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Why 25 is the magic number

15 January 2019

When you’re seriously up against the clock, with coursework deadlines or exams lurking menacingly on the not-too-distant horizon, it’s essential to use every moment of revision time wisely. Brand Financial Training suggests  a technique that can help you to maintain focus.

This post was originally published on the Brand Financial Training Blog at and has been reproduced here with their permission.  All content © Brand Financial Training.    

So how should you maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the precious hours of revision that you manage to carve out for yourself? Well, one way is to maintain absolute focus while you are studying, to ensure you absorb and retain as much information as possible. Not quite as easy as it sounds though, is it?

Don’t get in a stew over revision

That’s where the humble tomato might just come to your rescue – or, to be more precise, the humble tomato timer. Back in the early 1990s, when author and developer Francesco Cirillo was a student struggling to maintain his focus while revising for exams, he came up with an innovative way of stopping his mind from wandering.

He experimented with a tomato timer, and discovered by trial and error that if he reduced the length of time he attempted to revise to a period of 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break, then did another 25 minutes, his concentration during the 25-minute periods improved.

He called the technique he had devised the Pomodoro technique, naming it after the Italian word for tomato.

It’s essential to use every moment of revision time wisely. Here’s a technique that helps you to maintain focus.

Make your study time fruitful

If you’d like to try the Pomodoro technique for yourself, help is at hand in the form of a website called tomato-timer.com. Here a simple stopwatch mechanism allows you to set the timer for 25 minutes, after which time it will beep to indicate you can stop focusing; you also have the option to set a five-minute break.

So if you find your study focus is constantly interrupted by random thoughts about phone calls you need to make, emails that need to be written etc, set the tomato timer and get to work. But keep a piece of scrap paper or a notebook beside you, so if you suddenly think “Ooh, I need to ring the plumber” or “I must reply to that email from Jane”, you can simply scribble the word “plumber” or “Jane” on the piece of paper and return immediately to the task at hand.

Once the beeper goes off to herald the end of each ‘Pomodoro’, you can make that pressing phone call or write that email during your five-minute break – before resetting the timer for another 25 minutes of honest toil. Many successful people swear by this method, so it’s worth giving it a try to see if it works for you.

Over time, you’ll develop a good instinct for how long a Pomodoro feels, and you’ll then be able to start estimating how many Pomodoros each topic or section of your revision is likely to take, e.g. “I’ll need four Pomodoros to cover topic X and six Pomodoros to cover topic Y.” That will make planning your revision schedule so much easier.

Why not try it out now? After all, time and…tomatoes wait for no one!

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