Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Software Technology

Ask Slashdot: Software To Help Stay On Task? 301

GiboNZ writes "Like many others, I easily get distracted when working on a computer. Say I work on a task — be it a programming job or bookkeeping or whatever — and need to quickly check something on Google. Unfortunately after a while I often find myself on Slashdot or eBay or reading emails instead of continuing with the job I was doing before. Maybe if I had a 'single-tasking desktop' it wouldn't be such an issue. I couldn't Alt-Tab to my email client with tempting 200 unread emails, Alt-Tab to browser with 10 tabs open for later, Alt-Tab to unfinished document from yesterday, Alt-Tab to ... you know what I mean. I want to be forced by some technical means to work on the problem I should work on. Will alone doesn't work — I tried. Like when mowing a lawn — there I've got nothing else to do and I keep mowing until it's finished. If I could multitask in the same way I can on a computer our little backyard would take me the whole day to do. Any ideas how to inhibit the distractions ever present on modern multi-tasking internet-connected desktops? I genuinely want to be more productive but the technology is against me."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ask Slashdot: Software To Help Stay On Task?

Comments Filter:
  • Simple Suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:19AM (#43058613)

    Turn your wifi connection off. After the first few 404's you'll be surprised as how much work you'll get done.

    • by drolli ( 522659 )

      If you need the network for some reason: leechblock (firefox extension) works for me

    • As a Software Developer, I find there's a strange effect called being "in the zone" that I get from time to time, where I'm not distracted at all and totally focused for hours at a time. It's when I'm most productive. It can happen daily, weekly or monthly, it depends on the project. I've noticed there are some things that really help getting "in the zone", the most important of which is understanding exactly what it is you have to do and knowing exactly how you're going to do it. There are timex for me
    • by kenh ( 9056 )

      Jerry Pournell, famous sci-fi writer and technology commentator used to keep a simple computer in a 'writing room' that had no Internet access and no unneccessary applications/tools installed, for serious writing work.

      I would imagine the answer is to avoid 'researching' while writing, and simply pull the Network connection when writing. Most serious writers I've read about tend to drop 'markers' in their text to indicate something to be looked up/researched during editing.

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      Like when mowing a lawn — there I've got nothing else to do and I keep mowing until it's finished

      Even simpler suggestion: open a lawn-mowing business... it seems the technology help you there (only half-kidding here. The serious part would be: are you sure computer work/programming is appropriate for you? You seem to be motivated by diversity rather than long stretches on focused work)

  • by Goody ( 23843 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:20AM (#43058621) Journal
    You can't magically change your behavior and habits with a piece of software.
    • by Moblaster ( 521614 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:28AM (#43058681)
      You can try an add-on like Blocklist for Firefox. This way, you can specify block lists (i.e. "blacklists") of web sites. This won't magically stop you from launching another browser. But it can help with the escapist habit/nervous tic of unconsciously escaping a moment of boredom or difficult by web surfing. At least it gives you pause to think, which normally wouldn't be there.
    • That's true. It takes hardware, too. Learn to program a micro controller and use the FTDI usb to serial driver to build a contraption that uses a relay hooking up the mains power to your chair so that it switches on every time you fire up your web browser.

    • by spetey ( 164477 )

      Actually, there is an app for that: Freedom [] is a Mac program, if not strictly an "app", that turns off your internet for a time you specify. It can't be turned back on before time is up (they claim) without rebooting. Probably there's a way around it, but better not to try. A friend of mine swears by it.

      Myself I agree that Pomodoro-type approaches to discipline are the most helpful. I've benefited a lot from Neil Fiore's The Now Habit.

    • No, you need hardware to do that.

      Get an iPad. Between the touchscreen keyboard and it's inability to multitask, you'll drop all of those bad habits like a rock.

      Or go stark raving mad.

    • But you can have a manager stand behind you all day looking over your shoulder...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        A good manager will terminate him and replace him with someone who wants to work.

