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Monday, October 3, 2011


I tried out Pomodoro, a tomato-like application that is basically a timer for your computer desktop. It times work sessions in 25-minute increments (you can adjust to 30 or 35 too), then gives you a five-minute break. Today, in an 8-hour day on campus (8-4), I did 8 25-minute sessions and finished grading a set of compositions, finished reading a book ms. and writing a report on it, read over a chapter in a grammar book for class tomorrow, and read over part of a tenure file. Off the pomodoro clock, I also met with three students and had lunch with the Department chair, where we discussed some business. So I pretty much did a full day's work, without working on any of my own research! (That's great except for the last part.) I did some blog posts and surfed the web a bit, but otherwise was disciplined enough for a day I don't teach. I've cleared my desk of all but teaching and research tasks.

Pomodoro also keeps track of your work sessions. You can create different labels for tasks and chart your work like that. If you don't need productivity tools like that, by all means don't bother. I could do without it, but I find it fun to try. Any change can be motivating, so I can imagine that NOT using it after a while might be a good change as well.


Michael J. Altman said...

So, do you you think you got more done than you would have without it?

I've thought about using pomodoro before but was never sure how effective it would be.

Jonathan said...

It might have been the same amount of work, but it helped me get through the day with some dull and unpleasant tasks.

Clarissa said...

I've been using a bookmark-timer for this purpose for years. I really love it. It is useful both in language courses I teach to measure how much time we spend on each activity and also for things like grading. If I measure how much time it takes me to grade one essay, I can plan for how long the entire grading will take.

Also, it's very useful on those days when I don't feel like writing but make myself do it anyway. I write for 20, for example, and then give myself a reward after they end (an apple, a cup of coffee, etc.). :-)

Anonymous said...

I've always done this but just with a clock - no buzzer. I guess the point of the buzzer is so you don't watch the clock (I just figured this out right now) but I don't seem to watch it too much.

Am I the only one who figured all this stuff out as an undergrad? We had to due to quarter system (I think it was that).

Jonathan said...

I love the quarter system. 4 of college at UCD, Grad School at Stanford, then my first tenure track job at Ohio State. I really like the speed and efficiency of the quarter rather than the semester dragging on and on.

Anonymous said...

There are clear advantages to quarters and I am in the mood to do a few quarters about now. I think quarters benefit faculty quite a lot, too (I have taught on them as FT faculty, not just as a TA / part time type).

Semesters let students develop more / differently, though, I find. The one year undergrad I had semesters, I also got to have a life of sorts - a little job, more adventures than usual, time to just think - without sacrificing v.h. GPA and this was ultimately very good for me academically.

In graduate school on quarters you can't afford to explore a topic if you expect to write a well researched seminar paper. You need to pick your topic around the first week and chase after the books the next couple of weeks, because if you are going to need interlibrary loan or travel to other collections then you have to get on it pronto so you can read and digest and start writing soon enough to finish at the end of week 10.

So you learn to produce, but are always far too speeded up, I think. Unless faculty allows for courses with part A reading and part B writing (2 quarters), which I favored and recommended only to be called "lazy" and, by some allegedly feminist faculty, "lazy blonde."