When at work, I’m able to control quite a bit of the real estate around me. I’m able to create a space that helps keep my unfocused mind on track. When working from home, this isn’t always possible. Our small apartment does not allow for a workspace and my 13″ MacBook Air does not offer enough screen space to help me keep things like my task list in my line of sight. I’ll head down some rabbit hole and all of the sudden the night will be gone without ever having done what needed to happen.
Anyone who reads this site regularly knows that I’m an OmniFocus advocate, that it has done a lot to help me organize my disorganized world. But to be honest, I was finding that it sucked for me at home. This wasn’t a byproduct of OmniFocus, rather it was user error. I’m guilty of out-of-sight, out-of-mind (I mean, I use OmniFocus for a reason…) and since the smaller screen size means less open windows and more full screen usage, my task is usually out of my sight and it’s often out of my mind.
I tried having a stern “talking to” with myself, I tried promising myself I’d do better, but no matter how hard I’ve tried, intentionally opening my task list hasn’t come naturally to me. Since that didn’t work, I decided to do the next best thing: I made my computer do it for me. I created the simplest Keyboard Maestro macro imaginable to automatically open OmniFocus every 90 minutes, seven days a week from 8:30am – 11:59pm (a lot of my writing is done between midnight and 2am, so I’ve decided to let my mind roam free during those hours). Regardless of what I’m doing, every 90 minutes the “Home” perspective (the list of things I need to do while at home) pops into the forefront of my view.
While this is still new, this stupid little hack is proving to be an invaluable gut check. My computer forces me to take a momentary look at what I should be doing, it breaks my web-based trance. Occasionally it also breaks a nice flow, but considering flow is always a struggle and the interruption is infrequent, the gain is proving to be worth the loss. When working on something important, I’ll jump right back into what I’m doing. When goofing off on the web, I’ll take a second and see how I might want to better spend my time (or find a way to rationalize and continue goofing off…).
Much like many of my visual reminders to focus, this might seem a little silly, but if you find yourself prone to getting lost, this is a nice way to tether yourself to what you truly hope to accomplish.
Update: Ben Brooks offered up a nice revision for those looking for a subtle reminder. Rather than having OmniFocus pop-up, potentially interrupting something important, Ben suggests using Growl to provide a reminder instead. I’m going to try this on my iMac at work, while leaving the more aggressive pop-up macro above active on my MacBook Air at home.
Ben also pointed to some excellent suggestions from Dan Byler on how to use Keyboard Maestro to minimize distractions as well.