Are you creating busy work to avoid focusing on important items? That’s a question asked in the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. As much as I enjoy browsing the web, I’ll admit that it is not always productive. With constant online availability come constant distractions. One way I regain focus and manage my attention is to use a set of repeating pop up notes that ask me two questions.
It’s hard to limit all distractions, but I think I’m good about controlling my work environment.
- I rarely use instant messaging
- I don’t turn on my phone’s ringer.
- I manually retrieve my email when needed.
- Fewer than 12 people have my cell phone number and know when to use it.
My weakness is when I’m online I can get distracted. I’ll see an interesting item and my attention shifts to that site. Later, I’ll notice I have several browser sessions open and wonder what my purpose was.
Refocusing My Attention
My solution was to create pop up reminders that ask one of two questions every 60 minutes:
Are you inventing work to avoid the important items?
Are you working on your most important task?
I’m sure there are many ways to create such a system. First, I tried Microsoft Outlook, but I wasn’t satisfied with the reminder notification. I knew having the flashing icon wasn’t enough for me. I don’t like having Outlook open all the time.
I need to have something on the screen that requires me to act and dismiss the reminder. I also didn’t want something that would be too distracting such as sound or animation. I opted to use ConceptWorld’s versatile sticky note program called NoteZilla.
Creating the Focus Reminders with NoteZilla
NoteZilla is an enhanced version of a notes program we previously reviewed called Quick Notes Plus. Using the program, I’m able to create pop-up reminders such as the one below. These notes would appear on my screen and grab my attention so I had to take action. If I didn’t act, the reminder field showed that I was overdue.
To create a focus reminder note,
1. Download and install the trial copy of NoteZilla.
2. Right-click the NoteZilla icon in your system tray and select New Note.
3. A blank sticky note will appear on your desktop.
4. Type the text of your reminder.
5. Move your mouse to the top of the note. A menu bar will appear at the top.
6. Click the gear icon in the top left.
7. From the menu, select Set Reminder… The Set Reminder dialog opens.
8. Click the down arrow control for Time and select when you would like the next reminder.
9. Click the Repeat tab.
10. Click the checkbox for Repeat Reminder.
11. Select the time interval for the reminder note.
12. Click the Set Reminder button.
Your reminder is now active. When it pops up, simply click the Dismiss link. You can repeat the steps if you want alternating reminders.
Tweaking Your Reminder System
As you can see from the screen shots, NoteZilla has many customizable options. As example, you can have the reminder play a sound or launch a program. This flexibility allows you to create reminders that are best suited to your needs.
Initially, I used one focus reminder every two hours. While effective, I knew I needed more prompts. I created another reminder with a different question and time. Each reminder goes off every two hours, but set apart by an hour. This allows me to see a reminder each hour.
Although these reminder questions are an interruption, they make me think about what I’m doing now and if it’s relevant to what needs to be done. The answer is immediately apparent to me. In your office, the distraction might be lengthy phone calls from friends. Regardless of the source, these reminders can help you limit distractions and regain your focus.
- Version: 7.0 (Build 92)
- Cost: $ 29.95 (special discount to non-profits, educators and students)
Last Updated (Thursday, 10 January 2013 14:02)