Writing a personal statement can be challenging.
From finding the time to gather your sources to editing numerous drafts, it can be a complex process to manage.
Writing it whilst studying makes the whole thing even more of a challenge.
That’s when using the Pomodoro Technique can help you. But what exactly is the Pomodoro Technique?
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system devised in the 1990s by Francesco Cirillo. It divides each 30-minute period into a 25-minute study block and a 5-minute rest break. Each 25-minute block is called a Pomodoro and is designed to maximise your focus and productivity.
It’s the ideal system for boosting your personal statements, studying and revising, and it couldn’t be simpler to apply.
I’ll share the 10 reasons why the Pomodoro Method can make a massive difference to your productivity and your personal statement in this post.
1 The Pomodoro Method Gives You a Study Structure
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that can help students focus on their work. It’s been shown to have several benefits, including increased productivity and improved focus.
That’s great, as many students struggle with time management and get overwhelmed easily.
If that sounds like you, then creating some Pomodoro time might be the answer.
This time management technique will help you break down your studying into manageable chunks so that you can focus and get more done in less time.
Getting started is easy:
- Select the task of your choice
- Set your timer for 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the timer goes off
- Once the timer goes off, take a five-minute break
- Repeat steps one through four until the task is complete (with a longer break of around 30 minutes after four Pomodoro blocks
This provides you with a powerful, repeatable study and productivity structure that will help you write a great personal statement.
Check out the video below to see what a difference using the Pomodoro Technique has made to this student:
2 The Pomodoro Method Makes you Plan Ahead
How often have you sat down to study, work or revise and used the first half an hour to ‘plan’?
Even worse, you’ve opened up the laptop and been faced with so many options that you begin a range of tasks and never really complete anything?
Notice that the very first instruction that the Pomodoro Technique gives you is to plan a single focus for your 25-minute study block before you start the timer.
That’s one of the powerful secrets of this study method.
You have to pick one thing to work on.
You might focus on a single area of your personal statement and use your time to hone it to perfection. Equally, you might decide that a 25-minute block is needed to research a particular industry sector or a particular concept or theory.
Either way, identifying the focus first helps you keep your work on track, saves you time and makes you prioritise.
Using Pomodoro Time for Personal Statements
Here’s an example. Say you were working on your personal statement, and you had 3 hours available. Before you begin, you’d set the goals that matter most to you.
Pomodoro 1: Gather research on current advances in my subject
Pomodoro 2: Mind-map my experiences, knowledge and qualifications and make links with the research
Pomodoro 3: List my ambitions for future study and career and develop a roadmap for achieving them
Pomodoro 4: For each point on the career roadmap, identify a previous experience or qualification that adds value to my goal, and identify a way in which the degree course will facilitate my progress
Pomodoro 5: Craft a substantial paragraph that shows my subject knowledge, links my experiences with my goals and evidences my suitability for a specific course
By forcing you to plan and identify the focus of each block before you start working, you can make sure you don’t miss critical elements.
It also makes measuring your progress incredibly easy.
3 The Pomodoro Technique Requires Focus
One of the most powerful aspects of Pomodoro time is that each 25-minute block must be used entirely and with total focus. That means that you can’t allow distractions of any kind into that period of your work.
No phones, streaming, social media or looking out of the window. No getting up and walking around the room, no making a cup of tea.
That’s tough for many of us, especially when we’ve been conditioned to continually multi-task or check our messages and email.
If this sounds impossible at the outset, then let me reassure you that it’s achievable.
It just takes a little bit of practice and commitment.
One of the great strengths of the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s flexible. It’s a working methodology that you can adapt to suit your needs. So whilst a 25-minute window is optimal for most people, if you need to start with 15-minute blocks and 5-minute breaks and work your way up, that’s fine.
It’s better to do a 10-minute block of focussed study and then take a short break than to be wholly distracted for 25 uncomfortable minutes.
