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Ask Slashdot: Software To Help Stay On Task?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the electric-shock-if-you-alt-tab-for-too-long dept.

Software 301

GiboNZ writes "Like many others, I easily get distracted when working on a computer. Say I work on a task — be it a programming job or bookkeeping or whatever — and need to quickly check something on Google. Unfortunately after a while I often find myself on Slashdot or eBay or reading emails instead of continuing with the job I was doing before. Maybe if I had a 'single-tasking desktop' it wouldn't be such an issue. I couldn't Alt-Tab to my email client with tempting 200 unread emails, Alt-Tab to browser with 10 tabs open for later, Alt-Tab to unfinished document from yesterday, Alt-Tab to ... you know what I mean. I want to be forced by some technical means to work on the problem I should work on. Will alone doesn't work — I tried. Like when mowing a lawn — there I've got nothing else to do and I keep mowing until it's finished. If I could multitask in the same way I can on a computer our little backyard would take me the whole day to do. Any ideas how to inhibit the distractions ever present on modern multi-tasking internet-connected desktops? I genuinely want to be more productive but the technology is against me."

cancel ×


Simple Suggestion (5, Insightful)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about a year ago | (#43058613)

Turn your wifi connection off. After the first few 404's you'll be surprised as how much work you'll get done.

Re:Simple Suggestion (1)

Moblaster (521614) | about a year ago | (#43058639)

Try horse blinders.

Re:Simple Suggestion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058663)

Or Ritalin.

Re:Simple Suggestion (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058765)

The question then becomes: is the OP an ADHD candidate, or are they just normal and computers encourage distraction?

Re:Simple Suggestion (3, Funny)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#43059033)

iOS! Finally, a use for iOS "multitasking"

Re:Simple Suggestion (2)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | about a year ago | (#43059281)

Ritalin helps, but there is still the danger that your gonna focus on the wrong things.

ADHD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058781)

Net Nanny?

Re:Simple Suggestion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058795)

you won't get a 404 if you don't have a network connection.

Re:Simple Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059031)

Get someone to watch you and kick you in the nuts when you stray off task.

Re:Simple Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059055)

go apply for a job at EA. i hear they supply these "services," as part of their basic employment package.

There's no app for that (5, Insightful)

Goody (23843) | about a year ago | (#43058621)

You can't magically change your behavior and habits with a piece of software.

Re:There's no app for that (4, Interesting)

Moblaster (521614) | about a year ago | (#43058681)

You can try an add-on like Blocklist for Firefox. This way, you can specify block lists (i.e. "blacklists") of web sites. This won't magically stop you from launching another browser. But it can help with the escapist habit/nervous tic of unconsciously escaping a moment of boredom or difficult by web surfing. At least it gives you pause to think, which normally wouldn't be there.

Re:There's no app for that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058739)

and how often do you alt tab to something relevant?
crippling software wont improve your work ethic

Re:There's no app for that (1)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year ago | (#43058773)

That's true. It takes hardware, too. Learn to program a micro controller and use the FTDI usb to serial driver to build a contraption that uses a relay hooking up the mains power to your chair so that it switches on every time you fire up your web browser.

Re:There's no app for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058801)

In this case, you can. There are plenty of browser add-ons that will block certain sites during certain times of day. Just install it, and you're golden. After a week or so, you'll have broken yourself of the habit. No magic required.

Re:There's no app for that (2)

spetey (164477) | about a year ago | (#43058805)

Actually, there is an app for that: Freedom [] is a Mac program, if not strictly an "app", that turns off your internet for a time you specify. It can't be turned back on before time is up (they claim) without rebooting. Probably there's a way around it, but better not to try. A friend of mine swears by it.

Myself I agree that Pomodoro-type approaches to discipline are the most helpful. I've benefited a lot from Neil Fiore's The Now Habit.

Re:There's no app for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058883)

There's a PC version too.

