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Why the Pomodoro Technique Is Effective For Studying and Productivity

Lockcard Team
November 10, 2021
Illustrations by Yuxuan Wu

Time is considered by many as an enemy to meet deadlines. No matter how much time is given to complete a task, people often work on it when the deadline is coming close.

We all know this as procrastination: the habit of delaying a task until the last minute.

Definition, from LockCard app

A university student named Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s found a way to increase productivity by using a tomato-shaped kitchen tool, and now his technique is now used by millions all over the world. All it took was measuring time like a Pomodoro.

Image grabbed from Google

Simply put, you traditionally allot 25 minutes of uninterrupted time followed by a 5-minute break, and that is equal to one Pomodoro time. Repeat four Pomodoro cycles and take a longer break. Continue your tasks until you wrap up for the day.

If you want to know more about Francesco Cirillo’s The Pomodoro Technique, you can read his book. It comes in 11 languages!


Why does it work?

It boosts motivation

There can be a lot of reasons why people procrastinate: from the value of the task, the expectancy that the task will pay off, high impulsivity to grab their phones, or long delays due to long deadlines.

Your motivation to perform any task can be represented as an equation:

The Motivation Formula

The Pomodoro technique gets rid of impulsivity by dedicating uninterrupted time to your task on hand. It also shortens delay by setting fixed deadlines. After all, why wait for the actual deadline when you can set your own set of deadlines? By lowering impulsivity and delay, your motivation naturally goes up. 

On top of that, every time you cross out a finished task, you get a sense of accomplishment, which makes you more motivated to work on your succeeding tasks!


It keeps track of time

Sometimes while you are in the middle of a task, your sense of time becomes hazy. For tasks that are daunting, 5 minutes of working feels like hours or when you are so preoccupied with work, you forget you have a school meeting!

With Pomodoro, your sense of time remains with you. You know exactly how long you’ve been working on a task.

On your laptop, you can use a Google Chrome extension such as Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant to help you keep track: it is straightforward in design, with no fluffs or distractions. Everything happens via single button.

Our personal favourite Pomodoro tool. And it's free.

It deals with distractions

Before starting a Pomodoro, people often set up their study or work space to eliminate potential distractions. Despite that, some distractions can still come in, like a friend suddenly knocking on your door or if you suddenly remember another task to do for the day.

The Pomodoro Technique shares tips on how to deal with distractions. For example, when you remember another task to do in the middle of a Pomodoro, simply write it down on a sheet of paper or make a mental note of it and get back to it during your breaks. When a person intrudes on your time, you simply tell them you are in the middle of a Pomodoro and get back to them later. 

Remember, a Pomodoro session must be uninterrupted and cannot be divided.

That's why some Pomodoro apps have built-in website blockers so you cannot visit Facebook, for example, if you are in the middle of a Pomodoro focus cycle.

Otto is a Google Chrome extension that hurts your character's health if you try to use distractions, or break your Pomodoro cycle. It's fun, and cute.

Take care of your Otto's health by focusing!

Open Youtube while your Pomodoro is on and you’ll hurt poor Otto.

Studying at home? Here are more tricks to keep you focused while studying.


It reminds you to take care of yourself

Do you believe in the power of power naps? Then you should believe in the power of taking short breaks as well.

The Pomodoro technique encourages taking small, frequent breaks between work. Our body and brain need some unwinding and rest so that when you come back to work after a short break, you’ll be refreshed, relaxed, and more attentive.

Use your break to do things unrelated to the task you are currently working on. Take the free time to perhaps take a glass of water, grab a snack, walk around, stretch, check your social media, or talk to your friends. 

Californian optometrist Jeffrey Anshel developed the 20-20-20 Rule where you should take at least a 20-second rest for every 20 minutes of close screen exposure to prevent eye strain. Make use of your break by looking outside the window, or staring into a distant object.

It divides tasks into smaller and more achievable goals

For tasks that seem to have open-ended tasks such as studying for an exam, the deadline seems limitless. By cutting the big task into small chunks, you make a list of smaller tasks that look easier to accomplish one at a time.

Dividing large abstract goals into actionable bits

You can step up your list by writing your tasks on the Pomodoro Technique® Sheets to track your progress!

It improves your planning and scheduling skills

In the long run, the Pomodoro technique improves how you plan and schedule your work for the day. The more you do your Pomodoros, the easier it is for you to estimate how long you perform a certain task.

Let’s say it takes you one Pomodoros to do your math homework, two Pomodoro to write your essay, and two Pomodoros to make a Powerpoint presentation due to past tasks. With this in mind, it will be easier in the future to plan ahead and work on your schedule.

Knowing that you have a structure to your day helps you feel more productive and accountable. 


Some Takeaways

Remember that the Pomodoro technique is meant to help you. It is not a system that you should follow like a textbook but it should work based on how it works best for you. 

It also takes time and practice to form a habit. It may be easy for some to adapt, and hard for others; but as long as it is done correctly and tailored to your needs, the Pomodoro technique can significantly increase your productivity and time management.

A line in a poem once said:

Remember, Time is a greedy player who wins without cheating, every round!

- Charles Baudelaire’s L'Horloge (The Clock), translated by William Aggeler


More great tools to try out! 

hHere are the apps we've tried, and personally recommend:

  • Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant (no fluff, simple)
  • Otto (gamified)
  • Forest is another popular productivity app (just without the tomatoes). Like Otto, it prevents you from using other apps on your phone while you are in the middle of a Pomodoro by planting a tree. If you do break away, your tree dies. Grow more trees to build a forest!

Charlotte Chen, Designer @Duolingo

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