What is the Pomodoro Technique?
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The Pomodoro Technique is rated the most effective technique for improved study and focused work. It informs us of the optimal study interval — how long you can study deeply and efficiently before needing to give your brain a break. We recommend using this to organize work and study for two reasons – 1) It’s easy, 2) It’s one of the most powerful MindTools.
The term was coined in the early 90’s by the author Francesco Cirillo. He named the technique after the tomato-shaped desktop timer he used. The term “pomodoro” is Italian for tomato.
The colorful, old fashioned kitchen timer serves as a reminder to keep deliberate practice study sessions short, but deep, approximately 25 minutes each to start, followed by a quick reward and recovery break. Effective study should be seen as a series of sprints, with breaks in between.
For a large series of study tasks, break them into multiple Pomodoros. The idea is to work in short sprints with forced breaks to keep you motivated. Working in longer intervals, for most people, risks brain fatigue and lower work efficiency, which can be masked by an illusion of being productive.
How to Do It
You will need a timer and preferably not the timer on your phone. Keep your phone in another area away from you – it’s a big distraction. Don’t skip having a timer — you will lose track of time when you are in deliberate practice.
Choose the right location where you will have zero distractions and interruptions. Have all of your work organized and ready to go before you begin each timed session.
- Choose a task.
- Take a minute to get your mind into the Alpha brain state. (see article on brain states)
- Set the timer to 25 minutes.
- Work and focus on the task, without distraction, until the timer rings.
- Stop! Step away from your studies; give your brain a short break.
It is important to build in rewards in between sessions. Do something totally different for five or so minutes. Feed your brain, walk around. Your diffuse thinking mode, which is subconscious, will kick in to help you keep learning during your break. Then repeat.
It’s important to have a timer for this technique. While any timer will work, we like a mechanical one because according to Cirillo, picking it up and twisting it “cues our determination to work.” If you prefer a more modern one on your phone or desktop, here are some places to get aps.
The Pomodoro timer is the “unofficial” symbol of the Center for Homeschooling. We like it because it’s cute, of course, but also because it’s symbolic to a connection – something that is a tried-and-true old school “grandmother” device — but repurposed for new up-to-date creative and productive learning uses. We also like that it reminds us of two important aspects of the new science of learning – deploying timed shorter study units and using these to conduct learning consistent with deliberate practice. Learn more – study less.
As a parent, it’s important to remember that the Pomodoro technique is a productivity system—not a rigid system. The goal is to help your child get into the “zone” and focus—but it’s also to remind you to come up for air. Remember that regular breaks are important to productivity because the brain easily fatigues. Use the Pomodoro technique as part of your weekly study and planning meeting.