The mac version is not entirely trivial to bypass, i.e. you need more than just ifconfig, at which point I gave up.

I second the pomodoro technique. Something like this [] is useful; you can set yourself mini-goals like "try to get this done in X minutes," which gives focus and gives you feedback on your actual abilities. (note, this particular timer beeps loudly every time you press a button, which is annoying and might cause your officemates to hate you.)

Re:There's no app for that (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43058809)

No, you need hardware to do that.

Get an iPad. Between the touchscreen keyboard and it's inability to multitask, you'll drop all of those bad habits like a rock.

Or go stark raving mad.

Re:There's no app for that (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43058827)

But you can have a manager stand behind you all day looking over your shoulder...

Re:There's no app for that (3, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#43059117)

A good manager will terminate him and replace him with someone who wants to work.

Not to sound like an ass, but I was one temporary covering for a friend who owned a computer shop. Time = money and so many out of work it makes me angry at the injustice when grads work at walmart and the rest watch youtube videos?! I made them work or sent them home.

I do not have time for babysitting

Re:There's no app for that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058901)

The Hammer App. No, not MC Hammer, but use a hammer on the screen and on the external video output jack. No more wasting time on that computer!

Next, use an old fashioned terminal, no GUI whatsover, just text. That reduces a lot of extraneous time wasting activity.

Sell your smartphone and get a dumb one with no picture mail, no texting.

You're now good to go. I'm confident you'll find non-computer distractions, however.

Re:There's no app for that (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a year ago | (#43059153)

Nuh-uh! I've been watching Dollhouse [] , and it's clearly possible. Why would the cable TV lie to me?

Delete emails and close tabs (1)

Karljohan (807381) | about a year ago | (#43059241)

Habit was exactly my concern here. If you have work to d o, why do you leave emails in your inbox and open tabs in your browser? Remove the distractors! First of all: close all tabs! Second: shedule time to go through the most imortant emails. Delete the rest!

Re:There's no app for that (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#43059275)

You can't magically change your behavior and habits with a piece of software.

You can with hardware: A swift boot in the ass.

Low tech solution (1)

Georules (655379) | about a year ago | (#43058665)

Maybe look into a time-management solution and learn discipline like the pomodoro technique [] rather than using a high-tech solution as a crutch.

Re:Low tech solution (1)

Brendan Robert (2820681) | about a year ago | (#43058737)

Linux users could use the Gnome-shell-timer extension, which is perfect for Pomodoro. Of course cell phone timers work well. My most productive weeks look like this: 1) Spend the first hour of the day going through the list of to-dos. If anything is too vague or undefined, I either need to set aside time to research it, or if I break it up into small measurable pieces. These are key because crossing them off later lets me know I'm not a total f**k-up. 2) I keep this to-do list in a very simple editor called "Focus Writer" which occupies the full screen when it is active. This prevents me from getting immediately distracted. 3) Once I get the tasks listed, I prioritize them. Usually the ones that are absolutely important go to the top (criteria: If I skip this will the customer or my boss yell at me?) 4) I stick to the list. I really should try pomodoro because I too get way overly distracted. You're not alone. Damn internet. My core non-web programming tasks get done faster. Why? Because when I'm testing non-web apps, I don't have a browser open. I don't have to google how to solve basic javascript problems. I just get stuff done. But when I'm dealing with a quirky browser behavior with extJS or jQuery.... yeah, where did the time go? And why am I reading TheOatmeal again???

Windows 98? (2)

Fimeg (2843237) | about a year ago | (#43058667)

Install an operating system that would be compromised immediately after perusing some webpage, like Windows 98/95. Or, stick to Windows XP with IE6. IE6 can't go to a myriad of websites without crashing.

Re:Windows 98? (1)

proca (2678743) | about a year ago | (#43059195)

haha, best idea ever. better yet, go to Windows ME

Confess your lack of productivity (4, Funny)

Trip6 (1184883) | about a year ago | (#43058677)

Your subsequent unemployment will motivate you to stay on task.

