The first and most essential step in the Pomodoro Technique® is having something to track your pomodoros (25 minute increments).
Many people use traditional kitchen tomato timers, and the official Pomodoro Technique® website sells a tomato timer with a max time of 25 minutes, which is fun for both its practicality and its novelty. Despite being a big Evernote user and loving to minimize paperwork, there is something nice about a tangible thing that you can have sitting on your desk, that ticks (which may or may not be annoying), and that buzzes when it’s done. It’s the same reason that I prefer to read print books instead of e-books. Seeing my reading progress as my bookmark makes its way through the pages is very satisfying.
I did some research on available timers, including the Pomodoro Technique® brand name one and traditional tomato kitchen timers. The first thing I realized is that the “time’s up!” buzzing noise that these make will be too loud for a professional application. Though I think the Pomodoro Technique® will be great in helping me manage my personal creative projects, I mainly was inspired to try the Pomodoro Technique® due to challenges managing time and projects at work. I can’t have a kitchen timer buzzing at my desk.
So, I began looking into alternatives. My husband Jeremy suggested that maybe I could use an hourglass instead. I’m not too pleased with the options there, either. For one, it’s hard to find an hourglass timed for 25 minutes. I found exactly two. The first one is this big industrial safety hourglass with neon orange plastic encasements at the top and bottom. I honestly don’t know who uses this thing, but it’s an eyesore. The second one is a designer hourglass with “micro beads that make a soothing white noise.” I was tempted, but reviews say they aren’t that accurate, being either 30 seconds over or under the indicated 25 minute time. This would create problems for me by having a timer that isn’t to the exact minute.
In addition to that, the lack of precision in time tracking on an hourglass in general would irk me. Do I have 3 minutes left or 5 minutes? That matters.
So, given that I’ve exhausted those options, I’ve decided to turn to desktop applications. I am purposefully avoiding discussing iPhone apps because my phone is an easy distractor for me. For me to be successful at this, I need something that won’t cause me to accidentally notice that I have a text message.
I found three applications that I think will do the trick. I will need to try them out to determine which will be right for me. For now, I will list them here in order of (expected) preference.
- Focus Booster. This is a fairly robust software which is web-based, and also available for Windows and Mac desktop. It includes a pomodoro timer, time tracking, and reporting features. These features would allow me to label each Pomodoro and then be able to look back over a given day or week and see what I accomplished during that time. This could help me track work I’ve completed to communicate progress with higher-ups, and more importantly, it could allow me to review my working habits. I could identify trends that aren’t working so well, and adjust. The only downside to this app is that it will cost me $4.99 a month ($54.89 a year) if I want unlimited pomodoros. While this is a little inconvenient, I’m not against paying for a product that brings real value to my life. They have a free version that I can try to get a feel for if I would like to take the plunge.
- PomoDone App. PomoDone is not as robust as Focus Booster, but it does have some interesting features that make it worthwhile for me to try out. Firstly, it integrates nicely with a wide array of task management services, including Evernote, which I rely on at work to organize my thoughts and miscellaneous documents. It also integrates with Asana, which is my to-do list program of choice. With PomoDone, I would be able to upload my current tasks from Asana into PomoDone. In theory, this means less describing tasks, and more doing tasks. PomoDone also offers a browser plug-in, which could be an unexpectedly powerful feature depending on my work patterns and needs. My main question with PomoDone is what post-task features are available. If completing an Asana task in PomoDone just results in the Asana task checkbox being checked, then PomoDone wouldn’t be any more valuable than any desktop timer. It would just add an unneeded layer of complexity to the apps I already use. The website doesn’t give much more detail, so I’m going to have to try this one to explore these features.
Tomighty. This is a simple desktop timer for both Windows and Mac. There are plenty of these out there, but what I particularly like about this one is that it integrates into the menu bar on a Mac and into the task bar on a Windows computer. It’s very discreet, and it does it’s job – it tracks time. It has pre-set modes for Pomodoro (25 minutes), short break (5 minutes), and long break (15 minutes) which you can edit if you choose. You also can choose when you hear a buzzing noise and when you hear a ticking noise. The simplicity and utility of this tool might win out over the complexity of the others.
I’m using Tomighty right now as I finish editing this article – my first Pomodoro! What I can say so far is that Tomighty is not going to work for my needs, hence me crossing it out above. The ticking noise drives me absolutely bonkers. It induces an unhealthy, stressful sense of urgency and panic that saps up my concentration. This tells me that a physical timer (which I was considering getting to use just at home) would not be the right choice for me.
Tomighty offers an option to silence the ticking noise during a Pomodoro and still keep the buzzing “time’s up!” noise, but that option is only available before you start your Pomodoro. I started a Pomodoro, realized the ticking noise was unbearable, went into preferences, and tried to stop it – and it won’t stop! Not wanting to start my Pomodoro over, I had to mute my computer to not be distracted by it.
The other drawback of Tomighty is that it doesn’t offer the option to see the time counting down in the task bar, meaning that I have to open a drop down menu to see it, which isn’t very convenient as it takes me away from the task at hand.
Given this, I’ve decided that Tomighty is not the right app for me. Next time, I’ll try Pomodoro Timer. It offers a countdown in the task bar, and tracks the number of Pomodoros completed over the course of a day.
More next time! Until then, stay productive!