Short deadlines, making sense of multiple sources of feedback, missed calls, unchecked messages, side conversations, and more. When it comes to getting a project done, there are countless stressors that can detract from success.
All of the aforementioned obstacles boil down to one: Time. It’s a constant, unbiased measurement that we’re always racing against in order to finish something. Compound that with the fact that the very tools that help us get work done can also be our primary distractions … just a ‘Ctrl + T’ away.
Computers, tablets, and phones don’t render us completely helpless; they can offer ways to help. With a little self-discipline and the help of a few apps (yes, I realize the irony here, but hear me out), you can actually curb your distractions and get through a few hours of work. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few worth your (valuable) time:
Forest: The Forest app helps curb the “It started with a text message response and here I am on Facebook 30 minutes later” habit. You start a timer, put your phone down to get to work, and a tree digitally grows for the time allotted. You earn points the more you use it. Earn enough and you can have a real tree planted in your name.
StayFocusd: No, that is not a typo! Adding StayFocusd as a Chrome extension means you determine a maximum time allotted for certain websites per day (this requires some self-awareness about what distracts you). Once time is up, you have a variety of options: Donate money to StayFocusd (think of how Wikipedia fundraises in $5 and $10 increments), solve a challenge, or simply decide it’s not worth visiting.
Momentum: Consider this “StayFocusd Lite.” Whenever you open a new tab in Chrome, a scenic picture is displayed with the time and a message (your to-do list, an inspirational quote, the weather, etc.). Get a nudge to finally finish that blog post you started last week.
Pomodoro: The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, lives on in the digital age. Pomodoro Time, Pomodoro Timer, Pure Pomodoro, tomato-timer.com (there are many varieties, from “pro” to imitations) builds small breaks into 25-minute work intervals. Experiment as you wish!
SublimeText: For those with more-than-novice coding experience, SublimeText works a lot like Notepad — start writing on a blank page, whether it’s code or the outline for a report. Choose the “distraction free mode” for uninterrupted work time.
A little bit of distraction is okay. Recent research even suggests it’s good for the creative process. When your work involves creating anything, however, there are times when you just need to sit and get it done. Take it from someone who used to write college term papers in a night – sometimes you have to eat an elephant whole, so you try your best. But, if you can help it, don’t do that to yourself!