We all waste time.
Every one of us wastes huge amounts of time every single day.
Students are the worst at wasting time. But I am going to introduce to you the Pomodoro technique. This technique can push your studying power into overdrive.
And in the following few lines I will show you how to master the Pomodoro technique and ignite your English skills.
You are sitting at your desk. You have all your English books, writing pad and pens in front of you. Your dictionary at the side. Everything at hand for a great evening ahead of intense study.
You pick up each book and go through your notes.
Wow, there are a lot of things to do…
You’ve got to read an article assigned by the reading teacher. And you have to learn all the vocabulary on page 55. Should have started that three days ago. The writing class teacher gave you a topic to write — 250 words on wild animals. You haven’t even done the research for that yet.
Plus all those listening exercises that you keep promising yourself you will do one day.
There’s so much to do. Like a big mountain of stuff.
How can you get it all done?
You decide to have a little break. Just check on Facebook or Instagram. There’s something new from your friend. You have to respond.
And now you’re hungry. Something to eat then you’ll get to work and study.
A quick rest for five minutes and then…
What happened to the last four hours? Where did they go?
Does this sound familiar?
You make big promises to yourself to devote an entire evening to studying English but get very little done. Or absolutely nothing done at all.
This is something that many English students fall prey to. It is a common situation.
But if I tell you I can show you a very simple technique that will blast your English study sessions into hyper-mode, would you be interested?
Do you want to see a method that will help you get your head down and get hours of intense study done?
It is called the Pomodoro technique.
And it is a great way to help you study English.
Want to try?
Let’s get started.
First a little bit of history.
The Pomodoro technique was started by a man called Francesco Cirillo. He developed the idea in the late 1980s when he was a student at university.
He found a great way to help him stay motivated and focus. He did it by using his mother’s cooking timer.
It was in the shape of a tomato.
Something like this.
The Italian word for tomato is pomodoro and thus the Pomodoro technique was invented.
Cirillo found that the optimum time he could keep his head in the books was 25 minutes. Any more than that and he started to lose focus. But 25 minutes suited him and he used the tomato timer to create 25-minute sessions.
He used these sessions every evening and found that he could get through all of the books he needed to read. And he completed all the assignments that his teachers gave him.
So what is the Pomodoro technique exactly?
Essentially it works like this:
- You choose a task that needs to be done.
- Set the timer for 25 minutes.
- You work for the full 25 minutes.
- The timer rings and you have a rest for 5 minutes.
- The timer rings again and you get back to work for another 25 minutes.
The Advantages of The Pomodoro Technique
The benefits of doing this regularly are a massive spike in concentration and your ability to help you super-focus. Plus it really improves your attention span.
This is great for you as an English student but simply fantastic for the rest of your life too.
By concentrating on only one task it means that you are not falling victim to multitasking. This was considered a good work method a few years ago. Now it is seen as a complete waste of time when it comes to concentrating on something and getting things done.
Multitasking is the English student’s worst enemy.
You flit from one thing to another without actually achieving any results at all. First reading, then vocabulary, then moving on to listening.
Nothing gets done in a proper sense.
This does not happen with the Pomodoro technique.
Because you are focusing on one task at hand you increase your ability to remember the information plus produce work at a higher level.
It removes any aspect of boredom or that daunting feeling you have when faced with a huge mountain of studying to do.
And each time you complete a Pomodoro session you are filled with a feeling of intense achievement. This motivates you to do another session. Then another. And another.
The action provides great motivation and this creates a great study habit in your life.
This technique is very popular in the world today.
It is widely used by creative people such as writers and software engineers. People that usually work alone and need to get their head down and have super concentration skills.
It also works for English students too.
How it can help with studying English
Let’s take a look at how we can implement it into your study routine.
First, you need to gather all the tasks ahead of you. Make a complete list of everything that you need to do for your English study.
Let’s say for example that you have the following tasks you must complete:
- Write an article on physical exercise
- Read two articles assigned by your reading teacher
- Learn all the vocabulary in the category of insects
Now you need to arrange all the tasks in order of importance.
Maybe you have to hand the reading assignment in tomorrow so it might be a good idea to do that first.
But it is also a good idea to place the tasks in order of your personal preference. Things you like to do and things that you don’t really like to do.
If you hate studying vocabulary it might be a good idea to do that first. Get that task out the way so it is done and finished.
Or you can mix it between two other tasks that you like to do so you can alternate between liked tasks and disliked tasks. That way you can give your brain a rest.
So maybe your study plan looks like this:
- Read the first article and make notes of new vocabulary.
- Write the article on physical exercise.
- Read the second article and make notes.
- Study vocabulary on Insects.
Once you have all your tasks in order we can move on.
Now you need to shut off all distractions.
The purpose of the Pomodoro technique is to focus and concentrate. How can you do that with music playing loudly in the background or the TV on?
Turn everything off.
No music, no TV.
Move your phone to another room so that it is out of reach and you don’t feel tempted to give yourself a little break halfway through a Pomodoro session. That is cheating and cheating you only.
No social media. No website browsing.
Only you and the timer and the first task on your list.
Start the timer. Make sure it is set for 25 minutes.
Place the timer on the other side of the room.
Get your head down and get to work. Do not pause for a break. Do not leave the desk or feel tempted to walk around.
Stay where you are and do the task at hand for the full 25 minutes.
The first task on our list it to read the first article and make notes of new vocabulary. Only do this one task. Concentrate for 25 minutes.
The timer rings and it is now time for a break.
Take a break for five minutes. Stop working. Take the full five minutes and let your brain have a rest.
Get up. Walk around. Stretch.
Go to the bathroom. Drink a glass of water.
Do whatever you want to do but do not do any work.
