Stay focused in front of the computer

I work alone. In front of my computer. Mostly from home. I’ve often found it a bit problematic to stay focused on one task at a time (most often a browser, a search engine and/or an interesting blog post is involved in splitting my mind).

I have been using task timers before, but was never perfectly happy with them. They were either too automatic (recording every opened program and url) too structured (requiring me to create customer, project and tasks) or too annoying (popping up every 15 minutes). And I was using them for the wrong reason. I used them as a tool for billing. And billing is never as easy as “one minute work – bill that minute” which meant I often lost focus from the real task because of the task timer.

Now I found one that works the way I like it, and I’m using it primarily to stay focused – I don’t mind the timer that much.

So I start by making up my mind about what I should do, then I write a very short task description and click Start.

I see the task (i.e. “write blog post about tasktimer”) with time ticking in a small bar, always in eye sight. It reminds me to keep doing that task, or change to another if necessary.

When the day or the week ends, I spend time to go through the recorded times and create a document for billing (and see how much time I spent on non-billable tasks…).

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I use “Grindstone” (Windows & free for single user). I’m sure there are others out there that works equally well.

* Can be running in a small “bar” floating on top on every other window.

* Easy to add new tasks, just by writing a small description.

* Stops when I’m away from the computer.

* Asks what I’m up to when I get back.

* Easy to change time if I forgot to set the timer on the correct task.

* Simple reporting features.

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