Top Tips for Avoiding Distractions
When you start your Pomodoro timer, it’s essential to avoid distractions and make the most of your 25 minutes. Here are a few tips:
- Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode or turn it off completely
- If you’re working on a laptop, close any tabs that are unrelated to your task
- Turn off all notifications
- If you’re working in a shared space, let others know that you’re focusing on a task and shouldn’t be interrupted
- Set up your physical workspace in advance, making sure you have the tools and resources you need
- Prominently display your focus for each 25-minute Pomodoro throughout as a reminder to remain on-task
- Speak the following mantra out loud before starting the timer: “The next 25 minutes are dedicated to achieving my goal. The rest of the world will still be there when I have finished. Nothing is lost and everything is gained by committing my energies to myself in this moment.”
4 The Pomodoro Method Encourages Self-Reflection
It might feel like each 25-minute Pomodoro is designed to be a full-on productivity mission. Whilst it’s an excellent strategy for building your productivity skills, the Pomodoro Technique encourages self-reflection too.
Cirillo’s advice is to critically review the work achieved or study completed in the last few minutes of each session.
This could mean anything from simply reading through what you’ve accomplished to checking that you’ve accurately and fully completed a particular task’s elements.
Cirillo then suggests a brief period of reflection immediately before your 5-minute break:
- How well did you use your time?
- To what standard has the work been completed?
- Are there outstanding tasks to assign to a future Pomodoro?
- What lessons have you learned that can be applied to improve the quality of your productivity going forwards?
Here’s his video on this, outlining the concept a little more fully:
Self-Reflection is a Life Skill
Getting into the habit of including a brief but effective moment of review and reflection at the end of each block of time helps you track your progress.
Applying this regularly will also guide the focus of future blocks of time and develop a key transferable skill you can use across multiple contexts.
You can even mention your independent study skills in your personal statement!
Click here if you’d like to learn more about how to write about skills in a personal statement, or click the link below.
5 Your ‘To-Do’ List and Pomodoros are the Same!
The value of a ‘to-do’ list can be extremely high. By listing your tasks, prioritising them and checking them off, you can see you’re accomplishing your goals.
Think of the Pomodoro Technique as your new ‘to-do’ list for your academic and study objectives.
The difference is that you’re only going to include the tasks that matter.
These are just the things that need to be achieved today. And you’re going to allot each one a period of focused time, depending on how long you estimate that task will take.
That could be a single Pomodoro or multiple blocks of time.
Achieve Your Goals Positively with Pomodoro
Thinking in this way and planning your Pomodoro time rather than making a simple ‘to-do’ list won’t just boost your productivity. It will also help you achieve your goals with positivity.
How often have you written a ‘to-do’ list like the one on the left?
|Traditional ‘To-Do’ List||Pomodoro Plan: 5 Available Hours|
|Take the cat to the vet||P1: Work on Chemistry Assignment|
|Finish Chemistry assignment||P2: Complete Chemistry Assignment|
|Go for a walk (get fresh air!)||P3: Revise for Maths test|
|Revise for Maths test on Tuesday||P4: Do Statistics homework|
|Do Art and Design research||P5: Complete Statistics homework|
|Get present for Julie’s birthday||P6: Revise Chemistry chapter 14|
|Pay the gas bill||P7: Do Art and Design research|
|Revise Chemistry chapter 14||P8: Create stimulus sheets|
|Make a YouTube video||P9: Create stimulus sheets|
|Change ALL my profile pictures||P10: Finish Maths revision|
|Get some food shopping|
|Do homework for Statistics module|
|Create stimulus sheets for portfolio|
|Go to a movie with Dan|
There’s so much to achieve on this traditional ‘to-do’ list that it will be almost impossible to get it all done in one day. That leads to an inevitable sense of failure and frustration.
The Pomodoro plan on the right has much more focus.
I’ve estimated the amount of time I’ll have available on this day and divided it into Pomodoro sessions. Then I’ve divided the jobs I’ve got to do into the available slots to recognise what I can get done today.
The time I’ve got left in the day gives me the chance to do the other jobs on my list, but my priorities are given a real focus.