        Not to sound like an ass, but I was one temporary covering for a friend who owned a computer shop. Time = money and so many out of work it makes me angry at the injustice when grads work at walmart and the rest watch youtube videos?! I made them work or sent them home.

        I do not have time for babysitting

    • Nuh-uh! I've been watching Dollhouse [], and it's clearly possible. Why would the cable TV lie to me?
    • You can't magically change your behavior and habits with a piece of software.

      Nope, but you'd be surprised what a consultation and psychological evaluation by a competent psychiatrist would accomplish. Specifically, the high rates of ADHD amongst computer geeks. And when I say high, I mean I know more people who have it than don't. There's probably a pound of Adderall XR sitting in desks on the floor I work on alone. No, I really to mean a pound. And yes, I do know how much a single pill weighs. I was bored, and I did the math one night.

      You're on the right track, which is that you're

      • by euroq ( 1818100 )

        I'm a little shocked... you seem to be telling a true story! I work in a startup in San Francisco with a bunch of computer nerds and I don't see any adderall at all.

      • by xaxa ( 988988 )

        There's probably a pound of Adderall XR sitting in desks on the floor I work on alone. No, I really to mean a pound.

        Assuming you are American (timezone + pounds), you've backed up this post [].

        I'm left wondering how many of my colleagues would be prescribed drugs if we were in America.

        About a year ago, I realised I was having trouble focusing at work. I didn't go to the doctor. I thought about what the problem was (switching to personal email or Slashdot too often), and why I did that (it was so easy, as I left the tabs open in my browser). I removed the temptation to look whenever I used the browser by closing the tab

    • by wmac1 ( 2478314 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @05:47AM (#43059837)

      I use "ManicTime" to track my time. It gives almost accurate account of what I have done on my PC. I have created a few categories and assigned websites / applications/ documents to those groups.

      At the end of the day I can see how much I have spent on work, academic job, entertainment and unidentified. The awareness (of my exact performance) has caused me to focus more and improve the situation. There are other applications similar to ManicTime (I forgot the name) which can additionally block the websites categorized as "entertainment" for example.

      One inportant note is that some of the existing applications upload all your actions to a website and a server side software does most of the job. These applications are the most horrible thing for the privacy. They record all web page you visit, all applications your run etc. I selected ManicTime from among a dozen because it is 100% client side everything.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Yes, you can. A buzzer on your computer that beeps after 10 minutes of time "away" from your main app. When that goes off, you remember that you had a task to get back to. It can't "force" you back, but the reminder helps. I do the same thing, and I'll get lost for hours in a tangential hit on my search, not realizing I lost a good portion of a day on something other than I intended.
    • You can't magically change your behavior and habits with a piece of software.

      So you're saying that biofeedback therapy doesn't work?

  • Maybe look into a time-management solution and learn discipline like the pomodoro technique [] rather than using a high-tech solution as a crutch.
  • Install an operating system that would be compromised immediately after perusing some webpage, like Windows 98/95. Or, stick to Windows XP with IE6. IE6 can't go to a myriad of websites without crashing.
  • by Trip6 ( 1184883 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:27AM (#43058677)
    Your subsequent unemployment will motivate you to stay on task.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:40AM (#43058745)

      What a bunch of ****es on here. Here we have someone asking for help in staying on task using computer, which DO cause attention deficit, and every post chastizes him.

      There is a real issue here - I've done it myself. Wandering the Internet almost subconsciously as an alternative to doing work. The brain, after millions of years of training to seek stimulating things, is raising stimulating things to the top of awareness. The dog with the fluffy tail in a YouTube video is far more interesting than row 15 of a financial spreadsheet.

      • by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @02:52AM (#43059285)

        Cry me a river. Here is a top on how to avoid watching youtube videos of cats when you should be working: don't go to youtube and don't search for videos of cats. I bet you somehow manage not to go to a porn site when at work and jerk off in your cubicle without help of any software, so just do it the same way when it comes to other distractions. I hate it when supposedly sane people act like they are not in control of their own behavior.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 03, 2013 @08:54AM (#43060535)

          sane people act like they are not in control of their own behavior.

