Sophie Reacts to: Learning Strategies

If you scroll back by all of one blog post, you’ll find a post detailing my strategy for conquering my crippling work ethic (or lack of). At last, I present to you, dear reader, the conclusion to this trial: did the Pomodoro and Spaced Practice strategies work?

Well, yes and no.

Let me elaborate.

The Pomodoro Technique

This was mostly a success. As shown in the images below, on most days I succeeded in working using the Pomodoro technique. However, simply looking at the numbers with a pass/fail mentality fails to show the bigger picture.

Pomodoro technique success rate
Red = days I didn’t complete the required 75 min of work using the Pomodoro technique; Green = days I did do at least 75 minutes of work using the technique

In the Google Docs I used to record my daily failures and successes, I also wrote down the reasons why I was unable to follow through. Looking at my reasons for Pomodoro, there are two instances where I couldn’t utilize the technique because I was too tired, having spent the day out. For the rest, I was (unfortunately) sick. In both cases, it wasn’t that I forgot to use the Pomodoro timer, it’s that I didn’t do work at all. But best of all, the word “burnout” doesn’t even come up on the page.

Let me repeat that: my burnout is a thing of the past. Extinct. Decimated.

So, perhaps I should clarify. If I only look at the days where work was done, I have a 100% success rate of using the Pomodoro technique to do said work. I believe that this is a more accurate representation of my overall success, since on the “red” days I wouldn’t have done work anyways. Overall, I believe I was extremely successful in implementing this technique.

22473320_1685958744812258_1963683981_oI found that the critical move mentioned in the previous blog post helped a lot. That is, if I avoided my bed, then I would automatically go to my study. Just putting myself in that environment would heavily persuade me to do work. Additionally, another helpful feature was the “Statistics” option on my Pomodoro app, ClearFocus. It provided a gamification aspect that continuously encouraged me to use the Pomodoro technique to do my work. This is quite evident in the graph automatically generated by ClearFocus on the left. I was left quite upset by the two “dips” in the graph, and so resolved myself to work as much as I could each day. I ended up competing with myself towards the end (before I got sick, obviously), trying to see if I could work longer today than yesterday. Nothing particularly impeded my success – in fact, my friends teased me for being a bit too overzealous in my adherence to the Pomodoro technique.

It had an unexpectedly enormous impact on my procrastination as well, again due to the gamification feature mentioned above. Over the weekend, when I found myself with free time, I ended up searching for more work I could do so I could spend more hours working. The “spike” that lasted for two days occurred over the weekend, where I worked for 6 1/2 and 5 1/2 hours on Saturday and Sunday respectively. This was entirely due to the fact that I was desperate to set a new “high score” in terms of hours. Without the Pomodoro technique, I likely wouldn’t have had as much free time the following week. The reason I ended up working less the week after that spike, when compared to the week prior to the spike, is because I just couldn’t think of things I had to do. I’ve never experienced the dilemma of not having enough work until the Pomodoro technique came into my life – something I’m not sure I’m upset or thankful for.

Due to my overwhelming success, I’ve decided to continue with the Pomodoro technique. After all, ClearFocus has the option of saving my monthly statistics so I can track how much I work in one month versus another. Being a naturally competitive individual, I’ve decided to take advantage of this feature. In order to do so, I need to obviously continue with this strategy.

Of course, it isn’t all due to my innate competitiveness. I also love being able to visually see how productive I’ve been, and have thoroughly enjoyed the effects of the technique’s success.

Spaced Practice and Interleaving

Unfortunately, things aren’t all rainbows and sunshine in the land of Sophie’s learning strategies. The chart for the success rate of spaced practice is, quite frankly, sad.

spaced practice and interleaving
Again, red = not successful and green = successful

I feel a sense of shame just looking at it. Even ignoring the days where I couldn’t work due to tiredness/illness, there are still many where my reasons were “not motivated” or “forgot.”


In those cases, the only thing that impeded my success was myself. The motivational sticky notes I put on the wall only worked that first day, and all the other successes occurred due to willpower alone. I didn’t see a noticeable improvement in my learning or procrastination, although considering my success rate I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t do it enough or if it genuinely had no effect. The two math units I used this technique for were quite similar, so I thought I’d see an improvement in the second unit as I reviewed the first, but I didn’t. The homework didn’t get easier to do and my test scores were about the same for both units.

Despite that, I’ll continue with the strategy. It gave me considerable peace of mind on the days where I was successful, so I’m planning on adding sticky notes to my desk in a more visible location that targets that emotion specifically. I’m still very interested in the benefits spaced practice offers, which is another factor in  my decision.

In Conclusion

Overall, I’m not that disappointed in my results. I achieved astounding success in one, and less-than-astounding success in another. Averaged, that’s still an average level of success! I’m just glad I didn’t fail totally in either technique, especially since I might’ve overloaded myself with two changes at once. I’m hoping that now I’ve successfully integrated the Pomodoro technique into my life, spaced practice will come much easier.

There are a thousand quotes out there related to failure, but I’m partial to this one by Robert F. Kennedy:

Only those who dare to fail greatly will can ever achieve greatly


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