“One must work with time and not against it”

Ursula K. Le Guin

Shut up and Write (SUAW) uses a time management method called the Pomodoro Technique (developed by Francesco Cirillo) where 25 minute blocks are interspersed with short breaks. Each block is a ‘pomodoro’, named after the tomato shaped kitchen timer. It is a simple but effective technique that can improve concentration and productivity. SUAW sessions hosted by the Library have proved popular. This blog post lists resources to help if you want to set up your own SUAW group or use the Pomodoro Technique on your own, including wellbeing resources to help you focus and links to writing support at the University.  

Finding an app / timer for ‘Shut up and Write’

There are many, free timers. Several use the Pomodoro Technique (25 minute bursts with 5 minute breaks). Decide if you want a simple timer, or if you would like extra features.

  • Tomatoes – very simple online timer, optional ticking sound
  • Pomodor – a simple browser-based timer
  • Marinara timer – generates a link you can share amongst your group, so all can see the timer together
  • FocusKeeper – for iPad/ iPhone  
  • Pomello – integrates with Trello (a task organiser app)
  • PomeDoneApp – integrates with several time management / work applications

Putting together your own SUAW group

SUAW participants often say the most important ingredient of the sessions is the light ‘social pressure’ from being in a group, all working at the same time. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Find people to work with: working online means you can team up with a whole variety of people, not necessarily in the same geographical location. Are other staff in your academic field or other PGRs interested in the Pomodoro Technique?
  2. Run your group at a regular time whilst it gets established
  3. Agree session rules – session length, videos on or off, when it’s OK to type chat messages etc.
  4. Have someone who is the ‘welcome’ person and who announces the breaks
  5. You could all join the same meeting in Microsoft Teams, Google Meet etc or use an agreed Twitter #tag for timings and communication
  6. Communicate with each other in the SUAW breaks – it will help create a sense of community
  7. If your group will meet in person (when COVID-19 restrictions are eased), agree whether you prefer somewhere lively like a café or pub, or a quiet space.

Read more suggestions on setting up a SUAW group on the “Thesis Whisperer” website.  

Top tips

  • Put the SUAW session into your calendar or work schedule and treat it as protected time, like a formal meeting.
  • The breaks are very important. Try to move about, stretch, do something different. See the Wellbeing section of this blog. Don’t carry on with your task in the breaks!
  • Put the SUAW session into your calendar or work schedule and treat it as protected time, like a formal meeting.
  • Track how many pomodoros you have completed – for example, by ticking a piece of paper: it’s satisfying and gives an idea of how many pomodoros you need to complete tasks

Typical session structure

Introductions and chat

  1. Writing (25 mins)
  2. Break (5 min)
  3. Writing (25 mins)
  4. Break (with chat?) (10 mins)

Repeat. Have a longer break once you’ve gone through this cycle two or three times.

Pre-existing SUAW / silent writing groups

Silent Zoom Writing Group https://www.szwg.co.uk/ – weekdays at 10.00-12.00GMT and 15.00-17.00 GMT

Wellbeing resources


Resources that provide adaptable background sounds to help induce a flow state in your work:


App and website blockers that enable you to focus on your work and avoid procrastination:


Programs to mind-map ideas, files, websites and more:


Web and app-based programs for recording, storing and organising text notes, webpages and more:

Reading tools

These programs allow you to adapt screen-based content to suit your preferences:

Time management

Planning tools to meet deadlines, as well as develop self-awareness about when you work best:

Other PGR writing support in the Uni

Writing for Publication Course – 9 sessions over 12 Weeks.

The writing for publication course, run by OD&PL, is aimed at PGRs and early career researchers. The programme offers practical help to get published, whether you want to write up unpublished data into a new paper or rework a rejected paper for submission elsewhere.  A new topic is covered each week. Topics covered include motivating yourself to write, choosing where to publish, structuring a paper, dealing with rejection and practical help with writing skills .  For more information, please visit the OD&PL Researcher Support website.

Virtual Writing Retreat – Workshop structure – 3-day retreat

The virtual writing retreat, run by OD&PL, is aimed at staff and postgraduate researchers doing an academic writing project. Anyone who wishes to spend focused time on a specific piece of academic writing is welcome to apply. You might be working on a book chapter, a journal article, a funding proposal or a fellowship application. This can be at any stage of development. For more information, please visit the OD&PL Researcher Support website.

Getting published – successfully

This course is designed to help you get your research-based writing published. It aims to develop your authorial knowledge, understanding, and confidence – and also to provide practical guidance. It is suitable for postgraduate researchers and for early career researchers who have material ready to write up into a paper or a book proposal. The course is offered via the Doctoral College Minerva area as self-directed study alongside an option to have samples of your written work reviewed. For more information please visit the OD&PL Researcher Support website.


Skills@Library provide lots of information and guidance about how you can develop your academic writing skills. Although the guidance is aimed at undergraduate and taught masters students, you may find the information useful. There is guidance on defining your purpose, structuring your work, using clear and concise language, demonstrating balance, choosing the correct tense and voice, and building  an argument. Please visit the Skills@Library academic writing pages for more information.

The Language Centre

The Language Centre provide free English Language workshops for all PGRs. The workshops can help you develop your confidence in using academic language and cover topics such as writing purposefully, reading critically to write critically and  word choices. More information about the workshops can be found on the Academic English courses and workshops page.