The Kitchen Timer Is My Friend

A Gadget That Offers Trust, Acceptance, Shared Interest, and Support

Staffan Nöteberg
The Pragmatic Programmers

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While it may not be possible for a human to have a friendship with a gadget in the traditional sense, the kitchen timer can sometimes support you remarkably well in achieving your goals. This might be especially true when the kitchen timer is red and round — eventually shaped like a tomato.

Good friends understand and share each other’s feelings, offering support and compassion during difficult times. They know what it feels like to walk in each other’s shoes. This phenomenon is called empathy.

Even though neither I nor the clock feel empathy for each other (a gadget, as we know, has no emotions), I trust the clock like two friends trust each other. When I have chosen one — and only one — task and wind up my kitchen timer, that task becomes my sole focus until the clock rings, regardless of how many other brilliant ideas may pop up in my head or how much I crave something to eat. I trust that my timer will ring when it’s time to take a break.

Friends understand that mistakes happen and are willing to forgive each other. They sincerely apologize, especially when the person who errs shows that they have learned something. Buddies know that flaws are a part of life and forgiveness is central to friendship.

The clock cannot forgive, since it neither speaks nor acknowledges mistakes, but the clock and I still accept each other for who we are. The kitchen timer always supports my choice of task without judgment or criticism. My job is to choose a task and then pay attention to it until the timer rings. The timer’s task is to notify me after a specified amount of time. Even when I don’t have a clear solution in mind, it helps me focus.

Friends offer unconditional love to each other, providing a source of comfort and companionship throughout life’s ups and downs. Their often long, shared history makes them feel safe when they are together.

The clock does not harbor love for anyone, neither with nor without conditions. However, we have a shared interest: I should not multitask. If I attempt to do many things simultaneously, then I don’t need a kitchen timer. A side effect of multitasking would be that I wouldn’t complete any tasks efficiently due to divided energy. The clock needs me, and I need the clock.

Reciprocity, laughter, and equality are other traits that characterize friendships between humans but, of course, do not exist in my relationship with the kitchen timer. However, my clock offers me other kinds of support, such as efficiency, consistency, and transparency.

That’s why, ultimately, I consider my red round kitchen timer to be a cherished companion.

Staffan Nöteberg is the author of The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated, published by The Pragmatic Bookshelf.

You can also read The Pomodoro Technique Illustrated on Medium.

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Staffan Nöteberg
The Pragmatic Programmers

🌱 Twenty Years of Agile Coaching and Leadership • Monotasking and Pomodoro books (700.000 copies sold)