Friday, July 22, 2011

Focus Booster

I've been experimenting with Focus Booster over the past days, and wanted to share some of my thoughts on this.


Focus Booster is a simple software tool to use with the Pomodoro Technique . You can start a Pomodoro with this, it runs for 25 minutes on your desktop (while gradually changing color from green to red), rings a bell and then times a 5 minute break for you. After this break, you can start a new Pomodoro time slot. Focus Booster also keeps track of the amount of Pomodoros you've accomplished over the day.

Previously, I was using the stopwatch on my cell phone to see if I can concentrate for 20 to 45 minutes before changing tasks (I was nicknaming this the "egg timer trick", but now that I am continuously with my eyes glued to my computer screen, I thought I could try a little app for this.

Here are some of my observations:
- I like how it "forces" me to take breaks. I've noticed that I can work the entire morning with only a few breaks, but then I feel really empty and unable to work in the afternoon and evening. Taking little breaks has helped me to be able to work more productively throughout the entire day, without burning all my energy in the morning.
- Having an app on your screen makes it very visible. It challenges me to start racing against the clock in the last five minutes of a 25-minutes slot. It also tells me that after 5 minutes of browsing the internet, I need to get back to my calculations.
- Whenever another thought crosses my mind, I just write it down on a piece of paper and get back to it later. And this "later" doesn't feel so far away, as every chunk of time is only 25 minutes.
- This method feel intuitively right for me. I used to work in time slots of 20 minutes, as this used to be the amount of time that I was spending on my homework in secondary school. When I went to university, I simply felt I could not really concentrate deeply for longer than 20 minutes, so I started to divide my time in sets of 20 minutes each (trying to study one proof at a time, for example).

Even though I'm not really familiar with the original Pomodoro Technique, I've been easily able to implement this software tool into my regular way of working, and by doing so, found a way to optimize my "egg timer trick" method.

If you are interested in the Pomodoro Technique itself, and how you could implement it into your work and benefit from it, I recommend the following blog posts as well:
Easily Stop Procrastination in its Tracks and Become a Productivity Machine: One Tomato at a Time
Productivity help with Pomodoro

7 comments:

  1. I'm going to give this a try tomorrow. I had to drop to half time for my PhD as I became unwell with only 9 months to go. I ended up having to take 2 years off but am back now. I find it hard to concentrate on just one thing. I will get an idea in my mind and will drift off with it and I will finish the day with nothing really done. I will give this method a try and see how it goes.

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  2. Good luck with it... and with finishing up your PhD :)

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  3. Hey Eva. Just found your blog. Second time this week I've heard someone recommend Focus Booster so I just downloaded and will be giving it a try. Thanks for your post :-)

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  4. Hey Eva, thanks for linking to my post! It looks like a cool app I'll check it out. I've been using Pomodairo until now which also uses Adobe Air to run. I think they're more or less the same.

    I totally agree with you on the breaks. At the start you have to force yourself to take them. I think part of the power of the technique is that it gives you a lot of motivation to push through. This doesn't always last into the afternoon though as you point out.

    Do you take longer breaks after a certain number of Pomodoros? Like a 15 minute break after doing 4 or 5 pomodoros?

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  5. Hi Ben,

    I've been stepping away from the pomodoro technique recently, as I feel that it's not that suitable for writing (what I'm mostly working on now). It has been very useful in the stage of data analysis though - although the largest drawback of the method for me is that I sometimes get absorbed into something else during a break, and end up taking breaks as long as pomodoros; not your most productive way of working, that is.

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  6. Another cool Pomodoro app called Pomodairo also works fine.

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