Recently, I’ve picked up my first smartphone and tweaked my work habits. I am now using a pomodoro timer to get myself to do things. The idea is to set a timer for 25 minutes, work on a task for this amount of time, and then break for 5 minutes. I find that there’s a lot of inertia when I sit down in front of the computer but not quite know what I should commit to working on. I feel like 25 minutes is a good unit of time where you can reasonably get something done, but not too much of a commitment that you can just re-evaluate at the end of that period of time and change your course.

I think the break serves a few purposes other than giving you the opportunity to take an actual break from work. It forces you to put a period at the end of the sentence you are writing, so to speak. If you have a point that you still feel is important to make, you can fast-forward the timer to start the next 25-minute interval so you can keep on working. This was what I ended up doing Tuesday morning before my lab presentation. I wanted to throw in a few introductory slides to illustrate some concepts and spent some pomodori to fix an example. I think after seeing the pomodori go by and my example still not finished, I knew that I had to make a decision to wrap it up and move on. It’s nice that there’s also a long 15 minute break is also available after a four-pomodoro run – this is probably the actual time you take a break, because 5 minutes really isn’t enough time to comfortably walk away and have a chat or anything.

In combination with the pomodoro timer, I use the bullet journal to log my progress. Though it’s an analog system, I find it useful to do it electronically, and I use tiddlywiki with a few useful plugins to do the job. You can check it out from my toolbox repository on github here.