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Apps to keep you on track
Yes, Scrum and Kanban sure are handy for keeping a project moving along, but even the most organized tech companies still can feel a little chaotic. Here are some apps that can help …
See where your time is really going
If where your time goes is a mystery, you need the RescueTime app for instant analysis.
The program works in the background, logging how much time you spend on projects and in apps, websites, meetings, and email and spits out a daily productivity report (or weekly or monthly if you pay for the app’s premium version).
RT also lets you block sites you tend to visit compulsively, or alert you when you’ve worked on a project for a set amount of time.
Ban yourself from the web
If you can’t cope with the free choice of having the internet nearby, Freedom can take away your temptations…by blocking your access to the web entirely. And it works across all devices (PC, Mac, iOS, Android). Extreme? Maybe. But when radical measures are called for, you may have no choice but to become a Freedom fighter.
Switch tasks more quickly
These days, no tech worker gets the luxury of specializing in just one thing. Writers may have to edit videos, and designers may need to code.
Concentrate (Mac) and FocusMe (PC) can help you shift tasks by crafting customized routines. If you need to write, the app will open Word and other programs you need, close the programs you don’t need, and block social media if you choose. Shift to photo editing and a whole new fleet of programs and websites will be brought to the fore.
Get an "emergency call"
Nothing is a bigger distraction than a chatty coworker. If you ever need an easy excuse to escape, FakeCalls is apt to please.
This $1 wonder lets you customize the fake caller’s name, number, and picture so everyone can see that it’s your “doctor” (or whoever) calling. You can also make the calls keep coming if you decline to answer. Just say, “Sorry, I have to take this,” and you’re free.
Buy some discipline for $2.99
If you need someone else to set your schedule, the focus booster app ($2.99 per month or $29.99 annually) has got you covered.
This app dictates that you work on a task for 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break. Toss in a to-do list and time management tracker functions, and you’ll know exactly where your day went.
Block only social media
Funny pictures of your baby nephew can make it hard to buckle down.
Anti-Social ($15, PC and Mac) is an antidote to online over-socializing and helps you block more than 30 sites including Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Or customize it to restrict any sites you choose. Set the timer for anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours and shut down your procrastination options.
Stop wasting time logging in
All the passwords for all these new apps you’re downloading (and everything else in your life) are probably taking up a lot of mental real estate, so why not simplify with a free open-source password manager app that works with Linux, Windows, and Mac?
Pretend you're at a busier place
If you’re the kind of person who gets your best work done in a busy coffee shop, maybe you should bring that coffee shop mentality into the office (plus, science shows the hustle and bustle of cafes boosts productivity).
That’s where the free Coffitivity app (iOS and Android) is happy to serve you. With all the ambient sounds of various coffee shops — casual convo, clinking cups — you’ll feel at home because you can blend your own iTunes musical choices right into the background.
Or shut everyone out
Filtering out background babble, like your cubicle mates’ hyper-personal phone calls on speakerphone, can be key to working productively. Pop on your headphones and zoom right in to whatever needs doing with a $4.99 white noise app for Mac, PC, iOS, and Android.
Learn when to flee
Working less is a way to do more. It’s science, people: Taking regular breaks is not only better for your health and mental well-being, it actually increases productivity.
Time Out (Mac) schedules a 10-minute break after 50 minutes (or optional 10-second micro breaks every 10 minutes for when you’re working on high-stress tasks).
SmartBreak (PC) focuses more on ergonomics and tracks the intensity of work, suggesting breaks when it thinks you need one.
Build your own blacklist
If you find yourself constantly rebooting to bypass Anti-Social’s social media blockade so you can spend more time LOLing over cat videos, it’s time for the free Mac app SelfControl. Just blacklist the bothersome apps, set the timer, and you’re free to spend quality time with your work.
No amount of rebooting or even deleting the SelfControl app will let you off the hook before the appointed hour, so make sure you mean it.
Kill all desktop clutter
Writer types like to cultivate a laser-like focus, which is where WriteRoom (Mac, $9.99), Dark Room (PC, free), and FocusWriter (Mac, Windows, Linux, free) come in. The apps eliminate messy icons — not to mention all those endless menus in Word gobbling up real estate.
These three apps turn your computer screen into an interface that’s simple and powerful: Words against a plain background.
Get more oxygen to your brain
Flex appeal is good for body and mind, which is why taking short exercise breaks from your tasks occasionally helps you tone up and sharpen up.
Relieving stress is the key to better memory, concentration, and job performance, so use either the Office Yoga app or the Office Yoga to De-Stress app to achieve total consciousness. Or at least feel a little better.