Staying On Top of It

Jackson Miller avoids systems that require tagging each email, call or task with a project category. “I don’t like overly complicated programs,” says the Nashville, Tenn., business owner, father and marathon runner. He also avoids Web-based tools, because “when you open up a browser window, there are 35 tabs there staring at you with stuff you need to get done, fighting for your attention,” he says.

Among his favorite tools is a workload-tracking program called RescueTime; it posts an alert on his computer screen if he spends too much work time on Facebook or running blogs. If he strays a second time, RescueTime locks him out of nonwork programs and apps.

“How do you stay productive?” I took a short break in the middle of writing this post to go on TweetDeck so I could learn whatever latest thing was happening, and if I’m guilty of any productivity-killing habits, it’s going on Twitter too much. My favorite way of staying productive at work requires no apps or tools—I just shut it down. TweetDeck distracting my attention? Shut it down. People trying to have conversations with me on instant messenger when I should be working on something else? Goodbye, I’m logging off. If any of you have a magic thing that keeps you on top of it, I’d love to hear what that thing is.


10 Comments / Post A Comment

cryptolect (#1,135)

This works best when I am working at home, but I set the timer on iPhone for half an hour. I have to focus until the timer goes off, then I set it for five minutes and look at all the Internet I missed while working. It’s funny how five minutes is more than enough time that way, but if I were constantly interrupting myself, I’d waste way more than five minutes out of every 35.

@cryptolect this is the pomodoro technique that I use too. I like using Focusbooster for it because I usually have headphones in and it has an optional ticking sound which I find to be an effective “do your work” mental signal. It’s true that it’s harder to stick to in the office when I have meetings, get interrupted, etc. but there are rough days where it’s practically the only reason I get work done.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@Lorelei@twitter Optional ticking sound, I like it! I may have to check out Focusbooster.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

You will pry color-coding from my cold, dead hands.

Flora Poste (#2,586)

@MuffyStJohn YES I do not want to envisage a life without Outlook categories

qwer1234 (#4,140)

@MuffyStJohn There is no better organizational tool than COLORS!

Blondsak (#2,299)

I stay productive by cultivating a constant fear of pain and humiliation due to failure.

I can’t say I recommend it, but it is extremely effective.

I am doing pretty bad with this lately thanks to a long-running project I do not like sapping my motivation, but when I am productive, it’s usually a combination of the Focusbooster timer + keeping the browser closed. I find if the internet breaks happen on my phone instead of my work computer, they’re less likely to stretch out to 10 or 15 minutes.

highjump (#39)

The alt text on that picture is amazing.

A free Mac lock-out app called SelfControl ( It can block selected sites, or block all of the internet except for selected sites.

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