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Tracking Time with a Ticking Egg

February 19, 2013

A few weeks ago, my steadily increasing workload and my evermore daunting To Read stack of books and reports made me realize that I should find a way to be more productive. This realization coincided with my discovery of Daniel Odio’s blog, which I first found through his quest to learn to take insanely great pictures, and his very cool post about the equipment he uses to record events. Daniel’s contagious zeal for personal productivity made me think about how I spend my time. (Daniel is also commendably evangelistic about using the internet to share what we know and how we do things, and he practices what he preaches.)

Daniel’s post explaining how he plays his computer like an instrument and his lifehacker tips for hyper efficiency made me aware that I could get more done each day if I use tools that boost my productivity.

Sebastian Marshall’s many posts and videos about time tracking showed me how he tracks his time each day, but I found Sebastian’s system too detailed. I just wanted something to help me prioritize my tasks, concentrate on the priorities, and spend time more productively.  In a comment on one of Sebastian’s posts, a reader recommended Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. Fortunately, Francesco Cirillo’s book explaining the technique is a free download.

The Pomodoro Technique user manual

The Pomodoro Technique user manual













After reading The Pomodoro Technique, I encountered a small problem: I couldn’t find a pomodoro—a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. I solved this problem by buying an egg-shaped timer, which, despite being non-vegetarian, works just as well.

an egg-shaped kitchen timer

A egg-shaped kitchen timer works as well as a pomodoro

I also slightly modified the To Do and Activity planning forms that are shown in the book. Here’s my To Do Today planning form, and here’s my Activity planning form.

In the Pomodoro Technique, one works in 25-minute “pomodoros,” although I call them “eggs.” To understand the entire technique, I recommend reading the free book.

I’ve been using this technique for just over a week and have found it very helpful for planning each day, planning days to come, prioritizing work, budgeting my time, concentrating while working, and accounting for my time. The technique is particularly useful for knowing how much time I’ve spent on assignments for which I bill clients by the hour.

The only hazard of this technique is that pomodoros are not supposed to be interrupted. This can cause marital discord, particularly when my wife comes home from work and expects some face time, and I tell her that I can’t speak because I’m in the middle of an egg.

While on the subject of time management and productivity, I recommend Tony Schwartz’s recent article in the NY Times, counterintuitively entitled, “Relax! You’ll Be More Productive.” Schwartz’s assertion that a person who works fewer hours per day can be more productive and creative than a person who works more hours rings true for me. I’ve certainly not been impressed by the output of frantic, exhausted, impatient people who fail to recognize the damage almost invariably caused by haste.

the egg-shaped kitchen timer and a cup of coffee

My performance enhancers–would go well with two slices of bacon

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