I wrote a pommodoro timer in elisp. Elisp is the language of Emacs, the 40 year old editor that is still going! Elisp is to Emacs what Javascript is to Visual Studio Code if that means more to you ;).

The pommodoro technique is new to me. It is a time management technique that consists of five simple steps.

  1. Get a to-do list and a timer.
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until the timer rings.
  3. When your session ends, mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed.
  4. Then enjoy a five-minute break.
  5. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break.

The functionality consists of two global variables and two functions. I use a variable for the timer itself, and a variable that can be used to customize the time. I use defvar, which allows me to add documentation to a variable as well. All the code I added to init.el.

(defvar pommodoro-timeout "25m" "Duration of a pommodoro timer")
(defvar pommodoro-current-timer nil "The current pommodoro timer")

Then I have two function that I can call when in Emacs. These I have tied to F2 and F3, so that they are really easy to reach. With pommodoro-start-timer I am prompted for a title and then a timer is set with that title. With pommodoro-show-timer a message appears in the minibuffer that reminds me of the current timer and when it will be finished.

(defun pommodoro-start-timer ()
  "Start a pommodoro timer which shows a notification after 25 minutes"
  (interactive)
  (catch 'cancel
    (progn
      (if (and pommodoro-current-timer (time-less-p (current-time)
                                                    (timer--time pommodoro-current-timer)))
          (if (yes-or-no-p "There is a current pommodoro running, do you want to cancel it? ")
              (cancel-timer pommodoro-current-timer) (throw 'cancel t)))
      (setq pommodoro-current-timer
            (run-at-time pommodoro-timeout nil #'shell-command
                         (format "notify-send -i messagebox_info -u critical 'Pommodoro done' %s"
                                 (read-string "Task description: ")))))))

This function sets a timer with run-at-time, based on a description that you have to enter (read-string). There is one additional functionality, if there is a currently running timer, I am prompted to be sure I want to cancel that one. The notification is sent using shell-command, using the Linux utility notify-send. There is a package notifications in Emacs which works well, except for one thing, I couldn't get the notifications to show when in full-screen mode.

This is the function for seeing how much time there is left in the current pommodoro which is very simple at the moment.

(defun pommodoro-show-timer ()
  (interactive)
  (message "Pommodoro done at %s"
           (format-time-string "%T" (timer--time pommodoro-current-timer))))

And finally the keybindings are set with

(global-set-key (kbd "<f2>") #'pommodoro-start-timer)
(global-set-key (kbd "<f3>") #'pommodoro-show-timer)

I'll be trying to stick with the technique and this home-brewn functionality for a while! Let's see how it works. Three improvements I want to add right away are

  • The pommodoro-show-timer function should show the name of the current task as well
  • The icon should be a tomato
  • The pommodoro-show-timer function should show the relative time until running out instead of the actual time ("5m to go!" instead of "done at 22:04:23")

Thanks for reading! If you want to reach out, post an issue to the Github repository of this website or contact me on Twitter!