To Overcome Procrastination

LCS 6th graders have a new elective offered this year called Study Skills.  In this 9-week course students focus on understanding and applying what current brain research says about how our brains learn and remember information.  It is a class filled with practical applications for everyday life.  I asked the first class of students what has been the most helpful strategy or skill that they have learned over the last 9 weeks, and they recommended a strategy for overcoming procrastination called the Pomodoro Technique.  This is a simple, yet effective, strategy that the students have used to complete homework, chores, and other tasks that they routinely push aside for “later.”

So, what is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique was created in the 1980s by a university student named Francesco Cirillo.  Cirillo was looking for a way to end his own procrastination and build more focused study habits.  The basic steps are as follows:

1.  Choose a task to complete.  Most of the 6th graders in my class are using this technique for their math homework or reading assignments.

2.  Set a timer and commit to no interruptions during that time.  Cirillo uses 25 minute timers, but for middle schoolers 10-15 minutes is a good start.  No interruptions means no talking, texting, tv, etc.

3.  Work until the timer ends. No stopping.  If you get stuck, move on to another part of the same assignment or task. If you finish before the timer, go on to a different assignment or task.

4.  Reward yourself with a short break.  The best rewards last no longer than 5 minutes and are active…a short walk, playing with a pet, eating a healthy snack, dancing to a favorite song, and so on.  

5.  Repeat until the task is complete.  Often, 1-2 Pomodoros will be all it takes to finish a homework assignment because you have been completely focused on the task!

Fun fact:  Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.  Cirillo named the technique after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used to build his own study habits.

For more ideas on this and other brain-based study skills for middle school students, I recommend the book Learning How to Learn by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski.  It is written for teens but is a well-researched resource that is also beneficial for parents and teachers looking to help students grow in their study habits.

Anyone can use the Pomodoro Technique to overcome procrastination.  I even used it to write this post!