Working on your computer can be of huge help or hugely distracting. It’s very easy to get anything done on it, but it becomes less likely that you’ll get things out of the way when you’ve got a world of entertaining distractions one click away.
Some people might be mentally strong enough to keep interferences out of their way on their own, but for the rest of us weaklings, it might be a little harder to keep procrastinations out, and that’s why productivity methods like Pomodoro are so popular. We’ve already looked at one Pomodoro technique app this week – Tadam – which is a nice but minimal app, so let’s look at another app that’s more full-featured. It’s called Tomatoes.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity discipline that works by making you divide your tasks into small time units of 25 minutes, taking a 5 minute break in between them. It was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s and it has gotten a pretty big following since then.
You start by listing every task you want to complete, and setting a number of “pomodoros” (time units of 25 minutes) that you expect the task to take until it’s completed. You then move through your pomodoros, giving your full attention to the task at hand for each pomodoro. If you get interrupted by outside evils or your own demons, you should mark it in your Pomodoro sheet. Oh, and speaking of that “Pomodoro Sheet”…
Tomatoes is a beautiful and simple Mac app that helps you get rid of your physical time sheet and kitchen timer, integrating it all in one easy to use interface right there in your computer. Its entirely based on the Pomodoro Technique, so everything’s set to work with the method from the get go.
The app has a main window where you can see your list of tasks, timer, and where you can interact with everything that you might need: setting new tasks, completing older ones, marking interruptions, etc. Then there’s the menu bar component, where your current timer will always be shown ticking, reminding you where your attention should be.
At the center of Tomatoes’ main window is, of course, the timer, but below it are all the things you need to set your tasks up. The app supports everything that you could need using the Pomodoro Technique: an inventory which works as the trunk for your active tasks, a to-do section for tasks that should be completed later, and an archive for storing completed Pomodoros.
The menu bar component not only works for displaying your current timer, though. It can also help you start and reset your timers, as well as mark interruptions without going into the app.
Starting a new task is as easy as clicking the “+” tab, typing its title, and selecting the number of expected units it should take to complete. It will then be added to your inventory, where you can move it to the to-do category, or set it as the active task that you’ll be working on.
Once you’ve got an active task, when you hit the “On” tab your timer will start running, and when the time’s up, it will automatically notify you by playing a bell sound and bouncing the app’s icon in the dock. Take your break, come back, and hit the “On” button again.
As your Pomodoros get completed, they will appear under your task as little full circles. An empty circle represents an expected unit that has not yet been completed. You can mark a task as completed even if your expected units have not all been fullfilled, though, so you don’t have to worry too much about calculating precisely how much time a task will take.
There’s a few things where Tomatoes makes itself a lot more useful than your boring plain timesheet and your kitchen timer. Under the settings you can customize a bunch of things, including automatically running a timer for your breaks (so that you don’t go over them accidentally), marking a “long break” timer which will get activated once every 4 pomodoros, and tweaking the time of your units and breaks.
You can also set a “timer sound” that will always be heard, ticking away. This is recommended by the Pomodoro Technique, as that ticking sound will keep you reminded of what you should be doing. Personally, I can’t tolerate it, but I understand how some might find it useful for keeping them concentrated.
A new update recently came out with a new stats feature, so that you can see a relation of the tasks and units that you’ve completed per day, but I couldn’t ever open the stats without the app crashing on me.
As pointed out by our own Pedro Lobo in a recent review of yet another Pomodoro Technique app, these kind of apps are pretty abundant for the Mac. However, not all of them are as useful as the rest. Some of the most popular choices are Pomodorable and My Little Pomodoro, but for some strange reason they’ve been missing from the App Store for a while, and there’s no other way to get them.
This leaves Tomatoes as a pretty good alternative to either of them. It’s certainly very pretty and easy to understand, as well as useful for working with the Pomodoro technique even if you don’t know a lot about it. It may not be as simple as Tadam (which we recently reviewed), but if you are obsessed with getting deeper into your tasks, and keeping a concise list of everything you’ve done, then Tomatoes will suit you better.
With most of its competitors out of the way for the time being, Tomatoes presents itself as a very powerful Pomodoro Technique utility. It has every single feature that you might need if you stick to the rules of the method, and it even automates everything for you so that work and break timers flow without you having to interact with the app. This break timer is immensely useful so as to avoid distractions that run for longer than they should.
Tomatoes is a very complete, full-featured Pomodoro app, but will you use it? Do you subscribe to these kind of productivity disciplines, or how do you get things done? Let us know what you think in the comments below.