When you’ve got an important goal to work on it can sometimes be the hardest thing to get stuck into. Ditto for a boring task.

As I’ve completed the delicious slide from full time work to full time working from home (currently freelancing and on my business) I’ve had to become better and better at managing my time, without the external motivation of a boss looking over my shoulder checking what I am up to!

I have tried numerous different apps and methods and am currently finally on what feels like a more settled system. Quite possibly you have found your way here as some serious procrastination is getting in the way of your big serious project so I’m going to keep this intro short and not give you unnecessary reading to aid your procrastination! So with no further ado here’s a few of my tried and tested techniques to fend off procrastination!

1. Time Doctor

There are a lot of time tracking apps out there. I tried a few before settling on Time Doctor for a number of reasons;

  • I have to physically type in what I’m working on which helps give me focus on a particular task and stops me flitting from task to task
  • a small display bar showing the task, and time spent on it can be displayed anywhere on the screen. I like the constant visual reminder of what I’m up to (or should be up to!)
  • Time Doctor checks up on me! if my mind wanders off or my mouse clicks away to a ‘high risk’ page eg Facebook or YouTube a little reminder pops up ‘ hello, are you still working on …’ Err no I’m not actually Time Doctor, good point!

Time Doctor comes with a 14-day free trial. After the free trial you can continue to solely track your time using the free version. I upgraded to the solo plan at US$5/month as I like to see how much time I’ve spent on each task & it helps keep track of my freelancing work.

2. Marina Timer

Marina Timer includes a Pomodoro Timer (25-minute intervals followed by a short break), a custom timer and a kitchen timer. To be honest, I have very rarely used the Pomodoro timer, 25 minutes just doesn’t feel like enough time for my brain to get settled in on a task. It’s “barely enough time to get your pencils out” as my Dad would say!

However, the custom timer ticking down gives a real sense of urgency & works a treat for me. When I’ve got something that feels really tricky to be getting on with I will just give myself a short period of time like 20 minutes to get stuck in and force myself to stick with it. At the end of 20 minutes I will often find it really wasn’t that bad after all and will decide to continue. Though that’s not always the case!

Marinatimer.com is completely free to use and available at http://www.marinaratimer.com/.

3. StayFocusd

StayFocusd (nope, not a typo, there is no e!) is a bit of a lifesaver for me – I can pick the websites that are most distracting and choose the maximum time I’m allowed to spend on them each day. I really like the nuclear option where I can nuke all my blacklist sites for an hour or as long as like. If I’m feeling particularly easily distracted I will kick the nuclear option off before getting started on my next task.

I have the procrastinators setting which makes it super tricky to change your mind..

I have tried on previous occasions to break it, oh I do like a challenge, but
a. the details of what I’m actually writing and
b. the difficulty of correctly typing all of that without any mistakes has resulted in me keeping my settings the same for quite a while now!

StayFocusd is free & available at the Chrome Web Store

4. Forest app

Forest grows trees whilst I am on focusing on non-phone related distractions! I pick the amount of distraction free time and as long as I do not check my phone a tree grows. However if I break early and start phubbing (busying oneself with a phone) the tree withers and dies. Sad times!
I find this more powerful than simply putting my phone in aeroplane mode as whenever I pick up my phone the sight of the little tree growing up puts me off! No one wants a dead tree!

Forest is free or there is a paid version that gives you more functionality including growing real trees! It is also available as a chrome extension via the Chrome Web Store where it uses a blacklisted websites system.

Like the sound of any of these but not completely convinced by them? Have a look at https://alternativeto.net for some alternatives!

Think I’ve already got more than enough productivity tools?? Well wait, there’s more!

5. The timer on my phone!

I’m a big believer in breaks during the working day, but sometimes my getting another glass of water break can turn into a water, snack, putting out the washing, reading a really interesting newsletter, and having a nap break! Not cool! I have (mostly!) learnt the error of my ways and now set a time for my break time, the dingdingading dingdingading of my timer letting me know that time is up is enough to drive me back to my desk!

6. Google calendar

Ahh good old google calendar – I could not live without it! I have pretty recently started scheduling in tasks into my calendar. There is nothing quite like the incentive of the next task popping up when I haven’t started on the first one to get me moving! Also my calendar is now beautifully colour coded -admin/maintenance tasks, Freelancing, my business Oodles of Freedom, exercise, fun stuff – which means at a glance that I can see how I am going with getting a balanced week.

7. Good old pen & paper!

I love physically crossing things off lists and having a non-electronic version of what I’m up to. At the beginning of each week I do an A4 sheet with my tasks for the week, and the days I’m planning on completing them. I’m working towards being able to plan in the right amount of stuff per week to actually finish it! I also keep a small notebook that I use to write down the start time of each new task. The process of writing what I’m doing next, alongside Time Doctor really focuses my mind. As well as writing in my breaks and then feeling guilty as to how long I have been on a break for it’s amazing to see how much time can disappear when I’m procrastinating, often way longer then I would have realised without this process.

8. Get out the house!!

Sometimes, often when sleepiness has wrapped its arms around my flat none of these (yep, none of them!) will work and I have to force myself and my laptop out of the house to a cafe or the library for a change of scene. Often the walk or bus ride will give me the reset I need and if not being surrounded by other people, particularly if they are working away diligently (or procrastinating in a way that looks diligent!) gives me the jolt I need. I am too proud to be found sleeping or playing games for hours whilst sat at a cafe where other people can see me!

And if that doesn’t work its one of my many excuses for getting out of the city for a little inspiration from nature! Working from the great outdoors? Don’t mind if I do!

This is by no means a comprehensive list because there are SO MANY of these tools out there, it seems we have bred nations of distracted procrastinators! So instead its just some of the ones that I have settled on, for now! Do you use these ones or something different? I would love to know your favourites. Important warning – do not let the finding of the perfect productivity app be the next excuse for procrastination!

And one final note – despite all these apps, techniques and methods, I still fall off the productivity wagon every once in a while, so if you do too know this – it’s completely normal – we are humans, not machines and need a break everyone in a while. Enjoy the break, don’t beat yourself up about it as that’s just isn’t productive, instead think of ways to do better next time. Then come back refreshed and ready to get storming once again!

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