If you’re like me, or most humans really, when trying to accomplish daily tasks and schoolwork, you’ve probably fallen victim to procrastination more times than you would like to admit. The struggle was already real back in the day when writing a paper meant picking up an actual pen and writing on paper. But now? When we use laptops to complete projects and papers, when we use our phones to research and study, the same machines we use to scroll our social feeds, chat on calls, shop for clothes, and receive texts? It’s no wonder we lose focus – or that less desirable tasks find themselves on the back burner until the very last minute (or for life).
Recently, I wrote a few articles on how to study better, and in all of them I emphasized the importance of breaking down a to-do list into smaller tasks and time blocking the tasks that you want to complete each day. I repeated the information because working in such a micro-scheduled fashion is almost a fundamental part of studying effectively (at least it was for me way back when.) It’s a strategy that makes a stressful, daunting workload – full of study sessions, projects, and papers – seem so much more manageable. But maybe you’re already familiar with time blocking and micro-scheduling, and you’re looking for something even more specific – something that helps you figure out how much time to dedicate to each task, or assists you in completing a to-do list one task at a time – while effectively yielding any and all distractions.
Enter the Pomodoro Technique. If you’re not familiar, The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time-management technique developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, that can help you beat procrastination and get. Stuff. Done. The Pomodoro Technique has you alternating focused work sessions – with frequent shorter breaks to accomplish a task – all while fending off boredom and work fatigue. And it works. In fact, I’m using the Pomodoro Technique to write this article!
The Core Pomodoro Technique
While the Pomodoro Technique can be quite detailed (Medium has an excellent article on it), for simplicity and time-saving sake, I’m highlighting the Core Pomodoro Technique to help you stop procrastinating and complete some to-dos asap. You’ll need a kitchen timer shaped like a pomodoro (Italian for tomato) – okay, any timer really – and your task list. Then follow these directions:
- Pick one task to focus on.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work uninterrupted on your task.
- When time is up, put a check mark on a piece of paper.
- If you have less than four check marks, take a small 5-minute break then repeat steps 2-4. Otherwise, move on to step 6.
- After 4 check marks, take a relaxing 15-30-minute break to recharge. Reset your check mark count and then back to step 1 and continue your task or start a new one.
But where do the tomatoes come in? In this technique, a pomodoro represents the interval of time spent working. So, each 25-minute work session = one pomodoro. If you make a point to keep track of your pomodori after each 25-minute work session, soon you will see how long each task takes on average (counted in tomatoes!) You’ll also be aware of where your time goes and can better micro-schedule out your days and weeks, especially if you frequently repeat any of your tasks – like checking/replying to emails (1 pomodoro) or study sessions (many pomodori). After gathering this information, you can make charts of your tasks and mark off a pomodoro as you complete a 25-min session. Like this!
Or maybe something less graphic-y. Feel free to be as creative or uncreative as you want when counting pomodori.
When taking breaks, steer clear of your computer screen and avoid immediately reaching for your phone to scroll through TikTok. Give your eyes and brain a break. Relax on the couch, stretch, use the restroom, make a cup of coffee. For the 15-30-minute recharging recesses, go for a 20-minute walk, enjoy a light yoga session, eat lunch, or take a real coffee break with your roommate or family member. Ready to get started? Right-click to print this Core Pomodoro Technique graphic and tape it to your planner or your desk or save it and share it on your favorite social network to spread the pomodoro. Good luck with studying!