Pom & Circumstance: Announcing Pombot for tracking time and productivity in Slack

Recent communication apps, like Slack, have lowered the barrier of entry for the use of bots to increase productivity. There are many techniques that I, personally, have tried in the past for time management, but none that I ever ended up fully adopting. Despite that, I always have been fascinated with what my colleagues were using.

I’ve known about the Pomodoro Technique for years, but incorporating it into my workflow has always felt interruptive. I had all but forgotten about the approach until our design team presented how they were using it recently.

I was fascinated by how they’d implemented it in their Slack channel: Jess would state when a “pom,” or 25-minute sprint, would start. She would also let everyone in the channel know when there was 5 minutes left. It was with that statement that I thought out loud “we can automate this!” and the idea for PomBot was born. There was no reason for Jess to be interrupting her own workflow to aid others, when we could build a Slack bot that provides the commands to do so.

Meanwhile, Ben and Tyler were already at work on Chatter, Bocoup’s new library providing useful primitives for creating interactive chat bots. With a simple idea and a set of abstractions making it simple to bring that idea to reality, PomBot was built in a matter of weeks after a process of prototyping, user testing, and learning about the best practices of handling teams outside of our own using our bot as a service.

PomBot is a simple Slack bot, built with Chatter, that provides commands for you to start and stop 25-minute ​poms​. The i will task allows you to tell PomBot what task you plan to focus on in the upcoming ​pom​. You can check the status of ​poms​ to see how much time is left and what tasks, if any, are associated with it. PomBot will say when a ​pom​ has completed when 25 minutes are up. You can interact with Pombot privately, or you can invite it into a channel and do a ​pom​ with multiple users.

This is the power of bots for productivity that has me excited about chat applications today, and I am super excited to have helped implement something for my own coworkers to aid that. I truly feel like bots are going to further drive how we multi-task while communicating at work – something for which email and phone had failed me, personally, in the past. If you use the Pomodoro Technique, or are intrigued by trying it out, give PomBot a shot in your Slack team by going to pombot.bocoup.com and clicking that cool “Add to Slack” button!

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