Weapons Against Distraction – My 5 App Computer

The only 5 apps I left on my wifi-free Chromebook

This week I pulled the wifi card out of this Chromebook to help me stay focussed on writing tasks. It trashed the Bluetooth connection as well so away form home the only way to get content on or off it is with a USB memory stick.

Since then I've averaged over 2000 words per day, published on my blog, and elsewhere, plus completed the first draft of a webinar training product that has been in the works for longer than I'm going to admit (months).

This is my setup.

1) Stopwatch app

For breaking work into 30 minute chunks to avoid fatigue – look up “Pomodoro technique” for more on this.

2) MP3 player

I have a single mp3 track on the machine, a binaural beats track that also helps focus and keep me in the zone for up to an hour at a time.

I threw away my iPhone earphones with the stupid lightning connector and I use a normal pair with an adapter on my phone to listen to audiobooks while I walk or commute.

That means I can use the normal earphones on this Chromebook and put my phone out of sight, reducing the temptation to pull it out at any given time.

3) Markdown editor

A super simple text editor that uses Markdown formatting.
Markdown gives really basic formatting options like headings, bullet points, and bold text. Not much else.
It stops you faffing about with stuff like fonts and line breaks as an alternative to actually doing the writing.

4) Slides

The Google equivalent of powerpoint.
Again, its simplicity lets the content shine through.
I use this to create training products.
Originally I didn't want this on the machine, but the work involved in carving up a long text file, and the loss of structure that I get from the slides outline convinced me to put it back.

5) Files / Google Drive

I plug the machine into a USB ethernet connection to synch up all my work to the cloud when I get home. Then I do final edits and publish on my Mac. Any work with images or video is done on that machine.
The ethernet connection is in a sort of basement room with no desk so I'm not tempted to use the internet on this machine. It synchs and charges for the next day.
That's it.
I'd literally have to lie on the floor to use it any other way, and I'm too old for that behaviour.

I usually edit first thing as a way to get my head back into content creation. It's a tip I learned form an interview with Ernest Hemingway.

The training course I've written will more than likely pay back the cost of the Chromebook in the first week. I'm also going to use this machine for taking to events to take notes – it has a 10 hour battery life, which I think might be even longer with no WiFi or Bluetooth, and the text editor is one of the least demanding applications I use.

It's also light – about half the weight of my Macbook air.

If I had a team in the same office as me I'd definitely have a quiet room with one of these in it and probably insist on its use for meeting notes as well.

The benefits of doing sustained concentrated work seem to leave me less wanting of the social media hit as the day goes on as well – it's simply not on my radar any more.

Yesterday I completely forgot to check email for about 9 hours and spent the least time on Facebook in months.

If you're suffering from distraction getting in the way of your work, I can really recommend watching this video on how to gut your connection. (This is form by Acer CB3, but it'll show you just how easy it is. The whole job was done with one small screwdriver.)

Let me know any other focus tips you have, I'd love to give them a go.

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