Click here for my guide on how to write an awesome statement of purpose, or hit the image below.
6 The Pomodoro Technique Uses Motivational Rewards
We all love rewards. In some ways, our days are built on the idea of effort and reward. If you go shopping, you’re rewarded with food. Once you do the washing up, you can watch a movie.
The Pomodoro Technique works on the same principle.
You dedicate yourself to achieving your single goal for an uninterrupted 25 minutes, and then you reward yourself for 5.
In those 5 minutes, there’s no pressure to achieve anything, and no need to be planning your next workflow. Instead, the free time you have is your reward.
Different people will value the inherent rewards of those 5-minute slots differently.
One person might see a reward in stretching and watching birds out of the window. Another might grab some biscuits and check their social media.
The nature of the reward is not essential. The impact is.
You should pick a reward that will motivate you enough to complete your 25-minute Pomodoro fully, but that is achievable and repeatable.
Remember, you’ve only got 5 minutes, so pick rewards that bring an instant benefit and don’t run into your next study block.
Great Ideas for 5-Minute Pomodoro Rewards
- Put on a favourite song and have a boogie (great for energising the body if you’ve been studying for a long time)
- Go for a very short walk up the street or around the garden. Look up at the roofs and chimneys, not down at the ground)
- Grab a drink (something cold works best, as you don’t have time for a hot drink)
- Grab a snack (something pre-made or natural, as there’s no time to make or eat a sandwich)
- Play with a pet (this is highly therapeutic for mind, body and soul)
- Water your plants (maybe not a whole garden)
- Check your emails and social media (but only if this brings you happiness and is achievable in 5 minutes)
- Hug someone (as long as they don’t mind)
- Make some art or play a song on a musical instrument (a three-minute pop song is perfect)
- Jump on an exercise bike (to get the blood racing)
- Take some time to practice mindfulness (but don’t lose track of time)
- Do some tai chi or yoga moves (go to a different room or, even better, outside)
Remember that whatever you do needs to be something you’ll look forward to and enjoy.
Once those 5 minutes are up, it’s time to stop!
7 The Pomodoro Method Encourages Self-Discipline
We live in an age where we aren’t often encouraged to have or use self-discipline. But when you’re writing your personal statement, self-discipline is a vital skill.
You’ll need it when you’re drafting your application and editing the content. You’ll also need to be self-disciplined when accurately completing the wider application and meeting deadlines.
How Does the Pomodoro Technique Encourage Self-discipline?
- It demands that you plan your content, time and rewards in advance
- It requires that you focus on a single task or goal and avoid distraction
- To be effective, it needs to be applied consistently over time
Achieving all three of these demands takes some effort, but the rewards, especially when it comes to writing a compelling personal statement, are worth it.
Check out my post on developing some powerful personal statement strategies here, or you can hit the link below!
Consistent Productivity Relies on the Right Tools
It’s essential to find the right tools for applying the Pomodoro Technique consistently. You’ll need a timer that won’t distract you, so I tend not to use my phone.
You might like to grab an actual physical timer, and you can find plenty of them on Amazon. Click here to check out the cheapest classic tomato timer if you want the whole Pomodoro experience!
If you’d rather use a website, I’ve come up with my top three suggestions. They’re all free to use and offer a range of different functionality levels, so it’s worth trying them all and then committing to one for the long haul!
The Timer is the simplest and most immediate way to time your Pomodoro sessions online. It’s a pre-made video hosted on YouTube and includes 8 25-minute blocks. There’s not much more to it, but if simplicity is your thing and you can avoid the temptation to start watching YouTube, this might be for you.
Tomato Timers is simple and easy to use, and it includes a variety of features such as a timer, a dashboard, and a history log. It also gives you a loop option, so you don’t need to manually set your new study blocks up.
Focus Booster is a web-based app designed specifically for freelancers and remote workers. It gives you access to invoicing, data export, and client management for a fee. However, the free tier gives you access to a Pomodoro timer and productivity reporting, which might be all you need.
