Image Credit: Stanley Dai from Unsplash
Note: I wrote an article in 2019 about productivity apps/extensions that you can find here.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the distractions on our computer or phone can prevent us from focusing during online school. The computer applications in my previous article are still helpful for online school. However, I would like to share some new applications that I find to be very useful. I will also explain why these applications can make you have a better learning experience on Zoom.
1. Cold Turkey Micromanager: The main purpose of micromanager is to limit your computer usage to one application for a defined period. This prevents you from multitasking by going on unnecessary websites or applications. You cannot take breaks during your time block, which I find to be a good thing. Giving myself exceptions all the time would prevent me from focusing for long stretches on the computer. If you open other applications during your work period, the application will minimize the screen so you can’t access them. The only problem with the micromanager is that you have to think carefully about what apps you will use before you begin the session. For instance, I started an hour-long session that prevented me from accessing Google Classroom because I only had Zoom open. I use micromanager not only during class, but also when I do homework that only requires one application such as Acrobat Reader. Although class can be boring at times, the micromanager app forces me to embrace boredom. Instead of letting online distractions lure me from paying attention in class, I try to focus on the material.
2. Frozen Turkey (part of Cold Turkey-) I mentioned Cold Turkey before, but I didn’t mention one of its important features: frozen turkey. It wasn’t until I downloaded the most recent version a few months ago that I noticed this feature. Frozen turkey will block you from accessing your computer based on the duration of time you decide. Like micromanager, you have to be pretty sure that you won’t need to use your computer for that interval. If you accidentally begin, you are unable to undo the block. If you attempt to use the computer during the block, the application keeps logging the users out of their computer.
Even though it may sound absurd to prevent yourself from using your computer, I find it to be a blessing in disguise. In the past few weeks, I have been using frozen turkey right after early dismissal of some classes. By doing so, this forces me to not use the computer and focus on offline work. For me, this is studying for Chemistry Olympiad. In other cases, I use the frozen turkey block time to leave my desk and do other activities like biking or eating. I want to limit my time on the computer because I used to tell myself I will digital work, but I usually ended up in an internet rabbit hole.
Outside of school, I use frozen turkey during weekend nights. I do this so I am a lot less likely to waste time reading blog posts or website articles during the night. For instance, my block will start at 8 PM on Friday and end at 7 AM on Saturday. When I begin the frozen turkey block, it is telling me that my workday is officially over. Also, it is an indirect signal that reminds me to pursue offline activities, such as reading, cooking, journaling, etc.
I enjoy frozen turkey on Cold Turkey, but the main problem is that the app does not automatically reenable computer access at the proper time. For example, I defined the end time to be 11:55 AM during a school day, but I had to re-login 3 times before the block ended. This caused a lot of stress because I thought I was going to be tardy. From this experience, I learned to purposefully set the end time to be earlier by 5-10 minutes because there is a slight delay when the block is disabled.
3. Tab Limiter Despite -the fact I never had a real problem with opening too many tabs, I still felt that having 10 tabs on one page gave me a lot of anxiety. The amount of clutter was unbearable, yet I was prone to opening more than 5 tabs at a time. Tab Limiter helped me limit the number of tabs I can have on one page. This chrome extension lets you define the maximum number of total tabs and the maximum number of tabs on one window. For me, I went with 5. If I exceed 5, it would not let me open another one. This could be annoying at times, but it made me more conscious of how many tabs I open. After using it for two weeks, I noticed that I didn’t even need more than 5 tabs at once. By doing so, I felt a lot more organized and this made my mind think a bit more clearer. I was able to identify what was important and not important to use by deleting tabs so I can open another one.
In conclusion, these apps and extensions in addition to the ones that I mentioned in my previous article significantly boost one’s productivity. At first, I was kind of scared to use some of these apps because I couldn’t undo the function, but over time I learned it wasn’t that daunting as I thought it would be. Using these apps regularly introduced a ritual that became part of my digital habit. It is nice to think that we can simply use our brainpower to avoid distracting websites and not use the computer. In the end, however, it is hard to not give in to our temptations without installing these applications. As paradoxical as it may sound, we don’t need all functions on the computer at any given time because less is more.