We’ve written a lot in the past about various productivity schemes both informal and formal, most of which are variations on the formula, “Work for specified, manageable amount of time X, then goof off for time Y. Repeat until work is done.” A whole culture of utilities has emerged to support this advice, with tools such as LeechBlock or StayFocusd helping to keep us from losing vast amounts of time online.
A new strategy is offered by Adam Pash’s Quiet Hours, an Adobe Air-based utility (Windows/OS X) that helps you work with focus, while knowing that you won’t miss anything. The way it works is simple: Take any app that’s a distraction, and drag it to the Quiet Hours app. (Windows users can drag them from the Start menu; Mac users should drag from the Applications folder.) Set the app’s timer for however long you want to work without interruption. When that time has elapsed, Quiet Hours will re-launch those applications. A couple of things worth noting: You have to quit the distracting apps (e.g., Twitter, IRC, e-mail . . . or some scholarly application) yourself. And nothing about Quiet Hours prevents you from re-opening them in the interval. What the utility offers you is two things: 1) an instantly-configurable reward for getting your stuff done, and 2) the sure knowledge that you will in fact check back in for critical messages at some point. That might seem silly, but there’s an advantage to a visual reminder–in this case, the opening application–to check your e-mail one last time before leaving for the day. The basic idea is that you can concentrate on your work *now*, because the app promises to check on your distractions (professional and non-) later.
Here’s quick video that shows off Quiet Hours:
Pro Tip: Obviously, these days many people do their work right in the browser, and so you might not want to have your browser included in Quiet Hours. At the same time, perhaps there’s a site devoted to scholarly exegesis or some other favorite topic that you’d like to have open when your quiet hours are done. The way to do that is to use a site-specific browser (Mac users: see Fluid | Windows, see Bubbles), which lets you turn any url into its own application. That way, you can put your favorite distraction into Quiet Hours, but continue to work productively in your browser.
Quiet Hours is available as a free download, under the GNU Public License, at LifeHacker.
Do you have a favorite script or utility for facilitating concentration? Let us know in comments!