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EP 13: How to Create an Effective Study Routine and the Pomodoro Technique

Welcome to Episode 13! This past week on “The Homework Help Show”, we discussed how to set up a successful study routine. Our Host and Top Writer, Cath Anne walked through some tried and tested approaches to setting into the routine of studying. We also discussed a studying technique called the Pomodoro method which will maximize your productivity.

Looking for study tips, help with essay writing, or advice on how to be a better student? Welcome to The Homework Help Show, a weekly show where we teach, assist, and offer valuable insights for student life. From study hacks to writing tips, discussions about student mental health to step-by-step guides on academic writing and how to write a resume, we’ve got you covered. Want your questions answered? Write them below or join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #askHHG


Cath Anne: [00:00:05] This is Episode 13 of the Homework Help Show. It’s hard to believe that we are that far along in our show. For anyone that doesn’t know me, my name is Cath Anne. I am the weekly host of the Homework Help Show presented by Homework Help Global. This week we’re going to be talking about setting up your study routine for productivity. As well as a method called the Pomodoro method which I just recently learned about.

Cath Anne: [00:01:40] I’m sure that exams, papers, and group projects are starting to ramp up. Everyone has probably been over their syllabi and they know what is coming for this semester. Last week we talked about setting goals, and this week we’re going to talk about how to set up your study space for success and so that you’ll have some somewhere that you enjoy going and somewhere that you will go to study.

Cath Anne: [00:02:14] I just wanted to quickly ask.: Is there anything in particular that you really need when you’re studying? Whether it be a certain book, your glasses, or a cup of tea, water perhaps. Are there any like real necessities that you need before you start a study session? For me, it’s my tea or coffee in the morning. This is an herbal tea.

Cath Anne: [00:03:02] (Instagram Viewer) Trevor says he needs a Red Bull. Yeah, well that makes sense if you’re studying late at night and you need some extra energy. Tea for you to too, G Kaur. I do love water but it’s just nice to have that warm beverage. I know what it is there’s something special about it. Trevor has a Red Bull to keep him motivated. I can totally understand that.

Cath Anne: [00:03:33] The first thing I wanted to discuss is how to set up your actual physical space for studying. Here I want to stop the desk essentials. Yes, I said desk although it is tempting to sit in your favorite chair or on the couch when you’re studying, you’re way more likely to fall asleep or be tempted to watch Netflix if you are sitting in a more comfortable position to do your studying. You will really want to set up a desk space, whether it be in your bedroom, whether it be in your living room or in an office, if you’re so lucky to have one. It’s a great idea just to set up a desk that’s dedicated to studying because you don’t want to study in your bed, you don’t want to study in the couch because you’re going to be way more likely to fall asleep.

Cath Anne: [00:04:26] Now that we have our desk, there are some desk essentials that I highly recommend you having, and you have on hand for your study session. So, the first thing is water. You’re going to want to have water on hand to keep you hydrated throughout your study session. This will also minimize the time it takes to get up and go to the kitchen and get a glass of water which can, of course, lead to distractions and if you’re if you’re like me you might also want to keep it like a small snack on hand. Maybe, raisins or almonds or peanuts in a little cup, just so that you don’t have to keep getting up and going to the kitchen or going somewhere else to get a snack. You want to have water and maybe a little snack on hand when you’re sitting down for a longer study session.

Cath Anne: [00:05:15] Another thing that might sound a little funny, but it’s a good idea to have something like an oil diffuser or a scented candle on your desk so that it adds a gentle aroma to the area. You could use something like lavender oil or lemongrass oil. Something that’s very light and that’s going to keep you focused. It also adds some coziness and relaxation to the space. It makes the space more welcoming. Like I said it does sound a little silly to spend that much time on your study space, but if you think about it, studying can be really difficult and when you’re sitting down to study you want to associate it with positive feelings. You want to make yourself comfortable. When you do these extra little steps, you are more likely to associate studying with the positive feelings that come with setting up your space. That’s why I’m recommending adding some of these little touches that can increase your feelings of positivity when you’re going to study because we all know we don’t all love to study. It can be really great to kind of add these little touches here and there to increase your feelings of positivity.

