Ring Timer

Goal: Make a handsome timer to overcome procrastination.

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From the great online course ‘Learning How to Learn’ I learned that it is better to focus on a process, not a product, to prevent procrastination. And easiest way to focus on process is to focus doing a Pomodoro.

This technic was created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, who found out that strict periods of focused work followed by short periods of rest can drastically improve productivity. He used 25 minutes for work and 5 minutes for rest. He called this working period a ‘pomodoro’, as he used a mechanical timer which looked like tomato ('pomodoro' in Italian).

It is easier to start to work and not be distracted if you know that this piece of work is limited in time, and after that time you may rest safely.

Moreover, regular periods of rest can bring you a sudden flash of insight, because you brain is not overfocused anymore.

So I started to use standard iOS timer. It was quite good. But I quickly became bored to resetting different periods of time back and forth.

Looking at iOS timer I imagined what if I could divide given circle of time by periods. Just by my finger.

I whiteboarded this idea, and it looked good: I will add periods moving finger from the timer ring, and remove them dragging markers inside.

I built a prototype.

I added familiar ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons and illustrative animation to support the new method of handling periods.

I showed people a prototype and got some feedback:

«Can't figure out current time, arrow is too small.»

«It's great, that I can see all periods at the same time.»

«Too many numbers on the screen.»

«It is not clear that it is possible to add periods with your finger.»

«It's cool and handy to add periods by finger.»

I made timer hand bigger and brighter. I added tiny visual helpers showing you can move period markers in and out of the ring. I increased font size. I allowed users to change colours and toggle sound of periods. Sound was selected to be audible but not disturbing to colleagues.

 

It came out that it is hard to set period length precisely, especially on a small iPhone screen.

Obvious decision — snap to grid. But which step of grid to choose?

The idea was a dynamic grid: faster movement — larger step, slower movement — smaller step for precise positioning.

I made a little app to try it out.

The hypothesis was not confirmed. Human acts more accurate in consistent environment, than when application tries to help.

I decided not to overcomplicate system, and used a fixed grid step. But for a large lap, step would be a minute, for small — a second.

I wanted to save some timer presets for later use, so I added this feature.

Then I moved buttons for better user experience.

And adjusted visual elements to different device sizes and orientations.

I created an application icon.

And released app on the AppStore:

You might ask, what's with my procrastination? I overcome it with my timer. But I use my own periods: 45 minutes of work and 17 minutes of rest.

Hope, you'll catch your own work/break rhythm, with Ring Timer, and share with me your experience.

My timer rings me I may go for a walk. Luckily, I just finish this post.