Consider Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one representing the intellectual side, the other our most base inclinations. It’s often the case our Dr. Jekyll is unable to get work done because Mr. Hyde wants to browse Pinterest and jettison some angry avian projectiles. Unfortunately, dealing with a case of short attention span is worse now thanks to online access, the myriad of diversionary entertainment options, and even that smartphone you keep checking every few seconds. Distractions like these divide attention, time, and therefore affect the quality of work you do. However there’s one trick that can keep you on the straight and narrow to build better work habits.
It’s all too easy to get distracted from work on the computer. But there’s a simple technique to help regain focus: create a new User account, one specifically designed for getting work done. That means creating a desktop stripped of extraneous bookmarks, applications, music and movie files, plug-ins, extensions…unless they’re designed for task management or your work related projects. Think of this desktop as your work persona. Creating a dedicated account for work related tasks is like having a work outfit compared to the comfy-cozy sweatpants of leisurely online time.
Creating a new user account space on your computer to logged into offers several advantages, but also comes with a few inconveniences and backdoors too. First off, the User account is only effective if you log into it; the bare bones account could just be avoided entirely and lost to the same procrastination that hampered you prior. Secondly, a bare bones setup still can lead you astray if you have a web browser, the ultimate time killer, so consider leaving online access unless required.
The key to this technique is willpower and it is definitely easier said than done. Cutting out specific Applications/Programs is a good start. Removing distracting visual and and extraneous distracting layers off the desktop can also aid in the focus department. Keep applications and tools with the sole purpose of focus. For example, Omm Writer is an excellent example of a bare bones application which aids in focusing on a single task:
Although individual preferences vary, we find creating a minimalist workspace can be effective in completing tasks more efficiently for almost every type. Removing task bar programs and replacing the desktop with simplistic wallpaper leaves the mind calm rather than vulnerable to jumping from thought to thought. Full screen programs are especially useful, but may be difficult to adjust for those of us prone to jump from one window to another.
Personal tasks should be left for personal time. Leave a note or memo if anything comes up for later, but relegate games, videos and entertainment for breaks or downtime (note: taking breaks throughout the day can actually help you stay focused, so switch into your personal account for 30-60 minute lunch breaks or breathers).
A summary of how to create a focused work environment:
1. Create a new system log-in account for work hours. Here’s how to do this for OS X and Windows 7.
2. Strip this account of any extraneous applications, files, or browser bookmarks that aren’t related to work.
3. If possible and if your work doesn’t require online access, leave out any browser. Stick with email.
4. Replace your desktop with a minimal wallpaper like these. Remove as many icons as possible from your desktop and launcher/start menu.
5. Use full screen mode in applications to prevent jumping unnecessary jumping around.
6. Turn off your smartphone and keep it in a drawer on silent mode.
7. Permit yourself allotted and regular breaks; this is as important in keeping focus as any of the tips above
By Jason Rodway
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.