How I used Pomodoro to boost My Productivity


My semester started late this year – I made a trip to Nigeria to see my folks after an entire year. On my return, I dedicated some time to planning my goals, readjusting to life as a student and set my goals. Despite my planning, I struggled to find a daily rhythm; I was not working as effectively as I wanted and at times I felt I was just frittering away my time. My renewed efforts and strategies also didn’t work – I  even had to fight sleep to meet my targets at times.

I felt somewhat bad when I compared my productivity levels to that of the previous year; I worked really hard during my first year at MASDAR and always tried to push my limits. I marvel at the energy and passion that kept me going on and on and on; maybe it was because I had just left Nigeria, maybe because I  was a stranger; maybe not, maybe I wouldn’t know. One thing for sure, I was in a new challenging environment, everyone was nice and I had time to dedicate to work and boy! Did I work? I gave my all and rapidly got burnt out often. Now, getting burnt out is NOT good : Avoid it!

Want to achieve high levels of productivity, produce high-quality work and not get burnt out? Try Pomodoro. Pomodoro is a technique that enables you to dedicate 25 minutes to a single specific task and then take a five-minute break. It basically involves setting out 25 minutes blocks of intense focus – yes I.N.T.E.N.S.E focus; you cut distractions such as phone calls, emails, interruptions, focus on just one task and give it your best. The elimination of multi-tasking enables you to perform better and achieve goals within shorter periods too.

I first stumbled upon Pomodoro back in 2011 while I was working at Terragon but I dropped it later on. I rediscovered pomodoro while I was checking out apps on the Chrome web store  (i.e. a form of distraction that is equivalent to wasting time) and decided to give it a second shot. First, it was great to read Francesco Cirillo’s story; his reasons for inventing the technique and then learn how to properly apply the technique. My next steps involved a reorganization of my activities to fit into the model; I then forced myself to adjust – I initially found the 25-minute blocks to be too long.

Pomodoro has helped me improve my planning and estimation – I now know what I need to do every day and have a better idea of the effort involved. It has also worked wonders for my focus: I used to be easily distracted and usually gave up easily. However with pomodoro I know what I want to achieve whenever I start out a pomodoro block and I can dedicate my efforts to achieving the best results or completing the pomodoro (whichever comes first; it’s a win-win for moi). Best of all, I can work optimally for extended periods without getting burnt out; now, that’s  pomo-tastic! 🙂

You should try it out too; I am not guaranteeing that it’ll work for you ( it has sure helped me to get things done Alhamdulilah) but who knows? It just might…

Opennigeria… the time is now!


It is comforting to know we have great software craftsmen who are passionate about what they do and are willing to make a change. The Nigerian software sector, though nascent, is slowly growing and gaining momentum. There are developer events, meetups, startups and competitions. However; despite several boot camps, developer meetups, hackathons and several cool products; there has been NO single EVENT to promote open source in Nigeria ( well, I don’t know of any yet… ).

Eek! It makes me cringe that we can’t boast of our own  Ubuntu and Ushahidi. Yes! It’s shameful! Africa‘s most populous black nation, several world-class software engineers, lots of mobile/web developers and designers and no open-source solution. What’s wrong? Don’t ask me; ask yourself.

How do we expect our ecosystem to develop when we have NOTHING to show off yet? Engaging in a native open-source project will give us the collaborative culture of problem solving and might have implications far outside the realm of software. Isn’t it enough that we are seen as contributing to knowledge and not just consumers? Moreover, it gives us the platform to prove the quality of our software… (no more jobs going to India? :D)

Why don’t we – Nigerian developers – come together and work on an open-source project that’ll provide solutions to some of the major problems Nigerians face? It could be in education, poverty alleviation, health, security or environmental monitoring. A way to authenticate malaria drugs? Great! Education through mobile-social platforms? Lovely!! Some crowdsourcing platform that’ll pay people to answer questions? Marvelous!!!

Revoda worked so we have the skills, the experience and the manpower to develop world-class IT solutions. The only question is “are we willing to make this change?”

Let’s build something great!!! Interested? Start a discussion in the comments. Else, please pass it on to someone who might be interested!

Thank you all for helping.

Some of my favourite web destinations


Yeah, I blog ‘weekly’; Ok ok; I try to blog weekly; now that’s better huh? This week, I’ll be writing about the blogs I follow quite often. Yah; I follow them often to get the gist and stuff like that. They might not be to your taste but do look through first before taking a stand.

