts, material for linings, and all the beautiful bags she makes to sell.

Two things impressed from the very start: the fact that the three of us had all arrived early, so we started early. And Rosanna’s passion. I think I’ve written a blog here before about PASSION in writing. Well, Rosanna has it for both leather and teaching.

The couple, on the three-hour course, were making a number of small items: such as a credit card case, a key-ring tassle, glasses case, luggage tag, bookmark, notebook cover and trinket tray. So Rosanna divided her time between them and me and not once did any of us feel we were left waiting.

I started by learning how to cut the leather pieces out, using a template and a rotary cutter. These pieces were then glued together, before stitching on an industrial sewing machine. That last piece of equipment was new to me, and it took a little time to get used to the slight differences from my home version. Zips, linings, tabs and hardware followed. Rosanna was happy to work through lunch, me too, so we carried on and had an early finish. And I was delighted with my fold-over bag.

I can quite see myself going back for another course and in the meantime, I might just try experimenting at home. Suzie Fletcher, watch out.  You may have competition!

If you’re interested, have a look at Rosanna’s website at http://www.rosannaclare.com

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