          It is true. Don't pretend you are in control of yourself at all times. While, for now, it is considered the normal thing to do, being a control freak is only being stubborn for the sake of a cultural norm. You see people go slightly over speed limits all the time, you see them smoking, drinking, lying, procrastinating, cheating, jaywalking, ..

          Are _you_ not overweight, speeding, smoking, drinking, lying bastard yourself? Good, I'm real happy for you and imma let you finish but realise that ain't the norm and it ain't realistic to expect people be robots. Flogging oneself for being human is stupid when there could be technical help to overcome that and turn him into the happy-consumer-busy-worker-bee the society expects from us. That is, if one wants to succumb to such a role.

    • by vlad30 ( 44644 )
      I found a wife and kids complete with mortgage is the best motivator ever, either that or a hot GF with needs works very well for any male employee. i.e. the desire for money over facebook and youtube drivel. However those on slashdot though are generally a lost cause
  • 80% vs 20% (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ls671 ( 1122017 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:36AM (#43058727) Homepage

    Like it or not, you are only productive 20% of the time. It doesn't matter how your work pattern is. So even if you had a single-tasking UI and only kept your main task window open, you still couldn't reach more then 20%.

    You should instead concentrate on being ultimately efficient in that 20%. That's the secret. Sometimes, bright ideas on how to achieve this come to you in the remaining 80% while you think you are not working... []

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      You should instead concentrate on being ultimately efficient in that 20%. That's the secret. Sometimes, bright ideas on how to achieve this come to you in the remaining 80% while you think you are not working...

      I meant when visited by elves of course ;-)

    • by proca ( 2678743 )
      the 80/20 rule originated from sales, not individual productivity. An individual should be able to be productive most of the day, particularly with programming. Even if they aren't writing code, you can spend it thinking and organizing. Claiming 80/20 is a cop-out
      • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

        80/20 was a figure of speech that I improvised right of the top of my head. I could have written 50/50 and my post would still make the same point.

        Feel free to modify percentages to help you but please stay focused on the core idea.

  • If you are on salary, you can only waste so much time without being unethical.

    If you are paid by the job, you can only waste so much time without being inefficient.

    OTOH, in the cosmic scheme of things, you'll soon be dead, so pick your own balance.
  • The first order of business is to turn off all your IMs. Next order of business is to tell people who call you that you're busy working. If your company is a programming company, but still communicates via IM, suggest going to email only. Nothing is worse for coding than distractions.
  • Goal setting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:40AM (#43058753) Homepage Journal

    Your mind contains a sophisticated goal setting mechanism (among other features).

    To activate it, write down your goals for the day. If it's important to do X hours of work on a particular task, write that down.

    It's important to write it out longhand - don't type it. No one knows why this is, but I suspect that writing things out longhand rehearses the goal in several sensory modes: you're speaking the words as you write, you're feeling the words as you write, and you're seeing the words as you write.

    Goals should be present, positive, personal, and measurable.

    Positive: positive logic. You can't say "I stop doing XXX" because the goal mechanism is a lower-order mechanism and can't do logical negatives. Say "I *do* xxx" instead.

    Personal: Start the goal with "I", as in "I complete X hours of work".

    Present: Phrase the goal in the present tense, as if you've already accomplished it. "Today I *do* X hours of work on XXX".

    Measurable: Some way to determine that you're making progress. Writing "I purchase a new car" is less effective than "I set aside XXX dollars towards purchasing a car".

    Tape the written goal to your screen and occasionally glance at it as you're working.

    This works for all types of goals - short and long term. So long as they're doable and reasonable, writing them down engages your mental systems to make the outcome happen.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's important to write it out longhand - don't type it. No one knows why this is, but I suspect that writing things out longhand rehearses the goal in several sensory modes: you're speaking the words as you write, you're feeling the words as you write, and you're seeing the words as you write.

