Life is crazy! Right? No matter what is going on, there is always too much stuff that you need to squeeze into those 24 little hours each day. Eating, sleeping, working, seeing friends, (eating again…) and the list goes on. Then on top of the day to day bits and pieces, you also want to learn a language. How can you fit anything else in? Well, look no further, I have the answer for you… The Pomodoro Method.
Ever since I started learning languages independently, I have been trying to find better and more effective ways to study. The thing I hate more than anything is spending hours doing one task only to realise that you haven’t actually achieved anything. I remember staring at a grammar book for 3 hours and realising I hadn’t even made it past the initial explanation. No, thank you! This does not work for me!
That’s when I discovered The Pomodoro Method.
What is The Pomodoro Method I hear you ask…
It is a time management technique that helps you to use the small bits of time you have, rather than trying to fight your schedule and free up huge chunks of time to study.
The idea is that you break your productive time into 25 minute ‘Pomodoros’ followed by a 5 minute break. Giving you a short break after each session to recharge a little (grab a snack, if you’re anything like me) and prepare for your next challenge. Depending on your schedule, you can just do one Pomodoro or once you have collected 4 little tomatoes (as Pomodoro means Tomato in Italian), you get a long break, usually around 30 minutes.
In the breaks, you want to make sure you physically move away from your work area. Stretch those muscles, grab a drink and reset, ready for the next productive Pomodoro. (because who doesn’t love a little alliteration!)
I often use this time to think about what I am doing and plan the next 25 minute slot, making sure I know exactly what I am going to do when I sit back down. Avoiding that dreaded procrastination.
Why does it work?
When you first sit down at your desk and start working you tend to be very productive, but over time your attention can drift, it takes longer to absorb the same information, then by the end you start to re-read the same sentences over and over again and it doesn’t even go in. Hitting that language wall!
I am sure there is a lot of cognitive research on the subject, but I feel that this method helps me avoid the usual study problems. It gives me a set time to focus on one task, meaning I am much more productive and focused for those 25 minutes and therefore I see results a lot quicker too!
As a side note…I also find the little timer counting down a source of encouragement. Seeing that I only have another couple of minutes before I can take a break and grab a snack pushes me to finish the task I’m working on, ready to start fresh after my break. !
Let’s get started
There are lots of Pomodoro Timers online that you can download but here are the ones I love to use…
The first is a Google Chrome add-on called Marinara Pomodoro Assistant. I use it everyday for work, for writing and studying, which means it is always with me. Once you have downloaded it, it will appear at the top of your browser ready to go.
You simply click it when you are ready to start and a 25 minute timer will start (shown in red).
Once the timer is over, it will open a new tab in Google Chrome, so it forces you to stop and take that all important break.. The timer also counts down your 5 minute break too, so you know when you need to be ready to start again! (shown in green)
This timer also has lots of analysis tools you can use to see the common days and times and how many little tomatoes you have completed in a set time period. So, if you like digging deeper into the data of your study habits then you won’t be disappointed.
Now let’s talk mobile Pomodoros
I work on my computer all day everyday, so I really don’t want to sit and study in front of the same screen in my free time too.So, instead I use the Pomodoro Timer by AppFX which is a free Android app. I can take myself away from my desk and study on the sofa or in the garden with a notepad and pen. Trying to remember the sun cream to avoid any sun related incidents… again!
The reason I like this app, over the others I have tried (believe me…I’ve tried more that you know), is the interface. It’s super simple, the colours are nice and I don’t have to worry about lots of complicated settings. I press the big play button and away I go. There is even a notification which is always visible. So, if I use my phone to do some research, which often happens, I don’t lose track of the time.
Whichever version of the timer you use, the results will be the same and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The Pomodoro Method is simply the best!
But, don’t just take my word for it, download one now and give it a try! Then let me know in the comments below what you think.
Until next time!
Want more language learning techniques? Check out my post on Traffic Light Reading to boost your reading skills in any language!