The Pomodoro Technique for GCSE and A Level Students: How to get more done, not get bored and save your energy when you’re studying

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by homework and revision but you're bored, you've got no energy and your mind is scattered by all the distractions around you?

The Pomodoro technique can help you.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro technique is a very simple productivity system. You basically set a timer for 25 minutes and then focus exclusively on one task until the timer goes off.

It's best to use a kitchen timer like this one as it doesn't have distractions such as the notifications on your phone, but if you haven't got access to a kitchen timer, use the timer on your phone, put it on do not disturb and leave it on the other side of the room, or outside the door.

What happens when the timer goes off?

When the timer goes off, you take a five-minute break. I suggest you move your body, have a stretch, go to the loo, whatever. Then, come back to do another 25 minutes.

Do four lots of 25 minutes before taking a longer break.

There's more in this blog post about how long a revision break should be.

How do you make the Pomodoro Technique work?

1. Plan your tasks

The first step is to plan the tasks you want to do in a day. You can use the Pomodoro tracker that I've created for this purpose (this is now only available to members of The Extraordinaries Club – I was forced to stop making it available to others because of changes to EU VAT laws brought about by Brexit). Plan up to five tasks for the day (you can have less if you prefer) that are really clear. Don't just write ‘Revise biology'. Be specific e.g. create flashcards on pages 40-42 from my biology text book, or annotate Act 2 Scene 1 of Macbeth.

Pomodoro Tracker for GCSE and A Level

2. Remove distractions

This means that you preferably get your phone out of the room, you close all the other tabs if you're working on the computer and you make sure you're in a quiet space where you can focus. Tell anyone else that you're not to be disturbed!

3. Set your timer

Now you set your timer for 25 minutes and you focus, focus, focus until it goes off.

4. Tick off your Pomodoro session on your tracker

After each session, tick it off on your tracker. This will give you that feeling of accomplishment as you notch those ticks up over the day and the week. And, at the end of the week, you can count up the number of pomodoros you've done this week and proudly tell anyone who will listen how much work you've done.

Why does the Pomodoro technique work?

It works because you:

  • Get things done – when you're focused you're productive. This gives you an enormous sense of achievement
  • Don't get so tired – pretty much anyone can focus for 25 minutes. It's when we try to focus for an hour or more than we really start getting brain ache and feeling tired.
  • Don't get so bored – a lot of students mix up the feelings of tiredness that comes with trying to concentrate for too long with boredom. Actually, when you break down your study sessions into smaller chunks you stay more engaged and more alert
  • Get a feeling of achievement as you tick off your tasks and notch up your pomodoros. You can feel proud of what you've done!

Do I have to stick to 25 minutes?

No, you don't.

I encourage everyone to start with 25 minutes, unless they have really struggled with concentration in the past, maybe because of a condition like ADHD. But, you might find that you can concentrate for a bit longer.

I encourage members of The Extraordinaries Club to find a time that works for them. One mum said about her son:

“He's worked out from your recent lessons on revision, his optimum revision time is 40 minutes and is getting to grips with your ‘Power Hour‘ (or Power 40 minutes!) technique in his revision session in the afternoon.”

You may also find that you can manage 40-minute sessions in the morning, but need 25-minute sessions in the afternoon.

I personally find 25 minutes frustratingly short. I'm better with 40-45 minutes.

Experiment and see what works for you – but there is absolutely no shame in going for a shorter time. If it works for you, that's the important thing.

Refining your Pomodoro productivity

You will need to experiment with how many Pomodoros you can do in a day and when you need longer and shorter breaks. You almost certainly won't hit on the perfect system immediately so you'll have to play with it and reflect on what works and what doesn't work – but, you will almost certainly see an improvement in productivity straight away.

Over to you

Get your copy of a Pomodoro tracker, a kitchen timer and get started with the Pomodoro technique to see your productivity increase while boredom, tiredness and that scattered, distracted feeling disappears.

Happy studying!

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