App review: Pomodoro techniques

Zara Baxter looks at apps that enable the time management technique Pomodoro

Pomodoro is a time management technique named after Italian tomato-shaped kitchen timers: the idea is that you work for 25 minutes on a single task, and then take a five minute break.

After four 'pomodoros' you get a 25 minute break. This neatly splits your working day into Pomodoro divisions, or you can use Pomodoro just when you need to power through a series of killer tasks.

I've downloaded about eight different Pomodoro apps and extensions in the last fortnight.

Some apps, like Pomodoro (free, iOS), are just simple 25-minute countdowns that deliver an alert when you're done. Others, like the excellent Strict Pomodoro Chrome extension, combines Pomodoro timing with self-control — it blocks all distracting websites until you're on a break.

If you're easily distracted, then I highly recommend it.

FocusCoach, pictured below, ($4.19, iOS) is yet another Pomodoro app, but its real strength is in the way that you can give yourself a to-do list of tasks and assign them multiple Pomodoro-blocks.

Think something will take you 50 minutes? Assign it two work units and you can do those two Pomodoro blocks one after the other, or interspersed with other tasks. You just touch a task to select it, and then press play to start the timer. The red tag indicates the current task. Get interrupted, or distract yourself? Hit pause so that FocusCoach can track the number of interrupted Pomodoros, too.

You can easily move tasks to another day, or down your to-do list and there's even a little paperclip symbol at the bottom where you can add in any unplanned tasks you end up needing to note.

You can alter the timing of your work and rest periods, so you can set it up to work ten minutes off, ten minutes on, or 40 minutes on, ten minutes off, if you need.

FocusCoach also tracks how many Pomodoros you complete each day, giving you a tally on the main page.

FocusCoach is flexible, simple and nicely presented. It's only available for the iPad, however.

Want something for Android? Try Pomodroido.

* Baxter is editor of PC World New Zealand.

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