The time of your life

by Giles Turnbull

Suddenly, people are talking about timers. Merlin Mann, productivity expert and guide to Getting Things Done (aka GTD) with Apple computers, posted a photo on Flickr that demonstrated a simple technique for keeping the computer- and net-obsessed among us focused on our work, rather than reading possibly interesting but ultimately non-work-related weblog posts on sites like the O'Reilly Network. Ahem.

His simple idea was to use a cheap kitchen timer to count down in eight-minute increments. When it pings, you ask yourself - "Am I working right now?" It's a concentration concatenator.

Subscribers to Merlin's 43Folders discussion group then chimed in with their suggestions for software timers.

What better reason than to list a few timers here? Some of these are directly from the 43Folders group discussion; others were found lurking in Hyperjeff's list.

Chimoo Timer counts in hundredths of seconds, if that matters to you, and shrinks down to a tiny little window. It looks rather elegant.

Fob has a far more detailed interface and many more options; by default, it uses a large window and a clock-face metaphor for creating new timers. It can be told to display running timers in the menu bar.

A screenshot showing Fob and Chimoo Timer

Fob running in the menu bar, with a tiny Chimoo Timer window directly underneath

What else is there?

Eggtimer is free, and the source code is available. Cuppa is an old favorite of mine, and has sat in my ~/Applications folder for quite a while. I really did download it so I could time my fruit tea infusions (herbal and fruit teas have to steep for a decent time - in my opinion, 7 minutes - to make sure they have sufficient flavor).

Chronomenon is a timer and a whole lotta other things too; DockTimer sits in the Dock and counts time; Watch It costs a little money but looks very smart, matching the OS X volume and brightness control bezels.

Minuteur is French but speaks the international language of timers, so is easy to use; Pester pesters you effectively; TeaTimer is designed for real tea afficionados, and sports the fanciest-looking teacup and saucer this side of the aristocracy.

Screenshot showing Pester telling me to FOCUS
Pester, telling me quite clearly to FOCUS

What, you're still reading this? Aren't you supposed to be working? Come on, stop reading so many weblogs, focus! Honestly, people like you need some sort of timer to keep you on track...

Deadlines always gave me the heebie-jeebies anyway