Re:Confess your lack of productivity (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058745)

What a bunch of ****es on here. Here we have someone asking for help in staying on task using computer, which DO cause attention deficit, and every post chastizes him.

There is a real issue here - I've done it myself. Wandering the Internet almost subconsciously as an alternative to doing work. The brain, after millions of years of training to seek stimulating things, is raising stimulating things to the top of awareness. The dog with the fluffy tail in a YouTube video is far more interesting than row 15 of a financial spreadsheet.

Re:Confess your lack of productivity (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059181)

As to someone who has never had to move in with your parents at age +30?! Your work attitude changes FAST!

Unemployment sucks and it will wake the shit out of you. I hate our education system which rewards participation and it sounds like you are part of that? In the real world it doesn't matter. If you are not great you are fired and replaced with someone better to make someone else more money. After a termination most of these young adults learn quickly after being burned and fucked over how to cope with such a loss.

I do not write the rules. I just know what they are and state them. Stimulating or not I am paying you and you need to work. I rarely have time to goof off at work as people are counting on me and I will get fired if I do not make those tickets or fail in what I promised to do in the interview.

That is life and we are nto asses. Just giving a wakeup. With 10 million un and underemployed why should his boss tollerate this behavior? Expendable he is and so are you and I.

Re:Confess your lack of productivity (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059239)

And yet I lost my position because I was to productive. I automated my code writing to use a table of psydo code that typed pages of code automatically. Funny, because I was able to out pass the 2-4 hour long meetings of uselessness of the uppers, It was perceived as if I was goofing off; even though I completed all the tasks. Guess life is a bell curve, work hard, but not so hard it makes your bosses look lazy; because they were on YouTube.

Re:Confess your lack of productivity (1)

proca (2678743) | about a year ago | (#43059201)

Part of being an adult is the realization that work is more important than youtube videos.

Re:Confess your lack of productivity (1)

vlad30 (44644) | about a year ago | (#43058991)

I found a wife and kids complete with mortgage is the best motivator ever, either that or a hot GF with needs works very well for any male employee. i.e. the desire for money over facebook and youtube drivel. However those on slashdot though are generally a lost cause

issue of motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058691)

I know sometimes a job is just a job and it's boring. But you'll have to discipline yourself to think that your job at hand is much more important than ebay or slashdot. I know I suffer from the same problem, and I struggle to find my "zone," but once I'm in it, I work nonstop for several hours, even foregoing food. One project I actually lost 5-7 after 3 months, and it wasn't just water weight.

Perhaps you need to understand why what you're doing is important and who it affects? Personally, that makes me feel accountable for someone and it goes up in my priority list, rather than my own whims such as amazon. I also hate mowing the lawn, but I hate making my wife angry even more and so I do it. But what I hate the most is if starts crying and then I feel like a jerk (as a side note, it's always more than just the dishes or mowing the lawn). In short, try feeling accountable for what you do, or the lack thereof. It worked for me and it's a mind game.

This alt-tab solution you're seeking will be quickly be overridden by your own cleverness. Search for external forces you can't control. Either learn discipline or ask for a more challenging project. Or worse, a boss who breathes down your neck.

Serious answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058701)

Use chrome and stayfocusd extension.

Grindstone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058703)

While it has no features to force you to stay on task, Grindstone is a good time-tracking program. Perhaps you can set it up so that it'll time your work for, say, 15 minutes, grant you a 'distraction break', and then go back to timing work. For some folks, simply keeping an actual account of how much time they permit themselves to 'goof off' can be a good way to reduce said goofing off. Maybe you can set it to chime in with periodic reminders every 10 minutes saying "Are you on task?" Again, it won't forcibly limit you to only 1 task, but I thought it might be helpful. It's free, so it can't hurt to try it, I guess.

Don't pass the buck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058707)

Disable (smash to non-function) either the alt or tab key, which ever is least important to you.

