Simple and Effective Productivity Tip When Working on the Computer

This falls under “Why Didn’t I Think of This Before?

Not being able to remain focused and get things done while working on a computer is common. There’s a countless number of things to do even offline. You can, and probably do:

  • Organize folders/desktop/etc
  • Finally get around to actually opening up an ebook you’ve downloaded
  • Customize your desktop (and then hours later, frustrated, revert it back to how it was originally)
  • Edit apps/recompile your kernel
  • hell, even making selection squares on your desktop using the cursor is a blast when you’re trying to avoid work.

One thing I’ve always thought of but never really pursued was to write some ADHD scripts. Blocking certain sites or having them only enabled for a fixed period of time each day, being able to hide distracting windows/icons/shortcuts while working, something that would sound very annoying alarms and spam me with pop-ups to ruin my illusions of grandeur, timers, etc.. Well, none of that happened, and I’d probably find ways to hack around any methods I implement anyway.


A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I had a sudden insight. Creating a new user account! It’s obvious.. too obvious, but I’ve never met anybody that does it. Not only was my regular account unorganized and loaded with distractions, but I normally keep Swiftweasel/Firefox open forever (almost literally) and can’t stand the memory-leak feature.

If it gets bad enough, I revert to “xkill” (kill -9) the browser and relaunch it. It helps, but I hate waiting for a few dozen (literally) tabs to load. Off-topic, but in my experience, there is no real workaround for this issue. None of the cache/memory settings do anything significant, and not keeping the browser open isn’t an option. Though I’m using Prism for some things now.

There are extensions to save your tabs and stuff, but.. meh… I’ll just suffer.

My work account:

  • Doesn’t have my fun desktop shortcuts, nor my Swiftweasel bookmarks and extensions.
  • Has the Gnome “typing break” option enabled (System->Preferences->Keyboard). This locks the keyboard for as long as you want, at any interval you want. It reminds you to take breaks and helps reduce the risk of Repetitive Strain Injury (a serious problem).I have enabled it on my regular now too. Since I type a lot when working, my work account setting for this feature is to halt the keyboard for 3 mins every 20 mins. On my regular account I halt for 10 minutes every 60 minutes + have the option to postpone a break enabled.
  • Has a high contrast/big font theme with a plain background. Actually, I now use the default Ubuntu background on all my accounts. It’s aesthetically appealing without affecting usability.
  • Different compiz-fusion settings. Despite the increased RAM usage (which isn’t a lot), Compiz-fusion can increase productivity significantly. Zoom, ADHD plugin, the window switchers and live previews, among others, are helpful, depending on what you’re working on.
  • Different widgets (see above). I use screenlets.
  • Less memory usage because I don’t need to keep my browser running and there aren’t many tabs open at once. Switching user accounts also gives me back the memory my browser hogs on my regular account, and I can restart the session when I switch back.
  • Different startup options, auto-join IRC channels and Pidgin settings, Bash aliases, shortcuts, default editors, file associations, IDE and editor settings, drives mounted (it’s good to have different partitions for different things), etc. It’s true that most editors and apps let you save profiles, but I only use that for backup or to ‘branch’ settings.

Making a new account is surprisingly tedious, but well worth it. Be sure to keep things in sync between each account if you need to.

Example to create name and password, and give the new account sudo rights:

$ sudo useradd -m -G users,video,cdrom,fuse -c "Zug Zug?" peon
$ sudo passwd peon
$ visudo

If the above is overkill, an excellent solution is to just manage multiple browser profiles. This page explains how you can manage profiles in Firefox.

Besides working less, and taking breaks, how do you stay focused on task, especially in regards to programming and computers?

2 thoughts on “Simple and Effective Productivity Tip When Working on the Computer”

  1. I’m using leechblock to block sites that may steal my attention )
    Also I’m using 2 timers 50mins/10mins(on my casio G-shock)
    During 50mins I’m focusing only on task i’m doing.
    next 10 mins – rest.
    It’s hard but it works!

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