In the northern hemisphere, it’s winter. Time marches slowly by, as the springtime stretches just out of reach ahead of us, leaving many of us trapped in artificially-lit offices, commuting in the cold, wet & dark, feeling generally starved of all natural stimulus and connection with the outside. Oh for heaven’s sake, cheer up.
From telling the time to trying to stop wasting it, horology has featured in Tips o’ the Week passim. Microsoft employees can benefit from a 5-year old yet most excellent tool called FocusTime, which will silence interruptions when working in blocks of predetermined length – following something called the Pomodoro technique. The beauty of this internal-only app is that it switches Outlook to offline mode and Skype for Business to Do Not Disturb, while you’re supposed to be focussing – something the Outlook team should build in, fer sure.
There are other Pomodoro apps too, for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Windows 8/10.
If you want to know how you’re spending your time, however, here’s a cool fremium app/service call RescueTime. It installs an agent on your PC which acts like a proxy to any outbound traffic, and monitors what you’re doing – so it can report on the time you spend in different applications, what websites you’re visiting etc.
There are all sorts of controls over what it does and when, and you can choose to take the free version (which gives some basic functionality, reporting back what you’re doing) or pay $9/month for the premium one (or $72/yr), adding some more controls to stop you frittering away your time – what value is $6/month for improved productivity, even if 5* positive reviewers reckon it’s pricey?
The premium version can automatically sound an alarm when you’ve exceeded a certain amount of what you decide unproductive time (on the basis that, if you’re a social media consultant, noodling about in Facebook and Twitter might be actual work, whereas if you’re an accountant, it’s probably not).
You can even get the software to block certain websites during particular times of the day, in case temptation gets the better of you, or give you some leeway to waste time but jump in when the limit has expired.
Might be worth checking out the freebie version first if you’re unsure, thought the premium one does come with a 14-day free trial too.