You’re too busy to read more than this intro paragraph. We all are. Your interest might get piqued enough to skim, but you can’t read the full thing. Our lives all resemble the White Rabbit, constantly late for our next thing, never enjoying the current thing. You feel simultaneously super productive and yet never productive enough to be satisfied. You yearn for a Jarvis that can automate the mundane aspects of your projects, and yet the prospect of building a Jarvis causes anxiety about not having enough time for yet another project. You see another YouTuber showing off not only a great build but also impressive video production and editing skills. You are suffering from Time Debt, and the solution requires as much discipline and tenacity as escaping from financial debt.
For most of us, hacking is a hobby, something to pass a few idle hours and satisfy our need to create. Precious few of us get to live the dream of being paid to tinker; most of us need some kind of day job to pay the bills and support our hacking habits. This necessarily creates an essential conflict, rooted in the fact that we all only have 24 hours to spread around every day: I need to spend my time working so I can afford to hack, but the time I spend working to earn money eats away at my hacking time. That’s some catch, that Catch-22.
From that primary conflict emerges another one. Hacking is a hugely creative process, and while the artist or the author might not see it that way, it’s true nonetheless. Unless we’re straight-up copying someone else’s work, either because they’ve already solved the same problem we’re working on and we just need to get it done, or perhaps we’re just learning a new skill and want to stick to the script, chances are pretty good that we’re hitting the creative juices hard when we build something new. And that requires something perhaps even more limiting than time: inspiration. How you manage inspiration in large part dictates how productive you are in your creative pursuits.
Would you believe that some people think the internet is a time waster? Well, not at this particular address of course, but we can think of some other sites that are absolute rabbit holes without so much as a rousing game of croquet at the bottom. If you need help achieving what Tim Ferriss dubbed a Low Information Diet, there are browser extensions that will block your access to sites that keep you from getting things done. [Ivan’s girlfriend] has taken this time management tack seriously and even created a simple web page that states “Don’t Waste Your Time!” that will show if she tries to get to Facebook.
There’s one small problem with all this, and it’s been around for a long time. [Ivan’s girlfriend] still watches TV. Out of love and respect for her goals, he decided to prank her by blocking her TV viewing. In a delightful twist, the TV will display her own web page to her after 30 seconds.
They have digital and analog TVs, so he had to set up both in order to cover his bases. The digital TV is a monitor fed from a set-top box with HDMI out. As the STB can only be controlled via IR remote, [Ivan] used an HDMI switch to change from the STB input to a Raspi that will display the reprimanding web page and play Pink Floyd’s “Time“.
The analog TV took slightly more doing. He put a Raspi on the AV input, but connected it from the inside so nothing looked suspicious. The Raspi checks the TV status every second and switches to the Pi once the TV is on. Same deal: judgmental web page, Pink Floyd. The beauty part is that both of [Ivan]’s setups also record her reaction; the digital TV uses a dash camera and the analog uses an Android phone. Check out [Ivan]’s tour of the analog TV Pi after the break.
If you or [Ivan’s girlfriend] need even more time management help, there’s always the roll-your-own-Pomodoro timer.
Do you want to use your time more productively but are tomato-averse? [Robin]’s LED Pomodoro timer could be the perfect hack for you.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management solution developed in the late 1980s. The basic idea is to spend a very focused 25 minutes performing some activity such as working or studying and then take a 5-minute break. Many of its proponents use a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to alert them to switch between the two states, but [Robin] wanted to make his own and learn along the way.
First, he wanted to use an ATtiny85 and learn about its features. Specifically, he used its timers, PWM, and low-power sleep mode. [Robin] used Charlieplexing to drive a total of six LEDs. When the timer starts, five yellow LEDs are driven high to indicate each 5-minute slice of work time. A red LED is lit during the 5-minute break.
[Robin] also explored compact PCB design and fabrication. All components are SMD and his board is 4cm square. [Robin] is using this SMD buzzer for discrete feedback. He included a footprint for a six-pin ISP header and programmed it with pogo pins. The timer is completely interrupt-driven: one click of the tactile button starts the work counter, and the buzzer sounds when time is up. A second click starts the break counter.
[Robin] has made everything available in his GitHub repo and encourages you to use it. Time’s a-wastin’!