Forced focus. How a tomato can make you produce more than a sauce.

by Aug 7, 2014Productivity

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I can pretty much be the equivalent of Dug the Dog on most days and most hours of the week. What saves me are the apps and hacks I've implemented to force me or encourage me to focus and GSD.

I've tried several apps and programs to help me keep to task on the computer. It's very easy for me to get sucked into the black hole of links, tabs, videos and posts and not even remember what my original intention was when I stood in front of the computer. Except now, I'm watching a hamster playing a piano or a cat ninja-stalking their human.

Here are three programs I use that help me Timecap my Timesuck.

RescueTime_-_All_Activities_pdf__page_1_of_2_

RescueTime

This program runs in the background and tracks time spent on applications and websites to give me an overall view of where my time is being spent. I can see that over a day I've spent 32 minutes in email and 5 hr 39 min over the course of the week. I can manually add in meetings where I'm not in front of the computer and set alerts to let me know when I have met a certain threshold. I have an alert that pops up stating “Quit Messing Around – GSD!” when I've spent 60 minutes in email or 25 minutes in social media over the course of the day. It then blocks those websites for two hours, a time that I chose. One of my clients realized that he was spending 45 minutes a day on the Huffington Post! When you are visiting sites in chunks, it's easy to lose how much time is spent wasted. It takes a couple of weeks to set up and categorize what is productive for you or not. As a coaching client, I can ask you to send me your RescueTime report for accountability purposes.

The cons of Rescuetime is that it does take time in the beginning to categorize correctly. I don't see this as an issue for most people, but if you want something completely automatic this isn't it. Why? Because what is distracting to me may not be for you. I use social media for part of my business so I get on it every day. If you are only using it for personal reasons, you may not need to and it may be considered part of the ‘distracting' category. For me, it's considered a ‘neutral' category.

Concentrate.

sessionsI almost didn't even post this but I love it so much I hope that someone reads this and helps me get through to them. I completed the 60-hour free trial and tried to buy it and have gone to an error page for over a month. PLEASE LET ME BUY THIS! Concentrate installs on my computer and runs in the background. I create a new activity, i.e. Blog Post, and then customize actions to occur every time I click on Blog Post. My actions were that all websites and tabs shut down and my website, WordPress and Workflowy open because that's all I need to write a blog post. It doesn't allow me to go to any other site. I have an automatic timer for 25 minutes so I must work only on those sites for my specified length of time.

The cons are that I can't freakin' buy it!

Focus Booster 

This is my go-to app and the way I live my life. I live in 25 minute increments for much of what I do, based on the Pomodoro Technique. Yep, the humble tomato. The FocusBooster app runs in the background and is based on the Pomodoro Technique of 25 minutes focus, 5 minutes break. After four Pomodoros you can take a longer break. For things I can get lost in, I may not use the timer or keep plowing through because I'm in the zone (writing is sometimes this way for me) but regardless, it still helps me keep track of how I spend my day and time.

Focus Booster can be used like a timesheet. I assign $ amounts to my sessions labeled Private Clients so in the course of the day, if something directly results in income, I can see how that compares with something that doesn't, like writing this post. If I complete a task and still have time left, I try to fit in something else that I can finish during that Pomodoro. That's why you will see 3 sessions for email, but according to RescueTime, I only spent 35 minutes yesterday in email. I remember that yesterday, I was able to quickly get in my social media for the day as well. If I wanted to manually split it out I would, but I don't need to get that detailed.

I don't have any cons at this point.

What apps do you use to help you be more focused?

Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects