We thrive on the ping of new notifications, two paragraph long summaries of three-hundred page novels, and fifteen second video clips… and it is killing our productivity. When it’s time to sit down and study or write that final essay that’s been hanging over your head all semester, it can be hard not to start mindlessly scrolling through your phone. I’ve found a technique that helps me focus and get work done. Especially as UD Honors students, who typically have too many commitments and just not enough hours in the day for every one of them, being productive and focusing on the task at hand is a lifesaver.

For anyone who knows a little bit of Italian (disclaimer: I don’t, I used Google Translate), you’ll know that “pomodoro” translates to “tomato.” If you don’t get how a tomato can help you do your homework, don’t worry; there’s a fun backstory to this simple but effective productivity method. A college student named Francesco Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to break his work up into 25 minute blocks, followed by a short break. The concept, originally devised in the 1980s, stuck, and this widely popularized technique is known as the Pomodoro Method today.

The technique can be tweaked to your preferences and productivity needs, but there are four basic steps:

  1. Decide what to work on. It might help to make a to-do list, organized by priority (I use Google Keep for this, and it works wonders).
  2. Set your work timer. Traditionally, each work session is 25 minutes, but you can find a time that works best for you. Regardless of how long your work session is, choose something to work on and don’t do anything else. Put your phone on silent, put it screen down, and get down to business.
  3. Take a break—you’ve earned it! The traditional pattern is one work session followed by a 5 minute break. After 4 successfully completed work sessions, take a longer 15 minute break. But again, find what works best for you. Get up and stretch, get some water and a snack, or check your notifications. Catch up on everything, because you’re about to get back to work!
  4. Repeat until you’ve gotten through all the tasks on your to-do list, or until you feel yourself unable to focus for the time you’ve chosen for your work session. If, after 4 or 5 work sessions, I find myself unable to focus for 25 minutes, I take that as a sign that my brain needs a break for a while.

In case you don’t have a tomato-shaped kitchen timer readily available, there are several apps that will do instead. My personal favorite is Tide, which follows the Pomodoro Method and also provides soothing background noises to transform your quiet dorm room into a tranquil study space. Another popular one is Forest, which curbs distractions by planting a cutely animated sapling on your phone screen every time you start a new timer. When you get through a timer distraction-free, your fully-grown tree is added to your forest. Try a few and see which format works best for you!

However you choose to utilize the Pomodoro method, remember that you’re not always going to do it perfectly. Don’t live by the timers, but rather use them as a way to find your focus and get through all the things you have to do. Good luck on your upcoming finals, and I hope that the Pomodoro method proves to be as helpful for you as it has for me!




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