Studying isn’t easy. Whether you’re revising for a GCSE or A Level exam, or taking on some kind of Accountancy qualification – or anything for that matter, at any age – studying is hard.
Studying is so hard that there has been research conducted, dating years back, suggesting that humans can only concentrate for 90 minutes, before needing a 15 minute break. Others have argued that the focus time is even less. I certainly believe that it might be, based on personal experience alone. Sometimes, I’m lucky if I can sit down for even an hour to get through what needs doing.
It’s a curse really, especially for someone who owns an entire website dedicated to efficiency and productivity.
This was my life when it came to working, until one day during Lockdown 2020, when I met the Pomodoro technique – and my life was changed forever. My one regret? I wish I’d heard of this as a student. If you struggle to work or revise or sit down and focus, you’ve come to the right place.
What is the Pomodoro technique?
The Pomodoro technique, pioneered by Francesco Cirillo, has one goal: for us to use our time more wisely. It doesn’t want people working harder, only smarter. The aim of the game is to sit down for 25 minutes and focus. No distractions, no interruptions, just focus. Then, once the 25 minutes are done with, stop. Walk away. Do something, anything else, for 5 minutes – just don’t make it work-related.
The secret behind this? It’s only 25 minutes. Before you know it, you’ll have already sat down for 10, so you may as well complete the first round – then it’ll be time for a break, which by this point will be well-earned. Place a tick on a piece of paper to show that you’ve managed it. Well done you!
Then, begin the next round. Again, it’s just 25 minutes, then you’ll be on break again. Repeat this until you’ve completed four rounds, and then take a longer break – say half an hour or so. By this point, you’ll have already done an hour of work, yet your brain won’t be anywhere near as fried as it usually is.
How do I use the Pomodoro technique?
Just because the creator set the rules, doesn’t mean we have to follow them when employing his technique. I’ve made a few changes for when I sit down to focus that you might want to test too. Use whatever works, as long as there is method to your madness:
- Sometimes I’ll get to the end of 25 minutes and will be in my focus state of deep work. Interrupting that is the last thing that I want to do, so often I’ll double up: work for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. Thankfully, that’s just the right amount of time to brew up a nice cup of coffee.
- Pomodoro refers to the sauce made from tomatoes that you might serve with pasta, which is why the creator of the technique uses a tomato as a timer to track his 25 minutes. While I’d recommend a physical timer too, I don’t actually own one. Instead, I keep track of the time using my Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. Just make sure you don’t get distracted if you also use tech to track your time.
- Combine the pomodoro with an app called Forest (or any that works similarly). Forest lets you set a time duration where you can’t use your device – or, if you do, you’ll kill the virtual plant that you were growing. I often set 25 minute timers on Forest and focus until my trees have grown nice and strong. This is most useful when you find it hard to self-discipline and stay off your phone.
Are you going to use the pomodoro technique? Or do you already use it, but with a twist, like me? Let me know in the comments below.
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