POTM for February: Countdown Clock Extension for Firefox

The general idea of the Project of the Month is to donate some money to an open source project and write a blog post about it. Everyone knows about the major open source projects, such as the Linux kernel or Firefox, but there are plenty of examples of open source projects that impact you in some way that might not appear on most people’s radars.

For this month’s POTM entry, I decided to go with the Countdown Clock extension for Firefox.

Whenever I install Firefox on a new computer, I always make sure to install a few extensions, and Countdown Clock is one of them. Basically, you use it as a timer to countdown to some future time. You can countdown to a specific date and time, or you could set it to be relative to the current time. I don’t normally use it for long term countdowns, such as to my birthday or a hot date, but I do use it to timebox. Timeboxing is when you give yourself a set time, say 30 minutes, to do as much as you can at a specific task. For example, when I program, I sometimes have trouble getting motivated to do anything, and after three hours, I might have nothing accomplished. With Countdown Clock, I set it for 45 minutes, and it is almost like I am in college again, working on a paper at the last minute. All of a sudden, I’m focused, and sometimes I’m in The Zone. I can get a lot accomplished in that 45 minutes, knowing that I can take a small break once that time is up. I can also reset the timer again, getting two or more sessions of 45 minutes in an evening.

45 minutes also happens to correspond with how often I have to change a load of laundry, so I can work on game development and still know when to head to the laundry room. Timeboxing and clean clothes: a winning combination.

You can set Countdown Clock to popup an announcement, but I chose not to have the popup. The message still appears in the bottom corner of Firefox when the coutndown is finished, and I find that having a .wav file play is good enough for me. I chose to use a long screaming laugh from Gir of Invader Zim. You just can’t mistake it for some music or sound effect from an application I happen to be running at the time.

One of the side-effects of running Countdown Clock is that the bottom of the browser has the last message you asked it to say. It’s weird when it says something like “Get laundry!” or “Time to eat lunch!”, especially when the message makes no sense, but I like to set it to something inspirational. Currently I use “Don’t ruin your mind” to remind me not to idle away at pointless websites when I could be doing something on purpose.

Thanks go to the developer, Frederic Mercille, for making a wonderful extension.

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