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I wonder what science says about how to set learning time. Specificially I wonder about how to mix learning and free time. This is of course related to the attention span.

My rhythm looks the following, but I have never seen a source proofing it.

  1. Study/code/work for 45min
  2. Do a 5min break (get some fresh air)
  3. Work another 45min
  4. Get 10mins break
  5. Another 45min work
  6. 5min break
  7. 45min work
  8. at least 30min break
  9. Start again from 1

I know that people differ in their ability to stay focused, but there are physical limits as well.

I bet there are plenty of studies on work efficiencies, so I would be glad to hear about them.

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Not only people differ in their ability to stay focused, it also depends on time of day, subject of study, whether you like that subject or not. – THelper Feb 15 '13 at 15:20
@THelper: All that is true, everything is relative. But then again, I am sure there is research on that topic, because (work) psychology tries to examine even the relative things like love, sleep - and surely focus as well. That's what I am looking for. – mcbetz Feb 15 '13 at 15:29
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The book "How the Brain Learns", Sousa, discusses learning time vs. retention variability.

It cites ~40 minute chunks as being optimal, and further breaks those down into an initial 5-15 minute time with a 5-minute break at 20 minutes, following by another peak time near the end.

Some original studies can be found in an older paper, "The variation of memory with time for information appearing during a lecture", but it's from 1972. I'm hoping the fourth edition of "How the Brain Learns" will cite more recent studies, but most recent ones seem to hold relatively consistent to the earlier findings.

I found the book itself to be quite educational; I just got the fourth edition on Kindle but haven't read it yet–the second edition more or less defined how I schedule/time my pomodoros, which are slightly counter to traditional pomodoro times.

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Interesting. So, are the 40 minute chunks a better way of scheduling pomodoros? – Muz Feb 18 '13 at 0:35
@muz Personally, I believe do, especially for retention-oriented tasks, although I tend towards the book's "dual peak" approach. I've also found that 25 minutes chunks aren't long enough for me unless I'm doing something relatively trivial, which hasn't been the case lately :-\ I think the basic idea is sound, but I think tweaking is valuable. – Dave Newton Feb 18 '13 at 1:25

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