Why fight it? Using Technology to be More Productive

A couple of weeks ago, before the spring holiday break, we discussed the problem of procrastination.  Another issue many writers have is dealing with technology and the distractions it presents when we try to write. You can tame that technology beast, though. Make technology your ally instead of your enemy.  Here are some apps and programs that might help you be a more productive writer.

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Are you one of those writers who constantly has 75 tabs open? You know, the one that’s the document you’re actually supposed to be working on and the 74 other things you’d rather be looking at on the Internet? Anti-Social might be able to help you. It’s a program which blocks distracting sites such as Twitter and Facebook. You can set it to block them in time increments from 15 minutes to eight hours, you know, for those all night writing sessions the night before your paper is due.  It works with both Mac and Windows environments. Cold turkey is another option for Windows, and Freedom is another one for Mac.  LeechBlock is similar to these programs but works specifically with Firefox.

If you want to still be able to access the Internet to do research, but want help staying away from distracting sites, Timewarp might be what you need.  It’s an extension for Chrome that enables you to access some sites while blocking others.

Do you find yourself constantly watching the clock as you write?  Do you have the bad habit of trying to accomplish too many tasks at once in a writing session or writing in long chunks of time even if your productivity has long passed? TeamViz has an app that works in both Windows and Mac environments and which can help you organize tasks and schedule them to be more productive.  It also has an automatic timer so you can stop watching that clock.

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If you find yourself spending hours in front of a screen, but aren’t sure where it all went when you’re done and don’t have very much “real” writing to show for it? RescueTime is a program that will generate a report which details how much time you spend doing what while logged on.  It can help give you a more objective, realistic look at how you spend your time.

Need a topic for a paper, but can’t even think of what to type into that Google search box for suggestions?  Try Google Trends. It shows you what people are currently looking for, reading, and talking about on the internet.

Doing legit research on the Internet, but getting tired of flipping screens between what you’re looking at and a word processing document where you’re taking notes over it?  Do you write down notes only to misplace what you’ve written when you sit down to work with your notes later? QuietWriter is a Chrome extension that allows you to view Internet sites and take notes on them without closing or minimizing the site you are looking at. Looking for a place to keep track of all of your notes, interesting finds, and other shiny do-dads you find while writing or researching?  Evernote provides that and a method of organizing them. Yarny provides you with a place to write your text, store notes, do pre-writing, and organize and tag everything for more efficient searching through what you store there.

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Have you resolved to develop more helpful habits, but having trouble keeping yourself accountable? Do you find yourself making plans to write but then forgetting or not following through?  Coach.me is an app that’s similar to the many fitness apps on the market you might be familiar with.  You can set goals for yourself, receive reminders, track your progress, and receive community feedback if you wish.

Are you a gamer? Want to try to put a little more fun into your writing sessions?  Check out Write or Die and Written?Kitten! which offer you rewards for meeting your writing goals.

Need help getting that creativity flowing?  Relax Melodies and MyNoise.net offer options that might be more helpful than the current playlist on your phone to drown out distracting noises in your environment. Relax Melodies has been created to specifically help your mind relax and be more creative.  MyNoise also offers music to reflect different moods, tones, or atmospheres you might be trying to create in your writing. Focus at Will creates suggestions for particular playlists based on a questionnaire you submit. It’s creators claim that their scientifically designed lists will enhance your focus to four times what it normally is so that you can be optimally productive when writing.

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Finding your current writing space a little less than inspiring? Coffitivity  promises to provide all the ambient sounds to trick your mind into thinking you’re at a writer’s most inspiring place–a coffee shop! They even offer ambient sounds which are customized to reflect different times of day and coffee houses from different geographical locations. Looking for something a little more Zen than a coffee house?  Try Ommwriter which offers minimalist backgrounds and soothing musical selections to spur your creativity.

If you’re looking to make your writing more accessible in a variety of places, learn to use GoogleDocs.  It’s fairly easy, and it’s free! You can access GoogleDocs through your student account.  When you create your documents there, you can access them seamlessly on your phone, through a computer at the local library as well as the computers at DACC, computers you might have at work, and through your friend’s tablet.  All you need is an Internet connection.  You can always download your files to work on them offline, as well. And, you don’t have to worry about buying or keeping track of a flash drive or converting files when working in different locations as students often do.

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