Or develop some will power.

I don't mean to trivialize this, because I've encountered the same issue you describe. However it isn't the key combo's enabling the distraction, it is you (your conscious mind) wishing for diversion. Fix yourself.

Use your printer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058711)

Work offline, not even logged into your computer, and head out to someplace like Barnes and Noble where you can spread your papers out and drink coffee while you work.

The sure solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058715)

Try the surefire combo of Growing a Pair, and Being a Man. It's the tried-and-true solution that's been used for generations! You'd be amazed at how many of life's little problems just disappear when you Grow a Pair and start Being a Man.

80% vs 20% (5, Interesting)

ls671 (1122017) | about a year ago | (#43058727)

Like it or not, you are only productive 20% of the time. It doesn't matter how your work pattern is. So even if you had a single-tasking UI and only kept your main task window open, you still couldn't reach more then 20%.

You should instead concentrate on being ultimately efficient in that 20%. That's the secret. Sometimes, bright ideas on how to achieve this come to you in the remaining 80% while you think you are not working... []

Re:80% vs 20% (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about a year ago | (#43058793)

You should instead concentrate on being ultimately efficient in that 20%. That's the secret. Sometimes, bright ideas on how to achieve this come to you in the remaining 80% while you think you are not working...

I meant when visited by elves of course ;-)

Re:80% vs 20% (2)

proca (2678743) | about a year ago | (#43059179)

the 80/20 rule originated from sales, not individual productivity. An individual should be able to be productive most of the day, particularly with programming. Even if they aren't writing code, you can spend it thinking and organizing. Claiming 80/20 is a cop-out

Re:80% vs 20% (2)

ls671 (1122017) | about a year ago | (#43059253)

80/20 was a figure of speech that I improvised right of the top of my head. I could have written 50/50 and my post would still make the same point.

Feel free to modify percentages to help you but please stay focused on the core idea.

Are you on salary or paid by the job? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year ago | (#43058733)

If you are on salary, you can only waste so much time without being unethical.

If you are paid by the job, you can only waste so much time without being inefficient.

OTOH, in the cosmic scheme of things, you'll soon be dead, so pick your own balance.

Re:Are you on salary or paid by the job? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#43059103)

If he is being paid by the hour I would be pissed if it were my bill! Would you pay a plumber by the hour and find him browsing websites on your computer? You would fire him.

Even salary if he finishes in time he needs to invent more work for hte 40 hour work week because it is the right thing to do. I wish people would have better work ethics like they did in the old days.

You think the avarge worker at McDonalds has the luxury to goof off? No! He gets paid much less so it seems only fair that I expect more as a result every hour on the clock. Multitask and work like a mofo and I wont fire you.

Re:Are you on salary or paid by the job? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059229)

Why do you keep saying "I"? This subject isn't about you.

If you're a programmer who telecommutes (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about a year ago | (#43058735)

The first order of business is to turn off all your IMs. Next order of business is to tell people who call you that you're busy working. If your company is a programming company, but still communicates via IM, suggest going to email only. Nothing is worse for coding than distractions.

Re:If you're a programmer who telecommutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058813)

I work for Yahoo you insensitive clod!

Goal setting (5, Interesting)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#43058753)

Your mind contains a sophisticated goal setting mechanism (among other features).

To activate it, write down your goals for the day. If it's important to do X hours of work on a particular task, write that down.

It's important to write it out longhand - don't type it. No one knows why this is, but I suspect that writing things out longhand rehearses the goal in several sensory modes: you're speaking the words as you write, you're feeling the words as you write, and you're seeing the words as you write.

Goals should be present, positive, personal, and measurable.

Positive: positive logic. You can't say "I stop doing XXX" because the goal mechanism is a lower-order mechanism and can't do logical negatives. Say "I *do* xxx" instead.

Personal: Start the goal with "I", as in "I complete X hours of work".

