The Pomodoro Technique: concentrate intentionally and defeat procrastination
There is a technique that has been shown to enhance productivity and stimulate concentration; it is called the Pomodoro Technique, and can be used with a simple kitchen timer - from which it takes its name - or with a special app, such as PomoDone or Toggl. The technique is simple to follow: you start by sitting at your -workstation and eliminating any sources of stress; then, set a timer for 25 minutes and, during that time, focus on what you need to do without interruption. If the mind wanders or if you think of something else you need to do, you can quickly jot it down and then return to what you are studying. At the end of the 25 minutes, you take a 5 minute break. The cycle can then be repeated several times throughout the day, making sure to take a longer break, of about 15 minutes, every three or four cycles. The success of this method lies in the fact that anyone is able to concentrate for 25 minutes straight, without distractions or interruptions; moreover, the short mental pauses between one cycle of concentration and the next help us to transfer the concepts we have just learned to the back of our long-term memory.
A study conducted by two professors from Rutgers Business School revealed that using our break to look at something on a computer or smartphone does not allow our brain to recharge as effectively as other types of breaks. It works better, therefore, if you physically detach yourself from these devices, doing something more physical such as taking a walk, drinking some tea, listening to music, playing with your pet, or any other activity that allows the mind to roam free. This is the only way that the use of short and frequent breaks can help to improve the quality and effectiveness of your learning.
During the study cycles, however, there are some things to take into consideration. First of all, multitasking is generally to be avoided: while we study, we activate a certain set of information, and if we interrupt what we are doing, to go and do something else, whether it is just sending a message or reading an email, we activate a different set of information. The transition from one set of information to another slows down the cognitive process which allows us to go back to being fully focussed on what we were doing, thus causing lower productivity, a slowdown in our pace of work, and a higher number of errors.
However, there is a positive side to multitasking: changing activities helps to free up our minds if we are stuck, and stimulates creativity; so it can be useful, when the timing is right. Another important thing while studying, to avoid breaking your concentration, is to work in an environment where there are little to no distractions. The ideal scenario is to study somewhere you can be alone, such as in a quiet library, or earplugs that block out any external noise. Since our tendency to check notifications can become compulsive, it is best to disable them all, to keep the phone at a distance, and to install a system that blocks access to certain websites when studying; some examples of website blockers are Freedom or StayFocused.