As a busy student, it often feels like there's not enough time to study.
And you may feel like the time you do spend is pretty unproductive. It's hard to stay focused with distractions all around us. It's easier to give into procrastination and put off the studying we know is important.
I know what it’s like to feel like you’re not using your study time effectively.
That’s why today I’m going to tell you all you need to know about the Pomodoro technique – what it is, how it works and the secrets you need to know to skyrocket your productivity.
In this blog post, you'll discover:
Make sure you grab my daily study planner below which you can use to track your Pomodoros as well as your tasks, priorities, achievements, hydration, next steps and post-study treat!
Study breaks are important
The University of Illinois conducted a study on productivity. They asked 84 participants to work for 50 minutes on a repetitive computer task.
The participants were split into 4 groups. The control group were told to work on the task for 50 minutes without stopping. The other 3 groups were told 4 numbers at the beginning of the task that might show up on the screen. The ignore group were told to ignore the numbers and keep working. The switch group were asked to stop and inform the researchers if the numbers appeared. The non-switch group weren’t shown the numbers.
The performance of the 3 groups that worked solidly for 50 minutes (the control, ignore and non-switch groups) declined over the 50 minutes. However, the performance of the switch group, who took a brief break in the middle of the task, remained constant.
The study found that taking brief breaks allows your brain to stay focused for longer.
So even if you feel like you don’t have time, take brief mental breaks in your studying if you want to stay productive for hours.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is a productivity and time management tool created in the 80s by an Italian software engineer, Frances Cirillo. He tried studying in intervals during university, to see if it would improve his productivity.
Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (hence Pomodoro) to time himself studying for 25 minutes. Once the timer sounded he took a brief mental break for 5 minutes. Then he repeated this 4 times before taking a longer 30 minute break.
This method sounds simple, but it will help you take control of your study sessions, fight procrastination and uplevel your productivity.
How to Use the Pomodoro Technique
Follow this simple step-by-step method:
1. Choose your study task to focus on, no multitasking allowed
2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and get studying (without interruptions)
3. Once the timer sounds, mark 1 completed pomodoro on a sheet of paper
4. Take a 5 minute break to move around, stretch and grab some more snacks
5. Repeat this 25/5 rhythm 4 times and then take a longer break of around 30 minutes.
Benefits of the Pomodoro Technique
1. Avoid burnout and stay focused for longer
2. Fight overwhelm by breaking your study tasks down into more manageable increments
3. Study even when you don’t want to
4. Conquer procrastination and minimise distractions
5. Discover how long your study tasks take so you can better plan your time in future.
Pomodoro Technique Success Secrets
To get the most out of the pomodoro technique, follow these 7 productivity success secrets.
1. Remove distractions before you start
During your Pomodoro, you must focus solely on your studying. If your phone lights up or buzzes, you can’t respond to it. If an email pings into your inbox, you can’t answer it.
If you’re trying to give up eating junk food, what do you do? You remove it from the house.
When you want to be productive, you should remove any distractions before you start studying.
So turn your phone on silent or airplane mode, or move it out of site. I normally put my phone on do not disturb and place it on the other side of the room so I can’t just reach out for it.
Close down any non-study Internet tabs and turn off the television or radio.
Then get to work knowing you’ve removed the temptation to get distracted.
2. Get everything ready
The Pomodoro technique works by prompting you to focus for 25 minutes at a time. If you have to keep stopping to grab another textbook, find a reading online, or grab some highlighter…it’s not going to be as effective.
So find all the resources you’ll need for your study session and put them on your desk or place in a pile next to you so you can study distraction-free.
3. Always take breaks
Sometimes when the timer goes off, you won’t want to stop and take a break. You’re finally in the zone and the words are flowing. But taking breaks between Pomodoros is necessary if you want to maintain the focus needed to stay productive over a long session.
So finish your thought or sentence then force yourself to take that break – because you earned it
4. Record your distractions
Random thoughts will come to you when you’re studying. You’ll remember you need to text your Mum back or that you need to change your dentist appointment. Your mind will start drifting and you’ll begin thinking about the restaurant you’re going to at the weekend. You’ll be itching to look up the menu on the restaurant’s website. (It’s not just me that can’t go to a restaurant without deciding what I’m going to eat before, right)?!
It would be easy to act on these thoughts and disrupt your studying. But instead, write these thoughts down on a sticky note or in the space provided on my study planner. Then get back to studying, knowing you won’t forget the task or thought.
During your breaks you can then tackle the list.
5. Change the Ratio of the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique’s standard ratio is 25 minutes of work (studying) followed by a 5 minute break. This works perfectly for some people, but others might find another ratio more effective.
Or, you might find one ratio works well for one study task, and a different ratio is more effective for another. For example, for note taking and revising, the standard ratio may be perfect. But for essay writing, it can take longer to collect your thoughts and get your words down. So a ratio of 45 minutes studying with a 10-15 minute break may be more effective.
Give some different ratios a try and see what makes you more productive.
6. Download an App
If you don’t have a physical timer or want to use the pomodoro technique on the go, I’d recommend downloading an app.
I use BeFocused for Apple devices. It’s free and I have it on my phone and mac. It’s got a simple interface, I can change the study and break ratios, and I can set goals for how many Pomodoros I want to complete in a day. I can also create a task list for the day.
For Android users, ClearFocus is a free, popular choice that also allows you to change the ratios and track your productivity over time.
Pomodoro Tracker is an option for your desktop. This open up as an Internet tab and can also be customised. You can use it straight away or create a free account to store your preferences and stats.
7. Use the Entire Pomodoro
There may be times when you complete your study task with a few minutes left on your Pomodoro timer. When this happens, try to make use of all of that time, rather than giving yourself an extra few minutes break.
One option is to use that time to prepare yourself for the next pomodoro. For example, you could get clear on your next study task, set up your document, find your notes, find the right pages in your textbook…etc.
Another option is to find something other than studying to do. I often use the time to rush around tidying up, putting away some clothes or putting a load of washing on. I almost turn it into a game, what can I get done before the timer goes off? (Yes I know, I need to get out more!)
I hope this blog post has helped you learn a new study method, or gives you a push to try again with the Pomodoro technique. It’s a simple, versatile and powerful way to be more productive.
RECAP! You should now know...
If you want to really skyrocket your productivity, grab a copy of my daily study planner below. There’s space to track your Pomodoros as well your task list, achievements, next steps, hydration and post-study treat.