Product Reviews Productivity

TickTime: The Best Pomodoro Timer If You Work From Home

Kannon Yamada 03-06-2020
Our verdict of the TickTime:
It’s dead-simple to use, efficient, and better than what’s out there. Buy it if you want the world's best Pomodoro Method timer for your remote office.
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Looking for the best Pomorodo Method time tracker? The TickTime beats all work-from-home competitors, but it comes with a high price of $39 for its IndieGogo launch, rising to $59 when it reaches retail.

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It’s only worth it for hardcore Pomodoro-technique users. But if you’re looking for a better way to manage work from home, there’s nothing better than a TickTime.

Let’s talk about why the TickTime leveled up my personal productivity game; and the end of this review, we’ve got one to giveaway to one lucky winner.

Why Most Time-Tracking Devices and Apps Suck

If you’re anything like me, there are a dozen open tabs in your browser and you’ve lost track of all but one. And to top things off, you can’t even remember what day it is. And it feels like the word “deadline” is more literal than it is figurative.

And on top of the stress and dread, you share an office with someone who demands complete silence.

And that’s why your mechanical kitchen timer, which sounds like a bomb nearing detonation, just won’t do.

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Do you reach for an app or your smartphone personal assistant? Neither are good options. Constantly checking your phone means also looking at distracting notifications. You might as well stream Netflix instead of work. And talking to your phone is just going to drive your partner insane. You need an alternative that’s dead-simple to use and distraction-free.

If you use the Pomodoro Method, then you’re already familiar with the Pomodoro Timer. But for those who aren’t, it’s a productivity management system, perfect for those who work from home.

What Is the Pomodoro Technique?

ticktime compared to pomodoro timer

The Pomodoro Technique entails breaking large tasks down into smaller blocks. It works like this: you break a larger, complex task down into smaller, more manageable subtasks. You then work on a task for 25 minutes, tracking each block of time with a tomato-shaped kitchen timer, known as a Pomodoro Timer—this is where the method gets its name.

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The Pomodoro Timer winds up like an old clock. And like an old clock, Pomodoro Timers are loud, making an audible tick every second with relentless, maddening agony. If you’re sensitive to repetitive sounds, it’s impossible to concentrate while it’s running. Fortunately, there are a variety of specialized digital timers, such as the TimeCube Plus, digital kitchen timers, and as of May of 2020, the TickTime.

TickTime Features

Build Quality and Components

ticktime outer shell is metal

The TickTime has a mostly high-quality build. It’s made from a combination of plastic and aluminum. The outer jacket of its prism-shaped body is composed of aluminum. The LED-face numerals are semi-transparent plastic which are embedded in the metal shell.

A blue LED inside of the prism shines through the plastic when it’s turned on, repetitively blinking for each second that elapses. As time elapses, its light blinks faster. The timer can determine which side is facing up through a gyroscopic sensor. A gyroscopic sensor (also referred to as a “gyro”) can determine whether the device is tilted and the angle of tilt, just like smartphones and other electronic time-tracking cubes.

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The LCD Counter

ticktime lcd display and button

On one end of the device there’s a hexagonal plastic face, which is the only plastic side of the device. Embedded in it is a backlit color LCD screen. The display includes a radial dial which shows how much time is remaining and a digital counter. The LCD screen partially rotates in order to match the device’s angle. Placing the device with a three facing up rotates the display 180 degrees. Rotating it to the 30-minute numeral rotates the screen another 180 degrees.

Unfortunately, the display does not rotate to match the orientation of the other timer settings, so on the five-minute setting, the display is at a near 45-degree angle. Still visible and readable, but I wonder why the manufacturers made the decision to only rotate the screen at two positions.

Buttons

ticktime buttons closeup

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It also includes four buttons: a pair of volume-up and volume-down buttons and a minute-up and minute-down button. Pressing the volume-up and volume-down buttons at the same time turns the device off or on. The time adjustment buttons allow for you to set granular timers. For example, if you needed seven minutes instead of five.

The buttons themselves are constructed from plastic and aren’t anything to write home about.

Using the TickTime

Using the TickTime is dead simple. Just turn it on by pressing the Volume+ and Volume- buttons and then put it on a flat surface with the desired time numeral facing up. The TickTime then immediately begins counting down.

