Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Home-made Pomodoro timings - a spreadsheet with hard sums pre-calculated :)

I've read positive and negative things about the Pomodoro technique (basically using a timer to restrict the time in which you work / break / work in the hope of reducing distraction and getting more stuff done in a shorter time-frame). I don't suffer from procrastination particularly (no more than the usual) but I do often find that (a) I think of something unrelated to the task and think 'well I'd better do that now' and / or (b) find that in order to do something I first need to do something else that is related to the task.

While I can't think of anything that will help with (b) I use for (a) and just enter a one-line reminder and then forget about it until I next have a break / bit of time to deal with it. What I've found with Pomodoro is that it removes me from the equation. I am the rate-limiting step in getting stuff done because other stuff pops into my head, but a combination of 'dump it here and forget about it for now' and 'get on with what I started' seems to be productive. Of course I may acclimatise and will have to add in 5 minute beatings to motivate myself ;)

It's easy to do, just start a timer for 25 mins, do something useful. Stop for 5 mins, do it again and so on with longer breaks in between 'sets' of Pomodoros. (Why aren't they called timeatos?)

But I wanted to see how a day would look if it were full of Pomodoros (I'd never do as many as listed but did a big calculation just in case). One of my afternoon tasks today (that I gave myself when I'd finished other stuff, which I did woohoo), was to create a shareable Excel spreadsheet with the timings I'd worked out this morning.

Here it is, instructions are appended below but also embedded in the first tab of the sheet.

Jo's Pomodoro pre-calculated time wrangling spreadsheet:
[View online] [Download Excel .xlsx file]  

and here's a better one from Alan Hennness, my new mortal enemy ;)
[View online] [Download Excel .xlsx file]

Hope you find it useful. Tough luck if you don't (no need to tell me, it works fine for me and that is its primary* purpose) ;)

*sole, but I'm being polite.

Basic instructions
Go to tab marked 'Pomodoro calculations'. Leave the 9am example (the one on the left) and use the one on the right - enter your preferred start time and press enter. The table should populate itself with the suggested timings.

Obviously you still need to use some sort of timer device, but I made this for myself so that I could see how a day might look. Feel free to ignore it entirely :)

Ones in green are timings you may wish to change as these are the breaks. You can amend the calculation in Cells L10, L18 or L26 and the remaining calculations should update accordingly.

Use the guide in columns J and K to amend any timings - this is based on the fact that there are 288 x 5 minutes in 24 hours.

The formula for adding 25 minutes to the time in a cell (where the cell is C3) is

The formula for adding 5 minutes to Cell C3 is

If nothing else, and let alone whether or not Pomodoro is of any use, I'm delighted to have learned how to wrangle time formatting in Excel. 

The locked spare is in case anyone mucks up the first sheet - the password is jobrodie
Since I made this for me, and it seems to work, I imagine that's the end of it but if you need to contact me I'm on but I'm afraid I'm not going to be doing any more calculations. I'm certain there's a better way of doing this sort of thing but since I've found a solution to how to do this my interest in it has dropped back to zero ;)

Happy productivity, or time-wrangling,

This page was what pointed out to me the 5/288 style of calculation for 25 minutes:


  1. Thank you! I'm finding your pomodoro tracking sheet very helpful. I appreciate your taking the time and trouble to explain it and share it...It's the best I found. Adapting it for my own use, I've added three columns: "Category," "Activity," and "I did it?" with conditional formatting for Y and N. Over the weekend I'll work on a new page to generate a report for the number of pomodoros for each category each week. Much appreciated!

  2. Excellent! Absolutely excellent! Thanks.


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