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4 Tips So You Don’t Organize Yourself to Death

If you live by the penguin-timer, you'll die by the penguin timer! Week 7.

by
Sarah Hoyt

Bio

August 17, 2013 - 7:00 am
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It is a well known but rarely mentioned fact that, having adopted The Pomodoro Technique, dinosaurs scheduled themselves to death.

It is a well known but rarely mentioned fact that, having adopted The Pomodoro Technique, dinosaurs scheduled themselves to death.

Prolific science fiction novelist Sarah Hoyt follows up her “Your Novel in 13 Weeks” PJ Lifestyle series with a new weekly experiment each Saturday to figure out the best way for all creative types working from home to better organize their efforts.

Week Zero, Introduction: Organizing Your Creative Life In 13 Weeks

Week 1/2, Preparation: The Case For Making Lots of Lists

Week One: How to Make Your Mind Like Water

Week Two: What Are the Best Apps For Artists and Writers Desperate To Get Work Done? 

Week Three: The Lone Writer Against The Time Masters

Week Four: How to Tame Your Subconscious

Week Five: How Separating When and Where You Do Tasks Improves Both Productivity and Quality of Work!

Week Six: Organizing your Life is Like Learning to Juggle Eggs and Chainsaws

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Death by Penguin is a terrible thing to contemplate.

Or death by tomato. My friend Charlie (Martin) who has also adopted the Pomodoro Technique and Getting Things Done methods, told me this week “the thing is that you can Pomodoro yourself to death. You keep thinking ‘Oh, I’ll do a tomato on that.”

This sounded like something out of Attack of The Killer Tomatoes to the un-initiated but of course it was perfectly sane and a danger I could see myself.

The Pomodoro Technique consists of timing yourself in 25 minute segments, with three five minute breaks, and then a full 20 minute break for each four 25 minute segments. It is in a way a lot like putting yourself back in school, though not the high schools with 50 minute periods.

I use a penguin timer instead of a tomato timer because the penguin amuses me – but the technique is the same.

Some people report it doesn’t work at all for them. For me it works, because 25 minutes is just short enough that I can postpone getting up to do something/clicking on a link to check something for that long.

Say I’m working and my email makes the sound that announces I have mail.

I think in my entire writing career there have been two emails that needed immediate response, and even then it wasn’t so much needed as I wanted to answer as quickly as possible – one of them being an offer to purchase a novel.

Publishers can’t know if you’ll be at the computer when the email hits and in fact, often during the week I’m not – I tend to go off to a remote and isolated location during the day when I can. It wasn’t really available much of the summer, which led to my going almost insane, but it is back now. While I can check email from this location, it involves going downstairs to the internet café, and so it only happens during breaks.

So if I’m doing a tomato, even if I’m at home and at my desk when the message hits, I tell myself that it can always wait twenty five minutes. This is okay. Telling myself it can wait an hour is something else entirely as, half the time, the email will be from a kid who forgot something or from a husband who needs something done in his home office. But twenty five minutes is manageable.

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