Gadgets for humans

The TickTime is a clever productivity gadget that just works

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With so much of the world’s workforce shifting to remote labor, a whole lot of people are trying to figure out how to be productive at home for the first time. Well, I’ve been working from home for years, and I still haven’t totally figured out the puzzle. There are no shortage of apps designed to help you be more productive, but I’m not sure anything I’ve tried has had as much potential as a little gadget called the TickTime.

The concept is simple but clever. If you’ve ever heard of the Pomodoro method, which asks you to work in roughly 25-minute intervals with a short (say, five minutes) break in between, the TickTime is essentially that in physical form.

The device is shaped like a long hexagon, and each side corresponds to a different timer: 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, or 30 minutes. Lay the timer down such that your preferred setting faces up, and the timer starts automatically — it works instantly, no buttons or touchscreens required. If you do want to set a custom timer, there’s a screen and a couple of buttons for settings on one end of the device. When the alarm goes off, just flip the device to get it to turn off.

It’s almost as intuitive as a sand timer or, and it works perfectly every time. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the little gadget to screw up the timer settings. I also appreciate the fact you can adjust the volume from annoyingly loud to almost inaudibly quiet — quiet enough I might even use one in a library.

“But wait! Can’t I just set a timer on my phone or download a Pomodoro app?” Well, of course, young grasshopper. But its the immediacy and purpose-built nature of the TickTime that makes it so lovely. You won’t get distracted because you got a notification your crush did something on Facebook, or your friend just posted a picture of their cute dog on Instagram.

It’s not perfect. It’s light, at 58 grams, but it feels a bit cheap despite the metal outer shell. I’d love a version with some more heft to it that would feel a little more durable or would make for a nicer gift. It also charges via MicroUSB, which is so annoying in 2020 that I almost chose not to review it for that sole reason. Seriously, this is the last time I review something that uses micro USB.

Still, using it is addictive. It’s not going to turn you into a productivity machine on its own of course — my colleague Yessi has some great tips if you’re a newly minted remote worker. But in my experience, it’s a more effective, distraction-free alternative to software alternatives. And of course, you can use it for more than just getting work done; I’ve used it as a kitchen timer too.

Every once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised by a novel gadget I never knew I’d want. If you want to get your hands on one, the TickTime available from Indiegogo for $39. Shipping is expected to begin in May. The usual crowdfunding warnings apply, but at least the company has working prototypes and the investment is a relatively low commitment.

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Published April 27, 2020 — 23:55 UTC

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