Productivity for Nerds

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[Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons]

The lazy days of summer are gone, and it never more clear than living in a city like Montréal where a few snowflakes have already raided the city. It is the time that the young folks finally get to showcase their suffocatingly warm back-to-school clothes that were eagerly bought in August. For the workforce, it means everyone is back from vacation and you are already planning for your next one. (However, for the construction workers of Québec, it means you already enjoyed your vacation back in August during the time the rest of the country’s construction workers are scheduled for their seasonal work. This paradox requires a completely separate discussion.)

As for me, I am deep in the books as per usual, and trying to be better at time managing and multitasking than last term month week. One of my main issues is that I always have too many things on my to-do list, and am continuously distracted by my need to check my newsfeed. And when I am trying to get into the study groove, I can feel overwhelmed by all the tugs that come with the various facets of my life, whether it is that of a social nature or the home chore category.

Because I am a nerd of data, I thought about how I would like to track my productivity hours to help me visually see my accomplishments and make me active in pursuing efficiency. So I searched the iTunes App Store on my iPhone for the words “productivity” and “timer” and came up with several Pomodoro apps. This was the first time I heard about the Pomodoro Technique in its name, though I had heard about this method in the past. Created in the decade where frizzy perms were once considered a good idea (aka 1980’s), Francesco Cirillo developed a method of managing work efficiency with twenty-five minute work intervals and frequent breaks (each set being one “Pomodoro”). Each break is a five minute block, with a longer break after the fourth work interval. The idea is to create sustained periods of focus and rest, and the technique is believed to improve learning. Cirillo named the method after the tomato (“pomodoro” in Italian), as his timer was shaped like the produce.

The productivity app is available in various forms in the iTunes App Store, and after a quick rundown of the different availabilities I decided on the Promodoro for an investment price of $0.99. I admit this is the first app I actually bought as I had yet to justify my purchasing apps when so many great, free ones are available. But I will report that this is the best $0.99 I have sunk a Canadian dollar into as it has been almost as important as coffee in achieving study success.

The Promodoro has been excellent in various, including unexpected, ways. One, by breaking up my study sessions into exclusive blocks, I feel less anxious about everything else on my to-do list as I have compartmentalized the times of study and the times of non-study tasks. Second, the app tracks the time devoted to each focus and break periods so that I can visualize the evidence of my productivity hours. Third, the app also records the usage day streaks, lists the average Pomodoro sessions per day, and the maximum number of sessions achieved so that I can eye on beating it for personal nerd rights.

My only complaint about this app is that it does not graph the daily sessions on a chart. A part of me wants to set up an Excel spreadsheet so that I can have colourful bars and graphs devoted to my study hours, but then I would be letting the extreme tendencies in me defy logic and efficiency. Now someone needs to make an app for that.

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