You’re sitting at your desk. You’ve got a deadline looming but you’re lacking concentration. Thirty minutes pass and you’ve only written half a sentence. Your focus is wavering, your motivation is waning and you begin picturing yourself still at your desk past midnight.
Sound familiar? You’ve likely felt this way when struggling to write an assignment, study for an exam or complete a reading for class. Francesco Cirillo must have felt like this too – and grown tired of it – because he came up with the time management tool, The Pomodoro Technique®, to boost productivity.
The Pomodoro Technique®
‘Pomodoro’ is the Italian word for ‘tomato’. Cirillo reportedly named his tool ‘The Pomodoro Technique®’ after the tomato kitchen timer he used as a University student!
The premise of The Pomodoro Technique® is to maintain brain power by dividing study into intervals (called Pomodoros) separated by short breaks. Study time is structured into 25 minute Pomodoros followed by a five minute break. The Pomodoros are short enough to make a solid burst of concentration seem manageable, while the breaks are long enough to refuel with a snack or watch the latest trending cat video!
Using Pomodoros in independent study
Select a task to work on: anything from writing exam study notes to rehearsing lines for a drama performance. Separate your study time into four 25 minute Pomodoros. That’s two hours of study. Then take a 15 minute break and repeat as necessary. Try to move around during breaks to increase your focus in Pomodoros. Double the length of Pomodoros (50 minutes) if your task requires extended periods of concentration.
There are numerous free apps to help you keep time on your phone and computer or you can use the Tomato Timer website. Alternatively, set the timer on your phone or use an old-fashioned kitchen tomato timer!
If you want a gold medal in productive study then set a goal of what you want to achieve before you begin. Having a clear, achievable goal will assist you to work solidly towards a concrete outcome.
Using Pomodoros in group study
Using Pomodoros in group settings is an effective way to keep yourself accountable for studying. You’ll feel social pressure to focus during Pomodoros when others are working hard around you. If you’re studying via distance try using the technique with a classmate via online communication tools such as Skype.
In breaks between Pomodoros talk about what you’re working on. Maybe you need clarification of a concept or perhaps you want to workshop an idea. Simply talking about your task can solidify understandings and help you devise new ways forward.
Thanks to Cassily Charles and Lisa McLean, Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students at CSU have been using The Pomodoro Technique® to structure their writing in Shut Up and Write sessions and Writing Bootcamps to great success! If you are a HDR student interested in joining Shut Up and Write sessions find out more on the CSU website.
So what are you waiting for? Set the timer for your pathway to productive study!