TechCrunch

TechCrunch is a technology review site and always has the latest gist about technology events happening around; I first got wind of Google+ there. And they have some great columnists too; I find myself enjoying Sarah Lucy’s posts even though I don’t quite agree with her view of the Nigerian technology space. Well, all in all, TechCrunch is a great place for information on current trends.

 http://techcrunch.com/

Joelonsoftware

Joel is an Israeli who worked at Microsoft at some time in his life and now owns his company. He writes about software development, management, business development and the internet. I enjoy reading his blog a lot because I get to pick up so much information and learn more from one of the icons of software development. Are you a developer too? Check it out.

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/

Nettuts

I have been following nettuts since 2009 when I somewhat stumbled on the site; ever since; I’ve learnt so much following the series of posts they make. I credit them with learning about codeigniter, apache modules, design tips and software architecture. Even though I don’t follow most of the tutorials, it keeps me updated and they have lots of sister sites too that provide excellent tutorials.

http://net.tutsplus.com/

QuickSprout

This is the blog of Neil Patel, a 23-year-old Indian entrepreneur. I like Neil’s style of writing and primarily follow the blog to improve my business acumen and get tips and related stuff.

http://www.quicksprout.com/

THE WRITE STUFF

I like Chimezie’s wit and style although his language is sometimes foul. I find myself laughing at the vivid portrayal of life, growing up as mischievous Nigerian kid. I find myself looking forward to his weekly posts.

http://chimezieokonkwo.blogspot.com

What are your favourite web destinations?

My Android experience


It was in May and one of my old friends called me and after exchanging pleasantries, we somehow got talking about the Android Developer Challenge.

Being typically my old lazy self, I waved it off and said I wasn’t interested because I didn’t KNOW how to program Android; however he persisted and got me to realise that it wasn’t so much of a big deal. Pronto! I changed my mind and set about learning Android believing I was going to build the next Angry Birds – don’t blame me oh. I downloaded the SDK – took me about a week: I live in Nigeria, see? Got Eclipse and set up my development tools and was finally ready.

I made the first mistake by trying to learn Android from the developer docs; after fooling around with the sample apps in the documentation and covering little or no ground I decide to get a book . I scoured the internet looking for a free book on Android – I don’t pirate stuff, remember? – and finally stumbled upon the busy coder’s guide to android development, a book by Mark L. Murphy which is released on a Four-to-Free (42F) policy. This means that after 4000 copies are sold or after the fourth anniversary of a book’s publication; the book is open sourced. The author’s wit made the book an enjoyable read. Armed with my knowledge of Android and fueled by my passion to develop the next viral app; I immediately set to work with much gung-ho. 😀

Initally the plan was to build a mapping app and we were working on it. However, my partner realised it was taking too long and suggested we ‘dumb down’ to meet the ADC window. Finally, we wrote an application that shortens text messages; there are three modes: basic, moderate and extreme and each mode does what its name potrays; interested? Test the app. I would have loved the application to be better but there was little time and I’m still a little bit shaky on my Android programming skills.

Anyway, it’s a good start – I’ve learnt so much ranging from collaboration using subversion and top-down design to Android development; next I’ve got to learn how to theme wordpress sites or maybe drupal… God help me.

Oh, our the Android app: smsReducer will soon be available for download; we’re adding more features before we release it.

Have fun.

Stop Piracy


One of the evils plaguing the software industry is piracy. It is not right to steal software or copyrighted work. The sad reality is that nearly everyone is involved in some form of piracy or the other. From fake unlicensed Windows Operating systems to books to software suites, people steal/crack/pirate software.

One of the motivations for going to Linux was because I was limited by Windows. Nearly all software produced for Windows are commercial, moreover the hefty price tags effectively put them out of the reach of many Nigerians. How many Nigerians can afford to pay up to 30,000 naira for a software package?

I made up my mind never to use pirated software fora couple of reasons; my faith doesn’t allow it because it’s cheating and oppression, my conscience troubles me because developers invest so much time, effort and money into creating useful software. And as much as I believe in open source and contributing towards helping people, I feel people have a right to sell their software too.

Way out? Alternatives exist for major software and also there are extensive libraries of books which are free and have no copyrights – they are copyleft ;). The benefits of using authentic software clearly outweigh those gained by using pirated/cracked software. Admittedly, some like the Adobe Creative Suite might have no equal but you CAN still create products of equal value using other software.

