Busy busy busy.
Grants, conference abstracts, project management.
All to be completed without (completely) neglecting household chores, exercise, and fun.
I’ve recently started using a couple of iPhone apps that I’ve found very helpful, and that I’m reviewing here in case they’re useful to you, too!
This is essentially just a timer, but it’s customised to the Pomodoro Technique and requires much less hands-on time than manually setting the native iPhone timer multiple times a day. The pattern of 25 minute “pomodoros” of focused working time, followed by a 5 minute break (with a 30 minute break after every fourth pomodoro), fits my natural working style very nicely: if I’m having trouble settling into a difficult (or tedious) task, knowing that I only have to focus on it for 25 minutes makes it much easier to get started; and if I’m getting too focused on something, the app reminds me to take frequent short breaks to stand up, stretch, look away from my screen, and grab a glass of water or put the kettle on. This is highly beneficial to my health and productivity over the course of a full day at work.
Faults: the alarm at the beginning and end of each pomodoro doesn’t always go off (it seems to be more reliable in vibrate mode), so I sometimes miss it. And you have to manually restart the timer after the long 30 minute breaks. It was also just generally glitchy on my old 3G iPhone – sometimes it would keep counting down the time if I switched to email or the iPod function for a few minutes, but at other times it would just freeze – but that bug doesn’t seem to be a problem on my shiny new multitasking iPhone 4.
Oh, and of course, whenever someone comes by my desk and looks at my screen, it’s always during one of the breaks rather than during a pomodoro.
Thanks to Kimli’s excellent App Blast blog I got this app when it was on sale for 99 cents. However, having used it for a few weeks now, I’d happily have paid the full whack – and I very rarely spend more than 99 cents on any given app.
Epic Win is basically a to-do list, but your tasks are called “quests” and completing them bags you nice little prizes – points that equate to miles on a journey. You collect loot along the way, and move up the levels of your chosen character type. These incentives provide a teeny tiny little extra bit of motivation that, tragically enough, is often enough to get me over my usual inertia and procrastination.
You can set up recurring tasks or one-offs, and assign them values from 100-300 points based on difficulty. The app can be set up to send you push notifications of overdue tasks, an option I find helpful but that might get annoying if you set up lots of quests each day.
The app displays a nice sense of humour throughout:
I list exercise under “strength”, boring-but-necessary tasks like cleaning and laundry under “stamina”, work-related tasks (and extracurricular writing) under “intellect”, favours for friends and family (and kitty litter cleaning duties) under “social”, and guitar practice under “spirit” (oops. Must Do Better). I think the yellow bars represent points earned under those categories since your last level-up, and I think the numbers represent the number of times a task in that category has tipped you over the threshold of a new level. I’m not really sure, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s just for fun.
The loot is definitely the best part:
The other loot I’ve collected is as follows:
- Flask of Soured Cat’s Milk: “Suckled from the putrid teat of Sheba, this milk is high in protein and ick factor”
- 9 Inch Snails: “Although this spell takes several hours to come into effect, its devastating slimy force is unrelenting”
- Enchanted Mop of Time Warping: “Grasp the handle, clean your floor, magically hours will have passed”
- Whistle of Summoning: “Mouth-operated joy communicator used excitedly while giving the illusion of holding both a big fish and a little fish”
- and – my favourite so far – El Libro Binary of Central America: “Juan Juan Juan Juan Zero Juan Zero Juan Juan Juan Zero Zero Zero Zero Juan”
It’s all gloriously silly, and I can hardly wait to see what piece of loot I find next!
As for my sleep deprivation problem:
There’s a nap for that.
(sorry, couldn’t resist).
Any other productivity app suggestions?