      This, this, this. I never studied in school, but I did take copious notes in longhand (which were never looked at again) and did just fine on tests. I found that the simple act of taking notes seemed to firmly inst

      • I on the other hand never took notes at all. But I was pretty good at sitting a listening to the teacher/professor. I didn't see much point in taking notes, because, like you, I never read them anyway when I did. I think the real trick is to stay focused on what the teacher is saying, and really listen, which is more than most people can accomplish in class. Taking notes was probably just your way of staying focused on the material.
    • I remember another thing, list the tasks under each goal, but the important part is being able to tick them off/put a check mark opposite each task. It is crucial to see where things lie and where you are in relation to the goals. This in a sense reinforces the reasoning behind the longhand as well; each check mark concludes the task with a "Done!" bit.

  • Stop it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ( 245670 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @12:45AM (#43058779)

    Stop it or I'll bury you alive in a box!

    (I don't make change.)

  • Like many others, I easily get distracted when working on a computer.

  • iShock, the app for the easily distracted.
    When you stray from your work apps, the iShock will gently remind you via electric shock to get back on task!

  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:06AM (#43058885)

    Schedule more meetings.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:09AM (#43058903)

    There's an entry in there that looks something like this: localhost loopback

    Change it so it looks like this: localhost loopback

  • by CommieLib ( 468883 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:12AM (#43058915) Homepage [] If you don't know what Pomodoro is, check it out - it's exactly for this problem. This helps me a lot.
  • I use hosts file to block time wasting sites at work. Just map them to and enjoy the productivity.

  • Tea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:20AM (#43058951)

    I keep a tall can of Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey (cold tea, $0.99 each at the grocery store, and they are tall cans 695mL each). I take a sip every few minutes, as one does when one has a drink nearby.

    The result is two-fold. First, instead of alt-tabbing away during natural cagnitive breaks, I wind up taking a sip. That sip ends in five seconds, and I'm faced with the same screen, so I resume the same work. More importantly, very soon my bladder fills up. Turns out that with a full bladder, I push to get one-more-task done before getting up to go to the bathroom.

    The task itself distracts me from the bladder issue, and I wind up on the next task. Then the bladder issue distracts me from the alt-tabbing. Then the task distracts me from the bladder. Then the bladder distracts me from the alt-tabbing. It's circular, and it lasts until the work is done or I really can't sit anymore and the bladder takes over.

    One ninety-nine cent can of this fairly healthy tea tends to get me a good three to five hours no matter what.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      I keep a tall can of Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey

      Phosphoric acid and corn syrup FTW!

  • You're bored... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evil_aaronm ( 671521 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:26AM (#43058983)
    I speak from experience. Think back to those sessions where you busted your balls for who knows how long, not even stopping for a drink or potty break. You did it because it was interesting stuff, a unique challenge, right? Now, contrast that with your day to day work. Either find the discipline to deal with the boredom, or find a way to make your tasks less boring.
  • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:28AM (#43058993)
    Depending on your reasons for distraction, you could try delaying the distraction. So you want to check emails or facebook or something, do it in 5 minutes instead of now. Then in 5 minutes review your impulsive decision and see if you can delay the distraction any further.

    Failing that, get yourself a desk with a screen that can easily be seen by others. I'm assuming you work in an office or something here... if you are working from home then your employer has made a foolish decision (self employed or not :)
  • Your Head Asplode (Score:4, Informative)

    by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @01:36AM (#43059017) Journal

    As with many human problems a technical solution isn't always best. The real underlying issue is that our brains are built according to a fundamentally parallel architecture which isn't very well understood. Your consciousness is something like a "software" trick that gives you the illusion of serial operations. You can focus the spotlight of attention on one thing at a time but you're never really doing that, it's just a simulation. Classical computers are the complete opposite--though in modern times we do now have truly parallel CPUs. It's not just technology that's against you, you're working against the nature of your brain.

