“Squirrel!”
Dug, Up (2009)

Introduction

I have recently started investigating ways in which I can improve my productivity and stay more focused while working. One of the ways in which I have been trying to accomplish this, is by identifying trivial tasks that can be sped up, or made redundant, and sources of distraction that can be blocked.

In this blog post, I go through the set of tools for macOS I use on a daily basis to either speed up trivial tasks by providing shortcuts, or cut out various kinds of distraction.

Spectacle

Spectacle is a tool that provides keyboard shortcuts for moving and resizing windows in macOS. Given that macOS is notoriously bad at rearranging and maximizing windows, this is a much needed tool that reduces these issues to simple keystrokes.

Jitouch

Jitouch is a tool that expands the set of multi-touch gestures for the magic trackpad on MacBooks. I have used the tool to make browsing the web easier using just the trackpad by using gestures for navigating between tabs, closing tabs and opening links in new tabs. I have also used its gestures for maximizing windows or filling either the left- or right-hand side of the display. Jitouch also provides gestures for opening custom applications, but this I prefer to do using Alfred.

Alfred

Alfred is an alternative to the built-in Spotlight search tool. It makes it even easier to find files on your machine, open applications, run macOS commands, among other features. It also offers a paid ‘powerpack’ which allows you to script custom workflows for further productivity boosts, though I have not tried out this feature yet.

f.lux

f.lux is an app that solves a simple but important problem: reducing the eye strain and negative impact on your sleep cycle caused by the blue light emitted from your screen. The f.lux app does this by slowly changing the color temperature of your screen during the day in accordance with the circadian rhytm of humans. Be aware that when you initially start using it, the colors can seem very orange, but you eyes adjust to this quite fast. You can also choose different preferences, e.g. I use a scheme called classic f.lux which does not become quite as warm during the late evenings as recommended colors.

Bartender

Bartender is a tool that lets you organize the menu bar icons by hiding or rearranging them according to your tastes. Furthermore, it also adds keyboard shortcuts and allows you to choose whether the app icons should appear when the underlying application experiences some updated state. I have personally only used the app to hide all the noise in the menu bar, such that by default it only shows the date and time along with the bartender icon, which is used for showing/hiding all the other menu bar icons.

Fohkuhs

Fohkuhs is a Pomodoro timer app, which helps you divide your work into a set of intervals with fixed a time span interrupted by short breaks. The Fohkuhs app is simple to use and allows you to customize more or less all the different aspects of doing Pomodoros, e.g. Pomodoro time, break time, daily Pomodoro goal etc. While there is a ton of these timers out there, I ended up with this one as it displays a giant splash screen when each Pomodoro ends, and you need to take a break. Others I have tried only played a gong sound between Pomodoros which was too easy to ignore and keep working, while the splash screen requires you to actually interact with the screen in order to remove it, if you do not want to take the scheduled break.

get-shit-done

get-shit-done is a script I have written myself – adapted from existing similar scripts – that restricts access to a customized list of distracting websites, by blacklisting them while in work-mode and whitelisting them while in play-mode. Compared to other get-shit-done scripts, I have added the extra feature of being able to set an optional timeout for a given mode, after which is returns to its previous mode. For example, if you are finishing a Pomodoro and want to make sure that you can only access your custom list of distracting websites during the Pomodoro break, you can invoke the get-shit-done script with the span of the given break, e.g. get-shit-done play 30m which then blacklists your list of websites again after the 30 minutes has passed.

Conclusion

In this blog post I gone through the set of tools I use on a daily basis to speed up trivial tasks and cut out distractions.