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Ever since we went into lockdown, it’s become harder and harder to stay focused and motivated. I sit down at my desk with my notebooks and sticky notes ready. I turn on my laptop and start my lecture. Then, I pick up my phone and scroll through social media until I decide to take a “much-needed” break. Does that sound familiar? That was what my study sessions looked like in the first semester, but I’ve decided to change that. Here’s what my study sessions look like now: 

The Pomodoro Technique

I was introduced to the Pomodoro Technique during my first year at Western but I didn’t start using it until this year. It’s a very simple time management method that is based on the time a person can manage to stay away from distractions and interruptions (usually 25 mins). 

The Pomodoro technique is as follows

  1. Assign times to your tasks: as a pomodoro is a 25-minute interval, decide how many pomodoros you need to get a task done.

  2. Start working on the task you choose for 25 minutes straight. For those 25 minutes, focus solely on the task at hand. Try to eliminate distractions and not think of anything else.

  3. After the 25 minutes are over, put a checkmark down on a paper to mark the completion of one pomodoro and then take a short break (typically 5 minutes). During your short break, do something that is not work-related like going for a walk.

  4. When the break is over, repeat the process. 

  5. Every 4 pomodoros, take a 20 or 30-minute break 

The Pomodoro technique was developed in 1980, so it’s not exactly new, but more apps are starting to appear that utilize the Pomodoro Technique. My favourite pomodoro app is Focus To Do. Not only does it have a timer for every task but it also allows you to schedule tasks for different days and keep track of the tasks that are done. It’s also available as a chrome extension. The best part about the Pomodoro Technique is the fact that I don’t feel mentally exhausted at the end of my study sessions.

Studying with A Friend 

Before the pandemic, I would often head to the library with my friends to study. We do some work and take breaks to chat together. For assignments and reviews, this was a very effective way of studying. We would keep each other focused and take breaks together to make sure we didn’t burn out. But, ever since we went into lockdown, I’ve mostly studied alone. Study sessions in my room tend to drag on, making me more unmotivated and distracted. Recently, I’ve started having study sessions with my friends virtually. We hop on Zoom with our cameras on and each of us does our own work. Every 25 minutes, we stop and take a break together. This way, we have someone to help us stay motivated and focused; our chats between studying have stopped us from being overly fatigued from studying. 

Dealing with Distractions

Staying at home also means that there are an infinite amount of distractions around me. Since I study in my room, it has been especially hard to ignore the opportunity to watch Netflix in my nice and cozy bed. I’m just too comfortable in my house to get any real work done. When I somehow manage to ignore every external distraction, random forgotten thoughts pop up in my head and my mind wanders to other assignments, classes or responsibilities that I have. Something that I’ve found very helpful to stay focused is writing down the random thoughts I have on paper. So if I’m working on an assignment, but a midterm for a different class comes to my mind, I write it down on a piece of paper and then continue working. This is a simple and effective strategy to address the thought without actually letting it distract you. As for my phone, I added screen time limits to the apps that I tend to use the most. Even if I end up ignoring the timers, they are an effective reminder when I’ve spent too much time on my phone.

My study sessions now are much more productive than before and honestly, the best part is that I no longer feel drained from studying. I finish my work and still feel energized enough to do something else. It took some trial and error but these strategies are what finally helped me have productive study sessions.

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My name is Rawan and I'm a third-year software engineering student. When I'm not drowning in assignments, I enjoy reading, writing, and trying out new cafes.
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