I’ve recently found the Pomodoro technique pretty useful for increasing my studying/reading productivity, with regards to my studying for my comps.

Basically, you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then repeat the cycle. After four of these, you take a longer break. You use a basic kitchen timer (or some computer equivalent) set to 25 minutes and let it countdown. You don’t interrupt a given 25 minute cycle. If you absolutely have to do this, you abandon the cycle entirely. Sometimes this happens, obviously, but the point is you only do it when you really have to, because if you aren’t strict then the Pomodoro technique becomes pretty pointless pretty quickly.

From Wikipedia’s entry on the Pomodoro Technique:

There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:

1.    decide on the task to be done
2.    set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
3.    work on the task until the timer rings; record with an x
4.    take a short break (5 minutes)
5.    every four “pomodoros” take a longer break (15–20 minutes)

Wikipedia has a bunch of information and a link to a free PDF explaining it, but honestly the above five steps tell you everything you need to know. Anything else is really superfluous and betrays the simplicity of it. I don’t even write anything down.

The Apple app store has a few timers that are specifically designed for the Pomodoro technique (you can tell because they look like tomatoes, which is where the “pomodoro” name comes from), but they cost money, sometimes because they come with features you don’t need. I like Focus Booster, because it’s free. It comes with no frills, but, like, that’s the point of the Pomodoro technique. With Focus Booster you can’t interrupt a given 25 minute without just starting over. If you download it, you’ll see that the standard countdown is already set for 25/5, so it’s obviously got the Pomodoro technique in mind.

Anyways, my point is I’ve found it effective. I reserve the five minute windows to refill my glass of Fresca, go to the washroom, and to quickly check a few forum posts. It’s a good way to stay refreshed for long bouts of studying.