Concentrating better with the Pomodoro egg timer; does it work or not?

Foto van een kookwekker in de vorm van een rode tomaat

If we are to believe the tabloids, our concentration is worsening year by year. Do you want to learn how to concentrate like a pro? There are several techniques that can help you. One of these techniques is the ‘Pomodoro’. But does a Pomodoro egg timer really work? 

This is how the Pomodoro-technique works

The Pomodoro is a concentration technique conceived in the eighties by Francesco Cirillo. The technique is supposed to make you be able to concentrate better and get more work done in less time. The technique is really simple: take an egg timer, set it to 25 minutes, and work until the egg timer goes off. Then take a break for five minutes and once again set the egg timer to 25 minutes. You do this until you've done four Pomodoro's (study sessions of 25 minutes) and then you take one long break.

This is what the expert has to say

Stefan van der Stigchel is professor and has spent many years studying how concentration works. In his book 'Grip op je aandacht' (Controlling your attention), he discusses the myths surrounding concentration and gives us useful tips supported by science. 

Stefan van der Stigchel explains during a lecture at Utrecht University that it is very important to distinguish between focus time and time for relaxation. The Pomodoro technique does this well, but what it does wrong is the standard focus time (25 minutes). Imagine: you're finally working and concentrating well and the egg timer goes off, should you stop? Not according to Van der Stigchel, he posists that you should continue until your concentration starts to wane. This differs per person; some cannot manage 25 minutes, while others easily manage 45 minutes. 


Create a distraction free environment

Your direct environment has a strong influence on our concentration. This is why Van der Stigchel suggests that you should decorate your study environment in such a way that you don't get distracted. Notifications off, everything on aeroplane mode, and study away!

Counting coffee beans

Create a concentration ritual

Another tip is creating a concentration ritual: a short action that you will start associating with concentration after a short while. For instance, Beethoven counted the coffee beans for his cup of coffee before he started composing. 

Take good breaks

Finally, Van der Stigchel stresses the importance of taking good breaks. During a good break your 'concentration battery' recharges. Don't automatically put on a podcast, but also spend some time daydreaming. 

Conclusion: find your own internal egg timer

The Pomodoro technique is not a one-stop-solution, but it does have some logic to it, namely, alternating between is concentration and rest. You just need to find your own internal egg timer.

Further reading

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