The TickTime offers two modes: Distraction-Free mode, in which the timer shuts off its LCD display and begins silently counting down. Normal mode, in which the timer begins counting down from one of its preset, or custom, timers.

Using the TickTime’s Normal Mode

The TickTime comes with six pre-set timers: 30, 25, 15, 10, 5, and 3 minutes. Setting a time requires just placing the desired numeral facing up, and then TickTime begins counting down.

Using the TickTime’s Distraction-Free Mode

ticktime distraction-free mode

To use its Distraction-Free mode, you place the timer with one of the faces up, and then turn the timer over with its LCD display facing down. The TickTime then shuts off its LCD display (you’ll have to trust us on that, you can’t see it because it’s facing downward). It then begins its countdown from the last preset timer you set. For example, if you last had it on a three-minute timer, it starts at three minutes.

I highly recommend using Distraction-Free mode. It significantly extends battery life while at the same time it reduces the number of distractions by switching off the LCD display.

Battery Life

ticktime lcd screen closeup

For those concerned about battery life, the TickTime does not automatically shut itself off, although it does drop into a low-power state when not in use after a period of inactivity. In its suspended mode, the timer can get weeks of standby time.

In Normal mode, its usage time isn’t great. The illuminated LCD screen and blinking LED lights give it no more than three working days of battery life.

I managed to finish two eight-hour workdays and most of a third before the battery needed recharging. But compared to other dedicated timers, like a TimeCube or digital kitchen timer, the battery life is poor. Even the cheapest of digital timers can get months of battery time, rather than days. Had TickTime used a monochrome LCD screen and dispensed with the blue LEDs, its battery life could have been far greater.

Compared to a smartphone’s battery life, though, it’s not as bad. And running a timer app all day long would leave your phone with little life left at the end of the day. For for those concerned about carrying a charger around, the Micro-USB port inside of the TickTime allows you to charge using any smartphone charger. Combined with its fast charging speed of around 3o minutes, and tiny size, the TickTime is the best personal timer for mobile usage on today’s market.

In Distraction-Free mode, the TickTime gets at least a week of battery life or more.

The TickTime Vs. Digital and Mechanical Timers

I pitted the TickTime in a head-to-head competition against a Pomodoro Timer, an hourglass, a Fossil Gen 5 WearOS smartwatch, and a Google Home assistant.

TickTime Vs. Pomodoro and Hourglass Time Trackers

ticktime compared to hourglass and pomodoro timers

Like all electronic time-tracking devices, the TickTime is surgically precise, unlike mechanical timers. While they might not need batteries, an hourglass or wind-up kitchen timer is inherently unreliable. To get a better understanding of how timers improve productivity, I tested the TickTimer against an hourglass and a wind-up Pomodoro-style kitchen timer. Here are some of the observations that I made after two months of testing.

Mechanical Timers Are Inaccurate

Hourglasses and Pomodoro Timers are anywhere from 10-20% less accurate than digital devices. In other words, during a typical 25-minute session, your timer could be anywhere from two to four minutes off—which makes it undesirable as a productivity management tool or kitchen timer.

Pomodoro Timers and Hourglasses Are Distracting

Mechanical timers aren’t bad. But they’re garbage for tasks that require immense concentration, like writing or reading. Neither task is helped by the staccato of a grandfather clock or a bomb. Neither of which have ever been used to manage someone’s productive hours.

An hourglass’s silence is exactly the opposite. It’s completely silent. Perfect for someone who is easily distracted by repetitive sounds. However, its silence leads to another productivity issue: it causes the user to constantly have to shift attention from the task and hand and the timer. Without any feature that alerts the user that time has expired, an hourglass provides more distractions than it does benefits.

TickTime Vs. Electronic Trackers

ticktime compared to digital timers

If you’re using an electronic timer, like a smartphone or Fossil Gen 5 WearOS smartwatch, setting a timer requires spending precious minutes fidgeting with the device. While artificial intelligence software, like Google Assistant, can respond to voice commands, that’s potentially a source of conflict in a shared office. The selling point of the TickTime is that it can run completely silent. Whenever the time expires, the hexagonal prism flashes blue lights, letting you know time has elapsed.

A smartphone or WearOS watch, on the other hand, can be configured with an army of applications, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Toggl (which we officially recommend as the best time-tracking app The Best Time Tracking App for Android, iOS, and Desktop We show you how time tracking can benefit you or your team, what to look for in time tracking software, and the best cross-platform application we could find for the job. Read More on all platforms).

