How to Increase Your School & Work Performance with the Pomodoro Technique

Most students complain that they simply cannot find the time to fit in all the tasks that they are required to complete in a day. In addition to their academic coursework, many school and university students are also busy with other activities that take away from the time that is available for them to study.

How is it possible for young people to manage their time efficiently, especially when there are constant distractions from social media updates and messages on their mobile phones? While it is difficult to estimate the loss of time from continuously glancing at a mobile phone while studying, it is obvious that these interruptions are a major issue for a large number of students.

Fortunately, the Pomodoro Technique presents a solution to this problem.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

Essentially, it is a time management tool that allows users to focus on the task at hand in short bursts of concentrated activity. It was developed by software programmer Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s when he was trying to come pu with ways to increase his productivity: He discovered that taking short breaks at frequent intervals allowed him to concentrate on his work and boost his output dramatically.

Why is it called the Pomodoro Technique? It is named after a tomato-shaped timer (Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato) that Francesco Cirillo used to keep track of the duration of his working and break cycles.

How it works

The technique is very simple and involves just four steps.

  • Select the specific task that you want to complete. It could be a project that takes just an hour or one that requires many hours of work. The work could also involve an activity that you want to devote a specific number of hours to.
  • Set a kitchen timer, an timer app on your smartphone or an online timer program for 25 minutes.
  • Set your timer for 25 minutes and begin working. You can put your phone on airplane mode, and try to not check emails or your Twitter feed or get distracted in any other way for this 25 minute period.
  • Don’t switch between tasks. Just concentrate on that one single project that you have chosen to work on.
  • At the end of the 25-minute period, take a break of five minutes. Use this time to rejuvenate yourself. After you have completed four cycles, take a longer break of 15 or 20 minutes.

For example, if you start working at 9 in the morning, your schedule will look like this:

Start timeStop TimeBreak Time

In about two hours you would have worked for 100 minutes (25 minutes X 4) and rested for 30 minutes. After this, you can start the cycle again.

Benefits for students

Although the Pomodoro Technique can help anyone who is trying to get more done in a limited period of time, it is especially useful for students. For example, this technique's strongest point is that it helps in focusing a person’s concentration and keeping that individual away from both external and internal distractions. By enabling you to continuously focus on a specific task for an extended length of time, it can dramatically increase your efficiency.

Also, tracking the number of Pomodoros or 25-minute units that you have completed helps you gain a sense of control over your time. By doing so, you can calibrate how much work you can complete with in a 25 minute period, and plan your day more efficiently. For every major project or assignment you get, you can structure your day and week in ways that you know you are able to complete. This can be a very helpful mental weapon to have especially when you are tackling large projects that last over a long time: no matter how big it is, you can break it down to a number of small Pomodoros that you know you can handle easily.

Is it right for you?

The Pomodoro Technique definitely has many benefits. At the very least, it makes you aware of the time that you waste on your digital distractions. However, most new users of this methodology report that it gives them the ability to focus their attention as they know that the timer will sound an alert very soon.

But, as with any techniques, it also has its own downsides. For instance, many students find that a 25-minute time frame is too short to work on a new task. They need to take a break just as they are getting into a state of “flow," and resting for five minutes only takes away their concentration. Therefore, students who find themselves able to easily concentrate for a long time may not find this technique as helpful. The Pomodoro technique is meant to help people who are either unable to do so easily, or who need to concentrate for a long period of time by making each work period easy and short.

Also, you should know that it is not essential to follow the 25 minute work/5 minute break schedule. You can select a time limit that works best for you.

Duckju Kang

Duckju (DJ) is the founder and CEO of ValueChampion. He covers the financial services industry, consumer finance products, budgeting and investing. He previously worked at hedge funds such as Tiger Asia and Cadian Capital. He graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics with honors, Magna Cum Laude. His work has been featured on major international media such as CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN, the Straits Times, Today and more.