8 The Pomodoro Technique Boosts Your Wellbeing
Taking responsibility for our well-being is critical.
If you’re trying to write a personal statement, complete your lessons and fit in other responsibilities, it can be hard to avoid a sense of burnout.
Getting started with your personal statement can be stressful, and it can be easy to lose track of yourself under pressure to get things done.
If you’re in that position, check out my post on the best ways to start a personal statement here.
Using a Pomodoro timer removes a lot of the stress and uncertainty from your independent study. It also reduces some of the chaotic aspects of balancing a significant workload.
How the Pomodoro Technique Boosts Your Well-being:
- It requires you to prioritise the goals that are of most importance. Doing that daily gives you some perspective and pushes you to focus on the tasks that will move you forward. That means less anxiety and less indecision, combined with the confidence that you’re on the right track.
- Following the Pomodoro Technique allows you to balance aspects of your study with your lifestyle. That work-life balance is central to your well-being. Knowing that you’ve got time to study, write your personal statement, play sport and see friends makes for a very positive day.
- The Pomodoro method also offers you personal accountability. You are responsible for completing the tasks you’ve set for that day, and you have control over your success. Being empowered through your accountability is a crucial benefit of the system and can really boost your confidence.
- The system is built on the idea of reward, which can enhance your well-being. Being continually rewarded during the day not only programmes your brain to want to meet tomorrow’s goals, but those consistent spikes in dopamine will go a long way to raise your mood.
- If you practice the Pomodoro Technique consistently and track your progress over time, you’ll see your achievements build. That’s a great way to judge your progress and build positivity about your accomplishments. Looking back at what you’ve achieved can give you the confidence to approach new challenges. That’s a great definition of well-being.
9 Taking Longer Breaks is a Pomodoro Plus
One of the things I love about the Pomodoro method is the opportunity for a more extended 30-minute break after every 4 study blocks. This isn’t prescriptive, but it’s sensible.
After all, no one works consistently to their best if they are sat at a desk for hours on end.
As well as being a welcome break, these longer rest slots are an invaluable opportunity to get some of your more time-consuming jobs done. And you can do them without messing up your study plan.
Take another look at that ‘to-do’ list from earlier on, minus the study goals:
- Take the cat to the vet
- Go for a walk (get fresh air!)
- Get a present for Julie’s birthday
- Pay the gas bill
- Make a YouTube video
- Get some food shopping
- Go to a movie with Dan
You might not be able to get the cat to the vet or go to a movie in half an hour. That’s fine. Those activities need their own space and time to be achieved well.
However, those 30-minute Pomodoro breaks give you the time to go for a walk, pay an online bill, or grab some food from a local shop. You’ve also got the time to fix some lunch, watch a favourite show or do some ironing!
In other words, if you plan well, those longer breaks can be just as productive (but in a different way) than your Pomodoro blocks.
10 The Pomodoro Technique Teaches Skills for Life
The Pomodoro Technique is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and you may find that you need to adapt it to fit your specific needs. However, its value to you will likely continue past your personal statement writing, into university and beyond.
For rote learning tasks such as memorising vocabulary or facts, break the task down into small, manageable parts and focus on one part at a time. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on that part until the timer goes off. Take a five-minute break, and then repeat the process until you’ve completed the task.
Break the task down into smaller steps for tasks that require more critical thinking, such as writing an essay or solving a problem. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one step at a time. When the timer goes off, take a five-minute break and repeat the process until you’ve completed the task.
For challenging tasks, break the task down into even smaller steps. Set a timer for five minutes and work on a tiny step at a time. When the timer goes off, take a one-minute break and repeat the process until you’ve completed the task.
The most important thing is to be consistent with it and find a method that works for you. Once you start using the Pomodoro Technique, you’ll be amazed at how productive you can be!
If you want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, you can pick up Francesco Cirillo’s seminal book here. You can also find out more by following the link below.
Good luck with your personal statement, and don’t forget to contact me if you’d like some 1-1 support.
You’ve got this! D
Research and content verified by Personal Statement Planet.