How to build a "productivity account" in Windows XP?
August 5, 2005 10:41 AM   Subscribe

How do I create a stripped-down work environment free of distractions in Windows XP?

I've heard tales of people creating "productivity accounts" in XP, that are intentionally crippled such that, when one logs in, one has no choice but to get to work - first, there are no distractions available, and second, using the account is so strikingly unpleasant that one will do anything one must to finish up and log back on to one's main account. Has anyone seen blog entries about this idea, or have you tried this yourself?

I'm embarassed to admit that I don't know how to control which accounts can use which programs, and on top of that it seems like there should be more to it than simply switching off access to Winamp, etc.

Things I'm thinking about:
  • Either disabling access to Firefox (eww, forced to use IE!) or tracking down one of those extensions that are meant to keep you from surfing aimlessly.
  • Disabling access to programs that can't possibly be used in a work context (games, winamp, etc.)
  • Putting some sort of stern admonition to get back to work on the desktop and screensaver. ;)
Also, if I create another account, the only way I can get to my main account's "My Documents" folder is to make my productivity account an administrator, right? Let's assume this is vital to me getting things done.
posted by electric_counterpoint to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
It would take less time to learn, install, and create these accounts in linux than it would to create them in an XP install.

Alternatively, you could dual-boot your machine with a second XP install, with nothing installed on it except Word (or whatever).
posted by Jairus at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2005

This MeFi post from a few days ago might help you temporarily disable certain programs: Temptation Blocker.
posted by blue mustard at 11:58 AM on August 5, 2005

Microsoft does have a beta-test version of a windows client management program; it's meant for shared computers, to make it easy to lock out specific programs or features. I haven't played with it but it might help.

Also, you can take your "My Documents" folder and share it, if you do the permissions correctly your locked-down account should still be able to access everything.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2005

Creating the perfect work environment sounds a bit like a brick in the procrastination wall to me. A separate account with a very lean, functional Start menu and a bland desktop background might help you get into the work mindset but I'll bet it wouldn't make that much difference. I think your quest for more productivity would be better spent with one or two self help books. One that really helped me was The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. I'm also a fan of Getting Things Done by David Allen.
posted by KrustyKlingon at 3:53 PM on August 5, 2005

Response by poster: KrustyKlingon: I'm actually a GTD'r already (for a few months now, at least). It's not that I've got a specific, big project I'm finding myself unable to start; creating this "productivity account" has actually been on my projects list for a while. It's just something I'd like to try out, and if it works decently, I'll blog it and try to share with others (a la 43Folders or Lifehacker).

caution live frogs: That MS product sounds like what I'm after. I'll try it out tomorrow morning!
posted by electric_counterpoint at 4:06 PM on August 5, 2005

posted by davy at 9:40 PM on August 5, 2005

I have 12 programming employees who can surf all they want, I just expect 'em to get work done on time.

Process has worked great for 5 years-
Give people some freedom, they'll be good workers.
Prohibiting them from stuff just makes them want to try to get away with it more-

Kinda like dealing with teenagers.
posted by stevejensen at 1:00 AM on August 6, 2005

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