For years I’ve used one or another Pomodoro-style timer to focus my attention on the work at hand. Recently though, my old goto for this Focus Keeper on [just] iOS, was becoming more annoying than helpful. Marching along – and being marched along to the tune of its beat – was feeling oppressive, not empowering. It’s not the fault of the app – it was doing what it was supposed to do and what it had been designed to do. But having to keep looking down at my phone on my desk and away from my code was no longer working for me.
It was time for something new. And something that worked on the three screens in my life, not just one. After a couple of not good choices (see below), I’m happy to report I’m now a marching to a new timer: FocusList. On my phone, but also in sync on my desktop(s) and most usefully, on my Apple Watch. Here’s what you get with FocusList I did not find with two other multi-device apps:

  • FocusList on all three devices is synced to the second. As I watch the timer on getting this post done count down on my FocusList on my iMacs, it’s counting down on my phone, exactly in sync.
  • I can control it from a complication on my Apple Watch’s face. This is great – and I control all three apps at the same time. Pause, skip to the next task, take a break. No fuss and no mess.
  • It’s a clean, minimalist display: no wasted pixels on digital tomatoes that try to imitate the ideas behind the Pomodoro Technique without getting the logic or reason right.
  • It’s task driven. I create tasks (I prefer doing this in the desktop version for obvious reasons), but can first timebox a task to say 2 hours then work through it a pomodoro at a time.
  • You can set it so it doesn’t strongarm you into the next break, the next pomo, etc. While in theory there’s no difference between the theory and the reality of using a pomodoro timer to be productive, in reality there’s a huge difference as bio-breaks, cats, meetings, and other non-theoretical interruptions break into your pomo rhythm.

2 products to avoid

Two other products are worth noting – but in a negative way. First off, when you go looking for pomodoro mac os ios apple watch you’ll hit Pomodoro Time and Be Focused by Denys Yevenko. They looks good, and syncs across the OS divide, except it doesn’t. After a frustrating 15 minutes trying to get them to sync I got an email that sync had been turned off in April – something neither listing last updated this month bothered to correct. Instant Apple refund, here we come.
The other Pomodoro pair that caught my eye as Focus and Focus by Laser Focused. It’s laser focused alright – at my wallet. I simply cannot see spending a total of $28 for what is after all a timer. Especially when FocusList does the same job for $8.
Two things more to pass along if you decide to buy FocusList (and you should if you’re a Pomodoro-centric kind of developer). To increase time for a task in the iOS version, you swipe right to increment it by 30 minutes. On the desktop version, hovering over the time value for a task lets you drag it up or down. One of those silly interface over function instances, but there it is.
Second, if you got all in and get both, sign up and log in for the free sync account on both the desktop and iOS versions first, then start adding tasks. Doing it the other way unfortunately sync’ed my empty list with my populated list, to my detriment.
All in all, FocusList is turning out to be one of the few apps that naturally and natively make sense on my Apple Watch, as well as on my iPhone and my iMacs: highly recommended.

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