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Study tips – Pomodoro Technique

11 Awst 2021

University can often create anxiety among students, due to changes in how the curriculum is taught and the level of self-directed learning expected.
Personally, I found the jump between A-levels and university quite challenging as the method of revising that got me through A-levels did not work as well in my university studies.
Through my 3 years of medical school, I have found a range of revision tips and tricks that have improved my learning and studies. I would like to share these tips with you to help aid your studies no matter your level of education. Therefore, I am creating a series of blog posts titled ‘Study Tips’ to provide advice I wish I knew before starting university!

To kick us off, this blog will be covering the ‘Pomodoro’ technique, and how you can use it to help your studies.

Photo by Andre Taissin on Unsplashed

The Pomodoro technique is a time management method created in the 80’s, and is particularly useful for students who:

• Easily get distracted

• Struggle to focus on studies for extended periods of time

• Over work themselves, but find effective time management challenging

This pretty much describes Fresher Nick to a tee! I used to sit in my room, staring at my textbooks for hours on end, without actually achieving anything. I found this disheartening, as I was putting in the hard hours but still struggling to meet my goals.

But then I found the Pomodoro technique! The Pomodoro technique is simple in practise; you split your work into manageable targets and take regular breaks to maintain your productivity.

‘Pomodoro’ means ‘tomato’ in Italian, as the creator of the Pomodoro technique used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to time his cycles!

First you need to figure out what you need to get done in a day. Let’s say I have an essay due with a deadline right around the corner! I haven’t even thought of my title, let alone found my papers or planned my essay structure. When I describe the task in this way, it can seem like a mountain of work and can be intimidating to start. However, by splitting the work into manageable segments you can forge a staircase to climb and complete.

For example, I will look at my essay and plan what I need to get done:

1) Decide on a topic and plan a title

2) Plan my essay structure and headings

3) Conduct relevant research

4) Find papers ready for referencing

5) Write the first half of a draft

6) Complete the second half of my first draft

7) Amend my first draft, looking for spelling mistakes and how to improve my vocabulary

8) Write up my final copy ready for submission

By creating an outline and setting realistic targets to complete, starting the essay becomes more manageable as I know where to begin!

Then we start the work and begin our Pomodoro’s! Each Pomodoro is a segment of time allocated to completing a planned task. The most important aspect of a Pomodoro is that they are not supposed to be extended periods of time – 25 minutes is the rule of thumb.

You set your timer on your phone and bash out your work, knowing that you have 25 minutes to focus on a singular task. Importantly, during this time you do not distract yourself with any other tasks.

That means no replying to messages, team chats or reading that notification on your phone! These can wait until your break, or if they require more time, you can allocate a dedicated Pomodoro. Once the timer goes, take a 5 minute break. And then repeat.

After completing multiple Pomodoro’s (I usually aim for between 4-5) have a larger break for at least 30 minutes where you properly recharge – have a bite to eat, buy a coffee, and scroll your social media!

However, like any good tomato recipe, a pinch of salt is required!

Please forgive my pun. I cringed writing it, let alone reading it.

If you are on an absolute roll – smashing out the main body of your essay – and the timer goes, do what is right for you! Take the break then if you need it or carry on with your work until your reach a natural stop. Just make sure it’s not too long, defeating the purpose of the Pomodoro technique!

Similarly, if you complete the task before the timer goes off, either start the next or take your break early.

Also, if you find yourself starving after 2 Pomodoro’s, take your larger break then for lunch! The idea of a Pomodoro is that you focus solely on the task at hand. That is very challenging to achieve when your stomach is singing a cacophony of whale noises!

Photo by Fabian Albert on Unsplash

Personally, my phone is a big problem for my studies. I get easily distracted, with random urges to scroll my feeds even when I don’t get any notifications! I needed something a bit more robust than my phone timer, so I found ‘Forest’ (found on both the App Store and Google Play).

Each pomodoro cycle grows a tree, and you can decide how long you want the tree to grow for / how long you want a pomodoro cycle to last. However, if you try and close the app (e.g. to use Twitter or TikTok) the tree dies and you have to start again. This acted as the perfect motivation for me to stay off my phone during my pomodoro cycles and keep concentrated. I would put my phone and silent and wait for the alert to say my tree has fully grown.

The Pomodoro technique is something I regularly use for both my studies and for completing tasks such as admin. I find it has made a considerable difference to my work ethic and productivity, and I hope it can do the same for you!

Let me know in the comments if the Pomodoro technique is something you use or find helpful!

Until next time,

Nick 🙂