Using Pomodoro technique to get things done

Much of what I get done during the day is self-motivated. I’ve found there are different tricks I can take advantage of to keep myself focused and productive.

One such trick is to take advantage of something called the Pomodoro Technique. The general idea is that you will be more productive if you have regular structured breaks in between regular structured work periods. In short: 25 min work and then 5 min break. Rinse repeat. Then after a few of these cycles a longer break. I don’t use a tomato shaped IRL egg timer as suggested, since… not to my taste. Instead I have a bash script that runs and periodically aims a growl notification at me to indicate whether its work or breaktime. Its not a perfect system, but I find it helpful.

Here’s what I did to get up and running:

  1. Chose a pomodoro timer. I liked
  2. cloned that git repo
  3. made sure I had ruby installed with ‘which ruby’. Not sure how it got there at this point. Maybe I installed it with homebrew sometime in the past? If you don’t have it, install it one way or another.
  4. installed growlnotifier.
      1. This required homebrew and a custom install command I found from this discussion (see 4.4 below), because if I tried to just download growlnotifier from growl downloads I had an error after installation probably because they only supply a growlnotifier download for growl 2+ and I have to use an earlier version because I’m still on snow leopard. I think if you’re on a current version of OSX its easier to install growlnotifier directly from the growl site.
      2. Since I couldn’t do that successfully, the command I used to install it was:
    $ brew install
    1. Since I already had a (failing) growlnotify from the attempts to download from the growl site, I had to delete (move) that first version of growlnotifier to a different directory and then call
    2. ‘$ brew link growlnotify’ as a separate command to finish setting things up
  5. Then I made a few minor changes to pomodoro.rb (that we downloaded earlier) so it would have a nice growl icon.
    1. Downloaded a tomato image. (Just google tomato, and choose something from Images)
    2. put it in the same directory
    3. Edited pomodoro.rb so that the growlnotify line became:
      notifier = 'growlnotify --image ~/path/to/git/pomodoro.rb/tomato_icon.jpeg -s -m '
  6. Added a shortcut to my .bash_profile
    ## pomodoro timer
    alias pmd='ruby ~/path/to/git/pomodoro.rb/pomodoro.rb'
  7. To use: from commandline type
    1. $ pmd
  8. To test with only a minute long pomodoro:
    1. $ pmd –time 1


Here’s what it (or rather a minute long test) looks like:

Pomodoro Growl screenshot

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