Computer! Make me a better person!
February 9, 2012 2:28 PM   Subscribe

What apps do you use to help you stay focused on work? I'm looking for Mac and web apps. I don't have clinically diagnosable ADHD, but I'm curious about what's out there and can certainly use the help sometimes.
posted by ignignokt to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Freedom and Anti-Social should be right up your alley.
posted by Vhanudux at 2:33 PM on February 9, 2012

I'm not sure exactly what you're looking for. I have found Things to be very helpful for making sure I know what I'm supposed to be doing, but it doesn't really prevent me from doing other things. Other folks seem to swear by OmniFocus for the same thing. There's a bit of a rivalry.
posted by OmieWise at 2:39 PM on February 9, 2012

Best answer: I have a very very simple one called Time Out. It turns the screen off [gradually fades in and then locks it] at regular intervals for a set amount of time. I have it set to go off for five minutes every two hours, but it has other settings including "microbreaks" Part of this, of course, is training yourself not to click the "snooze button" on the thing that gives you an extra minute, or realize that if you're clicking it all the time, you're not giving yourself. My deal with me is that I actually get up and do something else for the time out periods.
posted by jessamyn at 2:42 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a textbook procrastinator and I've used all these programs. Others worth mentioning include Concentrate, Pomodoro and RescueTime.

But in truth, I think it's better to spend some time identifying your triggers and looking at your mental makeup. These programs sound great at first and give you a temporary boost but after a while the novelty of them wears off and you return to your old habits. If you scrutinize when you are work-avoidant, and understand specifically what is causing you to put off the hard stuff, you'll get more done in the long run.

(Personally speaking, I think a lot of procrastinators have underlying anxiety issues, social or otherwise. I know I do.)
posted by teedee2000 at 2:48 PM on February 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've used many, but I can only stick with programs that add information without taking up my time. Anything that says, "work this way," is not going to last long, nor is anything that takes time in exchange for what it provides. That means that RescueTime is my most permanent tool because it tells me about myself and doesn't require anymore of my time than the seconds in which goal success/failure notifications fly by and the weekly report arrives in my inbox. For everything else, the biggest gains come from thinking about why I don't want to do something and from using better tools to do the actual work.
posted by michaelh at 3:07 PM on February 9, 2012

Freedom (mentioned above) is good, as is Think.
posted by zachawry at 3:09 PM on February 9, 2012

Best answer: I use the Cohuman app as a project and task manager app. It's free and supports cooperative task management for projects with multiple people. There's a web interface as well as mobile apps. Has been useful for me in helping me not to lose track of things.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:10 PM on February 9, 2012

posted by pised at 3:10 PM on February 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: WhiteNoiseLite to drown out all the random noises (and people!) around me.
posted by cgg at 3:46 PM on February 9, 2012

Some combination of:
- Leechblock
- Some pomodoro app
- Remember The Milk

And the classic -- turn off the email and calendar except during set times of the day. If I'm heads down, I check at breakfast (for emergencies), 8-9:15am, 11-noon, 4-5, 8pm before walking the dog (for emergencies). Email is still my number one, "Hey look at this shiny thing"
posted by Gucky at 5:28 PM on February 9, 2012

Pomodoro has been really helpful for me. I want to pick up my iphone and check email and FB pretty much every 2 minutes - but when I look down and see the tomato I catch myself and get back to the task at hand. Telling all my coworkers about it has resulted in fewer interruptions, too.

I changed the settings on outlook so that I don't get a popup every time a new email comes into my work inbox.

The rest of it I'm still struggling with. Watching this thread with interest.
posted by bunderful at 7:24 PM on February 9, 2012

Best answer: I find that a physical Pomodoro timer works really well. Most things, I want to keep digital, but there's a talismantic magic to Winding Up The Physical Object.

I've been feeling shitty lately so I haven't been winding it much lately. Must fix that.
posted by egypturnash at 8:04 PM on February 9, 2012

as a self emplyed person who works on a computer from home, and who very very very often winds up frittering my day away on sites like askmefi, concentrate looks ALMOST perfect for this, at least as far as what *i* need to stop surfing around and get to work - i downloaded the demo and it seemed like just what i need (you can block certain websites, open others automatically, run certain applications, quit others, have your computer speak a message to you, etc), except...

unfortunately it doesn't seem to have a self-timed starter so it runs a certain activity at a certain time. if i was the kind of person who could open a program like concentrate every day and voluntarily get to work, why would i need a program like concentrate?

ical can be programmed to run concentrate at certain times - unfortunately you then have to choose a task to concentrate on. i'd probably just ignore it and keep surfing metafilter!

...however, i've found a workaround. to replicate conentrate's many functions, i can program ical to open a: a soundfile (i liked concentrate's spoken messages, so i used audiohijack to record apples spoken text of text files like "time to make some new music. you're not getting any younger.") b: run antisocial, and c: open my work-related program of choice (in my case pro tools, but you could do the same with photoshop, word, whatever program you use to get work done) i've even got it set to open up in firefox at a certain time every monday to remind me to hunt for some new dj tunes.

this took me like 30 minutes to set up. maybe it would work for you?
posted by messiahwannabe at 12:02 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I struggled for a long time when I transitioned to self-employment/working at home and have used morning routines, structure, and some software:

I just started using OmniFocus. It is expensive, but I am finding it far better than Toodledoo, RTM, Wunderlist, etc, because of one simple feature: I can set start dates, rather than due dates.

I also use Pomodoro to get through big writing or financial tasks, and I now spend time at the beginning of every day on a morning routine: Allow some time for mindless surfing, then daily task setting, check email, work. No matter how much or how little I got done, I no longer allow myself to work into the evening to make up for an unproductive day, I log off at the same time and go out for 30 minutes of exercise.

Every Friday afternoon, I go through that week's emails top to bottom and make sure I have actioned or filed every single one (I have a smart mailbox in "This Week"). I was terrible at answering email for a long while, and this process has really helped.

As much structure and routine to your day as you can stand really helps.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:39 AM on February 10, 2012

Agreeing with egypturnash, having a physical timer has worked well for me. I use a super cheap Ikea mechanical one I've had for years, the tick tock as it counts down seem to help with my focus
posted by Z303 at 4:54 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can anyone recommend Windows alternatives to TimeOut and/or Pomodoro? I'm forced to use Windows for work, but those are particularly intriguing!
posted by xiaolongbao at 6:45 AM on February 10, 2012

Seconding wingless_angel on OmniFocus -- absolutely first class organization app for the Mac. Make sure you learn it fully by taking all the tutorials on the official site.
posted by teedee2000 at 8:06 AM on February 10, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! I'm going to start by trying out the ones that don't work on a restriction basis, then go from there.
posted by ignignokt at 8:12 PM on February 13, 2012

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