This article contains generic information – not legal advice. If you find yourself in a questionable or problematic situation, seek professional legal counsel.

Returning to campus after the holidays is always a bit of a challenge. If you’re feeling less than enthusiastic about the spring semester you are not alone. Post-holiday procrastination is a phenomenon many students experience. It’s hard to get back into the “swing of things” after having two or three weeks of winter vacation. However, the time has come to get back to work.

Psychologist David Meyers has made the important observation that from a psychological standpoint “going through the motions can trigger the emotions.” In other words iyou’re feeling unmotivated and are struggling to study or finish homework, it might be time to take action.
One method that many premeds may find helpful to boosting productivity is called the Pomodoro Technique. The concept behind this proven system is to think about time in short intervals instead of long stretches. In other words, approach your studies like a sprinter – not a marathoner.

Do you need the Pomodoro Technique? Well, can you relate to any of the following:

  • Too many distractions. Do you oftentimes venture to a quiet spot in the library with the best of intentions to study or complete homework but instead of being productive find yourself distracted with email, news alerts, text messages, or social media updates
  • Not enough time in day. Do you find yourself making excuses for poor time management? Have you had several unproductive days and in retrospect asked yourself where did all the hours go?
  • Feeling unmotivated. Do you frequently feel unmotivated to study and attend to homework?
  • School/Life Balance. Do you find yourself straining to balance your social life with academic work?

If any of that sounds familiar, you might benefit from using the Pomodoro Technique. So, how does it work? It’s simple yet effective:

  • Remove all distractions. Set your mind to focus mode and place yourself in a distraction-free zone. Sometimes it helps to let friends and family know in advance that you’ll be responding to calls, texts or social media posts in-between your work sessions.
  • Choose a task. Select a section of material you want to study or section of homework you need to accomplish.
  • Set a timer to 25 minutes. 
  • Work on the selected task for a full, uninterrupted 25 minutes.
  • Take a 5-minute break when the timer goes off.
  • Every 4 sessions, take a longer break of about 15-20 minutes.

You can adjust your Pomodoro sessions and break lengths depending on your work-style preferences. However, the above summarizes the original Pomodoro method.

In addition to using a classic timer, there are Pomodoro Technique digital apps for smart phones. There’s the traditional Pomodoro Timer app with a tomato icon. Then there are the Pomodoro-like digital apps, such as Forest, which are similar in concept. For example, in the Forest app whenever you want to focus on work you plant a digital tree. During the selected task time, the tree will grow when you are working. If you leave the app during the selected task time, however, then the tree will be killed.

While digital apps can be convenient, efficient, and capable of keeping accurate work-productivity logs, the bottom line is that if you have a clock within eyesight then you can implement the Pomodoro Technique. What are you waiting for…the clock is ticking!

Stay tuned for the next article about how a renown surgeon uses checklists for success and how you can too.

Headshot of Erin FortnerErin Fortner is a licensed attorney in Georgia where she practiced pharmaceutical product liability law and was a special victims unit prosecutor. She lives in the D.C. metro area and is attending a full-time post-baccalaureate program. Ms. Fortner also recently earned her EMT certification.