How can I improve my English fast? What can I do to learn more vocabulary? Which techniques give better results? You have probably pondered similar questions as the semester unfolds and tests and exams come closer and closer. These are no trivial questions; they are central to our learning outcomes because they deal with the efficiency of the study methods we use. Is the effort worth the result? In the case of the Pomodoro Technique, you bet it is.
Would you like to be a more efficient student? Read on.
Before we start the story of the Pomodoro Technique, a couple of disclaimers. First, the best technique is the one that you use routinely; any technique is better than none at all. Second, no technique can make up for lack of motivation; good attitude is fundamental. English proficiency -proficiency in anything, for that matter- is a function of the hours you put to learn something you care about. Lots of practice and you'll learn anything you love.
The Pomodoro Technique was an invention born, as the famous adage goes, out of the mother of them all -necessity. A frustrated PhD student; piling texts that needed reading; mounting papers that needed writing; upcoming exams and a kitchen timer are the main characters of this story.
Wait a minute... a kitchen timer? You got to be kidding, right? That's what I thought at first, but the old mechanical gadget proved to be the central element to the method and came to symbolize the strategy (ergo the name; Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, a common shape for such artifacts). The phisicality of winding the timer up, the constant tick-tack marking time as it goes by, the loud interrupting ring breaking the activity up, they all add up to the beauty of the method.
Francesco Cirillo, the Italian PhD student in our story, needed to be more efficient, fast. He wasn't able to focus, he wasn't even able to study for ten continuous minutes without any interruptions or distractions, he wasn't any different from any other student. But that bothered him, and he decided to challenge himself to improve his concentration incrementally with the help of a kitchen timer to track his progress. He ended up figuring out a system that in general terms works as follows:
First, the activities of the day are planned. Second, they are divided into "pomodoros"; series of 25 minutes of focused work followed by 5 minutes of rest. Third, a close record is kept regarding the success of the effort and the number of interruptions. Fourth, adjustments and improvements are made based on the information recorded. Fifth, start again.
After a series of 4 back to back pomodoros (2 hours of work) you earn a 30 minute break. The secret is to avoid interruptions at all costs, postponing anything urgent to the upcoming 5 or 30 minute break. A more detailed explanation can be found in his book. Or anywhere in the web. This is a pretty famous method.
More interestingly, a diverse, ever extending set of apps for android, apple and windows smartphones and tablets have been developed to help you implement the technique without the actual kitchen timer. Go ahead and give one of them a try, then come back and tell us how you did.
Does the Pomodoro Technique work for you?