    Your problem is that you are trying to force your brain to function in a way that it is antithetical to its design on a fundamental level. Doing this for too long causes real and measurable fatigue. If you are finding yourself overstressed from the demand of focusing too intensely on a task you should change your workflow. I would suggest breaking up your time into smaller chunks, maybe of 15-20 minutes so that you are not focused on any one thing for too long. Not every task is amenable to this procedure, so there's going to be time when you simply have to endure.

    You can also set achievable goals and have some sort of metric for measuring and verifying them. Write down that you'll answer X number of E-mails or spend 15 minutes doing that twice a day. Write down a schedule and tape it to your computer screen.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      This is probably overly-obvious advice, but: stream music that you like while you work. That will give the non-verbal/non-analytical parts of your brain something to chew on while the analytical parts are working on your code; if they like it, they'll stop sending so many "I'm bored" interrupts up to your conscious mind.

      Either that, or find a way to make your work more interesting. Bored with JavaScript? Recode your app in Brainf*ck ;)

  • It'll be out once i can climb out of the pits of maslow's hierarchy.
  • []
    This won't change your habits, but at least it's gonna make you feel bad about them. Windows only, unfortunately.
  • by whydavid ( 2593831 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @02:25AM (#43059209)
    This is called chronic media multitasking, and you are not alone (likely a large portion of those calling you a loser and telling you to get over it are avoiding doing something more important). [] A single-tasking environment would be helpful, but at what cost? While it isn't good to read your e-mail and surf the net while you are trying to get something done, it IS often useful to look up that related e-mail or useful reference. You might use some measure to block the websites you abuse the most, but who is to say something else won't take their place? What worked for me was simply to recognize and study the problem. Once you see what a common occurrence it is, and how it affects your ability to function even after the fact, it should make it easier to prioritize fixing it. For me that meant hiding most Skype notifications, closing my e-mail client while I worked, and closing out programs that I didn't need for the current task. Your mileage may vary; this is what worked (very well) for me.
  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @02:26AM (#43059215) Journal
    Seriously get some personal self discipline for a while and then convert that to habits. Remind yourself to zone and allow specific times when you are allowed to zone. Set daily goals,, at the end of the day I will have done ... and then ask yourself if what you are doing *right now* is helping you achieve that.

    Smoke less weed, allow times for it and period when you don't. Finally, you are probably not giving yourself enough breaks from the screen and it's your body's way of telling you to get up move around and grab a drink, come back to it and you will be more focused on what you are supposed to do.

    Above all take responsibility for yourself, it's not the computers responsibility to get you to use it effectively. So remind yourself "stay on task" and eventually you will.

  • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @02:57AM (#43059299) Homepage

    I couldn't stand a regular 9-5 job. Almost 4 years ago now, I was fired from the last I worked at and haven't looked back. In the last 30 days I've worked on about 16 different projects for various clients. That's typical for the last three years. Many of those projects are long term, multi-year, projects but none of them occupy all my working time. I work on them, take a couple days off for the client to review and give me feedback, and then I repeat the process. It's very rare now that a single project takes up all my time for more than a week.

    You just need to embrace your ADD and find diverse work to do. Then you can distract yourself with productive things to do.

    The other thing to do is start getting paid hourly. If you're not being productive you can just clock out and come back when your brain is ready to cooperate. Being paid for 8 hours whether you do nothing or something is probably not helping.

    The other ADD friendly thing for me is having a backlog of tickets. If I have one thing to do, my brain tends to shut down because it's bored by the prospect of doing one thing. I need to be close to overwhelmed with tickets in order to maximize productivity for extended hours.

  • This probably seems like a problem right now because your work situation isn't aligned with it. Fix that and you're good.
  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @03:10AM (#43059343)

    What bothers me is this "200 unread emails" bit. If these are work-related emails, why aren't you reading them? If they aren't, why do you have you personal email open when you're supposed to be working?

    It sounds like you're using a single machine to do both work and personal stuff.
    Set up a second user account for work. Don't keep bookmarks to Slashdot, eBay, etc on your browser on the work user account. Don't set up your personal email on Outlook. If you install games on your computer do it from the "personal" user account side and set it to only be accessible for your user account so it's not tempting you from the Start menu on the Work side.

