The transition to hybrid learning has been tough on many people, and I am definitely not an exception. Having to study at home in an environment that is full of distractions has crushed my motivation to write notes and review course material during my time outside of classes. Instead of my usual study sessions in the library, I now find myself doing everything from watching the latest Netflix shows to baking cookies in order to avoid schoolwork.
Usually, to help improve my study habits, I have used the Pomodoro technique to break down study sessions into more manageable periods with lots of breaks. We have a blog post about this technique that you can check out here. However, I have found that right as soon as I am really understanding a concept or about to solve a tricky question, the Pomodoro timer signaling that I need to take a break interrupts me and causes me to lose a lot of my concentration. So, in my search for a new technique that would help me study more productively without interruptions, I came across the Flowtime technique. I tried it out for two weeks and wanted to share my experience and personal insights into the pros and cons of the technique.
Here is a quick rundown of the Flowtime technique:
- Choose a single task to work on. This could be an assignment, reading or anything else that you need to get done.
- Write down what time you start the task. You can use a spreadsheet, like the one I made pictured here, or you can use a piece of paper.
- Keep working until you feel like you need to stop and take a break.
- Write down what time you stopped the task.
- See how long you should take a break for depending on how long you worked. You can use a breaktime legend like the one I made, pictured here, or you can vary the length of your breaks depending on your preferences.
During my time trying out this technique, there were some definite benefits to my study habits. I was able to keep focused on one task for much longer periods before I would take breaks which allowed me to get through much more course material in a shorter amount of time. I found myself able to develop ideas and learn concepts better without having a timer interrupt my study periods. A good strategy is to break down your goals for each study period into smaller goals so, rather than saying “Finish Unit 1”, you should break this down into “Finish reading for Unit 1” and “Work on questions from Unit 1”. Having specified lengths for breaks also provided me with a good incentive to start studying again but I also learned that setting a timer is a must for breaks.
“I was able to keep focused on one task for much longer periods”
This leads into some of the problems I had with Flowtime like, when I didn’t use a timer for my break periods, I found myself falling into the old habit of saying “Well, I can just take 5 more minutes” and procrastinating even more. This technique also worked better when I had large periods with no commitments, like classes, to go to. It was hard to not be constantly taken out of the flow of my work when I was checking to make sure I wouldn’t miss a class that happened in an hour. For tasks that I was already having trouble staying motivated to complete, this technique did not really work. I would study for shorter periods before getting distracted or taking a break, which caused me to get less done overall. Finally, as I mentioned previously, it is very important to stick to designated break times! I kept myself on track by having multiple reminders when my break was over like setting up loud timers on both my phone and laptop.
If you are looking for a new study technique you should try this out! It will help you manage your time on tasks where you find yourself getting caught up in the flow of your work. If you have a hard time getting motivated to study and you have lots of free time during your day, the Flowtime technique may work well for you. If you have more classes and other commitments, then I would suggest checking out the Pomodoro technique for more structured time management and you can check out our Time Management Toolkit for more time planning tips.
Want to try out the Flowtime technique for yourself? Check out the Microsoft Excel template linked below to get started!
Happy studying and good luck!
Microsoft Excel Template – download here!