Present: Phrase the goal in the present tense, as if you've already accomplished it. "Today I *do* X hours of work on XXX".

Measurable: Some way to determine that you're making progress. Writing "I purchase a new car" is less effective than "I set aside XXX dollars towards purchasing a car".

Tape the written goal to your screen and occasionally glance at it as you're working.

This works for all types of goals - short and long term. So long as they're doable and reasonable, writing them down engages your mental systems to make the outcome happen.

Re:Goal setting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058943)

Hokey as it sounds, I think this is excellent advice. Especially the "write it down" part. One thing you didn't mention is making a declaration to someone else, then have them hold you to it.

Re:Goal setting (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058947)

It's important to write it out longhand - don't type it. No one knows why this is, but I suspect that writing things out longhand rehearses the goal in several sensory modes: you're speaking the words as you write, you're feeling the words as you write, and you're seeing the words as you write.

This, this, this. I never studied in school, but I did take copious notes in longhand (which were never looked at again) and did just fine on tests. I found that the simple act of taking notes seemed to firmly instill whatever was being taught without anything else being needed. If I didn't take notes, I didn't retain it.

Re:Goal setting (2)

anon208 (2410460) | about a year ago | (#43059091)

Was "I *do* XXX" a Freudian slip when talking about internet related productivity problems?

Stop it! (5, Funny) (245670) | about a year ago | (#43058779)

Stop it or I'll bury you alive in a box!

(I don't make change.)

For Gnome/KDE have a look at 'hamster'.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058783)

It is a time tracker, but will also periodically popup a reminder of the job you should be working on.

Re:For Gnome/KDE have a look at 'hamster'.. (3, Informative)

chipschap (1444407) | about a year ago | (#43058841)

I second (third, fourth, whatever) the Pomodoro idea. Why? Because there's a built-in reward. You can go do all that goof-off stuff that brings you instant gratification, but you do it for limited, specific times. Building that kind of discipline is easier and more likely to succeed than trying to go cold turkey. 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off; longer breaks after longer periods. Funny how it works. You start to see that you're making progress and you work longer or cut the breaks shorter. Definitely positive feedback in the loop.

You too? (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about a year ago | (#43058849)

Like many others, I easily get distracted when working on a computer.

iShock (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#43058859)

iShock, the app for the easily distracted.
When you stray from your work apps, the iShock will gently remind you via electric shock to get back on task!

Brainware (1)

SampleFish (2769857) | about a year ago | (#43058865)

What you need is brainware, not software. With our new focusmaster brainware you will be able to utilize 99.9% of your thinking capacity on one task.

*Side effects may include a complete loss of short term memory

If you're a manager (4, Funny)

bobstreo (1320787) | about a year ago | (#43058885)

Schedule more meetings.

Edit your hosts file (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#43058903)

There's an entry in there that looks something like this: localhost loopback

Change it so it looks like this: localhost loopback

Re:Edit your hosts file (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058959)

Change it so it looks like this: localhost loopback

That might be effective at preventing OP from checking out Slashdot 50 times an hour.

OTOH the Slashdot editors might wonder why they're getting OP's MySQL login credentials and SQL queries....

Re:Edit your hosts file (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059049)

Hosts file doesn't work on windows 8.

Best Cure: Get laid off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058917)

After 6 months of unemployment, I'm really, really focused on my new job.

Riiiiiight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058923)

How about "software help me not eat more calories than I burn" or "software to help me stop masturbating". Look, you've got a problem with self-discipline. What makes you think software is the answer? If it was important enough to you, you would do it yourself!

Exercise and masturbation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058929)

Not necessarily in that order. I usually download my fresh Brazilian horsecock tranny porn for the day and masturbate to the first video Downloadhelper finishes first. Then I clean up and head to the gym. This is a serious workout, no talking or BSing. 10-15 minutes of treadmill or stationary bike at a high level and then 30 minutes of weights and 15 minutes cool down and stretching. Then I head back home, masturbate again and then my head is clear and I can focus for the next 8 hours.

