Let's face it, we are all a little ADHD (some of us more than others). We take on more than we can humanly handle and like to push ourselves to the limit. While this great for things like sports or academia, it can lead to a lot of problems when dealing with web development and design.
Thankfully, several great people and companies have recognized this issue and have created tools to help us regain our focus and increase our productivity. Here are a few I recommend:
1. RescueTime (Windows, OS X)
If you follow Hacker News you're probably already familiar with this company/product. RecueTime is an incredible tool that helps you monitor what you spend your time on and lets you voluntarily block distracting websites for a set amount of time. You can also use it to track how much time you spend doing productive work too, so you can kill two birds with one product. I use this myself and I highly recommend it. It's available for both Windows and Mac, so try it out.
2. Pomodoro Desktop & Technique (OS X)
The Pomodoro Technique involves the following five steps:
- Select a task
- Set a Pomodoro (timer) for 25 mins
- Work on task until timer rings, put check next to item on your list
- Take a 5 min break and repeat cycle
- Take a longer break after every 4 tasks
You can find more information about this technique on the website. Pomodoro Desktop is an app for Mac OS X that allows you to add your tasks, keep track of time spent on them and notifies you when your timer runs out. It also has Twitter integration, which can automatically let your followers know you've started a task, completed it or are taking a break, complete with task name (optional of course).
Don't have a Mac? There's a Pomodoro Chrome extension called ChromoDoro, so check that out too.
3. Evernote (web, mobile, etc.)
Evernote is another popular web app (with many mobile forms, including an iPhone app) that lets you capture your notes and tasks by multiple means, including taking a picture or leaving a voice memo, and then organizes them automatically. All your notes are stored online, so you can access them using the mobile apps or any computer with internet access.
4. Concentrate (OS X)
Similar to RescueTime, Concentrate helps you focus by eliminating distractions. You can set tasks (ie Study) and assign various actions to it, from launching certain apps to quitting others, or even setting your chat status. When you're ready to start the task, hit the "concentrate" button and all other distractions disappear.
5. Checkvist (web)
Another great web app that lets you make hierarchal task lists and share them with your coworkers. Working with others is a fast way to increase productivity, and using an app like Checkvist can help structure and organize the workflow between you and your coworkers. While I do like and recommend this app, you can achieve the same effect with Google docs or Etherpad.
6. Freedom (OS X)
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Freedom is just that. This app that will completely disable your internet connection for a set time limit (anything less than 8 hours). Start the app and you're asked how long you'd like to disable the internet for, and if you would like to block all web access or optionally allow the local network.
7. WorkRave (Windows, Linux)
I'm not sure how well this program is being maintained (last update was 120+ days ago) but nonetheless it's very useful. While it can be beneficial to use programs like RescueTime and Concentrate to increase productivity, it is just as important to take breaks every now and then to regain your energy and focus. This is where WorkRave comes in, reminding you periodically to take breaks and even suggests exercises. You can also set a daily work limit, after which WorkRave will rightfully tell you to get off your computer and do something else!
8. Caffeine (OS X)
This is an extremely simple but useful app - click the menu icon once to stop your Mac from going to sleep, starting your screensaver or decrease screen brightness, or click it again to restore normal operation. This is useful for those times you're reading something long, or watching a (productive) movie.
9. Spirited Away (OS X)
This app constantly checks each running application and automatically hides those that are not being used after a certain amount of time, allowing you to completely focus on whatever you are spending your time on. Similar apps in this category:
- Think - Allows you to focus on a single app by dimming background around it
- Isolator - Nearly the same as Think, however this app makes everything behind your current app blurry
10. TimeOut (OS X)
Just like WorkRave, TimeOut tells you to take a break from your work and can optionally prevent you from skipping it by blocking access to anything else on the screen until the break runs out. Outside of the normal app settings where you can adjust break times and restrictions, TimeOut also supports some major customizations by using AppleScripts, Automator workflows and custom applications before and after breaks (see TimeOut Extras).
Remember, taking breaks frequently can also help increase your overall productivity and help you regain focus. Ultimately your productivity is in your hands (and mind), so while these apps can help the process it is up to you to carry out the changes.
Did I miss an app or tool that you use to increase productivity? Please share it in the comments below and I will add it to the list.