Forming a study habit - Pomodoro technique

Hello! I thought I would brain dump some of the things I have tried while self-studying.

I have a (somewhat) ambitious goal to self-study mathematics to a BSc level in Mathematics, before the year 2025 (plucking that objective and timeframe out of thin air).  I am attempting this while working a full-time job as a leader of a software development team.

Today, I won't be talking about goal formation, as clearly, I need to do better at it. However, I will be covering more day to day problems I have found when forming a study habit.

Pomodoro technique

For those who don't know, the Pomodoro technique is a focusing hack, whereby you give yourself 25 minutes of uninterrupted, 100% concentration-time, then a 5-minute break. The intuition of this is that Humans have a hard time concentrating after 20 minutes, their attention span breaks down. The importance of this technique lies in these 2 parts,

  1. You apply all your concentration on the task, during the 25 minutes. That means no facebook, no messaging people, no checking news updates or emails. You should be thinking only on the task at hand.
  2. You must have a break. Don't skip the break. Don't do a similar activity in your break time to what you were concentrating on. The value here is to disengage that tunnel vision and replenish your attention span. It's common to find creative solutions by accident at this time, as your brain is free to wander.

I like the Pomodoro technique. It feels nice to carve up your study time in 30-minute blocks and that it acknowledges the limitations of attention. I also use this technique when working on long DIY projects that really test my motivation.

I first built my study habit around performing 1 Pomodoro per day. This fits well with my daily schedule and did not take too much commitment to do.

I did find problems with this though. The 25 minutes would be good, but I would usually drop the 5-minute break in favour of responding to work emails/listening to podcasts/reading a book. That 5-minute period would be abused into cramming in another task requiring plenty of attention.

I still use the Pomodoro technique and I am experimenting with variants on the "1 Pomodoro per day" habit, which I will share in an upcoming post.

Thanks for reading!


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