Every student faces a well-known problem of constantly getting distracted and procrastinating – it is certainly one of the most common student obstacles to focusing on the task at hand.
I have been looking for the cure for quite some time. So after discovering Pomodoro, I honestly believe it’s super-effective. It’s one of the few management methods I can really put to good use and so can you.
Because of how powerful it is, I feel obliged to share it with you and demonstrate how it can radically change your productivity.
Want to learn more? We will introduce the key principles of this method, how it can benefit you, how you can start using it straight away, and most importantly, some tools that will help you implement this method.
Pay close attention to all the tips, because it really is a life-changer!
Principles Of The Pomodoro Method
This method was developed in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. The idea occurred to him when he used a tomato-shaped timer to track his work while studying at university.
This method is no rocket science. Here are the several steps of the method:
- Plan and outline the tasks you have to work on;
- Set your timer to 25 minutes and start working on the task until the timer goes off;
- Take a short 5-minute break;
- Continue doing your business for another 25 minutes;
- After completing four 25-minute work sessions, take a 25-minute break.
Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
Step 1: Planning
Before you start doing anything, have all your tasks planned – establishing what you need to know and setting priorities to your tasks can really make a difference to your productivity.
- Write down a list of things you need to do. It can either be done on a piece of paper or in a planner. The savvier ones prefer to use a to-do app but it does not matter which way you choose to do this as your main goal is to set out to yourself what you have to get done.
- After that, you prioritise your tasks. It involves managing all the tasks and deciding in which order they should be approached.
Prioritising Your Tasks
This ensures that you don’t waste time on less important tasks, and instead focus on the urgent and important ones. Consider the following information:
- Importance: how the whole assignment is weighted
- What would happen if you complete or fail to complete that task?
- How much time is required to do this task?
The above evaluation should help you figure out whether a particular task actually needs to be done. After this, you will set priorities to the things you need to do.
Try to have a look at the urgent/important matrix. After categorising each task as important/urgent/unimportant/not urgent, you are then in a position to put the tasks in order in accordance with the following sequence:
- Urgent and important;
- Important but not urgent;
- Urgent but not important;
- Not urgent and not important.
What else to keep in mind? If you happen to have several tasks in the same category, and you are not in a position to set priority to each one, try accounting for how urgent each task is, or how much time would be required to accomplish them. This should help you manage your time wisely.
Step 2: Setting Timer To 25 Minutes And Preparing To Work
Now that you have a to-do list ready, it is time to commence work. It is absolutely essential that you focus entirely on the task – that means no gadgets, no social networks, nothing distracting whatsoever.
Seems impossible now? That’s why we break down all sessions into 25-minute blocks. This period of time should be short enough for you to focus and give your 100%, and as soon as your attention span ends, you will take a short break.
It is important to note that multitasking is never a good idea when studying. Your brain work is interrupted even if it is just a short phone call or a message comes up on your phone. Your focus will be lost and will have to be re-established to get back to productive work.
How To Prepare For Your Work Session?
- Switch off your wireless network if your task does not require Internet research
- Put your phone on silent with vibration off
- Put any distractions away (even your planner)
- Prepare everything you need to start your current task
Pro tip: adjust the time period in accordance with your personal attention span
While 25-minute work sessions work perfectly for most people, some might find them too short or too long because everyone works in a different way, and everyone has a different attention span.
The Pomodoro Method can be adjusted to suit your way of working. First time try to set the timer to 25 minutes and see how you fare.
If you find it easy to concentrate the whole way through, try adding a bit more time to get more done and see how long you can focus for. Why do you need to figure this out? Each individual has their own working style, and by finding how long you can concentrate for, you will maximise your productivity.
Step 3: Get Working
During each Pomodoro session focus on one task only. Multitasking won’t be helpful in most cases.
Ensure that you do use a timer. It motivates you by creating a sense of urgency to work on a particular task, making your brain think that it needs to be completed within a restricted period of time. I will recommend some useful apps at the end.
The key to a successful session is avoiding all distractions. No other tasks or work should hinder your concentration on that one particular task, so if you happen to think of a new task during the session, write it down on a post-it note and fit it into your plan later, during a long break.
Step 4: Taking A Short Break
You need breaks! After each session, you may take a short break for five minutes to regain your focus for the next session.
