The PreMed App’s “Focus” feature has taken the most proven productivity techniques and wrapped them into one simple yet powerful study tool. By combining an easy-to-use pomodoro timer with a fully-customizable task management tool, you will undoubtedly accomplish more, study without getting distracted or fatigued, and ultimately have more free time in your day!

App Tip: Don’t forget to utilize Focus on the mobile app! 

Pomodoro Technique

(Ever wonder how medical students can study for 10+ hours per day?)
The pomodoro technique is a productivity method that aims to provide a user with maximum, deliberate focus while keeping the user fresh to avoid burnout or unproductive and distracted studying. It accomplishes this through dedicated work or focus time periods and by having scheduled short and long breaks in between.

When the technique was first developed and studied in 1980, the default times were as follows:

• Focus Round Time – 25 minutes
• Short Break Time – 3-5 minutes
• Long Break Time – 15-20 minutes
• Number of “Focus Rounds” completed before “Long Break” – 4 Rounds

So an example work period would look something like this:

Focused Work (1) – 25 min.
Short Break – 5 min.
Focused Work (2) – 25 min.
Short Break – 5 min.
Focused Work (3) – 25 min.
Short Break – 5 min.
Focused Work (4) – 25 min.
Long Break – 20 min.

Your settings should be unique to you and your personalized study strategies. 

Although you should try the recommended settings listed above for the first time, you may eventually adjust the settings accordingly based on your energy, tasks, and time constraints. For instance, in the morning when I have the most energy and focus, I like setting my focus rounds to 40 minutes so that I can get more immersed in a tougher subject I am trying to tackle. Then by the end of the day when my willpower and motivation has waned, I will return the rounds back to 25 minutes, because everyone can focus for at least 25 minutes at a time, right?

I also recommend that you dedicate time every day to reflect on how much you actually accomplished and exactly how you spent your time. If you found yourself getting more distracted on longer rounds, it might be time to reduce those rounds a little or add more break time in order to enhance focus.

Add a Target

First, simply click in the text box and start typing. Then click the “+” sign or press “enter on the keyboard.  To adjust rounds, click the arrows up or down until you have the correct number of rounds allocated to that specific target.

Prioritize Your Targets

After you have finished typing your daily targets and choosing their rounds, you should review the priority of each target.  Adjust your list so that they are in order of priority, with your top priority target being #1.  To do this, you can drag your targets up and down to place them in a specified order.

Customize Your Timer Settings

Although we recommended you start by using the default settings, you will learn how to adjust the settings to match your energy, tasks, and time constraints.  Adjusting the settings is relatively straightforward.  Simply type or use the arrows to select the number you want for each element in the timer.

Start Your Timer

Great! You have put in your targets for today, prioritized your list, and customized your timer’s settings.  Now there is just one more step, start your timer and get to work!  If you click on the play button on the timer itself, your highest priority target with rounds still needing to be completed will be selected and your timer will start.  Otherwise, you can also start the timer on any specific target by clicking the play button next to that target.  If you close out of a work period early, you will lose the time you have already worked and timer will reset. This will potentially result in more motivation to stay focused and complete the round! Good luck!

Example Focus Scenarios

Imagine you have the MCAT scheduled in 1 week and you’ve got an amazing study plan already built in Focus, all you have to do is sit down and use it.  Clicking on the side menu, then the Focus icon and now you’re in the Focus interface.  As you can see, you have a busy schedule starting with reading a chapter of Anatomy.  Ugh.  No thanks.  Instead, let’s work on some of those volunteering applications that are also on our schedule.  By dragging the “Read a chapter of Anatomy” target down in the list, the “Volunteering Applications” automatically rises to the top.  Perfect.  Now let’s get this started.  Click the play icon on the left of the target and get to work!  The timer starts and you see the timer start counting down.  This is how much time you have left until your break.  Since these volunteering applications are pretty easy, this probably won’t require more than one Focus round.  3…2….1 Time!  Alright!  You earned a break!  Go do anything you want, because in 5 minutes you need to start making those “Organic Chemistry Flashcards”!

A pre-made study session is easy to use, but you need to learn how to build one of those sessions.  Let’s start with the basics.  Adding a Focus target is the core functionality of the Focus feature.  This represents what you want to accomplish.  When creating the target, there are numerous parameters to add or modify.  These include the title, numbers of rounds and timer settings.  Modifying each one of those settings will help customize the app to your tailored studying methodology.  Let’s explore it through a vignette.

Advanced Vignette:

Alright, you’ve got a busy night tonight.  There’s a quiz on cranial nerves in Anatomy class tomorrow and your best friend is going out to dinner to celebrate the last night before their semester abroad starts.  You need to really Focus and read through that Anatomy chapter quickly, but also be able to do well on that quiz tomorrow.  Time to create a new Focus target!  Let’s say it is “Reading an Anatomy Chapter”.  Click on the “Add Target” button and type in “Reading an Anatomy Chapter”.  Now we need to choose how many rounds this will take.  Let’s say you have 10 pages to read and you know you start day dreaming after 2 pages of staring at cranial nerves.  That means five rounds will probably be a great place to start.  After increasing the rounds to 5, click “Add”.  Boom!  You’ve set your first target!  You can see it pop up on your list of Focus Targets at the top of the screen.

            I know, I know, it doesn’t take you 40 minutes to read two pages, so let’s fix that!  Click on the “Timer Settings” button at the bottom of the screen and move that timer down to 10 minutes.  While you’re there, let’s tweak those breaks.  The short breaks are breaks between every Focus round (four rounds = 3 breaks).  The long breaks can be added after a certain number of rounds.  Let’s say you want to take 2 minute breaks between each round, but want a 5 minute break in the middle.  No problem.  Set your short breaks to 2 minutes.  Then adjust the long break to 5 minutes.  Now set the “After Rounds” number to 3.  So after reading six pages of Anatomy, you’ll get a 5 minute break.  After each two pages read, you get a 2 minute break.  Now all that’s left is to click done.  You are now an expert in the Focus feature and cranial nerves, but most importantly on time for your dinner out!

We hope this has been a useful intro into using the Focus feature of the PreMed App.  The Focus feature is a an easy-to-use pomodoro timer with a fully-customizable task management tool that helps you study without getting distracted or fatigued, allowing you to finally take control of your time.  Using it will not only help you cruise through Medical School, but will help you build a strong foundation in your pre-med years.  Well, it was a pleasure getting a chance to walk you through this feature, but my Focus timer is blaring at me right now.  Ah, five-minute break, just enough time to watch one Scrubs episode at four times speed!

Further Reading on the Pomodoro Technique