In that time, I have learned exam preparation does not come naturally to many future massage therapists. If you are feeling lost and lack knowing where to begin, or constantly asking yourself if you should start with Anatomy, Kinesiology, or Pathology- you are not alone. You may also feel you do not have time to study because of school, work, or family commitments. I know this uncertainty and pressure leads to feeling overwhelmed and usually procrastination.
This year I put out my MBLEx “Plan to Pass” as part of the Massage Exam Academy membership to help those struggling with the above problems. Each member is able to develop a plan so they know exactly where to begin, or if they truly struggle with a certain subject, and how to study when they are short on study time.
Today, I am going to talk about one particular study, or productivity, technique that works for lots of students and can be used as part of your plan to pass. It is called the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro technique is nothing new. Entrepreneur and author, Francesco Cirillo, developed the Pomodoro technique in the early 1980s. Cirillo tracked his work using a Pomodoro (which means tomato in English)-shaped kitchen timer. Today, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the top recommended productivity apps. You don’t actually need a tomato-shaped timer.
What Pomodoro Technique Really Is
The concept behind the Pomodoro Technique is that an overwhelming, large task or a series of tasks can be broken down into smaller workloads. These work intervals have short breaks in between each set in the cycle. This cycle helps fight procrastination and boost productivity.
Why It Works
The ultradian rhythm is the cornerstone of this technique. It’s more famous cousin the circadian rhythm basically refers to our sleep-wake cycle and occurs every 24 hours. While on the other hand, the ultradian rhythm refers to an individual’s basic rest-activity cycle within a day and occurs multiple times daily.
Studies have shown that in the ultradian rhythm, our bodies go through alternating periods of approximately 90 minutes of activity followed by approximately 20 minutes of rest. The Pomodoro technique maximizes this concept, focus work followed by short breaks between cycles.
Why Should I Try Pomodoros While Studying?
By allowing you to work intensely for 25 minutes, you can immerse yourself in a task with your full concentration, focus, and within your attention span. A short, five-minute break allows you to refresh and rest your mind, thereby maintaining your creativity and avoiding burnout. This strategy increases productivity levels by maintaining or even developing a more competent and efficient you. By starting with one Pomodoro cycle, you get to commit yourself to a task and would actually build momentum and improve your time management skills.
Do you find the topic of anatomy and physiology overwhelming? Lots of people do. Here is one way to break it down. First, split this MBLEx topic of Anatomy and Physiology into just anatomy, the structure of the body. Forget about the functions (physiology) for now. Next, pick a body system, like the digestive system. Work on naming the parts of the system (leave the functions out for now). This makes the topic of anatomy and physiology seem less overwhelming by just focusing on one topic.
Believe it or not, twenty minutes of studying is better than studying for zero minutes. Too often, we tell ourselves that twenty minutes here and there will not make a difference in our exam score. So why even start at all? Those are the very strong muscles, procrastination and resistance, talking. I am here to tell you that twenty-minute sessions do make a difference in your exam prep.
Encourage Healthy Habits
Being sedentary and sitting down for long cramming stretches may be detrimental to your health. Sitting and reading books or at your computer without breaks is sure to cause back pain, eye strain, and headaches. By getting up after every 25 minutes, your muscles and joints will be able to stretch and reduce tension.
How to Pomodoro
Step 1: Choose a Task
First, determine which task or tasks you would want to do or accomplish on that day. Whether it be an MBLEx topic, quiz, or business prep, it is your choice on which task you would want to do or which needs to be done first.
I am going to…
- fill out my kinesiology worksheet, specifically muscles that move the lower leg and then review the corresponding flashcards
- focus on reading about musculoskeletal pathologies
- take a quiz on the physiological benefits of massage and review missed questions
- complete a mini-MBLEx simulation
Step 2: Focus
Next, set your timer. Give your full attention and focus during the 25 minutes to the topic you chose. Avoid checking the timer and just focus on the task at hand. No emails, phone calls, or Facebook notifications. Shut off your phone notifications if they are a distraction.
Step 3: Take a Break
When the timer rings, put down your pencil! You have now successfully completed 25 minutes of focused study or work. Now, it’s time for a short five-minute reward. Get up and move! Grab a fresh cup of coffee, refill your tumbler, or give your dog/cat/kids some attention. This five-minute break should be a time of quick diversion to rest your mind to avoid burnout. This means you should avoid activities that require too much thinking. A quick break will replenish your energy levels, keep your mind fresh to maintain creativity, motivation, and focus.
Step 4: Begin Next Pomodoro
Now that you had your short reward, it is time to do another Pomodoro cycle. Continue to alternate 25 minutes of work with five minutes of rest until you reach four cycles. Then it is time for a longer break (approximately 15-30 minutes). Use this time to chat with a friend, grab a snack, take a walk, or engage in any activities that will replenish your energy levels.
Ready to Set the Timer?
There are a lot of productivity and study tools on the market. This is just one. As you study for the MBLEx, or any other exam, you may mix and match other ideas and techniques to find a strategy that works best for you. If Pomodoros work for you, then use them to efficiently and maximize your exam preparation efforts. Soon enough, you will be using the techniques for planning your massage business and career.
Our MBLEx, NYS, and Hawaii practice tests and mini MBLEx practice tests take less than 25 minutes. Over time, these Pomodoros can make the difference between seeing “Pass “or “Fail” on your exam report.
Set that timer and let’s study.