Category Archives: productivity

Cool Tools: Omnibox Timer

Hello again faithful readers! It’s time for another Cool Tools post, where I talk about the various hacks I use to keep myself productive.  This time, the tool is a Google Chrome app called Omnibox Timer!

Have you ever sat down to work, or read, only to get sucked into Facebook, or Twitter, or scrolling your Insta?

Yeah, me too.

Well, a few weeks ago, I got fed up with the time loss and went on a crusade to find a tool that would help me limit the social media time suck.  I discovered that there are tons of different tools out there, ranging from an owl who automatically closes your session on after a preset time limit is reached, to the simplest of the bunch: Omnibox Timer.

Seeing as how I like simplicity and flexibility, and I’m not lacking in the discipline to start the timer, I decided to give Omnibox Timer a try.

First off, it’s super easy:

In Chrome, the address bar is called the “Omnibox” because you can use it for Google searches, URLs, and activating apps–like the timer!

So all I have to do is open a tab, type ‘tm’ and a space into the Omnibox (address bar) and then the number of minutes I want the timer to run.  I can even add a message to pop up when the timer goes off.

Omnibox

Then, when the minutes are up, Omnibox Timer sends a desktop notification to my screen.  It’s quiet and unassuming, but it gets the job done without making me feel like I’m being punished. (I really hate that feeling.)

Omnibox2

For me, that’s all I need: a reminder of how much time has passed. Otherwise, I’ll get sucked into reading articles and think 10 minutes has passed–when it’s actually been 30. And, frankly, that twenty minutes can be the difference between getting to write or not.

So give it a try and tell me what you think!  Or, if you have a time management tool you love already, tell me about it! I always love to find a cool new tool!

 

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To Sleep, Or Not To Sleep…

I need your help solving a problem. Writing it all out here will help, but your input will help even more. I gotta know: how do you balance sleep and pursuing the things you love?

Here’s my deal:

I could get more writing done if I woke up just one hour earlier each morning. But I’d be missing one hour of sleep.

I could go to bed one hour earlier, but I’d be missing an hour spent with my hubby (which is a rare, valuable thing these days!)

I could start drinking caffeine again, and get everything I wanted–but I might end up crashing or getting sick after some weeks.  But that’s a maybe, not a definite.

So do I bet on the maybe?

A little more than a year ago, I spent a month waking up each morning at 5AM; I got ready for work until 5:45, then wrote until 6:40 (when I got my kids up and ready for daycare.) It was amazing for my writing! I made so much headway on my projects (plus, I’m at my most creative first thing in the morning, so it was even high-quality headway!) But, I fell asleep on the sofa before 10PM each night, which cut into hubby-hangout time significantly. And then, after a month or so, I crashed. I couldn’t make myself get out of bed before 6:30AM to save my life. That felt worse than the early rising had felt good. So then I was back to square one. I make decent progress on my projects as is, but I know I’m capable of more/better.

So, what do you all do?  Any of you out there who have to slot your passion into impossibly small slivers of time, how do you do it?  Have you come up with any key observations/practices that have made the whole thing easier/more successful?

I’m all ears! Send me your success stories, horror stories, and lessons learned!

Productivity | Calendaring To-Dos

It’s no secret that I love task management (and task management tools!)  I use Todoist to manage my tasks during the week, and a weekend-only bullet journal to manage my weekend life and projects. But when my days at work got so fragmented with meetings that I was experiencing task-paralysis in the short gaps of time I had at my desk, I did something drastic:

I began scheduling my day down to the smallest increments, scheduling my to-dos into 15-minute-divisible ‘appointments.’

And it was AWESOME!

No more productivity paralysis + a serious sense of accomplishment + a high-level view of my day, responsibilities, deadlines, and expectations = productivity empowerment! 

Here’s how I did it: 

  1. I set my calendar to display in 15-minute increments (I use Outlook at work, but any calendar style would work for this.)
  2. I continued to record my tasks into my Todoist and assign them a due date, priority, etc., as applicable, as they came to my plate.
  3. At the end of each day, I looked to the next:
    1. I reviewed tomorrow’s calendar and made sure it was up to date.
    2. I reviewed my task list for tomorrow.  I mentally categorized my tasks into tiny, small, medium, and large work efforts.
    3. I Identified the open slots in my schedule and ‘penciled’ my tasks (remember: 15-minute increments!) into those gaps.
      1. Tiny tasks take less than 5 minutes. They are the only kind of task that can be scheduled two (or three, in a pinch) to a 15-minute slot.
      2. Small tasks should take about 15 minutes
      3. Medium = greater than 15 minutes
      4. Large = greater than 45 minutes

Pro-Tips (i.e. Things I learned the hard way)

  1. Schedule two or three 15-30 minute blocks of email time into your day. (More or less, depending on your specific circumstance. If I was writing full-time, I would schedule two blocks. But because my office job entails a lot of emails, I schedule three–one 30-minute block in the morning, and two 15-minute blocks in the afternoon.)
  2. Leave enough time for bathroom breaks. Small tasks that will only take 5 minutes are a great opportunity for this: the rest of the 15-minute block can be used for a potty/facebook/whatever break.)
  3. Leave enough time for task transition. Butting two hour-long tasks up against each other sounds like a good idea, but you need at least 10 minutes to transition your brain (if not your work space!) when the first task ends to allow you to tackle the next.

This was surprisingly easy to implement into my work, and the payoff was WAY more than the small amount of expended effort.  The best part is that if I run into a day that doesn’t require this kind of detail, I just don’t do it that day.  There’s no commitment–it’s just another tool for your productivity toolbox, ready and waiting when the going gets tough.

Is this something you do? Any tips to share?  Or, if you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes!