One simple technique that can have a dramatic effect on study efficiency is the Pomodoro method. In short, it involves alternating 25 minutes of undisrupted work with 5-minute breaks. For a fuller explanation see this video by Thomas Frank:

Some points that maximise the benefit from it include:

  • Having a fixed timer which does it for you (rather than setting and re-setting alarms) is helpful: for example, the physical Pomodoro timer, for in-browser or Tomighty as a desktop app.
  • Sticking diligently to the timings (of 25–5–25–5), so you can plan exactly how many ‘pomodoros’ you will do before lunchtime, say, or another commitment.
  • Doing something that you enjoy or doing exercise during the 5-minute breaks (away from the computer/study area). I will do small admin stuff if I have a lot (for example, washing dishes, doing laundry), otherwise I will skim a book chapter, read a short blog post or listen to a favourite song. Doing short bursts of exercise, such as squats, planks or sit-ups, can both bring your energy level up and be a good way to squeeze in exercise to free up time later. I often find the first one or two pomodoros of a day quite difficult but am re-energised by later ones.
  • Alternating it with some other approach — I personally found morning Pomodoros followed by less-structured afternoon study sessions more effective.

Originally published at Chris Lovejoy.

Data Scientist + Junior Doctor in London, Cambridge medicine grad, striving to improve healthcare through technology and education.

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