The Pomodoro Technique: A Study Fad Worth a Try

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By Arin Barry & Karl Meier Mattern

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY.

 

With exams fast approaching, students are willing to try just about anything that’ll help them through the last stretch of 2018. An interesting study fad to hit the scenes is the Pomodoro technique. Love it, like Karl, or hate it, like Arin, it’s worth a shot – anything to help the hustle for that degree.

 

What is the Pomodoro technique?
1. Decide on the task
2. Set a timer (traditionally for 25 minutes)
3. Work until the timer goes off and put a checkmark on a piece of scrap paper.
4. If there are fewer than four checkmarks, take a 5-minute break and then go back to step 2.
5. If you have four checkmarks on the page, then take a longer break (between 15-30 minutes).
6. Reset your checkmark count to zero and go back to step 1.

 

Photo by Warren Modukwe

 

Not a fan – Arin Barry
As someone that likes having things planned out way in advance, I thought this might be the perfect technique for me. Boy, was I wrong.

So why didn’t this technique work for me? I like timing things; I plan out almost every second of my day and I enjoy completing tasks. With multiple small tasks to complete, I thought the Pomodoro technique would have been perfect for me. But it all came down to the fact that I struggle to start concentrating on my work and it generally takes me about 5-10 minutes to actually start working, so stopping every 25 minutes for a short break only broke my concentration. All in all, I got less work done and the “long break” wasn’t long enough to do anything relaxing, such as watching an episode of most series or even going for a run.

I spent around ten hours trying to complete a task that would normally would take me six. I tried different variations of the technique, such as making the working time longer, stretching it to 45 minutes, but then I would feel like the short breaks were too short, so I had to make those a bit longer as well. I went around in a never-ending circle of lengthening and shortening, trying to find the “perfect” formula for myself. Eventually, I realised that the Pomodoro technique wasn’t for me and that my usual study schedule actually works best for me. I can totally see this technique working for a lot of people, I’m just not one of them.

 

Ultimate fanboy – Karl Meier Mattern
The Pomodoro technique, being a method that is facilitated by structure, is possibly more suited to those studying degrees which contain content that can be compartmentalised. By this, I mean the process of writing an essay, planning a project, or any other task which isn’t performed linearly can be far harder to perform in fixed intervals of time. For this reason, I feel courses in commerce, the faculty to which I belong, can certainly get value from this technique.

Work regarding accounting, finance, and tax can be segmented and apportioned for time and so fits well with the Pomodoro model. Work that requires free flowing thought,particularly group projects and brain storming sessions, is seemingly not suited to this technique, but I think certain advantages can still be gleaned and applied to such tasks.

The method is based on the premise that short periods of intense focus are superior, in terms of productivity, to longer periods of average focus. Group projects, and certainly meetings for group projects, are notorious for being rather aimless affairs where very little is done in the beginning and momentum only truly surfaces as the deadline draws near. Incorporating this technique into such tasks could serve to centre the focus of those involved and to completely turn their attention to the matter at hand.

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