Using the Pomodoro Technique as a Video Editor

Let me start this off with a hard truth: Some days you just don’t feel like editing.

If you’re still reading, then I guess I didn’t offend you and you agree with me at some level. It’s the truth. There are certain days I don’t want to fire up my external hard drives and click open my NLE for another round of unnecessary edits and I’m positive you feel the same way. But we do it. There are bills to pay, producers to please and deadlines to meet.

When we don’t want to do something we tend to seek out distractions and start to worry about anything and everything going on in our lives. Let me check Facebook. I wonder when U2 is touring next? Did I remember to get my wife an anniversary present? Before you know it, it’s 4:45pm and you are packing up for the day. Your timeline has barely been touched.

The trick is to tell your mind that all these worries can still be taken care of once you finish the task at hand (in our world that task is editing). My old friend, the Pomodoro Technique allows me to get my work done while managing the urges to check Twitter or pay a car insurance bill instead of editing.

How it works

  1. Step 1: Choose a task
  2. Step 2: Set a timer for 25 minutes
  3. Step 3: Focus solely on the task for the duration of the timer
  4. Step 4: Take a 3-minute break
  5. Step 5: Repeat Steps 1-4 four times then take a 10-minute break.

Why it works

During the 25 minutes focus intervals we are able to get into a groove. Edits fly out faster because we are completely focused on the task at hand and can grasp our complete video much easier. If we keep stopping then restarting we’ll only be focused on that one spot of the sequence and we might not realize our editing techniques, like pacing, aren’t matching what we did earlier. Our overall piece suffers and takes longer when we aren’t paying attention.

So why don’t we just focus for 8 hours straight? Most of us can’t.

When we first start trying to block out all other distractions, even for a short period of time, it creates stress. By default, our brains want to complete whatever we are thinking about at the moment. But if we train our brains to understand that we will absolutely record and do all of those things that pop into our heads, the stress goes away.

It will take some time to retrain your brain. It helps if you keep a notepad next to you so that you can quickly write down the distraction that is currently bugging you. Either complete that distraction during your 3-minute break or do it later. As long as you complete it your brain won’t rebel and over time it will become easier to focus for the 25-minute intervals.

After you complete the 25-minute work to 3-minute break cycle four times, take a longer break to avoid burn out. This might be a good time to get up from the desk and walk around.

Ways to get the most out of the Pomodoro Technique

I’ve discovered a few ways to make my experience with the Pomodoro Technique better over the past few years of using it.

My first recommendation is to find a timer. Don’t depend on constantly checking the clock on your computer. This is the same to your brain as one of those nagging, stress-creating things you are trying to block out. You can use a kitchen timer, one of the many iPhone or Android apps, or a web-based app like Marinara Timer.

Feel free to tinker with the time intervals. I typically use 20-minute intervals and approximately 2-minute breaks. Those times work best for me. If my breaks last 3-minutes there is a greater likelihood I’ll get consumed reading some blog post or watching some YouTube video that’ll take way too long.

Try to listen to ad-free music that constantly plays. While editing, I’m often guilty of cuing up a bunch of songs from YouTube and then manually clicking play and skipping ads after each song finishes. This is a horrible way to get in a groove because every 4-5 minutes your attention is getting torn away from your NLE. Use a playlist from iTunes or Spotify or anything that just plays music without interrupting you.

Tell co-workers what you are doing. In a previous editing environment I was sought after all the time. While I loved being needed, I could never go 10 minutes without someone stopping by to say hi or ask me a question. That’s when I started shutting my door and putting a cute but serious sign up on it that said I was focusing and to leave me alone.

Once you get a solid grasp of the Pomodoro Technique try to integrate it with other time management solutions. Another one I love using is working without my laptop plugged in and leaving the charger at home. When I combine this with the Pomodoro Technique I’m unstoppable.

There are a ton of time management techniques out there and the Pomodoro Technique is just one. Which ones do you use? I’m always up for improving my Pomodoro methods. Does your way of using it differ from mine? Share below in the comments section! Also, please let me know if you enjoyed this post and would like to read more on time management for video professionals.