A Perfectly Orderly Way to Manage Your Time

[Paul Gallagher] has spent years separating his tasks into carefully measured out blocks, a method of time management known as the Pomodoro Technique. If that’s not enough proof that he’s considerably more organized and structured than the average hacker, you only need to take a look at this gorgeous Pomodoro Timer he’s entered into the Circuit Sculpture Contest. Just don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel like your own time management skills aren’t cutting it.

While [Paul] has traditionally just kept mental note of the hour-long blocks of time he breaks his work into, he thought it was about time he put together a dedicated timer to make sure he’s running on schedule. Of course he could have used a commercially available timer or an application on his phone, but he wanted to make something that was simple and didn’t cause any distractions. A timer that was easy to start, reliable, and didn’t do anything extraneous. We’re not sure if looking like the product of a more advanced civilization was part of his official list of goals, but he managed to achieve it in any event.

The timer is broken up into two principle parts: the lower section which has the controls, USB port, a handful of passive components, and an ATmega328 microcontroller, and the top section which makes up the three digit LED display. The two sections are connected by a header on the rear side which makes it easy for [Paul] to take the timer apart if he needs to get back into it for any reason. Notably absent in the design is a RTC; the relatively short duration of the timer (up to a maximum of 95 minutes) means the ATmega328 can be trusted to keep track of the elapsed time itself with an acceptable amount of drift.

The display side of the timer is really a sight to behold, with the legs of each LED soldered to a pair of carefully bent copper wires so they match the angle of the front panel. The associated resistors have been artfully snipped so that their bodies sit flat on the PCB while their leads reach out to the perfect length. It looks like a maintenance nightmare in there, but we love it anyway.

As we near the half-way mark of the Circuit Sculpture Contest, there’s still plenty of time to submit your own piece of functional art. If you’ve got a project that eschews the printed circuit board for a chance to bare it all, write it up on Hackaday.io and be sure to send it in before the January 8th, 2019 deadline.

16 thoughts on “A Perfectly Orderly Way to Manage Your Time

    1. Looks like the light is coming through the sides of the adjacent LEDs themselves. Maybe fix could be a simple as painting the sides of them black so only the face lights up.

      Of course, getting back in there to paint them now is going to be a neat trick…

  1. It’s truly beautiful. Wouldn’t work for me. I don’t have the same abilities or motivations at all waking moments, and dividing my time up like that would never work (and didn’t back when I tried).

    Some days I get up, go to the shop, and the first thing I stab myself with a screwdriver. Good sign I should stay away from big dangerous power tools for a bit. But maybe I really am on that track, so I stay in the shop.

    But I might just then, have the inspiration and concentration to finish that software project that’s also on my rather long todo list. Or even finally flesh out a real good design for that or some other project. So, do that, duh.
    Or it might be time to continue writing any of the tomes I’m working on, or practice either musical writing, or play one one of the instruments I want to be better at.

    My way…wouldn’t work for many people, most of whom seem to need some kind of kick in the pants to get going on what they “should” be doing. I get it – this way takes managing of a rather long TODO list (so there’s always something on it I’ll be super productive at right now..,) and a lot of discipline – I sometimes substitute the fact that I hate being bored for that.

    I learned some of this while running a one man business (yes, hacking in the sense we use here, otherwise known as product development) from home, if I wanted to eat, I’d better darn well be productive. But “forcing it” not only didn’t work, it made me unhappy. So I learned a way that works for me. There’s always lots to do – picking the right thing NOW is the big trick.

    You just can’t use it as an excuse, like most of the young musicians I ran into when I was one too – “I’m a musician and therefore I will have no other skills and no discipline or be forced to do anything productive.” No wonder those guys say it’s hard to make it in that biz – they’d be fired as janitors for not knowing how, showing up inebriated if at all and so on.

    Still, it’s true that sometimes staring out the window is the best use of time. You simply have to have the discipline to know when that’s going to be and no cheating.

    I found my productivity went up by a rather fat (sometimes 2 digit) factor once I sorted this out for myself. I set things up so there’s always *something* I can dive into and make super fast progress – every day is a “good day” for something. It just looks like a disaster area maintained by a packrat, is all.

    Any programmer knows that some days you just can’t seem to mess up, and are 100 times as productive as usual (sadly, many think those are their average days, not their peak ones – hubris – and their normal days are their bad ones…). So, have a list, and pick the task that “lights up” for you and have those “super good days” far more often – just not in some pre planned order – because at least for me, you can’t plan that.

      1. Yeah I’m the same way… Alarm clocks never worked for me, even in elementary school I rerouted the speaker wires on my clock radio to the input of some LabTech PC speakers, even having them cranked up did nothing for helping me get to school on time. Luckily my recent years of career have synced well with this (it seems being a programmer is a big part of that, no one really cares if I hit commit at 12am or 12pm, as long as it’s solid code). I’ve found it hard to be a teacher to conventional (is that even reasonable to call other people?) thinkers, because I always start out saying that I find you really need a project to drive yourself towards a goal which forms a self-motivated learning process. Most people can’t come up with projects, especially nothing long term or lofty. I can only assume this says something about society at large, being self-unaware and consumerist… But that’s probably getting a bit too skeptical and loopy.

    1. > So I learned a way that works for me

      I think that’s the key – having a desire to improve one’s productivity and enjoyment of the activity, and the self-awareness to experiment and find what works best.

      Personally, I guess I do “pomodoro-lite”: exact timing or regularity of breaks is not the point: for me it is really about taking that mental step back to think about what you are doing. It’s when I solve 90% of problems and have my most creative insights, and is at least a 2x to 10x productivity booster.

      NB: if you are using pomodoro as an excuse to simply have a break and chit-chat, you are probably doing it wrong;-) But It does depend greatly on the type of work being performed – perhaps that’s exactly what you need if the work is physically demanding.

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