Review: Parus Pomodoro
Trying to remain productive is the enemy of many who work at a desk, even more so for freelancers who work at home. Trying to remain applied to a task at hand, amid all the inevitable distractions can be difficult. That’s why Parus Pomodoro caught my interest. It claims to help, by implementing a time management system devised by Francesco Cirillo. However, it requires a certain amount of discipline and honesty from you to use effectively. Is it worthwhile?
The idea of the Pomodoro Technique is to break down your working time into 25 minute units called “Pomodoro Time” – named after the type of Italian kitchen timer that Cirillo originally used. Once you complete a unit of time, you can take a 5 minute break, and then start your next unit of Pomodoro Time. When you complete four work and rest cycles, you can take a longer 15 to 30 minute break.
If you become interrupted during one of the work units, you either have to postpone the interruption (e.g. “can I call you back?”) or write-off your Pomodoro unit, deal with the distraction and start again. I can imagine it could get quite soul destroying if you have frequent interruptions though – you’d never get to your rest break!
Part way through a Pomodoro countdown.
The other benefit of this system is that it provides a standard way for you to record your work flow throughout a day and track how well you’re doing. It is quite easy to spend the day being really busy, and then not be quite sure what you really achieved by the end of the day! With the Pomodoro system, you can keep a log of what you’ve been working on and how many ‘Pomodoros’ it took to complete them.
Working at home via the Internet is a recipe for frequent distractions. I used Parus Pomodoro on my Nokia N8 while I wrote this review, and I had to keep resetting the timer after responding to instant messages, etc. Yes, there are ways to set a 'busy tone' on such things, but you can’t avoid responding to everything!
Well done - you've completed a Pomodoro Time!
The other issue with this type of time management is that it requires you to be quite exacting and honest about what you’re doing. While working with this system, I found myself asking, “How much of an interruption counts as an interruption?” For example, when reading and responding to instant messages all within the space of just a few seconds, I felt begrudged to reset my timer; but then, a Pomodoro is meant to be a solid 25 minute block of work. One might argue that 25 minutes is arbitrary, and that we should be able to scale the work and rest periods (proportionately) to suit our individual work flow.
The application under review here takes a fairly good run at implementing the Pomodoro system. The user interface has zero frills; there is simply a box to type in what you’re working on, a start button, and a text window to log what you’ve done. When you tap the start button a time pop-up appears with a 25 minute countdown.
Logging your progress, or lack of in my case.
If you’re interrupted, the countdown stops and the interruption is logged. Once you’re ready to resume your task, you can tap the start button to start again – which is what I had to do a few times while writing the last paragraph!
Once you complete a Pomodoro unit, the application will let you begin a 5 minute countdown for your rest period. Whenever a work or rest countdown reaches zero, a loud birdsong sound sample is played. It may well cause a raised eyebrow from anyone around you, but it’s a bit more peaceful than a piercing alarm chime! Fortunately, there are toolbar icons to mute the phone and toggle vibration. Hence, you can have a totally silent countdown, but then you would probably miss the finish!
Instructions are included.
The one thing that was missing from Parus Pomodoro was some sort of log export feature. I think that if you’re going to the lengths of having a prescribed time management system, then it only seems right that you collect your performance data to review later. It could also help you track your hours for invoicing employers and clients.
Parus Pomodoro is available for free in the Nokia Store and is being actively developed – you can follow the Dev Blog here.
I’m not yet sure if I can stick to this rigid type of time management, and I’m not even sure that it’s appropriate to my line of work, but I’m doing to give it a good try.
David Gilson, 6th April 2012.
Published by David Gilson at 10:00 UTC, April 11th