Life is all about values, we have to define our values and stand for them. If  I choose to do what is right and will stick to it insha Allah (God willing). Its up to you to choose what you want to do.

Lets unite against piracy, lets move against cheating.

Make cheaper calls…


The cutthroat competition between the major telecommunications operators in Nigeria keeps getting  hotter. This is good news for all of us – I mean consumers. Tariffs keep falling and the steady stream of exciting new offers highlight the intense rivalry between the telecomm giants. I personally have three SIM cards already – all in a bid to make cheaper calls. 😀

MTN has just launched a range of brand new services which promises to be much more fun. What I like best is the MTN Special Number – for just 250 naira, you get to call only one number as much as you like for a whole month! Incredible?! Its true. Better still, the special number can call you too anytime, anyday within the 30-day window at no cost too. To migrate simply dials *563*number#. Read more about the Magic number here: MTN magic number. The friend and family feature is even more flexible: you can call 4 MTN numbers, one international number and one number from any network at 20k per second.

Etisalat has the best tariff deal for me. At a daily flat rate of 20 naira I can call any network at 25kobo/sec, this is great! I get to talk more!! Yay!!! And everyone’s happy too. I wonder why the others haven’t come up with something to challenge this, they keep restricting the goodies to their networks alone. 😦

Although Glo and Airtel have their own packages too. Glo Infinito works for some and doesn’t work for some. The Glo infinito tariff allows you to call any Glo line at 35k for the first 30sec and then 25k/sec for whatever follows, to activate dial *103*1*1#. The downside is that it doesn’t work in all states. Learn more.

I’m not running a marketing campaign for any telecommunication company; far from it, I’m trying to find the cheapest way to call my friends and loved ones. Personally, I make most of my calls on my Etisalat – I spend more than 200 naira weekly to get the bonus 600 free seconds to call my family number :).  Well, with the magic number from MTN, I think I won’t be needing the 600 free seconds anymore – I just hope MTN’s offer lasts long.

I like the competition, it’s healthy, it’s beautiful and it enables us to communicate more.

So go get calling…

Memories of IFE…


White House
White House

Some weeks ago, I was walking past a tree near the former rotunda café in OAU. Its bare branches sagged under the weight of hundreds of bats. Bats! The creatures that dropped poop on me in my third year! This got me thinking about my undergraduate days in OAU.

My first year was somehow fun. Being a young teenager, I seemed to have no worries apart from the usual ones of feeding and study; ah…, the wild rush for lecture halls. I had never been so far away from home, was homesick and called home often to ease my loneliness. Hostel life was new and exciting;  the constant banter, soldier ants and nasty tricks – I was the architect of some of them. ;).

I got introduced to FORTRAN in my second year and instantly fell in love with programming. By taking on pro bono work, I tremendously improved my word processing and programming skills. I remember the math course I took in the second semester – all my colleagues do too – the exam was one of the most exacting that I wrote. The students appropriately labelled it ‘tsunami’.

The first and last time a bat dropped poop on me was in my third year. I was rushing to class and suddenly felt a wetness on my head; it was very embarrassing. During the same year, I was heavily criticized at a presentation, wrote a great piece of assembly software and traveled to the North.

My fourth year started well, the semester was short, very short and I got to improve tremendously on my Arabic. After the semester, I spent six weeks looking for an internship; it was an unpleasant experience. Just when I thought I was going to give up; I got a place at Neo-matrix experts. The better part of 7 months was spent learning about web development and Linux. The Neo-matrix job showed me programming jobs were demanding jobs requiring high levels of focus and dedication.

I switched platforms and moved over to Ubuntu Linux just before starting my final year. I found Linux to be reliable, interesting and challenging. The decision to change was fueled by my curiosity and my desire to stay away from all forms of pirated software.

My last year at OAU was my most challenging year in school. I’d never been so so busy in my life, I had too many things to do and had to constantly deliver at high levels of performance. It finally ended with my final exams some weeks ago and my project defence.

Though I didn’t get to visit the dam, climb all the three inselbergs (I got to climb only one), or get to the oxidation area unit during my time in school, I got to learn so much in the sheltered environment OAU offered me. I learnt honour, hard work, integrity, sacrifice, brotherhood, loyalty, courage and responsibility. These values are some of the greatest assets anyone can have.

They say OAU has the largest population of bats in Nigeria; I don’t know how true this is but I know that my experiences in OAU will sure remain indelible. Long live Great Ife! Another Great Ife is a counterfeit…