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Rants and Raves #4

July 17, 2009

It is very difficult for me to come to terms with this, but I have nothing to Rant about.  I don’t know, maybe I’m sick or something, but nothing has really gotten under my skin this week.  Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll be feeling better next time.  For now, I hope you enjoy this Rant-free entry.

Raves

More Pomodoro: GMail Tasks and an online Timer

I raved last week about Pomodoro, and I’m still raving.  This is quickly becoming a mainstay of my development, and so far with great results.  This week’s rave is about some of the tools I’m using to help me along.

I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime recently a new item showed up in my GMail: “Tasks”.  Now, obviously the idea of a task list is hardly revolutionary, but given my recent adventures with Pomodoro it was a very well timed discovery.

A Pomodoro purist would insist on Pencil and Paper to manage one’s daily tasks, but my desk has a tendency to get piled up with papers, among other things, and I’ve learned to essentially ignore the mess until I have no choice.  All arguments for a clean desk aside, this means that any system relying on me to regularly update anything on paper is destined for failure.

While I plan to tackle this shortcoming eventually, for now the GMail Task pane is my answer.  I can undock it and run it standalone, so I have it separated from my browser: this allows me to see it constantly.  For simple things like a daily task list, the service couldn’t be any easier, just add a task and check it off when complete.

The service supports more features, such as setting due dates and annotations.  For now, I plan to add a lot of specific tasks to my list: this seems best in keeping with the Pomodoro spirit.

My official Tomato Timer is on order ($5.99 + free shipping!), but thanks to reader Stephen Wrighton I have been using e.ggtimer.com/25minutes with some success.  It is a simple site that counts down from the number of minutes in the URL (you can change it as needed).  There is an audible beep when the timer is complete, and a popup message.  I have missed it a couple of times while busy with other tasks, but for the most part it has served me well.  Best of all it is free and easy to use: I just hit ‘Refresh’ at the beginning of each new Pomodoro.

I mentioned Pomodoro in our weekly Scrum (a topic for another time) and everyone thought it was cute – until I showed them what I was able to accomplish last week because of it.  My productivity is currently off the charts, so far a good justification for continuing the experiment.

ReSharper

I’ve certainly heard of productivity tools like ReSharper, but I’ve never really understood what the big deal was, until a couple of things happened recently to make me want to give it a go.  First, at the Charlottesville .NET User Group, Justin Etheredge gave a presentation and I got to see it in action for the first time.  I was very impressed by what I saw.  Then at CodeStock, Mike Wood had a great Open Spaces session, and one of the things said was that if you weren’t using a tool like this then you were shooting yourself in the foot.

Well, I certainly don’t want my foot shot, so I installed ReSharper and immediately began reaping the benefits.  I expected some kind of learning curve, but honestly it is all so intuitive that it just sort of happens.  My favorite feature so far is where you can begin to define a class and it will move the new class to a new file for you.  It’s small things like that, a whole slew of them, that make all the difference.  Above all else, this software helps keep my hands on the keyboard.

Coincidentally, I won a copy of DevExpress DXperience Enterprise, which includes a productivity tool called CodeRush.  I just installed it and will be experimenting with it in the near future, so more to come on that.

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