At times tertiary education can seem very overwhelming, with its never-ending assignments, mid-terms and exams creeping up when you thought the semester had only just started. Add to that the extra-curricular activities you may be involved in and it can easily seem like you are in way over your head. Most times, it's tempting to drop certain activities all together for the benefit of more time. Before you do that however, you should first examine whether you are managing your time as effectively as you can and if not, seek to improve in this area.
Here is a simple technique I have discovered over the last year which has really helped me become more productive. It's called the "Pomodoro Technique" (pomodoro is the Italian word for “tomato”) and is both simple and effective. The founder, Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo came up with the name because the kitchen timer he used resembled a tomato. The technique was developed in the 1980’s when Cirillo used it as a tool to help him study while attending college in Rome.
So how does it work? The Pomodoro is based on the principle of focusing on one task for a period of time while taking short breaks in-between to reduce burnout.
Here are the steps!
1. WRITE DOWN THE TASK YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH.
It is not recommended that you focus on more than one task. Even if you don't write it down on paper, keep that specific task in your mind for the duration of the time and don't stray! It can be anything from reading a chapter in your text book to working on an assignment.
2. SET YOUR TIMER.
You can either use a simple stop watch timer or download a Pomodoro App for your phone or tablet. ClockWork Tomato is the one I prefer to use, as it can be easily customised:
There are others built for different platforms which you can find with a quick Internet search.
One Pomodoro is usually 25 minutes but depending on the task you are doing the time may vary. For example, if I'm reading a text book I usually set the timer to 20 minutes; I start getting tired after that. However, if I'm doing something that requires more writing or analysis then 25 minutes is more appropriate. I recommend that you stick to 25 minutes at first and then tweak accordingly.
3. DON’T BE DISTRACTED.
A time management technique is not going to magically help you to become more disciplined. This is something to which you really have to commit. As a follower of Christ I am aware that one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is temperance, which relates to discipline. We should all strive to develop this quality and the Pomodoro Technique is a great avenue through which we can do so!
A Pomodoro is not a Pomodoro if you get caught up doing something other than the task to which you have committed. Remove all distractions, especially your phone and social media apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc.
If you take a break in-between, even if it's a bathroom break, the Pomodoro is null and void. You have to start over.
5. TAKE A BREAK!
After you have successfully completed your Pomodoro, promptly put down your pens and leave your desk. I know it may be tempting to continue working once you get in a groove but a 3- 5 minute break to refresh your mind won't hurt at all. In fact, it will help to keep your brain fresh and increase your overall productivity.
Do something that will take your mind off your work, but don't engage in another activity that might become a distraction. Take a walk, stretch your legs, clear your mind and return to the task as soon as those 5 minutes are up. Remember, this is about focus and discipline.
Lastly... After you have completed your fourth Pomodoro (if you needed that many), take a 15 minute break if you intend to continue. That’s basically it.
You will be surprised at how much more work you will get done in those seemingly short intervals, whether they be 20 or 30 minutes long. Imagine just how much more productive and efficient you will be if you do one Pomodoro instead of wasting time between classes on campus, or whenever extra time is available.
So give it a try! And if you do, share your experience in the Comments section.
Anthony Chin Aleong
Inter Varsity Staff