Brain Training to Beat Procrastination with the World’s Easiest Learning Technique | Barbara Oakley


The Pomodoro technique is probably one of
the most powerful techniques in all of learning. So I teach a course of learning how to learn
that’s actually the world’s largest massive open online course. We have something like two million people. And the Pomodoro technique is the most popular
technique; I hear from literally thousands of people. And I have to give credit to the creator,
who was Francesco Cirillo. He developed this technique in the early 1980s. And it’s so simple that really anybody can
do it. So all you have to do is turn off all distractions. So no little ringy-dingys on your cell phone
or anything like that; on your computer you want to turn off any kind of messages that
might arise. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and then just
focus as intently as you can for those 25 minutes. Now if you’re like me, you’ll start focusing
away and you’re working away, and then you look up at the timer and two minutes have
passed. Then my brain goes, “I’ve only done two
minutes? I can’t do another 23 minutes on this Pomodoro!” And I let the thought just go right on by,
and I return my focus to whatever I’m working on. And when that 25 minutes is up I relax a little
bit. I turn my attention to something else. Now I will admit that if I really get into
the flow of what I’m doing that I will continue sometimes. You might wonder why that 25 minutes is the
magic number, and the reality is we don’t really know. There’s not a lot of research on the Pomodoro
technique which is surprising because it’s so incredibly popular and people find it very
useful. But there’s an interesting tidbit related
to the Pomodoro technique, and that is that: when you even just think about something that
you don’t like very much it activates a portion of the brain that experiences pain. And so the brain naturally enough shifts its
attention to something else, anything else, like Facebook or Twitter or something like
that. And what you’ve just done is you’ve procrastinated. And what the Pomodoro technique does, when
you do it you’re setting that timer. You don’t want to sit there and think, “I
am going to finish this homework set” or “I’m going to work on this problem and
get it all finished.” You just want to think, “I’ve got 25 minutes
where I just have to work on something.” Don’t even think about what that something
is. What that does is it slips in under your brain’s
radar. It doesn’t activate so much that pain in
your brain; and then that pain in the brain, research has shown it lasts for 20 minutes. So if you work for 25 minutes you will suddenly
find yourself getting into the flow because you’ve gone past that painful period. So the Pomodoro technique is effective in
many different some very subtle ways and so I highly recommend it.

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