Increase Productivity by Reducing Distractions

03 September 2007 by Mathias Meyer

I get distracted easily. E-mail, instant messaging, the mighty and fraudulent web, you name it. However, recently I've surrounded my workspace with a couple of tools that help me reduce distractions, both explicitly and implicitly.

There are two tools that I've grown particularly fond of, Lightroom and WriteRoom. Accident? I don't think so. Both take a rather simple approach to reduce distractions. They fade everything else out and spread themselves all over the screen with their black UI, leaving nothing but their GUI on the screen. Simple, huh?

The concept of Lightroom is pretty clear. With film photography you went into a darkroom to develop film and prints. With Lightroom you basically do the same on your computer. Besides Lightroom being an excellent tool for post-production I really started to like the approach.

Lightroom

Soon I ran over WriteRoom again, having checked it out a while ago, a simple writing tool that basically does the same. It spreads out all over your screen, and everything that's left is a green, blinking cursor. Just like in the good old days, when your text had to fit on a screen 80x25 characters in size.

WriteRoom

While I don't wish to be back in those days, I enjoy writing in this environment, and I enjoy working with my photos in an environment where I can have my focus solely on them. Both tools are highly recommended. Especially Lightroom, not only for blackening out all other tools if you want it too, but because it’s a top-notch post-processing tool.

Something that I’ve gotten used to are virtual desktops, the simplest way to reduce distractions. Basically I spread my applications over different desktops based on their purpose. Everything involving the usage of the net goes on a separate desktop. Tools like OmniOutliner, OmniFocus, VoodooPad, Pages and the like go on a separate one, and everything involving development on another one. That way I can focus on a specific task, be it office-related work, developing or using the internet. This approach is so common in the Unix-world, where I originally started using it, yet only now will this be an actual feature in Mac OS X 10.5.

The last trick in my box is Desktopple Pro. It serves two purposes. With the press of a button it can hide your desktop. Want to hide all those cluttered documents during a presentation at a client’s? Desktopple is the tool for you. It can also hide unused applications after a certain amount of time. The latter is basically what I use now, since I found a more decent way to deal with desktop clutter: reducing it. My Desktop is basically empty. Just a simple desktop, no icons, no documents.

To start with I adopted Ethan Schoonover's Kinkless Desktop which helped a bit. I'm not the person to put much stuff on the desktop, but basically it always bothered me to have stuff lying around there. So I moved the Inbox, Outbox and Support folders to my Documents directory et voila: an empty desktop. No volumes, no external drives, no DVDs, nothing. Distraction-B-Gone!

Hierarchy: previous , next