Friday Donut tip: four easy ways to stay focused while you work

By: John McGarvey

Date: 15 June 2012

Clocks - how do you use your time?

Do you use your time wisely? (Image: comedy_nose on Flickr)

This Friday's IT tip isn't a great shortcut or an essential way to stay secure. It consists of four simple ways to deal with all those distracting time-sinks that your computer makes so readily available.

With new emails arriving frequently, tweets piling up, Facebook updates, instant messages and more, it can be hard to stay focused on the task at hand. You might kid yourself that by constantly jumping between different windows you're multitasking, but actually you're probably just being inefficient. Here are four strategies to help you cope:

  • Go full-screen. Many bits of software - including Microsoft Word and most web browsers - have a full-screen mode, which hides everything else on your computer. If you find yourself constantly refreshing your Twitter feed, going full-screen helps you to stay with the job at hand.
  • Record how your spend your time. The excellent RescueTime is a service that monitors exactly how you spend time on your computer. It'll show you how much time you waste on Twitter, or spend looking at distracting websites. And how much you spend on real work. Its results can really shame you into action!
  • Keep a clean desktop. As I type this, my computer's desktop is a mess of windows. I have ten web browser tabs open in two windows, several documents in the background and some other bits and pieces. Each is a potential distraction. So don't do what I do: get into the habit of closing everything you don't need.
  • Turn off new email notifications. If you're using Microsoft Outlook, its default setting is to pop up a little message every single time you get a new email. It's easy enough to switch these off, or you can just close Outlook altogether when you need to concentrate on something.

Does your productivity fall as you open more windows on your computer? How do you avoid distractions and stay focused on what's really important? Leave a comment and let us know.

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