Tips for Teens: Can a Tomato Help You Get Your Homework Done?


You know that you need to stay focused when you are doing your homework or studying for a test, but sometimes it just seems impossible. If you’re like most teens with ADHD, you always have intentions but no matter how hard you try you always seem to get distracted. Usually, the longer you work the more easily distracted you become! Why? Because our brains are not designed to focus on a single task for hours at a time, even when ADHD isn’t part of the picture. Add ADHD into the mix and trying to focus for long stretches become truly overwhelming. Research shows that the average amount of homework assigned to high school students is 3 hours a night. So, how can you possibly complete that much work if your brain can’t seem to focus for a 3-hour stretch? Well, a tomato may be able to help!

When he was in college, entrepreneur and author Francesco Cirillo realized that he could accomplish much more work in short spurts of time than in longer study sessions. He used a timer shaped like a tomato to track his time, and ultimately created a system called The Pomodoro Technique to help him get his work done efficiently (“pomodoro” means tomato in Italian). The Pomodoro Technique is simple. It emphasizes short bursts of work time, and it allows you to build in rewards for your hard work and effort – all features that make it an excellent fit for anyone with ADHD. So, how does it work?

  1. Break your homework down into 25 minute segments. Start by listing all of the assignments that you need to complete. For longer assignments, create a list of smaller chunks that can be completed in 25 minutes or less.
  2. Prioritize your assignments. Select the assignment, or portion of the assignment, that you would like to complete first.
  3. Set your timer for 25 minutes and get to work. Commit to working on the assignment until the timer goes off. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly 25 minutes goes by!
  4. When the timer goes off, review your work. When the timer rings look over the work you’ve done. Did you meet your goal?
  5. Take a 5-minute break. At this point your brain will need a break. Take 5 minutes to do something unrelated to homework. Get up and stretch, get something to eat or drink, shoot hoops with a Nerf ball in your room, play with your dog. Do something active and try to avoid anything that will cause you to lose track of time (which is probably just about anything on your phone or computer!).
  6. After 5 minutes, repeat the cycle. Work for another 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break.
  7. Reward yourself. After 4 successful 25-minute work cycles, reward yourself with a longer 20- or 30-minute break. Do something fun during this break! Just remember to keep track of time (set your timer!) and get back to work after 20 or 30 minutes have passed.

When you break your homework down into 25-minute segments you’ll find yourself more focused and more relaxed. You may even find that you finish your work faster, so you spend less time on homework and more time on the things you enjoy!



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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