    • Other work can be a distraction too -- new work emails come in and distract you from your current task onto new tasks, and although all these tasks are work you end up juggling too many things and can't concentrate to get any of them done, and quickly stop working at all. Of course the obvious answer is to close the email client, but software can offer a quicker way to preventing the use of a group of programs/websites for a specified period of concentration time.
  • Electrodes on the testicles. Worked for me!
  • pomodoro timer (Score:5, Informative)

    by ckolar ( 43016 ) <> on Sunday March 03, 2013 @03:23AM (#43059395) Homepage Journal

    Well, if you can hold your attention on a single task for a short amount of time then I would try the Pomodoro Technique. I had issues similar to what you describe and this has helped me a great deal. [] Briefly: you pick a task, set the timer (the recommended time is 25 minutes), focus on that one thing, and then reward yourself with a five minute break. Reset timer, repeat. It can become game like, challenging yourself to stay on task until you get to the chime, and the 25 minute boundary seems like the right level of challenge versus attainability. Lots of free software/apps out there to help you with it.

  • Get the fastest computer you can, and set your browser's default homepage to (blank).

    I find that my worst temptations to hit Slashdot at work are whenever I go to do something that just... ends... up... being... painfully... slow. It's rare for me to stop mid-thought and go hit Slashdot. It's common for me to go launch something, get stuck waiting 30 seconds for something to time out before the network will let me continue, get frustrated, angrily jump over to Slashdot for a minute, and end up having the ne

    • ...the opportunity cost of having just 2-4 10-minute periods of that same employees' productivity get incinerated every day.

      I wish it was just 2-4 10-minute periods. I have no hard data to back me up, but with my current work-machine it certainly feels like I spend between 60 minutes to 120 minutes each day simply waiting for the computer to respond. Common tasks that my home-machine completes in under a second easily take anywhere between 20-30 seconds on my work-machine.

  • If you're on Windows 7, you could create a new user account that has a number of special group policies that block apps or functions you don't want to have access to while you're working. Obviously you could bypass this by logging into your primary account but if you're determined enough, you'll be able to bypass any suggestions anyone gives you.

  • by spectro ( 80839 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @03:56AM (#43059509) Homepage

    I don't think even more tech will resolve your issue. Everybody is different and I don't know it will work for you but what I have done is:

    1. Find a job were I work on challenging, engaging projects. If your mind is wondering off, chances are you have a really boring job. Find a better one.
    2. Get quiet working conditions: eliminate distractions, shut down email, IM, put phones on DND. If something urgent comes up, they'll have to come over in person. If your job requires constant distraction, either train yourself to handle the quick context switching or find another job.

    I think this TED talk is relevant: []

  • Seriously, dude, stop posting on your wall and get the fracking job done :D
  • I had a similar issue, and I'm self-employed, meaning I wasn't just losing time but also money. The problem was massively mitigated when I started using Toggl for time tracking. I became averse to stopping the clock, and would fight distractions and keep working. I still need about 2.5 hours of distractions to work 8 hours, be they lunch, breaks, etc., but it's much easier now.

    And use the hosts file trick to break the habit of just opening a new tab and losing 15 minutes.

    This is all assuming you like wh

  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday March 03, 2013 @05:16AM (#43059751) Homepage Journal

    First of all, as many others have pointed out, there is no magic technological cure.

    However, I personally like to use virtual desktops so that there is only one application visible at a time. Out of sight, out of mind. I use Fluxbox without the panel, so I really only have the application window visible. Of course, there are no icons on the background. I can't imagine getting any work done on a typical Windows box that looks like a candy store.

    I can't give any general advice on how to actually concentrate better, but you could start with actually trying and wanting to do it. For example, I recently returned to student life, and I wonder about all the kids chatting with each other and doodling on Japanese puzzles, when there's a lecture going on. Later, the same students will complain how they "don't remember" the stuff, and they have to study again at home (thus wasting valuable 'student life' time). It's the same thing with any work. Think about why you're there, are you actually interested enough, or should you perhaps change your career.