The closest competitor in the personal-timer space is the TimeCube Plus and its clones. Time cubes perform all the same functions as the TickTime, but with one major disadvantage: they only have four functional sides for tracking time. That means the TickTime has a wider range of uses and more flexibility for cooking and tracking activities. And on top of that, time cubes are oversized and feel like cheap junk.

On the downside, the TickTime costs two to three times more. And while the TickTime is much smaller and lighter than a Time Cube, its integrated battery means once the lithium-ion battery dies, you’ve got to throw it away. A time cube, on the other hand, can use two AAA batteries, either disposable or rechargeable. And while it has fewer faces, Amazon and other online retailers offer different variations. The red TimeCube Plus model includes the 25-minute timer neccessary to use Pomodoro.

Criticisms

It’s Expensive

While better than its competition, the TickTime’s price is too high. For $59, you could buy two of the cheaper time cubes. It may not be as pretty, portable, or well-designed as a TickTime, but it does pretty much the same thing. And it will do it for a longer stretch of time, both in the lifetime of the device and in battery life.

It Could Use More Pre-Set Times

hexagonal antiprism has 12 sides instead of eight
Image Credit: Stella Software

The TickTime also doesn’t have enough faces to match the flexibility of an analog Pomodoro timer. While it does offer the ability to manually set a time by using the minute up and seconds up buttons, for someone who wants to set a 99 minute and 99 second timer, it requires hitting its buttons 198 times: an absurd amount of button pressing.

Would have been better as a hexagonal antiprism. An antiprism structure would have allowed for 12 faces, which would have enabled a wider range of times.

It Was (Successfully) Crowd Funded

Crowd-funded projects cost less and you get it before anyone else, but with a serious caveat: if the manufacturer fails to produce a product, you get nothing. In other words, you take on serious risk in exchange for a discounted product. Some crowd-funded projects don’t even refund your money if the funding fails.

The TickTime, however, has already been successfully funded and is in production. There are still $39 Early Bird units available, although once those sell out, the price jumps up to $59.

Short Battery Life in Normal Mode

The battery life is too short at around three days of all-day usage in Normal mode. However, in Distraction-Free mode, battery life is significantly increased, so it can run with daily use for weeks, instead of days.

Frequent charging degrades a lithium-ion battery, which can lead to a short life. With frequent use, I estimate the device’s lifespan to be around two to three years. But as with all devices that include lithium-ion batteries…

The Battery Isn’t Replaceable

My least favorite feature of the TickTime is its non-replaceable lithium-ion battery. A typical consumer-grade lithium-ion battery may last for around 1,000 charges before it dies. Although in truth, they rarely last more than three years of frequent use, regardless of the number of charge-discharge cycles you put it through.

Other time tracking devices, such as the TimeCube Plus, have replaceable AAA batteries. And that means your device will likely last as long as the electronics and not the battery.

No Pause Feature

The TickTime lacks a pause feature. Some of its competitors, like the TimeCube Plus, timer-apps on smartphones, and other digital timers, include a pause feature.

Always Flashing Blue Lights

If you find blue light distracting, this is not the device for you. Whenever you set a timer, regardless of its mode, the TickTime is always flashing a blue light. While that’s a lot less distracting than an analog timer ticking away, it’s still perfect for productivity techniques.

Should You Buy the TickTime Personal Timer?

Everyone who uses the Pomodoro Method, and works from home, should consider using a digital time tracker instead of one of those clunky tomato timers. Trust me, they’re garbage. But the TickTime fits into a special niche within the world of time-tracking gadgets. While it’s much better than its competitors, it has one serious fly in its ointment: an unreplaceable battery.

For those who can overlook its flaw, the TickTime is the hands-down best Pomodoro Technique time-management device on the market.

Enter the Competition!

TickTime Pomodoro Timer

Related topics: Home Office, MakeUseOf Giveaway, Productivity Tips, Time Management, Timer Software.

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  1. Jed
    June 5, 2020 at 11:00 pm

    It would have been better if they let you customize each of the times rather than just having one custom timer.

    • kannon
      June 6, 2020 at 6:33 pm

      That's a good suggestion. They would have had to use individual LED lights for each strut in the face numerals to be able to do this though. But it would definitely have been cool.