Leaning Methods

The Pomodoro Technique: A Student’s Guide

These days, there are as many study techniques out there as there are students. With plenty of “life hacks”, flow theories, and other approaches, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

There’s no shortage of apps and online tools, but today we’re recommending a low-tech approach. This is a time management method from the 80s, long before anybody heard of project management apps and the world wide web.

What are you to do when looking for ways to improve your productivity when there are so many options? Like many study guides, we always advocate for you to break down big tasks into small tasks. This is a great way to do this.

One proven method for boosting productivity and improving your focus is something called the Pomodoro technique. With more productivity comes more free time!

All you’ll need is a simple kitchen timer, a set of tasks to accomplish, and the willingness to take breaks for rest when you need to. 

What is The Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a popular time management method named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer its inventor, Francesco Cirillo, was using when he was a university student. “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for “tomato”, hence the name of this technique.

The technique is a simple time management tool that breaks up any given task into twenty-five minute intervals, allowing you to treat it like a series of smaller tasks.

You simply set the timer, stay focused, work until it goes off, then take a short five- or ten-minute break, and repeat.

Forbes pointed out that this study technique works best when you’re ready to focus and avoid other distractions. If you’re a regular procrastinator, adapting to the little working “sprints” that characterise the technique can take some adjusting. However, if you have the ability to focus (and you can find ways to eliminate distraction) and you’re happy to measure your work output, you might love the Pomodoro technique.

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique, as Francesco Cirillo designed it, has six distinct steps. The term “Pomodoro” as used here refers to the twenty-five minute period in which you are concentrating on the task at hand.

  1. Decide on the task. 
  2. Set your timer.
  3. Work on the task, generally for twenty-five minutes.
  4. When the timer goes off, enjoy a short break of five minutes.
  5. If you have completed fewer than three Pomodoros, return to step 2 and repeat until you have completed three Pomodoros.
  6. Once you have finished three Pomodoros, complete a fourth Pomodoro, and take a longer 20 to 30 minute break. If your task is still not complete, after the break, you can return to step two.

Here are our quick tips for making the Pomodoro technique work for you.

Get a To-do List and a Pomodoro Timer

While Cirillo recommended a low-tech approach using only a pencil, paper, and the timer, you’re welcome to use an app if you like. 

You’ll need a to-do list of work tasks that need completing and a simple timer. You can use the timer app on your phone, or a kitchen timer if you have one handy. It doesn’t have to be shaped like a tomato!

When making your to-do list, you can add any task you like. If that’s homework, or a long assignment, you can use that as your first task. You could even use the Pomodoro technique to break down your chores, like doing laundry or washing the dishes. It’s all up to you!

Set Your Timer for 25 Minutes and Focus Until it Goes Off

It is critical when following this method to eliminate all distractions. 

Realistically, you can wait 25 minutes to reply to an email, call people back, or check your social media.

To eliminate the capacity for distractions interrupting your period of focus, consider leaving your phone in a separate room while you’re working to your Pomodoro timer.

Eliminate Distractions and Interruptions

If you don’t need the internet for the task you’re completing, you might want to consider turning off your Internet connection so you can work offline.

You might want to try using noise-cancelling headphones and listening to ambient music to prevent noise from distracting you while you work.

Similarly, be sure to work in a dedicated work space with plenty of light, although you should try to resist the temptation to look out the window and get distracted that way during the Pomodoro session.

What to Do When the Pomodoro Timer Rings

As soon as that Pomodoro rings, stop working. Mark down one Pomodoro on your piece or paper (or handy app), and record what you accomplished. Did you squeeze out a few hundred words of your assessment? Write it down. Did you get all your laundry folded and put away? Write it down. 

What gets measured gets managed. By measuring your tasks, writing down your objectives, and your completion of each Pomodoro, you can manage, and eventually master, your tasks. 

The other important thing to do when that timer goes off is to enjoy a break.

Take a Short Break

Once you’ve written down the task you finished, you should take a break. Five to ten minutes should be enough to refresh and restore your focus. There are plenty of studies that show the link between taking short breaks during productivity sessions and improved performance. You’ll enjoy reduced mental fatigue compared to working for extended periods thanks to a five minute break.

A purposeful break of only five to ten minutes is all you need after your first Pomodoro. Pomodoro. Avoid checking your phone or social media.

Be deliberate and intentional with your break, and try going outside, having some water, listening to a song, or organising your workspace. 

Return to the Pomodoro

After your break is over, you’ll return to the Pomodoro. Maybe you achieved the objective that you set out to achieve and can move on to another one.

Perhaps you’ve only made a dent in the job, so you’ll return to work refreshed and ready to push forward.

Return to your one task either until it is complete or you have finished four Pomodoros Pomodoro. After the fourth Pomodoro, you’ve earned yourself a longer, more restorative break.

Take A Longer Break

There are a few ways that you can really maximise the benefits of this approach for yourself.

If you use a standard work day of about eight hours, you’ll notice that you can fit sixteen Pomodoros Pomodoro with five-minute regular breaks in between.

However, you’ll need to take a long break after four Pomodoro intervals – that’s two hours of work – in order to get the most out of the system. Going for a longer walk, socialising, and eating something are great ways to enjoy your long break and allow you to stay focused for longer.

Varying Your Pomodoro

It depends how many Pomodoros Pomodoro your task will take. You can also use overflow Pomodoros. Pomodoro. Perhaps you’ll be almost finished with a task when your timer goes off, and upon returning to it in the next work period you finish it within minutes.

You can line up another task, or combine various discrete but related tasks in the same session. Your task might take less than one interval, like sending an email. That’s OK – just keep going. You can add extra Pomodoros to each session.

Find A Method That Works For You

In addition to this, everyone has a different attention span. You might find extended Pomodoros Pomodoro of an even half hour are better suited to you, or you might find that shorter increments of 15-minute study sprints are best for you.

Experiment with expanding and reducing the length of your Pomodoros to see what suits you.

Conclusion: Does The Pomodoro Technique Work?

Many people love the Pomodoro technique. Perhaps you might find that it works for you, too! Ultimately, it’s worth a try, and if it suits you that’s great.

If not, you can tweak it, or use another study method to find the right way to do things for you.

When trying out the Pomodoro technique, you can improve your odds of success by trying the below:

  • Have a goal and clear plan in mind before you start working. You should try to project how long it will take you.
  • Once you have achieved it, you can stop your Pomodoro session.
  • Work in a dedicated space with minimal distractions.
  • Don’t allow anything to intrude on your twenty-five minute focus.
  • Try not to work for longer sessions than eight hours at most.
  • Use your breaks purposefully. Move around, go outside, and refresh yourself.
  • Always mark your Pomodoros, Pomodoro, whether using an app or a pen and paper.

The Pomodoro technique might have started as a low-tech productivity tool, but there are plenty of study resources available online that you can use in conjunction with this technique to find the right balance for you. Focus boosters, note taking apps, and timers are all great for the Pomodoro technique!

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