The timer rings and you are back to work.
Another full 25 minutes. Maybe you are working on the same task as before. This is highly likely. If so then resume work on the reading task.
Or maybe you have decided to work on another task and mix and match the two tasks. This is also workable.
In that case, you begin work on the writing exercise. Maybe do some research on physical exercise and find all the necessary points you want to express in your article.
The goal is that during those 25 minutes you are only focused on one task and one task only.
Continue like this until you have completed three or four Pomodoro sessions.
Be strict with yourself. Work the full 25 minutes. Take the full 5-minute break.
After three or four Pomodoro sessions now you can have a longer break. This time you can have a rest for 15 minutes. Or 20 if you really need.
Make some tea or coffee.
Chat with someone.
Remember to stretch.
For me personally, I prefer to work on one task until it is completed. Then I move on the next task at hand and start on that.
But I can understand why English students may want to mix tasks between each Pomodoro session. A good idea is to experiment and work out what works best for you.
But you will find that if you work the Pomodoro system well you can get through many tasks easily.
For example, all the above tasks in our example — the writing, reading and vocabulary assignments — could all get done in a few Pomodoro sessions.
For many people that do four Pomodoro sessions, they might choose to have a long break. Some students prefer to do four Pomodoro sessions in the morning, then have lunch and do something else for an hour or so.
Then in the afternoon, they do another four Pomodoro sessions.
This makes a total study time of three hours and twenty minutes.
That is a decent amount of time when it comes to studying but also bear in mind that this is three hours and twenty minutes of deep focus study time.
So if you do this you are studying at a very deep level.
Good for you.
Why does the Pomodoro technique work?
It works because you are studying at the optimum amount of time that the average person can focus — 25 minutes.
And each time you complete a Pomodoro session you have that wonderful feeling of achievement. Another small goal realised. Another target hit.
This provides you with a huge boost in motivation.
The Pomodoro system is great for motivation.
The problem with motivation is starting. We simply don’t know how to start, how to trigger our brain into action.
By using the Pomodoro method you just start working and all you have to do is complete 25 minutes. You finish that and you feel good so you do another. Then another and another. Before long you have done 6 or 8 in one day. This will encourage you to do more Pomodoro sessions the next day.
When doing the Pomodoro system we see a fixed time ahead. We don’t feel overwhelmed with work. We believe that we can finish 25 minutes — and we can. So when we finish we are motivated to do more work.
We are in the groove, we are in the flow.
Another good thing about this system is that it reduces stress and burnout.
Quite often when we are studying — especially if we are multitasking — we get stressed at the sheer volume of work we have to do. We churn away at it; hopping from one task to another until eventually we get burned out.
Two people that studied the human ability to concentrate for limited periods of time are David Dukette and Diane Cornish. These doctors studied the ability of people to concentrate for extended periods of time and found that 20 minutes was the optimum time.
And Dr Barbara Oakley is another doctor that recommends the Pomodoro technique.
Dr Oakley says that it is the best way to overcome procrastination. She says it is because of the element of reward at the end of a session of 5 minutes. This encourages flow and motivates the person to continue working.
So even doctors and scientists swear by the Pomodoro system.
What types of Pomodoro timers are there?
As the Pomodoro system is widely used today there are several kinds of timers available to you.
You can get a mechanical one or try one of the apps and websites available online.
You can get a real Pomodoro timer just as Francesco Cirillo used in his college days.
These are widely available in department stores and online.
You can find many Pomodoro apps online.
The problem with using an app is that you might get distracted when you are setting the timer or having a break. Then you slip off the task and dive into Facebook or Instagram.
But if you really want to use this app here are three of the best ones:
And many websites use the Pomodoro technique. These are usually just a basic timer set for 25 minutes on the screen.
Again you have to be careful not to slip off the Pomodoro cycle and start crawling around on the internet.
But you can try these sites:
What if you are interrupted by someone?
If you are a student, chances are you are surrounded by other students.
Maybe you are in school or college. You could easily be interrupted while studying by one of your friends.
Or maybe you are studying at home. Your mother or father could disrupt you and want to ask you something.
How can you deal with interruptions if you are halfway through a Pomodoro session?
Our good friend Francesco Cirillo devised a method for this too.
It is called the Inform, Negotiate, Call Back strategy.
It works like this:
- You inform the person interrupting you that you are in the middle of something.
- You negotiate a time to talk to them or call them back later.
- You call them back when you have a long break. (A 5-minute break may not be long enough).
Maintain the boundaries and your study schedule is uninterrupted and you are working solidly for the whole period.
What can you do during the 5-minute break?
Above I mentioned that you should have a complete rest from studying.
That means you leave the desk and do not continue working. Once you get into this system, trust me, you will start to feel so motivated that you will want to continue working no matter what.
Resist the temptation.
If you are doing 8 Pomodoro sessions a day you need to take sufficient rest. So please do so.
I recommend that you stretch during breaks. Long sessions at a desk or with your head bent over into a book can put a strain on your neck, shoulders and back.
But it is also a good idea to do something completely mindless.
You could listen to one of your favourite music tracks and sing along for five minutes.
You can get up and dance.
Moving around is good.
Remember: the 5-minute rest is your reward.
Treat it as such and enjoy it.
Then you will feel more motivated to go back to work when the timer rings again.
I highly recommend the Pomodoro technique.
I use it all the time myself. I used it to write this entire guide on the Pomodoro system.
As an English student, you can use it to study. Once you are accustomed to the Pomodoro system it can benefit other areas of your life. Later when you start working you might find that it is a great way to complete all the tasks you have to do in your job.
It is a fantastic system and one that really works. So I hope that you put it into practice for your English study.