Procrastination: To delay or postpone action; To put off doing something.
So, you have your notes, your textbooks and any other material in front of you and you are ready to go. But what happens when you sit down to get some revision done? I know myself, certain things only really need to get done when you sit down to study. Even writing this blog caused me to tidy up the house, mend items that needed mending for years and I “just had to check Facebook one more time” before I finally sat down to put thoughts on the page. Procrastination can be one of the biggest roadblocks to you passing your exams. The thing is it may possibly be just a fear of being judged, or maybe a fear of failure or in some cases, a fear of success. Whatever it is, we need to ignore that terrible urge to put off what is in most cases, important to our future success.
Now, back to the exam revision. There is only so much time before the exam and you have a lot to get through before you can expect to pass. Time management is essential when carrying out any task, but when you have an excessive amount of material and a finite amount of time you need to have a plan… and this is the important bit, YOU NEED TO STICK TO THE PLAN!
More then half of you have already considered giving up because the task seems impossible. Not so! The PLAN is more than possible and once you get started, you will find that it is easier than you realise. Say you went to a fancy restaurant and you ordered a steak. It arrives and it is a huge18 ounces. I imagine you are drooling already. Are you going to try and shove the entire steak into you mouth and hope to chew it up and swallow without choking yourself to death? Or are you going to chop it up into reasonable bite size pieces, savouring each bite and enjoying your meal? This is what exam preparation is, you need to cut it down into bite size portions and let each morsel sink in; let yourself digest each little portion, so that the whole does not choke you.
What would you say if I said, “You know what, those bitesize portions can be broken down even further, making you studying, revision and essentially anything you do easier and more productive?”
Now, before you answer, I want a show of hands on how many people here have heard of The Pomodoro Technique? Are you using it and if not, there are many benefits to using it.
The technique works on 25-minute intensive study (or work) periods before taking a short break. The trick here is to not interrupt the 25 minutes blocks and to avoid any distractions while you are in the ‘zone’. I will discuss ways to deal with distraction later, but now The Pomodoro Technique:
‘The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed byFrancesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to breakdown work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.’ [Wikipedia]
There are countless books and websites that describe the technique in great detail,as well as https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique, the official site and can give you many ideas on its use. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, and was derived from the tomato shaped kitchen timer used by Francesco Cirillo when inventing the technique. There are numerous apps for android and IOS that are free (and some with in app purchasing) that work just as well as a timer, but for the purest, you might want the original tomato (or Pomodoro) timer.
The key here is to set the timer for 25 minutes and when the timer pings, make a checkmark on your page and take a 5-minute break. After 4 ticks, you can have a 20-30-minute break. The key is to have your studying set and be able to study and/or review for 25-minutes.
Wait a minute! But why would this work and more importantly, why would it work for me!
Before going further into the Pomodoro Technique, let’s consider the Piers Steel’s Temporal Motivation Theory.
Motivation = (Expectancy x Value) divided by (Impulsiveness x Delay)
[Steel Ph.D., Piers; The Procrastination Equation: How toStop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done. HarperCollins, 2010.]
· Expectancy = How successful we feel incompleting a task. As accountants and mathematicians, we know that the lower we feel about the completion of a task in this equation or the lower or ‘confidence’ is in completing the task, it will lower the Value.
· Value = simply put is ‘what do we expect from the task’ at hand. So essentially, will want to be confident that we will pass the exam and we need to ‘Value’ the outcome. Knowing the outcome will lead to employment, prosperity, etc.
· Impulsiveness and delay are very much entwined. Delay relates to the amount of time available to complete the task and impulsiveness relates threshold to delay. Another way of saying this is ‘how willing are you to put off something till tomorrow’
There are over riding factors in every task and there are reasons why some tasks are easier to cause procrastination while others just seem to get done. We are all different in our approach and we need to consider:
· Is the task difficult and the degree of difficulty? (Low expectancy)
· Is the task boring or not interesting to you?(Low Value)
· Is the deadline a long way away (a month or longer)? (High delay)
· What is your self-control like? Are you easily distracted? (High impulsiveness)
Can you see where this is going? This could lead to very low motivation and agreat chance of procrastination.
The fact is, procrastination is incredibly easy and what the Pomodoro technique does, is try to make procrastination more difficult by:
· Building better self-control, by focusing for short intense bursts. I say, short and intense, but this is relative. 25 minutes can be a long period of time, depending on the task and this is why I find that planning the 25 minutes periods can be very beneficial. It allows you to be more focused without feeling rushed.
· This leads right in the second point, your deadline! Well, for 25 minutes, your deadline starts at 25 minutes. It isn’t a race though and you shouldn’t allow yourself to watch the timer because that’s procrastination in itself.
· Point three, make it interesting for yourself. Ok, sometimes the subject matter you have to work through can be dry and unfortunately, it might even bore you. This is when 25 minutes will feel like an eternity… or will it? Make a game of it. It will sound cliché, but you can even mix up your 4, 25 minute blocks, surrounding your less favourable topics with ones you enjoy.
· The final point is difficulty. There will always be topics that are more difficult then others and this can demotivate you. We all tend to leave difficult tasks till the end and in my own experience, this can be a mistake. The more difficult a topic, the fresher you need to be. I would recommend a difficult or medium difficulty task to begin with in your plan. Your mind is fresh so leave a task that you are more comfortable until later on.
This is just a guideline and although the Pomodoro technique is structured within the 25-minute per block technique, you will need to play with it to find what works for you. Also, you will have to consider how many Pomodoro’s you need per study session. Not just that, but how many Pomodoro’s you can accomplish before you will be interrupted? Looking at the group of four, we need to consider, this is 2 hours of intensive study. It isn’t just intensive, but will be more effective and you’ll be able to recall the information much better in exam situation.
A final thought is when you are preparing you might want to consider using the Pomodoro technique when taking on mockpapers…… but only initially! Remember you must practice past papers under strict time pressure to condition yourself for the big day!
But as always, you have to find what works best for you!