Updated: Jan 27, 2021
There were moments where I sat in front of my computer and worked at a snail’s pace for hours at a time. My Calculus homework wasn’t getting done despite the time I poured into it. What was going wrong? I had inflated the one-hour homework assignment into 2 hours and even more. Then, I realized what I was doing wrong. I wasn’t focused. I wasn’t investing an hour into my homework. I was investing 15 minutes looking at my phone, 5 minutes tapping my pencil, and a handful of minutes checking my schedule. Not to mention the other minutes of daydreaming. The only minutes that count when studying are the minutes you spend trying to learn. The minutes you think count when studying for a Biology exam are probably spent thinking of something else or being distracted. Efficiency is important in studying. But how can we become more efficient?
In the 1980s, university student, Francesco Cirillo, developed a study method revolving around a tomato-shaped timer. Finding success in his method, he dubbed it the Pomodoro Method and went on to write a book about it. The steps to his process are simple:
Create a list of tasks and acquire a timer
Time yourself for 25 minutes, and in that time focus on that task.
When time is up, mark off one Pomodoro on a sheet of paper
Take a break for 5 minutes
After 4 Pomodoros or several study sessions, take a 30-minute break.
I utilized this method. And while I didn’t have a tomato-shaped timer, I did use a Pomodoro app that fulfilled the same purpose. I found myself working more efficiently. The one-hour Calculus homework didn’t inflate into two hours anymore- in fact, it shrank. I wasn’t pulling my hair out looking at the clock as it crept into the later hours of the night. I had time to read, time to play, and most importantly, time to sleep. But why does this work? Because in those 25 minutes, your mind is wholly focused on the task at hand. The 5 minutes of daydreaming is put into your rest break, not in the time spent studying.
Best of all, you can alter this system to your heart’s desire. Are 25 minutes too short? You can make it an hour, with a 15-minute break. Maybe you’re really studious- some people prefer 90 minutes of work with a half-hour break. The only requisite is that you have to be 100% focused on the task during work time. Cut the phone, cut the daydreams, and concentrate. The whole point of the Pomodoro method is efficiency- you’re focusing when you need to focus and you’re resting when you need to rest. It's a work system, not Adderall. But with practice, you can develop the capacity to concentrate for longer amounts of time.
I would like to say it changed my life entirely. But that would be a lie. Once in a while, I forget to try the method, or I overestimate my abilities to stay focused. The one-hour homework still inflates, and sometimes I daydream in the middle of writing chemistry notes. The Pomodoro Method is something that needs practice to get better at, but it's a worthwhile endeavor that’ll benefit you for all your educational journey.
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