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Learn to learn: beating procrastination

Getting pupils to use the Pomodoro technique can boost learning

Procrastination

We can all be guilty of procrastination: postponing what we should be doing and, instead, doing something less important.

It turns out that when students even just think about something they don’t like, it can cause a pain in the insular cortex, the “pain-generating” part of the brain.

The result? Students turn their thoughts to something different and it makes the pain go away. But this also means they’ve just procrastinated. Which means learning is not getting done. 

Watch this short video before you continue reading. 

 

If students make a habit of procrastinating in their studies, learning becomes more difficult. It’s more stressful because you have less time to review what you need.


This article is part of a series by Professor Barbara Oakley called Learning How To Learn (L2L). A list of all the chapters will be available at this link from 16 April.


One of the most effective ways to handle procrastination is to use the Pomodoro technique.

To do a Pomodoro:

  1. Remove all distractions – no mobile phone beeps or pop-ups on your computer.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Focus as intently as possible for those 25 minutes.
  4. Have a reward!

It’s perfectly normal for distracting thoughts to arise while students are trying to focus during a Pomodoro. When distracting thoughts arise, students want to be sure to simply return their thoughts to what they are trying to focus on.

Why is the Pomodoro technique important?

Procrastination is one of students’ most pressing challenges – the Pomodoro technique gives an excellent tool for tackling it.

Perhaps as importantly, today’s students often don’t know how to concentrate. Social media is designed to be addictive, which means kids can develop a compulsion to check their phone constantly.

The Pomodoro Technique is perfect for teaching students to inhibit their desire for compulsive phone checking. It helps them learn to maintain their focus and avoid distraction when necessary.

Finally, the reward at the end of the Pomodoro reminds students that all learning doesn’t take place during periods of focus.

The diffuse reward period also helps with learning, as we found out in chapter one

This article is part of a series by Professor Barbara Oakley called Learning How To Learn (L2L). A list of all the chapters will be available at this link from 16 April.

Notes by Professor Barbara Oakley and ESIC Business and Marketing School. Videos reproduced with kind permission of the Arizona State University and Professor Barbara Oakley.

For more information, see Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens.

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