We all know that computers are powerful tools for multi-tasking.
But that same flexibility makes it all too easy to get distracted from your core tasks.If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably gotten carried away with checking on Twitter and e-mail or looking at funny videos about cats at a time when you intended to write a paper or crunch some numbers on a spreadsheet.
That’s because our computer screens by default are just begging for our attention, what with status icons, pop-up messages, and the ability to check into a site like Reddit.com just by typing “r” into a web browser bar.
I’m going to present some handy cheap and free apps that can eliminate distractions from your workflow.
Isolator and Dropcloth
If you own a Mac laptop or desktop, Isolator will provide a badly needed element of quietude. Isolator works by darkening everything on your screen except the window you have active. You can choose just how dark you want your screen to go, and you’ll find yourself more focused and less inclined to absentmindedly stray from the task you’re working on. Dropcloth provides similar functionality for Windows.
WriteRoom and Darkroom
Once you start a new document, all you will see is a black screen with a green blinking cursor, like with computers of old days. No mulch-colored buttons. No menus. No auto-formatting. Just you and the words.
Writers love penning first drafts in these programs, which offer focus and clarity that’s just not possible with more sophisticated word processors.
Mindful Browsing, LeechBlock, and StayFocused
I don’t know about you, but I find myself often checking into distracting websites almost without thinking about it.
I use Apple’s Safari browser, which shows a pretty panel of my most visited website homepages. It’s easy to click on those. Or to start typing the name of a favorite website, and have the browser auto-fill it. So to stop my almost instinctive visits to distracting websites,
I’ve installed the excellent Safari plugin “Mindful Browsing.” You can set it to completely block distracting websites, or to only allow access to them after you’ve clicked through a gateway screen. (This way you can still check Facebook if you need a genuine break or are using it for work.) Also check out LeechBlock for Firefox and StayFocused for Google Chrome.
An excellent task manager not only helps you remember important things you need to do, it can also keep you more focused.
When you’ve broken down your day into a series of concrete actions you must take, you’ll find yourself being more productive. It’s simply easier to start a game of Angry Birds when you don’t know what you need to accomplish. It’s much harder when you see “Finish report for Mr. Davis” staring you in the face.
I recommend Wunderlist due to its availability on smartphones and through its website.
About author: Ashlee McCullen is a staff writer for ApronAddicts.com, a site about fashionable aprons and kitchen style.