Cath Anne: [00:06:39] This goes along with the last suggestion, try to have something fresh on your desk, a bouquet of flowers or a little succulent plant. Having something fresh on your desk can lift your mood. It gives you something nice to look at and it brings light to the desk. It also has the added benefit of creating some oxygen while you’re working so that you can stay focused.

Cath Anne: [00:07:12] Another thing they want to make sure is that you’re tidy and organized. Make sure that you keep a tight organized space. Don’t place everything on your desk, just the things that you would need for that particular study session. You want just the essentials like some pens, highlighters, textbooks, anything that you might need. You might need your computer. Anything that you might need but nothing more because you don’t want to be distracted. Originally, I was going to suggest that you could have your agenda or your or your bullet journal on hand. But, in this case where as you’re going to be focusing specifically on studying I would suggest that less is more. The more you have on the desk, the more likely you are to be distracted.

Cath Anne: [00:07:54] Another good idea, and I know everyone’s not going to like this idea, shut your phone off or put it away from your desk so maybe you plug it into an outlet across the room. Just make it so your phone is not as readily available Of course you have the potential to get bored while studying and you’re going to be tempted to look at your phone. The more difficult it is to access your phone the more likely you are going to continue studying and not be distracted.

Cath Anne: [00:08:29] Now that we have a physical space laid out. It’s time to start studying and I want to discuss this idea of a pre-study routine. You also want to be really intentional about how you are presenting yourself when you study and the steps that you take to start over a successful study session. When you started studying you want to make sure that you are wearing something comfortable. Unless you’re going to the library or out in public somewhere to a cafe, it doesn’t really matter what you look like when you study Dress comfortably, avoid the temptation to fiddle with your clothing. If you’re wearing an itchy sweater you might feel itchy and comfortable during your study session. You want to make sure that you’re very comfortable. Wear a nice pair of easy fitting jeans and a nice hoodie and you should be good to go. Make sure you’re warm enough as well.

Cath Anne: [00:09:35] Then make a warm beverage. This has been a theme, as you can see, whether it’s tea, coffee, hot chocolate, having a warm bed beverage can say no to your brain that you’re sitting down to do some work, while also being comfortable. If you’re not one for caffeine, but you want the relaxing aspect of tea with the buzz, you could opt for an herbal tea instead.

Cath Anne: [00:10:00] Now that those little touches are out of the way, before you get studying it is actually beneficial to look at your agenda and look at what you need to get done. Take your agenda or your bullet journal and see what you want to get accomplished for that session. Physically write down small time allotments for yourself and set deadlines. For example, you might want to schedule to work on one task from 5:00p.m. until 6:00p.m. and then you might set a second task from 6:30pm until 7:00pm. When you make these little appointments for yourself you’re much more likely to commit to you and follow through with them. They also help you stay on track.

Cath Anne: [00:10:45] That’s a little like what we were talking about last week is to set positive and possible goals for yourself so that you are way more likely to follow through on them. When you set deadlines for yourself, you’re absolutely more likely to complete them.

[00:11:04] It’s also really important to get in the right mindset when you plan study. This is where you can begin with five minutes before you start studying and write down three things that you are grateful for. This will help you to stay positive and have a focused mindset. You may also want to write down somewhere or think about how you’re going to reward yourself when you have finished these tasks. Maybe it’s a relaxing bath or watching your favorite show on Netflix with your partner. Whatever it is make sure that you have a reward lined up so that you are more motivated to follow through on your tasks. It’s also a really good idea to sit near an open window or a door so you have access to some fresh air. The plants can give you some oxygen, but it is also really good to have some fresh air. As long as it’s not too cold outside.

Cath Anne: [00:11:54] Then you’re going to actually begin studying so you sit down at your desk. You set a timer for 20 to 30 minutes and work until the timer and goes off. Now this is where you might need your cell phone if you like to have that for a timer. You can keep that on your desk. I’ll talk a little bit about some apps that you can use to kind of control your urges too to look at your phone if you do use it as a timer. You can also set timers on your computer for 20 to 30 minutes. Again, I’ll talk about that as we go along.