Mod me down if you want (1)

tehlinux (896034) | about a year ago | (#43058931)


Hosts file (1)

melted (227442) | about a year ago | (#43058939)

I use hosts file to block time wasting sites at work. Just map them to and enjoy the productivity.

Tea (5, Interesting)

holophrastic (221104) | about a year ago | (#43058951)

I keep a tall can of Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey (cold tea, $0.99 each at the grocery store, and they are tall cans 695mL each). I take a sip every few minutes, as one does when one has a drink nearby.

The result is two-fold. First, instead of alt-tabbing away during natural cagnitive breaks, I wind up taking a sip. That sip ends in five seconds, and I'm faced with the same screen, so I resume the same work. More importantly, very soon my bladder fills up. Turns out that with a full bladder, I push to get one-more-task done before getting up to go to the bathroom.

The task itself distracts me from the bladder issue, and I wind up on the next task. Then the bladder issue distracts me from the alt-tabbing. Then the task distracts me from the bladder. Then the bladder distracts me from the alt-tabbing. It's circular, and it lasts until the work is done or I really can't sit anymore and the bladder takes over.

One ninety-nine cent can of this fairly healthy tea tends to get me a good three to five hours no matter what.

Re:Tea (1)

adolf (21054) | about a year ago | (#43059127)

I keep a tall can of Arizona Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey

Phosphoric acid and corn syrup FTW!

You're bored... (4, Insightful)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about a year ago | (#43058983)

I speak from experience. Think back to those sessions where you busted your balls for who knows how long, not even stopping for a drink or potty break. You did it because it was interesting stuff, a unique challenge, right? Now, contrast that with your day to day work. Either find the discipline to deal with the boredom, or find a way to make your tasks less boring.

Discipline Score (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058989)

When I faced with this need, I created a web app for myself I set the tasks, given the time for it it and then give myself points to complete the task. At the end of the task, I rate how I completed. My unfinished tasks are carried over the next day by the system. I have found this effective for 4+ years now and I wish to better myself from 65% of my discipline score in my system. Try the link and see if helps you too. -- Senthil

Delayed gratification (3, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#43058993)

Depending on your reasons for distraction, you could try delaying the distraction. So you want to check emails or facebook or something, do it in 5 minutes instead of now. Then in 5 minutes review your impulsive decision and see if you can delay the distraction any further.

Failing that, get yourself a desk with a screen that can easily be seen by others. I'm assuming you work in an office or something here... if you are working from home then your employer has made a foolish decision (self employed or not :)

Ritalin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43058999)

Clearly, this is the internet's fault.

Also, don't keep your e-mail open. Check it when there's a natural break, and then close it.

Install Leechblock on Firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059003)

It is a fantastic plugin that lets you setup a blacklist of websites that can be blocked by day/time. There are lots of advanced options and you can set it to prevent you from being able to access the settings of the add-on during your "block" there isn't an easy way out even if you wanted to disable the add-on during work hours. If you really really need to access a blocked site, you can always use another browser, but IE is the only other option at work, and it is so painfully slow (XP on my work laptop) that IE by itself is deterrent enough for me if I can't use FF.

Apart from that, I agree with suggestions on setting goals for each day. I've found that to be really helpful.

Your Head Asplode (3, Informative)

sqrt(2) (786011) | about a year ago | (#43059017)

As with many human problems a technical solution isn't always best. The real underlying issue is that our brains are built according to a fundamentally parallel architecture which isn't very well understood. Your consciousness is something like a "software" trick that gives you the illusion of serial operations. You can focus the spotlight of attention on one thing at a time but you're never really doing that, it's just a simulation. Classical computers are the complete opposite--though in modern times we do now have truly parallel CPUs. It's not just technology that's against you, you're working against the nature of your brain.

