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I once appeared in my high school’s production of The Pajama Game, a musical about labor strife at a pajama factory, of all things. One of the songs is called “Think of the Time I Save,” and I still get the chorus stuck in my head occasionally: “Tick-tock, tick-tock, tempus fugit. Tick-tock, tick-tock, time goes by.” It’s a super-cheesy musical, but a nice reminder to manage my time well.
So when I recently went looking for a versatile timer app, I was relieved to find FlexTime. This light utility lets you program timed routines, making it a great choice for repetitive tasks.
For example, my most frequently used FlexTime routine is Merlin Mann’s productivity hack: 10 minutes of solid work, followed by 2 minutes of strictly enforced goofing off. Repeat that five times and you’ve just worked 50 minutes out of an hour--not bad. I’ve also got FlexTime reminding me, via a Growl notification (which requires Growl, a free notification system for Mac OS X), to space out Mac|Life’s Twitter posts. I can prewrite a day’s tweets in Tweetie, and FlexTime just nudges me to push one out every 20 minutes.
At $19, FlexTime isn't the cheapest timer out there (Apimac's Timer is free), but its versatility, flexibility, and ease-of-use have made it an MVP of my workflow. I guess that dorky "time-study man" in The Pajama Game was onto something--tempus fugit.
Here are two FlexTime routines I use a lot, no scripting required.
FlexTime’s easily programmed routines can include multiple steps and run once or in a continuous loop. Each step can be marked by a sound, spoken text (using Mac OS X’s text-to-speech feature), a text or Growl pop-up, or even trigger a script.
Scripting is key to FlexTime’s versatility. A routine can run an AppleScript, a shell script, or an Automator workflow. Users who are familiar with these can script all kinds of events that aren’t included in FlexTime’s defaults. A script could launch your favorite backup utility, open your to-do list, save the current document, or empty your Trash. FlexTime’s Help includes some basic examples, and when you’re using Mac OS X’s built-in Script Editor (in Applications/AppleScript), you can choose File > Open Dictionary and pick the FlexTime dictionary to browse compatible commands.
But even if writing a script freaks you out, FlexTime’s built-in options can cover a lot of ground. I re-created the routines from my favorite workout DVD, and exported the audio to iTunes, so I can exercise anywhere without the DVD. (This would also work for tai chi or yoga.) You can even break up longer activities with affirmations at set intervals--your Mac nudging you along with the occasional “You’re doing great, keep going,” for example.