Home Companies Industry Politics Money Opinion LoungeMultimedia Science Education Sports TechnologyConsumerSpecialsMint on Sunday

The distraction-free desktop

The distraction-free desktop
Comment E-mail Print Share
First Published: Sun, Apr 18 2010. 10 36 PM IST

Updated: Sun, Apr 18 2010. 10 36 PM IST
This might sound familiar: You’re at your desk, finally having dispelled every distraction to the corners of your mind, and just about to get some actual work done when someone pings you on chat. Intrigued, you change tabs—and there are three new emails waiting for you, including a comment on a photo you’d just uploaded on Facebook. One tab leads to another, and soon you’re neck deep in three IM conversations about the contents of your lunch box.
The Internet is filled with a million distractions, from blogs and videos to social networks to… Did you see that picture of that cat looking down from the ceiling?
What is one to do? The Internet is simultaneously indispensable and incorrigible. So what if the scourge of productivity in offices everywhere is itself the solution to the problem?
From timely help to interesting links, here are five ways the Internet can make you fitter, happier and more productive.
Keep a tab
Time trackers help you keep track of how you’re spending an average workday. They work both actively (with you feeding them information about how much time you spent doing what) as well as passively (monitoring your use of applications on the computer). They can be useful in finding out just where your time-sinks lie—as long as you don’t end up spending too much time on the time trackers themselves. Try Klok or Toggl
For those working in teams, online project management applications can also be enormously useful. Try DeskAway, which lets team members and leaders collaborate on projects and outsource most of the headache of communication and centralization to the app itself.
Another useful application is SlickPlan, an online flow chart creator that is both intuitive and simple.
Wipe it clean
A really effective way to focus on the task at hand is to literally blank out every other distraction on your PC. A number of apps, for Windows, Mac and Linux, let you remove every trace of every other application from your screen except the one you’re working on.
For word processors, try Dark Room or Alpha Xp Lite, both of which offer minimalist, full-screen interfaces that leave nothing visible but you and your text.
Alternatively, try Ghoster or Lifehacker’s own Dropcloth, which dims all windows other than your currently active one.
Application launchers which let you quickly and efficiently find data on your computer (much faster than Windows’ own archaic “search” feature) also help, reducing annoyance and clutter when working with multiple documents at the same time. Try Google Desktop or the stunning Quicksilver for Mac .
Keeping things in order
For a nice simple way to organize your notes and scribbles in one place, try one of these note-taking applications. The most popular is Evernote, which even offers the ability to sync your notes, little scraps of text you may have typed out for later reference, and full-length documents across devices. No more worrying, therefore, if you’ve forgotten an important document at home or in office. Evernote keeps things updated on your home PC, office PC, even smartphone. Evernote even allows the uploading of images and audio files.
Another similar application is Springpad, which lets you drag and drop notes and documents into its online interface, and access them from anywhere thereafter.
Google Documents and Zoho offer similar functionality and support for uploading presentation files and Excel spreadsheets.
A not-to-be-missed site
Lifehacker.com is a productivity-focused blog, and is the mother of all productivity wisdom. The site offers “tips and tricks for getting things done” through what it calls “life hacks”—small, easy, inventive solutions to everyday problems. These range from organizing your inbox more effectively to guides on how to take power naps. It’s a must-read, and everything we’ve said in this story has undoubtedly already been covered by the site in much more detail.
Keep paper handy
For productivity the old-fashioned way, nothing beats paper. Printables are templates for organizers, calendars, to-do lists (and its twin, the “not to-do list”, which is a checklist of common mistakes to avoid and a way of checking if any of them have crept into your work) and planners that can be printed on a normal sheet of paper, folded as per instructions, and kept on your desk as a constant reminder of what’s pending.
Try the Pocketmod Organizer for starters, and look up the Printables section in Lifehacker for the fancier stuff—from “The Triple Hat Trick” to handy wallet cards.
Ambient sounds
While music does help people focus and concentrate, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for what kind of music will do the trick. For some people, it might be the soundtrack of Ishqiya; for others, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
But most people agree that it’s the downbeat, slow, low-pitched sound that calms and helps focus. It’s a genre usually called “ambient” music, and can be found on almost every online music streaming site. Try Last.fm or Grooveshark, and search for some ambient music. The work of artist Brian Eno is a good place to start.
Comment E-mail Print Share
First Published: Sun, Apr 18 2010. 10 36 PM IST