Groupomodoro

crostini al pomodoro

crostini al pomodoro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once a month, our writing group uses half of our meeting time (we meet for approximately 90 minutes every other week) to explore the pomodoro technique together.  We write for 20 minutes, then discuss the experience before setting the timer and going again.  To give you a glimpse of how this works, I decided to reproduce here, in its unadulterated entirety, my latest result.

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Jeff just set the timer for a 20 minute shared pomodoro and we are off! We have posted about the benefit of using a timed period to accomplish tasks before, but recently our writing group has embarked on using part of our meeting time to all do a couple of pomodoros together.  Some spend their time on a work in progress, a few use it to riff on something new, and me, well I am taking this one to hammer out this blog post.  I think, we are all pretty good about limiting our distractions when we are writing at home, but writing here at the coffee shop is another beast.  Last time we did it I just couldn’t concentrate enough to make sense of what I was working on so I actually riffed about the distraction itself (the coffee shop was crowded that day and it felt like the table next to us was right on top of us).  Today, at least we have a table out of the way.

It is interesting to be amongst writers writing, to hear the different rhythms of how we work.  Most of us are  touch typists, so we tend to type in flurries and then pause to move on.  We mostly avoid eye contact while working through it, but I am hyper-aware of the surroundings and find it difficult to get too focused.

This is a very loud coffee shop though, it always is.  But they have great coffee and actually a decent vibe overall.  When we lost our last meeting place (the bookstore decided that the coffee cafe just wasn’t working out), we happened on this place very quickly.  I even come here on the off weeks sometimes because they make great frozen coffee drinks and I can spend an hour to an hour and a half just working through something.

They also play a very varied musical selection here, jumping genres at a single bound.  A great Psychedelic Furs song just played and there could be a Tom Petty song around the corner. That all fades to the background when we are in the discussion part of our meetings, but often comes to the forefront when not engaged in conversation.

This post has begun to meander, partly because I didn’t come today with a defined writing goal, but I did bring my writing equipment: iPad, bluetooth keyboard, brain.  I have ideas swirling, but have had issue getting them to coalesce of late.  And that, my friends is what twenty minutes of riffing looks like.

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As often occurs with writing off the cuff, there are some nuggets in the middle section that, if I was producing a polished piece, I could pull out and build around.  However, since I had pretty much reached a conclusion of sorts, feeling like I wanted to stretch out for the second period that week, and inspired by another member’s poetry work, I next embarked on kicking out some haiku infused with the flavor of the place in which it was written.

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A coffee shop’s sounds
espresso tap, blender whirrs
conversation bits

A coffee shop hour
few regulars sit and work
others come and go

Conversation, crossword
many computers in use
coffee shop Sunday

How can that guy nap?
I would find it way too hard
Couch must be comfy

When this was a bank
probably not this busy
on Sunday morning

This is space transformed
Once a bank, now there’s coffee
The vault’s for study

Waxing poetic
while others drink their coffee
They’re none the wiser

Amidst the chaos
of this coffee shop today
I write poetry

This place is eXtreme
no really that is the name
not hyperbole

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Tomato Testimonial

Like most of the other bloggers on this site I’ve been having trouble meeting my writing goals lately (and non-writing goals for that matter).  In fact it’s been hard to even get started lately.  I won’t bore you with the specifics of the excuses.  Like most excuses they feel valid at the time but criminally lame after the fact.  I’ve had success in the past with written schedules but the latest attempt was less than successful.  All seemed lost.

Last week though Tim wrote a post right here on Writing is Cake about the Pomodoro Technique.  He heard about it at a presentation at Iginite Phoenix, an event you should attend if you’re nearby, failing that check out their site and youtube channel.  At any rate something about it peaked my curiosity enough to check out the Ignite preso and the Pomodoro site.  I’ve been using it for a few days now and I can’t say enough good things about it.  Let me tell ya people, this is a great time management protocol.  It sounds a little gimmicky at first and I suppose it is with jargony terms and phrases.  But when you get good results who cares?

The planning/time management phase is simple enough.  You make a sort of master ‘to do’ list called an Activity Inventory.  From that list you pick items that go on a ‘To Do Today’ list and estimate how many pomodoros the task will take.  Pomodoro being an indivisible unit of 25 minutes with a 3-5 minute break at the end.  Simple right?  But it lets you prioritize tasks in any number of ways.

Even more important for me is it lets you break down any task into smaller goals.  Not only does this lessen the sense of being overwhelmed by tasks, it means you always have a sense of making progress.  It keeps you you positive, in the moment, and focused.  And speaking of focus…my problem isn’t so much procrastination.  I can usually get started alright but staying on task is brutal.  Distraction is my demon and he is legion!  Dealing with distractions is built into the system.  Not by ignoring them but by acknowledging them.  If you feel a distraction brewing you actually write it down and make a decision whether to address it or move on with the task.  Of course most of them are easily put off and you’ll quickly be amazed how much work you get done in 25 minutes when that 25 minutes is only work.

So give it a try.  Read Tim’s post http://www.writingiscake.com/2010/04/06/habitually-focused-the-pomodoro-technique/, check out the Ignite videohttp://www.youtube.com/user/IgnitePhoenix#p/u/16/7ckRBw5VfaA, check out the Pomodoro sitehttp://www.pomodorotechnique.com/.  If you’re not sure if it’ll work start small.  Try a two or three pomodoro task and see how it feels.  I’m hooked and I’m pretty sure you will be, too.  Thanks go to Tim, Greg Head, and Jeff and the Ignite Cadre.

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Take This Job and Shove It…For Awhile

A friend of mine, and a contributor on this site, is a teacher.  He’s on summer vacation now and recently took a one man writing retreat.  He left town and stayed at a place with no phone and no TV.  I told him I was jealous since lately I’ve seen my writing get a little deprioritized–short sessions or no sessions at all some days.

But then I got thinking.  I have five days of vacation.  I have no money to go any great distance or do anything particularly amazing for vacation.  Normally that would be depressing and I would just keep working like a drone and bitching about how I didn’t have any money to do anything with the days.  Alternatively I might just hoard the days and dribble them out for a three day weekend here and there. 

Instead I’m taking a writer’s retreat of my own.  I’m just taking all five days and using it to finish the first draft of my novel.  I figure I’m about 98 percent done.  This work has been much more tortoise than hare but now I’m going for a sprint across that finish line.  I’ll lay in a good supply of coffee, tobacco, and beer and put the coup de grace on this bad boy.  It may not sound like much but I’m excited.