Pomodoro-ing my way towards a proper thesis draft

There’s a lot of different productivity apps available nowadays and one that I found most useful was the Pomodoro app.  I’m not affiliated with the company or work for them, I just liked the idea of working in small chunks of time. That’s essentially the idea behind the Pomodoro technique. You work for a set amount of time. The app is essentially a timer, where you can set how long you’d like to work for and how long you’re breaks are. There are a lot of useful posts out there from academics reviewing this app (see @thesiswhisper and @thePhDWar for some insightful reading) and, in general,  many users found it helped kick start the writing process by getting you mentally out of a rut. For me, this has been the most practical app I’ve tried to get me to be more productive.

I use it often as a ‘warm up’ session for writing. When I think about what I still need to do to finish this thesis I easily get overwhelmed with “OMG I don’t have enough time!” or “Sh*t, how is this possible in 2 months!” or “I can’t…etc.etc.etc.” However timing myself has helped me gain some control over my work (as well as my mental state).  Knowing that I only need to write for 25/35 minutes took the pressure off me because I felt there was an end. Also, I only had 25/35 minutes to finish a task and this helped me avoid wasting time on the internet. Sometimes I get to a point where was able to continue working without timing myself because I felt already on a roll. Other times, I feel, “Nope, that’s all for now” and move on to something else with the relief that I got something done.

When I began actually writing my thesis I used it to time particular tasks, like reading for an allotted time or writing an outline for a chapter.  Nowadays, as I enter the last few weeks of writing (that’s the plan so far *heh*) I’m using the Pomodoro timer to keep me focused.  I work on one specific section for an allotted time, whether it’s revising what I’ve written or working on an entirely new section. Mentally this has helped clear the cobwebs and I’m beginning to make the connections between my chapters. I have what would be considered a full draft consisting of a bunch of chapters but it’s not a thesis, yet. Working on the coherence, one section at a time, is helping me identify the details I need to sharpen up, and timing myself has forced me to really focus.

This technique may not be ideal for everyone and may be better suited for particular tasks. It’s up to you find out what works for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of using Pomodoro below.

5 thoughts on “Pomodoro-ing my way towards a proper thesis draft

  1. Hi Eljee! I have been planning to write about it on my blog as well. I totally agree with you. The Pomodoro technique is great to help us focus and to learn how much time we need for certain tasks. What app do you use? Or do you use the timer itself? I have been using the “Grandfather Deco”, which is a plug-in for Chrome. It is great because you can add the task description and have a brief report on how you spent your time during the day. I have also been using the weekplan app (@weekplan.net) combined with Pomodoro, so I write down how many “Pomodoros” I will dedicate to a certain task in a certain day, instead of how many minutes or hours. Thanks for sharing this, great post! =)


  2. Hi Silvia! Thanks for commenting. I got a Pomodoro timer about two years ago from these guys (pomodoro.ugolandini.com) but I think was downloaded from the Mac App store. It’s been a while, I just remember wanting to get a specific app because using my phone for a timer was actually more distracting. When I checked the time, I also wanted to check the emails/texts that came through. ‘Grandfather Deco’ looks quite cool, and I’m liking the report function. It’s great there’s options for all types of systems. The app I use can sync with iCal and records each session on the calendar, but I found it ended up cluttering my calendar!


  3. Hmm. A timer, you say? I wonder how this might fit into my MA studies (lord knows I could use some form of technological help in that department). I’m not quite sure a timer is my solution though as I tend to do what I can in 4 hours before I burn out for the day. Perhaps it would curb my overly frequent breaks while writing though. I’ll check it out.


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