I’ve heard that some students find it difficult to get back to work altogether after a break. This problem is solved by changing the things you do during the break.
- Drink some water
- Get some light snacks
- Walk around
- Close your eyes and take your time to rest
All these things require no more than five minutes. It does not appear difficult to stop doing those things and getting back on track.
On the contrary, when you start using your gadgets and going on social networks during the break, you will find it very difficult to stop doing that after the break ends. Perhaps your friend wrote a message. Or you discovered an interesting article – you will still be doing those things after the break without even realising that you are procrastinating.
Step 5: Repeat
Then you repeat the session. You may well need multiple work sessions to complete single tasks as most of your assignments will not be completed within 25 minutes.
During the planning stage you can set a goal for yourself as to how many Pomodoro periods you will require to complete each task. How does it work? For instance, if you’re studying for a science test, you can make a list like the one below by assessing how difficult each chapter is and how familiar you are with each topic.
- Chapter 1: 2 work sessions
- Chapter 2: 4 work sessions
- Chapter 3: 3 work sessions
In this case, try to work for each chapter without taking a long break. What’s next? After completing the first two sessions, do allow yourself a long break to reset your brain for a new topic. Chapter 2 would involve four sessions with no long breaks in between.
Step 6: The Long Break (at last!)
After about four standard sessions, you have worked for almost two hours. Now would be an ideal time to take a longer break to refresh your mind. Even here try to go for activities that have a predictable duration and would not cost you much time.
You can also use this time to review your progress and check if you’re on track.
Benefits Of The Pomodoro Method
It is clear to see that this management method is super effective in motivating you and helping you overcome procrastination. I will outline some of the benefits below.
1. The Pomodoro method motivates you to start work in the first place
The reason why most of us procrastinate is because we have an aversion to difficult tasks and constantly try to postpone them.
When we’re approaching an important assessment, we subconsciously perceive it as extremely difficult, and repeatedly tell ourselves how the preparation for it is going to be endless.
This very thought gets us stressed, so we prefer to procrastinate instead of studying.
Pomodoro Method, however, redefines your tasks. Studying for an exam is no longer just one massive chunk of work that needs to be done.
This chunk is instead broken down into approachable, actionable sessions. The tasks become more concrete, specific, and above all, a lot more rewarding because you will have short breaks to look forward to after each session.
Therefore, you are much more likely to get started with work and once you do make a start, working no longer seems impossible.
2. Better management and planning of time
You’re probably familiar with how easy it is to underestimate the amount of time you need for each task. The Pomodoro Method, however, changes your conception of time.
In place of very approximate estimations of time required for each task, you now measure each task in terms of small time blocks.
This encourages you to work productively and finish each task within the planned time frame.
3. Understand your productivity
By using the Pomodoro Method you can track your use of time and see how many sessions you can feasibly do over the course of one day.
How else does it come in handy? It will also help you realise what time of the day you complete most tasks, so you can then better utilise your most productive work hours.
Pomodoro also helps you understand how much effort and time you require for each individual task.
4. Avoiding fatigue
The Pomodoro time management method also helps you avoid fatigue. If you don't use a timer, you not only tend to easily get distracted, you can waste hours and hours working ineffectively.
Why are small and long breaks important? Why shouldn’t you just do all the work at once? By introducing a decent number of breaks in between the sessions, you stay refreshed and motivated to work the entire day.
Recommendations For Time Management Apps
There are plenty of cool apps that make use of the Pomodoro Method, but here are some of the best ones, in my opinion:
Tomatoid - this is an example of a web app that has a clear timer and records a list of tasks you have completed.
Focus Keeper - my preferred app: neat and user-friendly. It boasts a log of your productivity and you can even see analytical charts, and you can also customize the sound and timer for each work session.
Tide - if you perform better with some background music, this is your go-to app.
ClearFocus - fantastic functionality, clean interface and this is another great app that allows you to track and log your productivity.
Forest - also a nice app allowing to customize time for each work session. It visualizes your work as a seed growing into a tree. Getting distracted by your gadget and leaving the app before the session ends will kill the tree. This should help you stay focused on the task.
You can alternatively just use the online Pomodoro timer at marinaratimer.com