Michelle Dahl

Michelle Dahl

The two common challenges for college students in managing their schoolwork are the feelings of being overwhelmed and the tendency to procrastinate. In fact, that overwhelmed feeling is often the reason why students procrastinate to begin with. Just thinking about the tasks that they need to tackle can generate stress and anxiety. These feelings sometimes make the student want to avoid the work altogether or, at the very least, make it hard to focus while trying to study or complete assignments.


Sound familiar? It’s worth it to try The Pomodoro Technique, which is a simple approach to time and task management.


The Pomodoro Technique was created by a college student, Francisco Cirillo, when he was having trouble studying for a big exam. While struggling to focus one day, he decided to set a timer for a small amount of time, hoping that if he could commit to focusing for just a few minutes, he might get into the studying mindset. The timer that Cirillo had on hand was a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato–pomodoro in Italian–and that is how the method got its name. 


Learn more about managing your time at my upcoming workshop with Lafayette Smith from Counseling Services: Time Management for College Students, Tuesday, March 22, 2 - 3 p.m. in person at the New Brunswick Center, 140 New Street, New Brunswick.



To try this method, follow these simple steps:


"Pomodoro" clock illustration
  1. Create a task list. Write down everything that you need to complete. Group small tasks together. For complex tasks, try to break them down into smaller components. For example, instead of listing “study for statistics exam” think about the individual tasks that it involves and list those instead. That might look more like “review unit quizzes to identify what I got wrong, review unit notes, do practice problems provided by the instructor.”

  2. Decide how long your focus time, or “pomodoro” will be. 25 minutes is often recommended, but you can experiment to see what interval works best for you.

  3. Put your phone on “do not disturb” and commit to doing nothing other than the items on your task list during your pomodoro.

  4. Set your timer for the amount of time you’ve chosen and get to working on your first task.  Don’t stop working until your pomodoro comes to an end.

  5. When your timer rings, take a moment to make a note of what you have completed. Recording what you’ve achieved gives a sense of satisfaction, and also allows you to see how long it took to accomplish each task. The next time you are planning out your study time, you’ll have a realistic idea about how long similar tasks will take.

  6. Take a five minute break. You can answer texts, check social media, take a quick walk, have a snack, whatever you like. After five minutes, set the timer for another pomodoro and get back to work.

  7. Once you’ve completed four pomodoros, take a slightly longer break of 10 or 15 minutes.


This simple method can be helpful and effective. The hardest part is making the commitment to try it and stick to your pomodoro intervals. If you give it a try, please email me at mdahl@middlesexcc.edu and let me know how it goes!

To reach Michelle or another New Brunswick Center Academic Advisor, visit: https://www.middlesexcc.edu/new-brunswick-center/advising/.

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