The ‘25 method’ for forming a writing routine when you have limited time

Olivia Burgess shares her abbreviated form of the pomodoro method for being productive in only 25 minutes a day

Olivia Burgess's avatar
27 May 2022
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Timing your writing and breaking it into 25-minute chunks can be very useful for time-poor academics

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Colorado State University Global

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If you’re struggling to find time, write consistently or get started on your next publication, try out my abbreviated pomodoro method: the single, solitary, yet potent “25”.

The original pomodoro method is a time-management technique that organises work into 25-minute chunks separated by short breaks of five minutes. You do this a total of four times, take a longer break and then repeat. The technique was invented by developer and entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo to reduce distraction and increase focus, especially for people (most of us!) who tend to procrastinate or have repetitive work tasks.

If you want to try the full version of the pomodoro method, try it on your own or use an online pomodoro timer.

However, finding that much time and space to dedicate to writing is challenging, especially if you have heavy teaching and service expectations. When I set out to work on an article using this method, I decided I could only manage a single 25-minute session per day. I’d rather end the day having written one sentence than having failed to write several pages. I merged the pomodoro method with B. J Fogg’s tiny habits concept: if you want to create a successful change in your behaviour (such as consistent writing), you should start with very small changes that lead to constant feelings of success. 

In my experience, adapting the pomodoro method to an abbreviated form tailored to my goals has helped me achieve greater publication success. I kept a productivity log to track how it went. My goal was to write for 25 minutes a day on most days, although times did vary, and my personal and professional schedule was particularly hectic. My shortest writing day was 10 minutes (according to my records, I made “a few minor changes”). My longest day (at 90 minutes) was spent preparing the article for submission. Most days, I hit between 25 and 45 minutes.

In total, I logged 34.5 hours over five months. During that time, I researched, drafted, revised and submitted an article for publication, and it was accepted. For my next article, I set a more consistent routine of completing “25s” every weekday, with the option to write on weekends, and I committed to working at least 25 minutes each session. 

That became the practice I now use when I’m working on a writing project: work on a piece of writing for 25 minutes a day, every weekday. I find that 25 minutes is short enough to be manageable most days but also too short to waste even a second, which motivates me to focus quickly and keep my project moving forward. 

If you think this method might work for you, here are some guidelines: 

Find your “25 zone”

Try to schedule your 25 when you are naturally more focused, but plan ahead to make sure you find a different time if you anticipate distractions. After testing different times throughout the day, I discovered I become wildly productive between 8:30-9:30pm. I try to schedule my 25s during this time. However, I’ll write in the morning if I foresee time conflicts later. 

Establish your schedule 

Determine clear expectations for which days are 25 days and which days are optional or completely writing-free. I keep weekends optional. Sometimes I do nothing, and sometimes I find myself itching to sneak in a 25. This may be a surprising suggestion considering 25 minutes a day is such a minimal amount of time already, but I rely on 25s because I have so many other obligations. The point is to make writing a consistent, manageable habit you can maintain over months. Time off supports long-term success.

A scheduled 25 is non-negotiable

Plan ahead and commit – fiercely. When I’m using 25s to complete a project with the goal of publication, my scheduled 25 is a non-negotiable priority. I commit to making it happen. Once the habit is established, the day won’t feel right if the 25 goes unfinished. 

Always include writing

Get something written every 25, even if it’s just jotting down some key points from an article. Seeing words add up over time is incredibly motivating.

The timer might stop, but you don’t have to

If you’re on fire when the timer goes off and still have time, keep going. Part of the magic of the 25 is that on the worst days you can at least get something done, and on the best days it’s a launching pad for incredible, energised productivity. 

You can certainly adapt this method to meet your own needs. Don’t like 25 minutes? Make it 20, or an even 30. The point is to establish a consistent habit and stop stalling because you might not have hours every day to devote to writing. Publication is entirely possible in much less time than you think. In the end, all you need is a series of small steps consistently taken day after day. So, get ready, get focused and set your timer.

Olivia Burgess teaches literature courses at the undergraduate and graduate level for Colorado State University Global.

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