Tag Archives: Cool Tools

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.


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.)


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!



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!

Cool Tools: Planning for the future with Trello

It’s time for another Cool Tools post where I talk about systems and tools that help me be more productive! 

I’ve blogged about Todist for task management; and last time I talked about IFTTT and Zapier for automation.

Now that it’s January, and many of you may be looking to the year ahead, making plans, and brainstorming ways to make your lives better, I thought I’d share another task management tool. This one I use for long term planning.

Enter: Trello.

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance,Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process. (“What is Trello”, help.trello.com/article/708-what-is-trello)



A look at my Trello board

Like I said, I use Trello for longer term planning (though you could just as well use it for day-to-day task management.)  I also use it for tasks I need to stay aware of but am not yet ready to assign a start date or due date to. I do this by using Trello in coordination with Todoist.  Here’s how:

  1. Any task, project, or idea that comes to me that does not have a due date or deadline is added to one of my Trello boards.
    • The Work Efforts board is for ideas and projects that will require a great level of work, likely including of sub-tasks.  Creating the newsletter is a good example of a Work Effort board item.
    • The Tasks board is for, you guessed it, tasks! Tasks are items that require a low to moderate level of time, and/or are low in complexity.
    • Book-specific boards (“Shift Series,” “Cloaked”) are for writing tasks that belong to each book or series board. Writing tasks, like writing the next part of Linking, are more complex than Tasks, but very different than Work Efforts. They deserve their own boards.
    • The Scheduled board is for tasks and work efforts that I have scheduled work for, assigned a due date to, or have begun working on. More on how I use that below.
  2. Every Monday, I review my Trello to determine what previously untouched items I should begin working on, if any. Or what items I should schedule with a concrete beginning date or deadline.
    • Yes, there is a recurring task in my Todoist that reminds me to check my Trello. The struggle is real, people. 😉
  3. Identified items get duplicated into Todoist (copy-paste) and assigned a due date, project, etc.  (Sub-tasks previously detailed within the card on Trello are created into individual tasks in Todoist, as applicable.)
    • The cards remain in Trello, assigned the same due date as is assigned in Todoist, and moved to the Scheduled board.

I’ve found that this system and process allows me to record all those cool “someday” ideas into a trusted system (Trello) without cluttering my task manager (Todoist).  If you like this idea, but don’t want to add another tool to your life, you could accomplish the same thing by adding “someday” ideas to your task manager without assigning them a due date.

So, how do you keep track of long-range tasks and projects? How do you activate them when it’s time to begin working on them?  Leave a comment and let me know!