Working with a timer

When I’m really, really busy and start to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I have yet to do, I resort to the Pomodoro Tomato technique. In fact, I swear by it.

I’ve covered this before, but for those who don’t know what the Pomodoro technique is, it’s a kitchen timer technique that you set for 4 blocks of 25-minute bursts interspersed with 3 x 5-minute bursts and 1 x 15-minute burst (or 10 minutes).

For each 25-minute burst, you work. You shut out all distractions, including the phone, and work on whatever it is you’re working on. Then, you have a break for 5 minutes, whereby you get up, walk around, fetch a drink of water, nip to the loo. Whatever you do, you’re not really supposed to surf the internet or play a computer game. Save that for the 4th break, which is 15 minutes.

Yesterday, I was working away with my chosen Pomodoro-type timer ticking away on my desktop (I was editing longhand), when suddenly it froze. And it crashed my pc. It was Tomato Time. I couldn’t get it to work at all, and when I rebooted and looked for it online to reinstall or update, it had vanished! Poof! Gone.

There are a few fortunates coming up here … Fortunately, I have a backup online version that I can use anywhere, Tomato Timer.  Fortunately, I have another on my phone that I love, Clockwork Tomato. (But check that first on your own phone’s play-store/shop/whatever it’s called on your phone. The link I’ve used takes you to a download site that might not be safe.) And fortunately, I had a little time and was able to research some alternatives.

As I was still busy yesterday, I went to the store for my pc – Lenovo – and I went to the Microsoft store. (No links for these as they go directly to the stores from my pc.) I downloaded several free versions, and the two I ended up with were Zomora Time and Visual Timers, both from the Microsoft store.

Then I used them as I worked to try them out.

Zomora Time is a productivity app for Italians who needa zom mora time (geddit? – say it out loud), and I liked it. It did what I needed it to. I could have the 25-minute bursts and a short break and a long break … and I think I could go in and change the settings if I wanted to. But I couldn’t pause it.

Now then, I know the idea is that you shut out all distractions, including the phone. But there are times when you DO have to down tools and attend to something – such as the cat about to be sick all over the carpet, or the delivery driver who gives you less than a nano-second to open the door or s/he’s taking your parcel back to the depot, or a phone call you’ve been waiting for, or a hundred other things.

So then I looked at Visual Timers. It didn’t look great and I didn’t particularly like the images they used … but there are 5 different default timers that you can edit to suit – and you can change the pictures.

My first timer is “Pomodoro Time”, and there’s another version of the above cartoon tomato illustrating that (which, by the way is free to use – follow the link in the picture). And it runs for 25 minutes.

My second timer is “short break”. There’s a cartoon of a female sitting at a desk drinking coffee for that one. And it runs for 5 minutes.

My third timer is “long break”. I have a cartoon of a fat cat having a snooze in an armchair for that one. And it runs for 15 minutes.

And my fourth timer is “dinner time”. There’s a cartoon of a charwoman or tea lady carrying a food-laden tray for that one, and it runs for 59 minutes. (I couldn’t get it to run for an hour – perhaps I just haven’t found that one yet.)

There’s even a spare, that I haven’t had occasion to use yet. The default is “computer” and it’s set for 1 minute.

Zomora Time and Visual Timers are both free, both run in the background, both have alarms you can change that sound anyway, regardless of whether you have the app displaying or are working on something else, and both can be added to your start menu and started from there, or added to your task bar.

Zomora Time doesn’t have the pause function (or I haven’t found it yet), and it’s not as fun to look at as Visual Timers. Zomora Time does have a history facility (but I didn’t get that working during the short time I used it), but it doesn’t have any ads. Visual Timers doesn’t have the history function (or I just haven’t found it yet) and you can pay to have the ads removed from the free version.

This is how I focus and get work shifted … eventually. What do you use?

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