Cath Anne: [00:12:33] Once you finish that 20 to 30-minute allotment of work, you can take a little break before you continue your work. There are a couple things you can do when you’re taking your break. The best thing is to get moving. You want to take a step away from your desk. Give your eyes or rest from looking at your computer or staring at your textbook. You want to get up and maybe do some stretching, do some yoga postures. You might reveal your cup of tea or your water. You might pet your cat. It is really important to give yourself a break. Just getting up from there so that you’re not feeling weighed down by the study session.

Cath Anne: [00:13:15] Typical study breaks should be between five and 10 minutes. Whatever you do don’t make it longer than five to ten minutes, but make sure that you’re getting up and getting moving and then you can return to your studying. Once you’ve completed a task, after that 20 to 30 minutes if you completed your task, give it a check off on your list. That gives you a sense of accomplishment. It also gives you a sense of being able to look back to see the pattern of what you’ve completed. This actually serves as a motivational factor and we talked about that a little bit last week in that when we document our goals and the things that we’ve achieved, it motivates us. We can see that we’ve been making a difference and our hard work has been of benefit.

Cath Anne: [00:14:21] When you do set that timer for 20 to 30 minutes, during your study session make sure you write down any questions that pop up for you. This way you can remember to go back to them afterward. You’re not getting distracted by those questions then and looking through your textbook or Googling something you’re writing down on these questions and you are going to go back to them afterwards. You can then go back through your notes and figure out the answer to the question. Or you might approach your professor and ask them as well. Taking the time during your study session to figure those questions out it’s just going to be a distraction. Make sure you have a little notepad, so you can write down your questions as they come out through your study session.

Cath Anne: [00:15:10] As well, you might not have all the time in the world to complete every task that you set out to do, especially if you’re working on a time constraint and you are a student. You definitely want to make the most of your time. If you are not able to finish one task, make sure that you write it down as well as so that you can go back to it during your next study session.

Cath Anne: [00:15:59] Now to move on to what I talked about: the Pomodoro Method. The Pomodoro method can help with the ‘P’ word which is procrastination. We all know about procrastination. It is not just a student thing. It is absolutely something that can continue into the working world as well. It’s really helpful to develop strategies to combat procrastination.

Cath Anne: [00:16:36] I find that procrastination can be most challenging when it happens at the beginning of a study session or a work session. You don’t always want to get started on a task because there is this mental resistance there and you would way rather be looking on your phone or playing a videogame or reading a book, anything else but doing the task that you have set out to do. Today I want to talk about a little bit about how to actually address that problem.

Cath Anne: [00:17:17] It’s almost like the more you try to push yourself to do that task, the last you want to do it. It’s about getting over that hump of resistance. Once you do get over that hump then you’re able to work really intensely for long periods of time. Sometimes it’s just that initial starting point and then you can work. I wanted to talk about how to get over that initial resistance that procrastination can cause for us. Also, if you are someone that procrastinates throughout a task this strategy can work for you as well.

Cath Anne: [00:18:20] The problem with this mental resistance is that our brain is way more likely to want to do something that’s easier. Studying or working or doing something that’s more challenging and difficult for the brain it takes effort. The brain doesn’t always want to do that. What we have to do is we have to give it, motivation to do that and we have to almost externalize the motivation. You’ll see what I mean. Pick one particular task to work on. If you are studying for a biology test, pick chapter one that’s going to be your first task. You don’t want a list, you don’t want multiple tasks, you want one task. As I mentioned before, you want to set a timer for between 20 and 30 minutes. The recommended time for the Pomodoro Method is actually 25 minutes. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work as intensely as you can on that one task. If I’m studying for a biology test, then I’m going through my chapter one and I’m studying as hard as I can for that first 25 minutes.

Cath Anne: [00:19:36] Like I mentioned if you do get distracted by a call a text or wanting to look something up on Google, have your notepad beside you and write it down so you can go back to it once you’ve finished your study session. When the timer goes off take a five-minute break, and repeat that process three more times. Set it for 25. Take a 5-minute break. Set up for 25. Take a 5 minute break. You want to break your study session up into 25-minute allotments. Once you have done the four sessions, take a longer break. Maybe half an hour. Have some lunch or do a yoga session; go for a walk. Then you can start the process all over again.

