Automating the Workday

Building a simple Automator application helped me to stay focused and on target.

Recently I put together an Automator application to help me stay on task during work hours. In the past I have tried out multiple Pomodoro apps that do something similar, but I was never thrilled with any of them. This time around I decided to take a stab at making something that would match my ideal routine. The thing that I like about it is that it is simple: there is no UI to get in the way and it doesn't require me to tinker with settings or enter notes about the tasks that I have completed. (That is what time-tracking apps like Harvest are for, and they do a much better job of it.) Once I launch the program it stays out of my way.

Establishing a Routine

  1. When the application launches nothing happens for ten minutes. This removes any hesitation about starting and allows me to fire up the application right when I get into the office in the morning. That ten minutes gives me just enough time to go over my priorities or get my workspace setup for the day without feeling guilty about it.
  2. Prompt: "Are you ready to work?" Yes I am, let's get started.
  3. A fifty minute work block with one growl notification at the halfway point to make sure that I am still on track.
  4. Ten minutes of break with a reminder to track my hours. This gives me time to walk around, read an article, or respond to urgent emails.
  5. The application pops up a dialog, and I confirm that I am ready to get back to work.
  6. Repeat eight times, then I am done! (On paper anyway.)

Here is what the workflow looks like:

Automator Workflow


Hopefully reading this will prompt you to think about ways that you can improve your own work habits. Feel free to download the application if you find it useful.

Note: Some people may be aggravated by the spinning cog that Automator puts in the menubar (myself included). If you know a way to hide it, I'm all ears.