How is it possible to keep laser focus for hours on end whilst you’re revising for exams? Here’s one of the most famous productivity study hacks that’ll help keep you moving forwards.
There’s one thing for sure that we’ve all had to battle whilst studying and thats distraction! Whether it be from social media, friends & family, or other thoughts on your mind, trying to keep focus is tough. Once you’ve found your focus drifting, it can be extremely difficult to get it back.
In this article we’re going to cover the cornerstone of productivity hacks to keep you focused – The Pomodoro Methods – many students use it wrong, we’re going to dig into that too.
🥜Article in a nutshell
- What is the Pomodoro method?
- Why medical students need to know about it
- The Pomodoro method step by step
- Common pitfalls – don’t use it the wrong way
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🤔What is the Pomodoro method?
Tomatoes 🍅. Are they a fruit? Are they a vegetable? Are they a study hack? Why are we even talking about tomatoes?
The (tomato) source of The Pomodoro technique came from the mind of Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. This Italian chap was a student at the time, and like many of the present day, found much difficulty in keeping focus while studying. In order to ketchup with his studying commitments he would stay productive by compartmentalising his study time.
He would purely focus on the task at hand for 25 minutes. Why 25-minutes? This was the time limit of his kitchen timer, that was shaped like…. you guessed it… a tomato. Pretty obvious in Heinz sight (I’m sorry I cant help it). And by the way, Pomodoro is Italian for tomato 🍅.
The premise of the Pomodoro method is simple.
- Pick a task
- Focus for 25 minutes
- Have a 5 minute break
- Repeat the above
- After 4 rounds, have a longer 15-30 minute break
The technique has been adapted and refined over the years, and there are now many different variations of it. However, the basic principles remain the same: break down work into manageable chunks and take regular breaks to stay fresh and focused.
✌️Why all medical students need to know about the Pomodoro method
The Pomodoro technique has carved a niche for itself in the history of productivity hacks, and for good reason. It’s simple yet effective, and it can be used by anyone with a timer and a goal.
Medical students have it tough. With so much content to cover, pushing on through your revision sessions can be really difficult. This is especially the case where it gets closer to your exams and your entire days blur into back to back study sessions. At my peak I would easily study for about t 4-5 hours at a time. This technique will help you keep focus for as long as possible.
The perks of Pomodoro are two-fold
- Compartmentalisation and focusing on only a few tasks that are at the top of your to-do list
- Parkinson’s Law at play – If you don’t know what I mean – check out my article here! [insert link]
🖐️The Pomodoro method step by step.
1. Pick your task(s)
First up, you’re going to need to know what to focus on. This could be lectures, questions banks, flashcards, websites, books or a mixtures of all of them. Have a good idea of what you can realistically cover in the 25 minute period. Your task may span several Pomodoros 🍅, or you may be able to squeeze a few different tasks with a short time frame into one. You should ONLY be focusing on the one (or few) tasks in that time period. If you finish early, then the technique states that you should be either recapping over the work youve done or digging deeper.
2. Set your timer
For a traditional Pomodoro you should set your timer to 25 minutes and no more. You’re going to need to use something loud – like a phone timer – to alert you to when the 25 minutes is up. Keep your timer close. But not too close, it works even better if you have to get up to turn off your timer. That’ll stop you from the temptation to keep working when your tomato has ripened.
3. Turn off your alarm when the session ends
After 25 minutes is up, you should be forced to turn off your alarm. The more annoying the better.The aim is to condition yourself to a 25-minute period and no more. Like Pavlov’s dogs, but more academically minded.
4. Five minutes of chillin’
The 5 minutes of chill time is really important to help you maintain resilience throughout the day. Get on up, go for a walk, drink some water, distract yourself on something that requires little energy.
5. Get back to it
After the five minutes are up, get back to your next Pomodoro. You can perform this technique on repeat for about 4 Pomodoros (about 2 hours). After this, its good practice to have a longer break of about 15-30 minute break. After that, you can keep going through as many cycles as you feel like doing.
⚠️Common pitfalls – don’t use it the wrong way.
There are two trains of thoughts with the rigidity of the 5 minute break:
1. Sticking to the 5-minute break to resist burnout
One of the most common mistakes people make when using the Pomodoro technique is not taking enough breaks. If using the Pomodoro method strictly, it is important to remember that the five-minute break is just as crucial as the 25-minute work interval.
Without it, you will quickly become overwhelmed and burned out. Another mistake is not being realistic about what can be accomplished in a 25-minute period. In the early phases where you’re testing out this method, it is important to start with small tasks that you know you can complete in the allotted time. Otherwise, you will become frustrated and discouraged.
Finally, resist the urge to multi-task! This will only lead to distractions and a loss of focus. Stick to one task at a time and give it your full attention.
2. Being flexible with the 5-minute rule
Some argue that in some instances, you should NOT disrupt your flow with the timer and should keep pushing on through if you don’t need to stop. If youve got a task that requires higher energy, it may not be useful to stop what you’re doing. Similarly, if you don’t feel any resistance to doing your tasks, unnecessarily interrupting with a break may stop you form entering deep work.
This all comes down to being realistic in what you can achieve in the 25 minutes and being self-reflective on whether you’re enjoying the task or not.
Productivity is an art form afterall. If you’re struggling to push through your to-do list, then rigidly sticking to the 25 minutes would be in your favour, to make sure you get enough breaks. The 25 minute mark may also help put the pressure on to cover more in less time.
If you’re working on something that needs a little longer than 25 minutes (or if you you’ve entered a flow state), then keep pushing through – just be sure to take some well-deserved breaks when you feel like you need to.
I’d recommended using Pomodoro for those tasks that you’re not excited about. Stick to the 25 minute rule in the early stages of practicing this technique, so that your mind gets used to what 25 minutes of work feels like. Then, you’ll be able to pick and choose when you feel like a Pomodoro approach will be useful to keep you going.
There you have it. I, like many, swear by this technique for keeping focus when revising. If you haven’t had a go at this yet, then I trust that it will go some way in transforming how you push through work. Use the Pomodoro method to maintain focus for tasks that you don’t find exciting.
I hope this helps!