A few weeks ago, Peter Bell wrote a blog post about the Pomodoro Technique, a time management technique that advocates setting aside a set amount of time to turn off all distractions (e-mail, IM, Twitter) and focusing on a single task. I had just recently starting adopting the practice of shutting down my e-mail client once in awhile so as not to be distracted by incoming messages, so the idea made a lot of sense to me.
Not having a physical kitchen timer like the Pomodoro folks use and finding my stopwatch to be somewhat inadequate, I decided to try and write an AIR application to fit my needs. And so the focusTimer was born.
It's a very simple app: set the amount of time you want to focus (the 25 minutes advocated by the Pomodoro folks is the default), and click the "Start" button. I didn't want to get caught up in checking to see how much time was left, so I added a button so I could toggle between seeing the time left and just a status message.
I wanted to keep the window small so that it could be moved out of the way, but I also wanted a strong visual cue for when the time was up, so the color of the window changes to green when you start the countdown, switches to yellow for the "2-minute warning", and ends in red when the timer runs out. In the two days I've been using it at work, I've found that I can move the window to the far end of my secondary monitor and still catch the color change out of the corner of my eye.
Finally, even though the idea is to block out all distractions, there are some interruptions that cannot be ignored, so the "Start" button toggles between a "Pause" button and a "Resume" button once the countdown has started. If your focus session goes completely off the rails, you can use the "Cancel" button to break out of it and start all over again.
Even though I wrote this AIR app primarily for myself, I figured other folks might find it useful, so it's now available for download up on RIAforge: http://focustimer.riaforge.org