For the past few years, the staff at the Academic Support Center have presented the Pomodoro Technique as a way for students to better manage their time and schedule their priorities. This method of acknowledging priorities and breaking down complex projects into smaller, more measurable tasks has helped students to improve their academic skills and increase focus in difficult subject areas. What makes the Pomodoro Technique unique and effective is its simplicity and flexibility. Anyone can start to use it with a minimal amount of training and tools that are readily available.
Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1990s, the Pomodoro Technique takes its name from a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. A Pomodoro is defined as an indivisible block of twenty-five minutes; tasks are measured in pomodoros. To begin, one sets the timer for twenty-five minutes and begins to work on a single task. Multitasking is not allowed, and a break can only happen once the timer rings. The primary objective is to finish the Pomodoro with minimal distractions or interruptions. Students who struggle with focusing on a single topic can use the Pomodoro Technique to track their distractions and practice working on a single task for a set amount of time, with the knowledge that breaks are part of the process.
So, how can you start using the Pomodoro Technique?
1) Make a To-Do list. Write down what assignments you want to finish, notes you need to review, and upcoming projects you should prepare. Do your best to be specific for each task; if you have to read thirty pages for an assignment, break it down into ten page chunks. If you plan to read and take notes, mark those as separate items to complete.
2) Choose one task to begin. This is a good opportunity to prioritize your To-Do list and mark those items that should be attempted at the start of your Pomodoro session.
3) Start the timer for 25 minutes. This could be your phone, a kitchen timer, or a timer in a browser window. Ideally, the timer should have an audible ring or buzz to let you know when time is complete.
4) Work on the first task, and only the first task. If you get distracted, acknowledge the distraction and then return to working on the task. The first five minutes can be the most challenging, but most students find themselves settled into the task after that. If someone interrupts you, let them know that you’re working and that you will address their concern when you get to your break. Since a Pomodoro is so short, the wait is rarely more than twenty minutes.
5) When the timer dings, stop. Put down the pen, push away from the keyboard, set the book down… this should be a hard stop. Make a note that you’ve completed one Pomodoro for the given task. This could be a “P” on your To-Do sheet or a separate tracking sheet. Then, take that five minute break. Get up, stretch, have a snack, but only for five minutes.
6) Once the break is over, start the timer for the next Pomodoro. You might continue the same task, since some assignments can take multiple Pomodoros. Repeat steps 4 and 5, making sure to take breaks and record any distractions or interruptions.
If you want more information, you can come by the Academic Support Center to learn about how the Pomodoro Technique can be customized to your study needs. Give it a try for your next homework or study session… you’ll never look at produce or time the same way again!