3 pieces of software that I use that I am sure a lot of people haven't heard of, but should start using. If you have heard of them, do you use any (all) of them and how do you use them?
Oh and this isn't a tutorial post on how to use them, just what they are and how they benefit me.
It blocks stuff. But not just websites, it blocks everything.
But it does it on a schedule (so you can set block times for certain apps at one time, other apps at another time etc. and still enjoy the odd YouTube rabbit hole or 4 hours reading DEV articles in designated down time!)
It will block websites, applications...and your computer...seriously!
I use it to block certain sites during the day that I know will distract me...boring, loads of people do that!
I also use it to block Outlook. Yes I only check my emails 3 times a day.
No pinging every 5 minutes distracting me, just 3 times where I tackle stuff that needs doing.
I know you are thinking this isn't possible due to X, Y and Z...trust me you can persuade people that email is not live chat!
It has not caused me any issues in the 3 years I have done it. Cold Turkey stops me going back to the ping ping ping days!
But best of all, I use Cold Turkey to block my computer.
It has a mode called "Frozen Turkey" that lets you lock yourself out of your computer at certain times of the day.
Fair warning, if you get this wrong it can really cause headaches! However when you get it right it can be so good for sticking to a routine.
For example, I wanted to make sure I eat at certain times of the day. So I just lock my computer for 15 minutes each time.
Obviously I have to be careful that I don't schedule meetings that might run into these times (as you can imagine that would be unprofessional) but I have also become very good at saying no to meetings that don't fit my diary.
I also lock my PC at night when I need to. Sometimes I get into bad habits where I am working at 1am due to deadlines.
It doesn't work as you then end up producing less the next day anyway (meaning you have to work to 1am again and the cycle continues...).
When this happens I set a block up for the week, computer off at 10pm, can't access it until 530am. That way I ensure I have at least 7 hours where I CANNOT work...so I might as well sleep!
It is a feature to be used with caution...I did once lock the computer for a day by mistake and had to spend an hour fiddling to undo the lock so I could work.
But bar that one slip up (which you learn from!) it has been fine.
Anyway - you should check it out https://getcoldturkey.com/
Price: £29.00 (GBP) now (lifetime usage), not sure whether that price changes based on Country but that is about $40 (USD). Worth every penny! (Mac and Windows)
They also offer "micro manager" - which does the same except you whitelist applications for a while and everything else gets blocked - so you can have focus sprints.
They also offer "Writer" which blocks everything on your computer, blacks out all the screens (if you have more than one) and provides you with a very simple screen to write on. Oh and this one blocks you for an amount of time or an amount of words.
I don't tend to use the micro manager as I have my block list set pretty well but the writer occasionally gets used if I want to just free-write to clear my head / work on an idea.
Yet again, if I need to focus on writing something I have a different block list for Cold Turkey so I don't need the writer very often.
There are loads of time tracking applications, this one works best for me.
Why? Because it tracks things automatically and with a little bit of work it can provide some really interesting insights.
They have a free version...don't bother there are better alternatives. The paid version...that is where the magic is.
The difference is subtle, the free version tracks what applications you are using and when, the paid version tracks the applications and which document you are working on / using!
With a little bit of manipulation and effort you can use it to tell you exactly how long you have spent on each project each day (they also have project tracking built in but it was a bit simplistic for my liking, it might work for you though!).
It also lets you categorise time with fine detail. For example visiting dev.to and any page is considered leisure time (the way I have it set up). But if I am on dev.to/new or the URL ends in /edit I mark it as writing time (productive).
They also added slack integration so you can update your status to show what you are working on automatically (don't worry it wont tell people when you are procrastinating and looking at non work stuff!).
It is $78 (USD) for a year or $12 (USD) a month...save up and buy the year as it costs almost half as much that way!
Go check it out as well - https://www.rescuetime.com/why_premium
(works on everything, Linux, Mac, Windows, Android, iOS!)
Yes I know...it sounds like a website for industrial strength vibrators (just me? 🤣).
But despite the unfortunate name it is a great piece of kit (for Windows).
It is a set of utilities that Windows should really just ship with.
You get a few features but the ones I use are:
- Colour picker - Windows + Shift + C - A colour picker that works across everything and copies the result to the keyboard. It also shows you the current colour under the cursor as you move around as hex and RGB values.
- Power Toys Run - kind of like Mac Spotlight but worse, it lets you quickly access applications, documents etc. with Alt + Space. I use it occasionally but I find it too slow, your mileage may vary.
- Improved file explorer previews - preview SVGs and markdown - handy!
- Fancy Zones - ✔ This is why this is worth downloading. I have 6 screens and 2 of them are massive (not flexing, just to show how hard it is to manage monitors).
I like to arrange my Windows in certain ways that you just can't do without patience on Windows (such as add 3 applications split horizontally one on top of the other on the right hand screen for monitoring applications etc.)!
Fancy zones lets you add zones to your screens where you can drag and drop a window and they will fill that zone.
Technically you can make a window fit into two zones or even 4 zones that are next to each other if you set the zones up correctly.
The joy of just pressing Shift when dragging a window and having it take up exactly a third of the screen vertically, or a third horizontally etc. cannot be over stated.
This one is free so even if you can't afford the other two right now you should definitely get this one if you have more than one screen or like to set your application layout a certain way (and use Windows)!
Get it here -> https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/powertoys/
I just wanted to share 3 applications I thought were useful you may not have heard of.
Let me know if you end up using any of them (or already use them and how they help you) in the comments.
If you are wondering why I would follow up on my 16,500 word monster post with something so simple and "low effort"...it is a little experiment...more on that in a bit 🤐!
In case you missed that one and have an hour to kill: