Words on a Page Writings about writing

How to get your writing done using a timer

A metallic egg timer

Sometimes, nothing lights a fire under your procrastination like a deadline. Even if you’re not facing a deadline, using a timer to write something, anything, can give you the push you need to get started. And, I hope, finish.

One popular method of doing timed work in the Pomodoro Technique. While I find the Pomodoro Technique useful, I also find it a bit limiting. That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t take elements of the Pomodoro Technique and apply them to your writing.

Here are a few tips that I think can help you when working with a timer.

Before you begin

Sure, you can dive in and start writing. You’ll wind up with something, but that something might not be much good. You’ll probably have to do a lot of editing and reworking to get it to work. Why not skip that, and start with a plan.

That plan will include:

  • How much time you can set aside for the writing task you want to finish
  • The task you want to complete in that timer
  • An outline or a breakdown of the writing task

As you might have guessed, the amount of time you can devote to what you want to write will determine what you’ll be able to write. You can’t, for example, expect to write the chapter of a book in 15 minutes. You could, however, write the first 200 or 250 words in that time.

With that in hand, you can …

Set your timer and start writing

It doesn’t matter what you use. It can be an old school timer, a web-based one, or an app on your phone. Just make sure it buzzes loudly or vibrates when time runs down.

Grab your preferred tool for writing. That could mean firing up a word processor or text editor or specialized writing application. That could mean sitting down with pen and paper. Whatever works for you.

Then, start the timer and start writing. Don’t stop to do research or to rewrite. Resist the urge to self edit. Beat back the demon of perfectionism. Put your energy into finishing something, anything, before the timer runs down.

Repeat this

Several times during the day or week, whenever you can put aside some time. You might not be able to do a lot in a single timed writing session, but at the end of the day or the week the number of words you produce will add up. And because you’ve focused what you’ve written, that work will require less polishing than if you just sat down and wrote without intent or focus.

Writing with a timer can help you get your work done, even if it’s in small increments. It’s a great way to get past the blank page or being a draft writer.

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