Cath Anne: [00:20:40] This technique seems super simple, but it’s very powerful. It can help us get it over our procrastination because what it does is it externalizes the need for discipline. It takes the onus away from you and puts it into the timer. Instead of you having to be strong-willed enough to stop yourself from being distracted, it puts the onus on the timer. Then you aren’t relying on your own self-control but rather the time is being measured by that timer. Using the timer is probably one of the most effective ways that has been found to work. Writing your distractions down and in combination with this helps to minimize the connection between the craving for distraction and its fulfilment.

Cath Anne: [00:21:32] Essentially, you’re creating space between these desires for distraction and you actually fulfilling them. When you do that, when you take the time to write down your distractions, you’re actually strengthening your focus muscles. Over time if you keep practicing that, your focus muscle and your brain is going to is going to become stronger and stronger and you aren’t going to get as distracted as easily.

Cath Anne: [00:22:07] I don’t particularly study anymore, because I’m not a student, but I’ve been using it a lot in my own work. I do work from home as a freelance writer, and this can be really helpful when you’re trying to meet a deadline or when you have some work to do. Just out one task for yourself, working really intensely for 25 minutes, having a mini break and then doing that over and over again. You’ll actually be surprised at how quickly that 25 minutes passes. It seems like a long time, but when you’re working you’re kind of in that intense focused mindset. And I think also having the time limited automatically rewards the brain and it’s like, “Oh if I finish this then I’m going to be able to take a break.” It’s like that built in reward mechanism, which is really cool.

Cath Anne: [00:23:06] Of course there are other ways to make this technique more useful. There’s an app called Cold Turkey Writer, which you can download on your computer actually and it essentially converts your computer into just a typewriter until you meet a certain word count. This can be really helpful and when you’re writing a paper or so you’re writing a 2000-word paper, you might say you’re Cold Turkey Writer for a thousand words. It would only act as a typewriter, and not allow you to get on the Internet or anything until you meet a thousand words. Take a little break and then do the same thing for the next thousand words.

Cath Anne: [00:23:45] I thought that was a really cool option if you you’re someone that gets easily distracted while you’re writing papers. The person that invented the Pomodoro Method actually started out with that 25 minutes and personally I do find that works really well. But, if you wanted to extend it if you had a longer study session to do then certainly, experiment with whatever works best for you.

Cath Anne: [00:27:20] I have found a helpful app which is called TIDE. You can use that for a timer. It’s a free app. I have an iPhone and I believe it’s available for Android as well. I highly recommend it because what you can do is you can set your 25 minutes, and it will run out the clock. If you do escape the app, it’ll stop your timer. Then it’ll stop your study session. But, it also plays relaxing music. Today I was using it and there were you know there were waves sounds, there were forest sounds. I find those kinds of noises help me to focus. It uses the Pomodoro Method. What I actually do is I take my phone and I put it on my little tripod that I have actually for this show so that I can see the timer, but I’m also makes it more awkward for me to grab it when I put it on the stand. So, it’s less tempting for me to go on Instagram or Facebook or text someone while I’m doing so.

Cath Anne: [00:28:59] I hope that you guys enjoyed this session. We talked about how to set up your desk and workspace for effective studying. We talked about setting a timer and setting goals and breaks for yourself along the way that can maximize your productivity. We talked about Pomodoro Method and a couple of apps like Tide and Cold Turkey Writer that can help you to stop procrastinating and to get down to studying. I think next week, we’ll get back into a little bit more of the academic content. I wanted to do a couple of sessions on how to start your school year off. Next week I think we’ll delve a little heavier into either APA or MLA format and guidelines around that.

Cath Anne: [00:29:49] So you guys can let us know what you would like to see, then we can prepare for that and give you guys what you want. So, I’m thinking probably either MLA or APA format, we’ll do and that’s the kind of process. Bring any of your papers that you’re working on or any questions and join me here next week at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time for The Homework Help Show.

[00:30:19] I hope this was a benefit to you and if you do want to gain access to any of our other content, we are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube, Medium, SoundCloud, Anchor, iTunes Apple Podcast and Google Play Music. So, we are on all of those platforms. If you do want to access any of our other content you have a lot of really great stuff up. All you have to do is search Homework Help Global and we will come up. I hope to see you guys soon. I hope this is a benefit and I will talk to you soon. See you next week. Have a good week.