Tagged With distraction

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When I’m trying to do work, every little thing distracts me. Google autocomplete, my inbox, even the page that Chrome loads when I open a new tab.

Well, the helpful page Chrome used to load. Because for the last few years, I’ve run the Chrome extension Blank New Tab Page.

When I open a new tab or window in Chrome, I get an actual blank page. Nothing is there to distract me.

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It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things. All the people you have to get back to (usually with the sad starter-line “Sorry for the delayed response ...”). All the words you’re supposed to write. All the minutes you promised you’d run on the treadmill, all the meals you said you’d prep, all the closet clutter you’ve been meaning to get rid of for months.

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Whether you work quietly alone at home or in an office where the hum of fluorescent lights is the dominant soundtrack of your day, tune into one of the 31 ambient loops offered on the iSerenity web site. Listen to the clack of typewriters and maybe your own keyboard pace will pick up; if you miss the big city, you can have New York City as your background (at least, the safe-for-work version); expatriate Angelenos would probably prefer "Highway Hiatus." It's like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for your ears. Looking for more phonic tonics? SimplyNoise does white noise in your browser and does it well. Serenity now.

iSerenity - Environments

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Twittervision shows real-time posts from Twitter users around the world on a Google Maps interface, providing odd insights from all corners of the globe. You can get added to the site by following 'twittervision' on Twitter itself, and use simple location codes to change where your tweet appears. We haven't managed to think of a productive use for this yet, but it's an interesting way of identifying new Twitter users who might be worth following. (Thanks Clinton!)

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Windows only: Free, open source application MinimOther takes an aggressive approach to distraction by automatically minimising every window except the currently active window to give you a clutter-free workspace that allows you to focus on the task at hand. As soon as you activate one window, the last active window will minimize, so essentially MinimOther is endlessly minimizing every window but one active window. Granted, one of the great things about the personal computer is its impressive ability to multi-task, but if you ever need to get really serious about focusing on one app at a time, MinimOther might be worth a go. MinimOther is free, Windows only. MinimOther

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Windows only: Freeware application Zorro aims to take distractions like flashy ads out of your online video watching experience. It does so by blacking out all content that isn't your video, including your browser window, so it's just you and your video. Zorro is brilliant in its simplicity: it's basically a see-through application window, so you launch it, resize it so whatever you want to isolate is inside Zorro's boundaries, and hit escape to black out everything outside the Zorro window. It could even work as a distraction-stopper for any application you want to bring focus to, like the many distraction-free word processors. Zorro is freeware, Windows only. Zorro

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If you leave the office most nights feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and behind on everything you've got to get done at work—even though you just spent 10 hours there—you're letting your workday get away from you. It's too easy to let the hours you spend at the office get stolen by meetings, email, interruptions, and impromptu co-worker chats that leave you saddled with busywork and too distracted to get the important stuff done. But with a little thought, you can leave work feeling accomplished and complete instead. When it's time to take back your workday, there are a few dead easy strategies that can help you focus on your tasks, firewall your attention, and reduce your workload so you can get out the door feeling light, free, and done. Photo by rochelle, et. al.

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Firefox with Greasmonkey: If you get carried away surfing the web by clicking every tangential link in sight, drawing you down yet another road away from the stuff you're supposed to be doing, check out the No Links Please! Greasemonkey script. This simple user script strips web pages of links, ensuring that you stay where you are, get the info you need, and get done. Its creator explains: One of the things which makes the web great are its hyperlinks. However, they also make the web vast and most importantly, far too easy to roam. No Links Please! breaks the web by removing hyperlinks from all pages apart from Google. Without the knowledge or temptation of links you are free to devote all your time to real work and never roam the web again. Obviously the web isn't the web without links, so you could apply No Links Please! to individual sites (like Wikipedia, for example) to save yourself from particular hyperlink distraction sinkholes. No Links Please! is a free download and works with the Greasemonkey Firefox extension.
James Clarke - No Links Please!

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Culling personal possessions and other 'distractions' from your workplace could actually be a productivity killer, according to Charlie Pabst at Freelance Switch. He says he went freelance to get away from the "sterile cubicle" environment, and says keeping 'distractions' like his guitar close to hand help him in his work.  How does it work? He says keeping your favourite things around can actually be a motivator, rather than a distraction. First of all, he says keeping his favourite things around (like his guitar and his moleskine notebooks) make for a happy and inspiring environment.Being able to down tools for 10 minutes, or take a long lunch break as a reward for getting work done is a great motivator, he says.

"You can set little targets for yourself. “As soon as this CSS
validates, I’m playing guitar for ten minutes!” or “As soon as I write
1,000 words, I’m going rock climbing!”

This gives me a reason to work hard, a reason that’s often way more valid than, “I need the money.”

Another benefit of being able to pick up Guitar Hero for 10 minutes, is that it means you take breaks during your work day - giving you a chance to refresh and recharge.Charlie's writing from a freelance perspective but I know there are workplaces out there who provide space and tools for staff to chill out and recharge at work. So what personal items do you keep around the workplace, and how do you keep them from distracting you?

Your workspace is killing your productivity 

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A short NY Times piece published today tackles productivity problems in the modern workplace. To summarise, they are: multitasking (bad, work sequentially instead), email (check it less, process it more), and long, paralysing to-do lists. One productivity expert actually recommends that companies should restrict internet access for their employees: A compulsion to surf the Internet and check email stirs up a "desire to be in the know, to not be left out, that ends up taking up a lot of our time"--at the expense of getting things done, Mr. Ellwood said. If he had his way, he would cut off Internet access--but not email--for a vast majority of employees, and set up dedicated workstations for people to use when they really needed the Web for their work. Yikes! Obviously Mr. Ellwood doesn't read Lifehacker. Every Workday Needs a Game Plan

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Ever since Google updated the web-based Google Talk gadget, I've firmly felt that the web-based Google Talk is head and shoulders above the desktop client (if you don't need file transfer or voice calls, that is). Last week we told you about Prism, Mozilla's update to the stripped-down browser and web application environment WebRunner. Put the two together (using this URL when you create the Prism application) and you've got what feels very much like a desktop version of the Google Talk gadget. Prism is still very early in development, currently Windows-only, and—honestly—requires way more memory than I'd like (around 30MB for my Google Talk), but with more time and development, the single-use approach to web applications as desktop apps could catch on. Thanks Jon!

Prism

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Multitasking is a tempting way to get more things done in less time, but web site WebMD says that multitasking often comes at the detriment of some tasks, especially learning:"Results are always worse when you multitask, but in some areas they're especially compromised," says Russell Poldrack, PhD, associate professor of psychology at UCLA. Learning takes a big hit, for instance. "Our research shows that if you try to master something while splitting your attention, brain activity switches regions; from memory building to short-term habit making," he says.

A good rule of thumb is to multitask what you want to execute, rather than absorb, and choose jobs where mistakes won't matter.The article suggests that you can also more successfully multitask if your tasks are of different types. Counterintuitive as it may seem, the less two activities have in common, the better multitask partners they are. Then again, everyone's talking about how multitasking makes you less productive, so if you do decide to multitask, choose your tasks wisely.

How to Multitask Without Losing Your Mind

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Windows/Mac/Linux: Mozilla's new stripped-down browser WebRunner offers distraction-free access to specific web applications (like Gmail), and integrates them into the desktop with an easy launch shortcut:

WebRunner is based on a concept called Site Specific Browsers (SSB). An SSB is an application with an embedded browser designed to work exclusively with a single web application. It's doesn't have the menus, toolbars and accoutrements of a normal web browser. Some people have called it a "distraction free browser" because none of the typical browser chrome is used.