If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know I love to sprint when I write. You also know that I use my writing sprint timer religiously.

a tomato-shaped kitchen timer on a wooden table with the text "Can a Writing Sprint Timer Change Your Productivity (These 7 Ideas Say Yep!)"

I didn’t come up with the idea of using a writing timer, but it’s something that’s kept me productive as a writer for years now.

It’s a simple concept, and if you’re struggling to make progress or focus for a specific amount of time, using a writing sprint timer may be the game changer you’re looking for.

Why Use a Writing Sprint Timer?

It’s no secret I love writing sprints, and I have a handy dandy writing sprint timer that sits on my desk always. If you want to know how to write fast or how to write a lot of words, the answer is almost always in using some kind of timer and sprinting your heart out.

Using a writing timer is like playing a game with your brain. If you struggle to get started, setting a timer means that you only have to write for the time you’ve set. It’s easy to focus for a small amount of time. And yeah, you can keep writing after the timer goes off, but it frees you from thinking about writing for hours and hours. This is especially good on days when you really, really don’t want to write.

(Note: You don’t have to write if you don’t want to. Nobody gets a medal for doing shit that makes them unhappy. But if you need to get some words on the page because of deadlines, a timer can help you push yourself to do just that.)

Timers also make you write faster. You set the timer, and push yourself to write until the end. And for the duration of the timer, you write. Then you edit. (You’ve heard me scream write first, edit later.) It’s a great way to get a lot of writing done quickly. Sure, it’s going to be full of typos and you’ll need to edit it. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad writing.

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And finally, a writing sprint timer can be part of your routine. It’s a great way to sit down and get some work done all at once, and if you use it regularly, it can be part of a ritual that ensures you’re always writing when you need to be writing.

Writing Sprint Ideas

If you like the idea of using a writing sprint timer, but want to spice up how you use it, check out these ideas. I swear by numbers 3 and 6.

001: Use a YouTube writing sprint timer.

If you like the idea of having a custom timer for the seasons or for a specific event, YouTube has you covered. Simply search “writing sprint timer” and you’ll find what you need. There are videos of timers with different times so you can choose a timer length that works for you.

Some have cool graphics, some play cool ambient sounds, and others play music. There are timers aplenty, and you can find one that works for you.

002: Join a writing sprint livestream.

If you need a writing sprint tool that is a little more social, find a writing livestream. Writers on YouTube and Twitch go live regularly and sprint. They share their timer on the screen, and in between sprints, you can talk with other writers in the chat.

Admittedly, I don’t think this is a very productive way to do writing sprints, but sometimes, it’s a good change of pace.

003: Do a Pomodoro.

Productivity nerds love a good Pomodoro. If you have two hours and would like to get some writing done, this is the way to do it.

Here’s the anatomy of a Pomodoro:

And that’s it. You can use it for writing or for any sort of work you need to get done. It’s great for getting a lot of work done at once, and by the final work sprint, you’re in the zone and getting a lot done in the sprint.

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To make this extra productive, make sure you have a solid outline so you can keep moving forward as you write. This method is great if you want to know more about how to write 10,000 words a day.

004: Battle it out.

I’m a competitive asshole. This is a well-known fact. And sometimes, I just need to be smug and terrible.

That’s why I like a good, old-fashioned writing sprint battle.

To do this, you’re going to need a writerly friend who also is a smug asshole. Then, you’ll set a timer and do a writing sprint together.

When you’re done, you’ll compare word counts. The one with the most words wins.

Yeah, maybe this is toxic. But if you’re an asshole like me, you are already thinking about how much writing you could get done by doing this.

005: Do a warm up sprint with a prompt.

Some days you wake up and you’re really not super connected to the story. Sometimes, you need a break from the book you’re working on, or just a small vacation to another story.

That’s when doing a warm up sprint with a story prompt is a good idea.

Instead of thinking about the story you’re working on, find a story prompt (Pinterest has a ton of these) and set a timer. Write through the story prompt until the timer goes off.

Maybe that was the warm up you needed to get back to your work, or maybe you’ll work on that side-by-side with the story you needed a break from.

It’s up to you what you do with the prompt. But sometimes, it’s nice to get a break from the story you’re stuck in.

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006: Write beat to beat.

If you like to outline your books with beats, you know how important it is to have them listed in a document. Next time you sprint, open your beats and the working document for your story.

From there, you’re going to write through each beat until the timer goes off. Depending on how long you set the timer, you may not even get through one beat. But you may also get through a whole bunch of your story.

This may not be the best way to write a fully-fleshed out draft. But it could be great for a discovery draft.

007: Change up your method.

Sometimes you need a writing sprint to help you get out of your own head, and the best way to do that is to shake things up.

Try doing a sprint where you dictate your story into a voice recorder app on your phone, or use the dictation function in Google Drive. Take some time to do an outlining sprint where you flesh out the story in more detail so it’s easier to write when you do a writing sprint. Try writing by hand instead of typing.

Whatever you choose, just do something that breaks up the monotony of what you’ve been doing, and use that as a way to reset your brain and hit your draft hard afterward.

Do You Use a Writing Sprint Timer?

Do you also have a cheap, digital egg timer on your desk like me? Have you ever joined a writing sprint stream to help you focus? What’s your favorite way to do writing sprints?

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