Are you worried about your productivity? In the modern day and age, a lot of people are - we feel like any downtime is wasted time, and we’re always trying to fit more and more in. Because of this, you can often feel like you’re fighting a losing battle, and you just can’t get a grip.
However, there’s a lot you can do with the time you have, as long as you’ve got some help on your side, and you remember what you’re trying to accomplish. Even just five minutes every now and then can be a lot of work towards your end goals!
So if you’ve got a whole day of work ahead, seated at a desk for most of it, the hours you’ll have to go through can get very boring and very, very long. But with the help of some tried and tested techniques, as well as some new and upgraded gadgets and apps, you really can start to train yourself to focus on the work in front of you. It’s what you care most about, after all, and if you’re trying to build a career out of it, then this is the time to take advantage of.
Give Yourself Some Time
You’re going to need time on your side, if you’re going to get your desktop projects to go faster than ever. So you’re either going to need to set aside a day where you can properly dedicate yourself to the tasks ahead, or you’re going to need to get up early or go to bed late some days, to make sure you’ve got at least a good couple of hours to keep at your responsibilities.
Don’t punish yourself here, and pick the option that works best for you. Say no to that friend, and turn down a late night drink if you’ve got better things to do.
Cancel Out Background Noise
Background noise can be very distracting, especially if what you’re working on right now is the last thing you want to be preoccupied with. Any sound from the outside world, or from a roommate or family member downstairs, can turn your attention elsewhere, and as soon as you stop focusing, you’re going to find it hard to get back into the focusing mood.
And that’s where music, or some white noise, can step in, alongside the best noise cancelling earbuds you’ll ever lay your hands on. After all, you’re going to want these dulcet tones, without any lyrics in them, to be the only audio your ears pick up on, and having some noise reduction quality headphones sitting on your ears is the best way forward. It’s a one time investment that you’ll be able to keep on using for a good few years, seeing as we all love to plug ourselves into our phones when we’re off on a commute or stuck in a queue somewhere with nothing else to do.
Get an App for Unnecessary Websites
We all tend to waste time on websites that just aren’t worth the salt, and the quick five minute break we promised ourselves on Miniclip is soon going to turn into an hour as a result. Because of this, our days can be filled to the brim with distractions that just make us later and later in getting our tasks done, and it can soon turn into a cycle we can’t escape out of. Even just one Youtube video will soon turn into ten, and you’ve suddenly spent half an hour on random gameplays, cat videos, or equipment reviews that you could have watched at any time.
So it’s clear you need some help with keeping this distractions to a minimum. Thankfully, there’s quite a few desktop apps out there that will do just that; you can block certain sites and only allow certain others, and you can’t lift the ban on these sites until the timer you originally set runs out. Even if you want to quickly turn the website back on so you can use it for a few minutes, you simply won’t be able to.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to fork out anything here, if you don’t want to. Usually these kinds of apps can be downloaded and used for free, but there's always a pro version you can look into if you think your distraction problem is terminal.
Break Some Templates Out
If you’ve got more than one of the same thing to do during your workday, take the time before you start to sketch out or create a template, seeing as you’re going to need the same parameters or the same categories to fit the information you find, or the commands you make, into. After all, there’s no point wasting time just letting yourself tap out the same five sentences or prompts over and over again - it’s a quickfire way to make sure you get bored, and it’s going to slow down the whole pace of the day.
It might seem like a small point, but it’s an incredibly important one. You’re going to need to get yourself on track with some templates, even if they’re not ones of your own creation. The web has all kinds of frames for you to download and get to using, or to simply inspire you to make your own. Whether you need to make something specific to your coding habits, or you need a website template for the piece you’re putting together for a client, or you need a graphics template to sketch something out in, it’ll make the day go a lot faster.
Buy Yourself a Standing Desk
Standing desks are great for making sure you’re being a little bit more productive during your time at the desk, seeing as sitting in a chair can get a little too comfortable, and that can get a little too time wasting… You want your project to be done in a good amount of time to the best of your ability, and sometimes that means you need to stand up whilst you complete it.
After all, humans are meant to be sedentary creatures, and you’re not going to have the best experience for your mind and body whilst you’re stuck in a slumped, seated position for 8 or so hours a day. So why not look online for a standing desk that could replace your current one, that you can easily fit into the space your stationary desk would leave? You can even take a quick five minutes now to research the idea, seeing as searching for any kind of gadget or piece of equipment that’d help you stay productive is innately a productive activity!
Standing desks also make it a lot easier to let yourself take a break, and one that will actually get you away from your workstation and raring to come back again once the ten or twenty minutes are over. Simply scrolling through a phone will make sure you’re never ready to get back to work - you need to take a walk away, even go around the block quickly, if you can.
Set Up Two Monitors
If you have two or more monitors to work with, you’re going to have a much better time of getting anything done, seeing as you’ll never have to switch back and forth between different tabs and windows. Even the most basic of commands, such as copying and pasting, are turned into a 2 second task because of a set up like this!
Having two monitors at your disposal, if you’ve got the space on your desk for them, means you can be a lot more productive in a much shorter time. Do you need to copy out some code from one program to another? This allows you to cross reference as you go. Do you need to keep track of a news feed or social media stream whilst you work on something? This keeps that tab from turning into a huge distraction. Do you have a homepage for your blog or your Google account, and it’s where a lot of people reach you either with a proposal, a sponsorship, or just a simple friendly feedback comment? This means your contact point will never get buried under a pile of your other work.
All in all, two monitors makes life in front of a desk a lot easier, and it doesn’t have to be expensive to set up either. Whether you’ve already got a spare, or an old monitor to hand, or you have to fork out another $20 to $30 for something close to a 19 inch for the full display experience, you won’t be set back much at all to make a go of this. And hey, once you’re finished with work you can reward yourself with the gaming experience of a lifetime.
Your desktop projects don’t have to stagnate - keep going with these tips.
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Walter G. is a software engineer, startup co-founder, former CTO of several tech companies and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He has been blogging for the past 5 years and is an avid BMX rider, bio-hacker
and performance enthusiast.