    Speaking of change, I find it incredibly useful to have two projects/hobbies going on at the same time. Alternate between them whenever you feel like a break from one, and you'll stay productive for a long time.

  • These days are all about information overload. You need to simplify.

    Do the following for a month. And I mean really do it - don't do it half assed. Do it completely - commit to it.

    Check email only 3 times a day: Once in the morning, once during lunch, and if you must once at the close of the day. All other times, turn off the notification that you even get email. Turn off your cell phone. Shutoff all IM clients. Tell your boss that you can't be interrupted unless it's a critical client problem. Exe

  • I've been using a Firefox extension called Leechblock [] that allows you to set a limit to how much time you spend on a website. When your time's up, away goes the site.

    I could open the blocked website in another browser and continue, but
    a. I only have Firefox and IE installed, and IE is a stock install without any saved passwords, cookies, adblocker etc. so I end up browsing /. without being logged in, which is painful enough that I rarely do it.
    b. the blocking page serves as a reminder and psychological barr

  • It is just there. It is neither for nor against you. Turning your internet connection or WiFi off is, indeed, a good idea.

    I tend to have a similar problem, though not as severe as in the OP's case. When I really need to get some work done, I often go to the National Library, a stately old building in Vienna, and settle for a nice place in a studying room, close to a window with a view upon the garden. Of course, I turn WiFi off. Amazing what one can do in one day.

  • Each day I make a new folder for the day: "02" for March 2, under folder "03" for March, under folder "2013".

    Pick an icon for the folder based on my mood, hopes, expectations for the day.

    Drag a shortcut to the desktop.

    The desktop has daily shortcuts from the previous two or three days. (Also some shortcuts for most-used apps, off to one side. Not too many -- the point is to keep the desktop free of "anything I'm not using right now, or not likely to use soon several times a day".)

    Open up yesterday's dail

  • Im self-employed so I use Rachota to keep track of my time. Its a java app that allows you to enter in things you are working on and runs a timer for each one. It asks you with a pop up what you are doing every 10mins to see if you changed your task and keeps track of your productivity time verses your down time. its pretty good.

  • On Mac there is a program called Vitamin-R designed to solve this problem. It's designed to set short term goals and keep you focused. It's not bad I think.

  • I don't know if I would restrict your use to a single-task desktop. That seems counter-productive.

    I think I might enjoy planning or coding something to this end, though, because I've felt the need for the exact same thing.

    You would have to dedicate yourself to it somehow. Either going to the app and opening your "target / focus" app through the anti-distractor, or else have it load at login and then monitor what applications you are opening. As you open each app, it will take focus and come to the front of

  • Sometimes we don't get enough feedback from our bosses at work, but usually we get reviews a certain number of times a year.

    Are your reviews telling you? "Shape up or ship out."

    Or are they saying, "Smooth Sailing?"

    If you are having poor reviews then this is an employment problem, if your reviews are fine then it is simply a personal problem.

    If you've already been getting bad reviews at work, you should probably be getting your resume in order, and doing other stuff to make the transition to another job. I

  • It sounds like you have an above-average set of resources designed to allow you to save items of interest. The key would be in using them properly.

    First, it's a good idea to map out your typical workday. When are you most able to get things done uninterrupted, when are you most/least mentally acute and so forth.

    Then take the distracting tasks and parcel them out to when they are most convenient. Turn off the "You've got Mail" alerts and stuff like that in favor of set times of day to check for important stu

  • I'm self-employed, and the work I do requires that I be online pretty much all the time. I definitely understand what the OP is talking about – the combination of the multitudes of distractions available online and a job that requires you to always be a single click away from those distractions can be tough. I've tried a ton of different strategies, but the ones I found that seem to work the best are:

    1. Switch to a standing desk. I find that when I'm standing up, the fact that I will end up physically

Overload -- core meltdown sequence initiated.