3 Of The Best Free Pomodoro Productivity Apps

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pomodoro productivityDavid Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity method can be overwhelming, and because of its complexity, I couldn’t use it with any consistency. For all of its positive attributes, I found myself getting lost in all the little details, and not really getting much of anything done.

If you’re like me, the Pomodoro Technique may appeal to you more. It’s deceptively simple, to the point where it may make you wonder if it will work, but for people with a short attention span, it can be the perfect antidote.

The first step before using the Pomodoro Technique is familiarizing yourself with it. While the technique is simple, reading Francesco Cirillo’s book, provided as a free download on the site, is a great way to understand how it works and discover the ways in which you can use it to its full potential.


In order to use the technique, you need to begin your day by creating a plan. Make a list of the tasks you are going to tackle. An extremely simple To-Do list template, available for download with the PDF of the entire book, or as an individual sheet.

pomodoro productivity

The basis of Cirillo’s concept is that all tasks should be done in increments of 25 minutes, followed by a 3 to 5 minute break. Each 25 minute time period is called a Pomodoro. After 4 Pomodoros, you can take a 15 to 30 minute break.

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When planning your day, you need to estimate how many Pomodoros each task will take, although this is something you might not be able to do until you get a hang of the technique and understand exactly how you use your time.

In order to find the method that works best for you, there are several free apps that you can use to boost your productivity. While you can order the book and kit from their online store there are many free online and offline apps that are just as useful.

Pomodairo (Windows/Mac/Linux)

The Adobe Air app Pomodairo takes all of the essential elements of the Pomodoro technique and rolls them up into one tidy little package, and is the best choice for someone who wants the full Pomodoro experience.

pomodoro productivity timer

You can use the app to create a task list, adding a short description and the estimated number of Pomodoros needed for the task.

pomodoro productivity timer

Once you start the task, begin your timer. If you’re interrupted, hit the interruption button, after which you will have to re-set the timer for another 25 minutes to work on the task at hand.

pomodoro productivity timer

Once the 25 minutes are up, the app’s alarm will go off (with a less than appealing buzz) after which it will start timing your break automatically, but rather than a 5 minute countdown, it will count up how long you take a break, with the buzzer going off at 5 minutes.

Right clicking a task allows you to mark it done/undone, edit it or remove it from the list.

pomodoro productivity technique

Pomodairo is not only a great app to use to keep you on track, it also keeps a searchable log of your work and statistics, making it easy to analyse your work patterns and use of time.

Tomato Timer (Web)

If you’d rather not download an app, Tomato Timer is useful webapp for keeping track of your time. Unlike Pomodairo, the app does not account for your task list or log, so if you want to keep a task list or a log of your work you will have to use a separate app. Something as simple as a combination of Google Tasks and an Excel sheet would be sufficient.

pomodoro productivity technique

As far as the online timer is concerned, you can start, stop and reset the timer for your Pomodoro, short and long break, and in the settings you can alter the lengths of each time period.

Tomato Timer is compatible with Chrome 4.0+, Firefox 3.5+, Internet Explorer 8.0+, Safari 4.0+, Opera 10.5+, and the iPhone & Android’s mobile browsers. Chrome users have the added benefit of desktop notifications and an alarm.

Focus Booster (Windows/Mac/Web)

Focus Booster is available as a desktop version, either as a free Adobe Air download or as a free Windows download, as well as as a free web-based version. Both the desktop and web versions don’t have any bells and whistles. A timer counts down your 25 minute Pomodoro.

pomodoro productivity technique

A small alarm will sound and your 5 minute break will automatically begin.

Settings in the web version include toggling the alarm sound on and off, as well as toggling a clock ticking sound on and off.

Settings in the desktop version are identical, with the exception of having the choice to keep the Focus Booster window on top of other apps, and to bounce the dock icon when the time period is finished.

pomodoro productivity

If keeping track of your work or visualising your use of time is important to you, Focus Booster isn’t the app for you. If on the other hand, you simply want to use the timed method of working without the analytical aspect of the Pomodoro Technique, it will be sufficient.

Have you used the Pomodoro Technique? Do you prefer it to the GTD Technique? Whatever be your productivity mantra, download MakeUseOf’s Smart Productivity Guide for more tips.

Also, let us know about your favorite Pomodro app.

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10 Comments - Write a Comment

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Kyith

I really like the Tomato Timer. I don’t have to install anything yet it works.

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amie2

i use this pomodoro mac app…called pomodoro lol
http://pomodoro.ugolandini.com

it rests in the menu bar and lets you set time time to a bit longer than 25 or less than 25. really customizable, but if you dont customize it, it does what the webapp does. i’m not always online (in fact, i have to go offline to focus sometimes) plus i really dislike adobe air… so, this is what i use!

