3 apps to keep your day on track☀️
Simple tools for staying focused on one thing at a time
If you never stray from your task list, you can stop reading. Slash, Streak and Centered, described below, are for those of us intimately acquainted with procrastination and distraction. I rely on them when I have a big block of open time I don’t want to squander. Read on for more on how these apps help.
This simple app is like a polite digital nanny. It spotlights one to-do item at a time as you’ll see in the gif below.👇 I use it for work sprints on days where challenging work might tempt me to fritter time away.
How to use it: Start by typing in a list of stuff you need to do. When your list is set, hit the start button. Your tasks then appear on screen, one by one, along with a little timer. When you finish something, click a button to mark it as done. A little reward gif pops up (I turn those off). The next task in your queue then pops up. Repeat until you’ve completed your list.
While you’re working, a little box on screen reminds you of what you’re supposed to be focused on. You can pause a task to take a break or skip one you can’t complete.
Why it’s useful
Unlike a to-do list with 20 things on it, Slash shows one item at a time. If I’m tempted to divert my attention to Twitter or email, Slash pulls me back with its visual reminder — along with a ticking timer — nudging me back to the task at hand. Slash also keeps stats, if you like that sort of thing. Knowing how long each task ended up taking can help improve your time budgeting.
Slash has a simple companion mobile app that syncs with the desktop app. It can sync tasks with Trello or Todoist if you already use one of those. Other bells and whistles include an Eisenhower Matrix mode I like. The matrix helps you determine what’s urgent, what’s important, what’s urgent AND important, and what’s neither. That’s helpful for prioritization. It encourages me to schedule, postpone, delete or delegate tasks.
I prioritize tasks in the morning when my mind is still focused. Then I just instruct my lizard brain — that dumb part of my mind that gets tired and distracted later in the day — to follow the task list and do whatever task is next. Once I’ve ordered the stuff I need to do, I just click go.
When I separate out the process of deciding what to do, there’s less room for procrastination or waffling on what to do next. I just follow the task order my morning brain has determined.
Slash gives you 50 tasks for free, but then there’s a subscription fee of $5/month. For some, that might be a deal-killer, given how many subscriptions we already bear. Another view: anything that improves productivity is worth the price of a cup of bubble tea, and developers need to sustain their craft somehow.
Sorted helps you fit tasks into your schedule.
Step 1. List your tasks.
Step 2. Estimate how long each will take.
Step 3. Connect your calendar.
Step 4. Select “Auto Schedule” and Sorted magically proposes a schedule for you with tasks tucked in between meetings.
I like how Sorted shows me what I can realistically accomplish that day, given my schedule. When I rely only on a task list separated from a calendar of appointments, the unrealistic planner in me may envision completing 15 complex tasks.
But Sorted sees that I have only a couple of free hours. So it includes only the tasks I can realistically finish. That reduces the frustrating feeling of tasks left undone.
If you don’t want to bother with another app, you can potentially accomplish something similar by training yourself to put tasks directly onto your calendar.
Sorted has a bonus feature that a plain calendar doesn’t have. When a new task arises or something takes longer than expected, Sorted automatically recalculates your day plan. That beats manually moving things around on your calendar each time something changes. It’s available for Mac and iOS.
For a useful calendar + task list combo, read about why Sunsama is helpful👇
Centered plays quiet ambient music and tracks the time you’re spending on a given task. When you first set it up, you choose a virtual coach from a bunch who have pre-recorded brief messages of encouragement. I haven’t found the recorded comments useful, but I like the music.
“Keep me off my phone” is one of the app’s creative features. You point your phone at a QR code, which opens a Centered page on your phone. Then if you interrupt your laptop work to do something on your phone, the Centered laptop app reminds you of the task you’re trying to focus on. I’m using the free version. The paid app is $10/month or $80/annually, which unlocks more music, notification blocking and integrations with Todoist, Asana, and Spotify.
🎧 Check out free resources for great background work sounds in a prior post.
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