Your problem is that you are trying to force your brain to function in a way that it is antithetical to its design on a fundamental level. Doing this for too long causes real and measurable fatigue. If you are finding yourself overstressed from the demand of focusing too intensely on a task you should change your workflow. I would suggest breaking up your time into smaller chunks, maybe of 15-20 minutes so that you are not focused on any one thing for too long. Not every task is amenable to this procedure, so there's going to be time when you simply have to endure.

You can also set achievable goals and have some sort of metric for measuring and verifying them. Write down that you'll answer X number of E-mails or spend 15 minutes doing that twice a day. Write down a schedule and tape it to your computer screen.

Re:Your Head Asplode (2)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#43059155)

This is probably overly-obvious advice, but: stream music that you like while you work. That will give the non-verbal/non-analytical parts of your brain something to chew on while the analytical parts are working on your code; if they like it, they'll stop sending so many "I'm bored" interrupts up to your conscious mind.

Either that, or find a way to make your work more interesting. Bored with JavaScript? Recode your app in Brainf*ck ;)

Re:Your Head Asplode (1)

proca (2678743) | about a year ago | (#43059205)

If he's programming, 20 minutes isn't nearly enough time to absorb an idea long enough to be effective.

Talk to your doctor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059035)

They make drugs for this.

Kill your TV. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059041)

Go command line only.

I am thinking that the layout of pages in modern software is pleasing to the brain. Maybe you're conditioned to like the constant action, smooth lines and flickering lights. We've grown up staring into TV sets and modern desktop computing has grown to mirror that in the past decade.

I would suggest switching to pine for email and lynx for browsing. If you can...get rid of the desktop itself. You can switch different terminal windows with the f keys but your brain doesn't get any little rush from it like a modern system.

Staring at the harshness of text on a screen means you get it done and go on to the next task. People who work with crappy old dos terminal software (like inventory and distribution software) or system admins or programmers will hopefully back me up on this.

I'm working on it. (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#43059065)

It'll be out once i can climb out of the pits of maslow's hierarchy.

Procrastitracker (2)

gregdebonis (2727953) | about a year ago | (#43059069) []
This won't change your habits, but at least it's gonna make you feel bad about them. Windows only, unfortunately.

termination (1, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | about a year ago | (#43059093)

Sounds like you need to be fired.

You are thief. If I pay you an hourly wage and you goof off I might as well flush that cash down the toilet. Grow up and get to work! With a high unemployment rate it you should be happy you have a job and your boss can easily replace you with someone else with better ethics.

I had a link from one of my favorite speakers Larry Winget who wrote "Shut up! Stop whinning and go get a life!". The link is dead but he talks about this. You are being paid to service the customer. You can goof off on your own time but not theirs or mine if I am your manager.

Before I get modded down I have to ask does any other boss think different? Work is work man. I think working at McDonalds afterwards will scare you into an attitude adjustment on how bad life can be. This happened to me after I fucked up and went on slashdot and was shown the door. These days I know better.

The best way to stay on task is to focus on what is the most important and keep yourself super busy. There is always somethign you can do and you need to work past mental exhaustion as that is what you are paid to do. Do this every day and you will get promoted. It is pretty simple and what workers in India and China do. Companies hire them not because they are cheap but because they are committed and work very hard to make sure all goals are achieved and not quit at 5:01.

Re:termination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059261)

You're full of shit and I hope you are a troll.

Re:termination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059267)

You are being paid to service the customer.

Some days it certainly seems like it...

Positive Feedback Loop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059101)

Don't ask for technology to solve a problem that you have with technology. Get a grip. Grow a backbone and set some boundaries for yourself.

I for one don't have my email client auto-check. I have to click a button to catch up on email and that's on my own terms. It made a huge difference in productivity for me.

Simple OS for Simple Minds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059113)

Need to reduce your multi-tasking activity and productivity? Sounds like Windows 8 Metro interface is perfect for you! This whole submission smells like a Windows 8 troll if you ask me...

AlphaSmart Neo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059115)

There is no better tool for keeping a modern writer on focus.

The technology is not the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059123)

Stop blaming the computer. Technology is absolutely 100% not against you. Your own mind is, and therefore you are seeking an excuse to blame something other then yourself.

You are the problem. Either make an active effort to break these habits you've formed, or seek professional help.

Slashdot is not going to regurgitate some magical "fix" that changes your state of mind and magically makes you the efficient work-centered individual you apparently want to be. The sooner you realize that you're the problem and not the computer, the sooner you can start working on fixing that problem.

Slashdot... (1)

olip85 (1770514) | about a year ago | (#43059163)

No Slashdot would improve my productivity...

Stop doing contract work (1)

proca (2678743) | about a year ago | (#43059165)

It sounds like you're working from home doing contracting/consulting programming. If you find yourself unable to police yourself, admit that this type of job isn't for you and find a full-time job. I am the same kind of person. I have my work computer, with minimal distractions, and my home computer which is full of distractions. If you have both long-term and short-term goals in an office environment, it's much easier to focus on what you're supposed to be doing. Being in an office environment discourages you from straying off-task because you feel pressure to not do so. I've spent many hours doing independent contracting, but I realized early on that I couldn't be as productive as I could be when I was away from the distractions of home.

Re:Stop doing contract work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059259)

Or rent an office near your home and get a separate computer for work. i.e. treat your contracting/consulting as a business rather than a hobby.

xkcd came up with a solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059187)

Basically make it a rule that as soon as you finish any task, or get bored with it, you have to power off your computer.
Full details []

Antisocial (1)

brownerthanu (1084341) | about a year ago | (#43059191)

Any time I start to waste time randomly surfing I turn it on for 40 minutes. It helps to keep the habit from gaining a foothold. []

Chronic Media Multitasking (4, Insightful)

whydavid (2593831) | about a year ago | (#43059209)

This is called chronic media multitasking, and you are not alone (likely a large portion of those calling you a loser and telling you to get over it are avoiding doing something more important). [] A single-tasking environment would be helpful, but at what cost? While it isn't good to read your e-mail and surf the net while you are trying to get something done, it IS often useful to look up that related e-mail or useful reference. You might use some measure to block the websites you abuse the most, but who is to say something else won't take their place? What worked for me was simply to recognize and study the problem. Once you see what a common occurrence it is, and how it affects your ability to function even after the fact, it should make it easier to prioritize fixing it. For me that meant hiding most Skype notifications, closing my e-mail client while I worked, and closing out programs that I didn't need for the current task. Your mileage may vary; this is what worked (very well) for me.

it's not the computer, it's you (2)

MrKaos (858439) | about a year ago | (#43059215)

Seriously get some personal self discipline for a while and then convert that to habits. Remind yourself to zone and allow specific times when you are allowed to zone. Set daily goals,, at the end of the day I will have done ... and then ask yourself if what you are doing *right now* is helping you achieve that.

Smoke less weed, allow times for it and period when you don't. Finally, you are probably not giving yourself enough breaks from the screen and it's your body's way of telling you to get up move around and grab a drink, come back to it and you will be more focused on what you are supposed to do.

Above all take responsibility for yourself, it's not the computers responsibility to get you to use it effectively. So remind yourself "stay on task" and eventually you will.

Want something like a school bell/class periods (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43059273)

I would pay money for some software that basically acted like a bell at school, dividing up my time by hours for specific tasks, with notifications and progress tracking. I don't mean just some alarm, I want something that will tell me i have like 3 minutes to save my work or whatever and then it will launch whatever other application I need for my next section of work. I really think something like that to sortof split my time up and enforce limits on different projects would make me massively more productive.

check this book (1)

alter-memo (1896704) | about a year ago | (#43059277)

Personal Productivity Secrets []

It focuses in the issue you describe, and might provide you with personal tools to help you focus.

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