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Anonymous

i use this pomodoro mac app…called pomodoro lol
http://pomodoro.ugolandini.com/

it rests in the menu bar and lets you set time time to a bit longer than 25 or less than 25. really customizable, but if you dont customize it, it does what the webapp does. i’m not always online (in fact, i have to go offline to focus sometimes) plus i really dislike adobe air… so, this is what i use!

nm

Thanks for the suggestion – interesting that they offer it for free if you don’t want to pay for it in the App Store.

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obses

I am happy to hear that ” I found myself getting lost in all the little details, and not really getting much of anything done.
If you’re like me … but for people with a short attention span…”
I will read that pdf and give it a shot, ty.

Reply

obses

I am happy to hear that ” I found myself getting lost in all the little details, and not really getting much of anything done.
If you’re like me … but for people with a short attention span…”
I will read that pdf and give it a shot, ty.

Reply

Ashley Andrews

I used to love this technique when I was still at university – it helped an awful lot. I haven’t tried Tomato Timer yet, though – thanks for the heads up! I’ll need to give it a go later on.

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Tomáš Dvo?ák

I’ve just created my own simple pomodoro counter for linux, see https://bitbucket.org/dvtomas/osd-pomodoro

A simple, ultra-lightweight, transparent, unobtrusive pomodoro countdown for Linux. Always on top, yet so small that it doesn’t really bother you. And if it does for a moment, just send it a UNIX signal to toggle visibility.

Reply

G

I found David Allen’s GTD to also be *deceptively* simple, but I agree the book and his presentation of it can appear anything but.

Once you’ve re-read the book and gotten through to the ending bits, he finally starts to say, “In the end all you will be managing is lists, and a calendar.” The lists are context-sensitive, so you will only be using one at a time, and it will only contain the next actions that are relevant to that time and place. And if they are complete, will contain EVERYTHING that requires action in that time and place.

And the calendar is strictly for time-sensitive events. He spends the rest of the book defining what he means by “time-sensitive events only” and what a Next Action is, because that’s where his definitions differ from most and the power of this method really comes to shine.

In GTD the calendar is sacred, it is your “hard landscape”, as only the things that HAVE to be done on a date/time are allowed. Not the things you WANT to be done by then. So if you have “email lawyer yearly expense summaries RE:lawsuit” and you know that’s more important than “meeting with banker @3:30″ guess which one still goes where? Yep; you can still send that email as soon as it’s done, but that banker will not be waiting around long past 3:45 if you’re not there. Now, if you *recognize* that one is much more important that the other, and decide to call your banker to reschedule the meeting, well… that’s using the method for increased personal power and decision making.

Which is the other reason I respect GTD so much: No “priorities” system. That’s usually heresy in task management; it’s all about priorities! David Allen recognizes your brain for what it’s good at and what it’s not: namely making quick judgements and remembering all the details exactly. Nobody, except savants, can remember all details exactly. That’s what lists are for! They don’t forget! But, priorities change frequently, sometimes from one day to the next. And that’s what your brain is *awesome* at, making quick evaluations, quick judgements, and quick planning. We are natural planners and executors (given we have all the details).

Everything else (Agendas, checklists, Read/Review piles) is just *extras* you can use if you need more complexity in your system than that. He talks about the merits of each in the book, but for just starting out you can safely ignore all the rest.

More and more when I look at other Productivity systems I see the faults if they don’t include a way to segregate information on this level. If there are not strict rules on what is allowed on your calendar and what is not, it’s only a matter of time before your subconscious realizes the calendar includes a lot of stuff that you “wanted, hoped” to get done by then but which never had a true time restriction at all, and you stop trusting it and stop checking it.

And if you put all of your next actions on one list as Pomodoro suggests, your list becomes cluttered with things that are not possible or relevant in the time/place/situation/context you’re currently in, so you will build resistance to it. At the very least, a separate @Work list and (if you have more than 4 things to do) an @Home list helps segregate work at the most basic level and keep it relevant and interesting.

From there, the Pomodoro technique can take over. Really it’s about making sure you have an up-to-date and complete *inventory* of your tasks, in one place. The thinking required for “is this something I can do right now?” is done before an action is put on a list. You free up valuable brain cycles by not having to ‘remember’ or ‘worry’ if what you’re working on is what you should be, or if something fell through the cracks.

No projects, no priorities. Yes, there are “project lists” in GTD but they’re not used for what you think they are. Mainly they’re put on a separate list as a reminder that the project still exists. So after you’ve knocked-off a couple o’ tasks from a list, your review the projects list to remind you of new actions that should be done next to move each project forward, you add those actions to a list and put it away. Projects lists are not Next Actions, they are reminders for future ones. And they may not even be necessary for your workflow.

Apologies for the rambling comment! Just wanted to share my 2.5 cents. As always, do what works for you.

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Focalise

You can also try our new free pomodoro web timer with binaural audio and tasks – sexytime.focalisesoftware.com enjoy! :D

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