Methodology

Here’s the TL;DR version:

When you’ve created your to-do list and start your tasks the app will use the Pomodoro method of 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off. When your 25 minutes on task are up a 5 minute video will pop up guiding you through a movement or mindfulness exercise. When those 5 minutes are up the timer starts for task two.

At least, that’s the app we’re trying to build. For now, you can see our Movement and Mindfulness page for links to YouTube videos we’ve tested and approved along with our favorite Pomodoro timer.

We almost have the first version of the app ready to go but could use a little help finishing it. If it’s something you think could be valuable to you please consider donating to our Patreon.

Here’s the story behind it. Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

You sit down.

You stare at your computer.

It stares back. Menacingly.

The task is too large and too intimidating. You make a cup of tea.

This is how my year on fellowship started.

Finally, someone turned me on to the Pomodoro method. So, I set a timer for 25 minutes and forced myself to sit there, in front of my computer. I scrolled up. I scrolled down. I checked the timer. Eventually, I started to actually read the tentative sentences I had managed to write. I found a comma error. I fixed it. I noticed where a citation should be so I added it, and so it went. With my anxiety comforted by the fact that I only had to stick with it for 25 minutes I was lured into working on the dissertation. At the end of those 25 minutes I didn’t have a lot, but I had more than when I started.

I continued using the Pomodoro method and, overall, I liked it. Even if I did nothing but sit and stare at the page for 25 minutes I was engaging with the work and slowly moving forward.

But, I had a problem. I couldn’t figure out what to do with my breaks. I frequently found myself spending my whole break looking for a clip to watch on YouTube during my break. When the timer would go off, telling me that 5 minutes were up, I didn’t want to go back to work as I had just found something to watch. So I would watch it, automatically making my break closer to 10 minutes, and sometimes I would watch the next clip YouTube recommended, making my break closer to 15.

In talking with my colleagues, I found that they had the same problem. Wouldn’t it be nice, we mused, if there was a timer with built-in videos of exactly 5 minutes in length? Wouldn’t it be even nicer if those videos led us through some shoulder stretches or a short meditation? And, so, the idea for this site was born.

As a site by grad students and for grad students, I want to make sure you know the research behind the methods so at least twice a month I’ll be posting a piece about the research that guides the site: from productivity to motivation to mindfulness.

Of course, you could also just use the damn thing and see if it works for you. I hope it does and, if not, I’m always eager to hear about ways to improve.

Finally, while the vision for this site might have started with a desire for a better Pomodoro method, tailored to grad student experience, it didn’t end there. If you’re interested in how I hope to grow the site, and the services we offer, head on over to the Dreams page.