Productivity · Time Management · Writing

The Pros and Cons of Project Management Software for Comic Creators

For the past few years, I’ve worked as a project manager, which meant I got acquainted with many different systems to manage those projects. There are pros and cons to each software, but ideally, you just have to figure out what works best for your brain and the people you’re working with.

Google Sheets/Docs

A spreadsheet in Google Sheets can be a very versatile tool. Even if you decide to use more involved software like Trello or Asana, having a spreadsheet to keep track of what you still need to finish and what is finished is a straightforward and visual way to see how the work is going.

You can also take a screenshot and quickly share progress with collaborators, which is excellent if you have a large team. I had a friend do this recently, and I’m still amazed at how simple and genius it was. We all instantly knew which parts of the project were finished and what stages the art was in. It was an excellent way to show us how hard the editorial team was working while keeping us updated overall.

You could also share the link to your Google Sheet with your team, but I honestly liked the screenshot better. I tend to have the urge to help organize things, and the screenshot didn’t pull at that part of my brain. If someone shares the Sheet, especially if the project is behind or struggling, it may cause people on the team to feel like they need to pitch in on the editorial/project management side, and you could end up with too many cooks in your kitchen. If you want to share the link without tempting people to help out, there are ways to share “view-only” versions of Google Sheets

Pros

  • Free to use, the only limit is 15gbs of files.
  • Easy to share with collaborators, either via screenshots or direct links.
  • Fairly easy to learn, if you’re unsure how to do something most skills are just a search away.

Cons

  • You do have to create the sheet, so the level of organization depends on your personal skills.
  • It’s fairly basic, compared to more detailed software. Not a total con, but still something to consider.

Trello

Trello is very visual and I liked that a lot at first. It works best for list-based projects, and cards within a list can be labeled with color-coding for easier at-a-glance understanding. As seen here, companies like Epic Games use Trello to share progress on bugs and issues with their community. While I like it for more basic project management, it can feel a little unwieldy for more complex projects.

As projects got more complicated and the lists got more numerous, the boards started to feel somewhat overwhelming and a little challenging to keep track of. You can use the search feature to find a specific card, but even that felt a little daunting at times.

If you opt to use Trello, you may want to consider breaking things up into more than one board so scrolling does not overwhelm those working on the project.

Pros

  • Very visual, great for folks that need to see the entire project.
  • Assignable tasks.
  • Free for up to 10 boards, includes unlimited cards and unlimited members. Paid version starts at $10 per month (billed annually).

Cons

  • Because you can only fit so many cards on a page, you could lose sight of pieces of the project.
  • Cards can get a little overwhelming if you’re trying to store a lot of visual information or a lot of files.

Asana

When I first started using Asana for a client, I was really hesitant. At first glance, it seems a bit overwhelming, but as I used the software more and after I took a short class (3 days, 45 minutes-1 hour per day), it quickly became my favorite project management software. I have a personal brand I use to keep track of my tasks, both for work and life.

The calendar view is by far my favorite feature. I can look at all my upcoming tasks and see them mapped out with color-coding, so it’s easy to view where I am currently and where I’m headed throughout the month.

Pros

  • List, Calendar and Inbox views make it easy to see when tasks are due and what tasks are coming up next.
  • It’s easy to share tasks with other people on the project.
  • Free for unlimited tasks/projects, includes up to 15 teammates. Paid version starts at $10.99 per month (billed annually).

Cons

  • There is a pretty big learning curve at first. I actually took a short class that taught me the basics, and it was 100% worth it.
  • Some features that are rather useful are behind a paywall, like date-ranges.

If you’re trying to decide what project management software works best for you, I hope this post has been insightful! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or reach out on twitter @TamingTheMuse.

Productivity · Time Management

Schedules, Inspiration, and Words Per Day: Have You become Your Own Worst Taskmaster?

Maybe you’ve got a great idea, a story tumbling around in your creative brain just waiting to see life on the page. Maybe you’ve written a few things but are ready for a bigger challenge like a collection of short stories, an instructional book, or a novel. Your project is bigger than anything you’ve done before and you’re unsure how to tackle it. You’ve researched articles and talked to other writers.

The advice is abundant, but one thing keeps poking through: Daily Word Count. Great novelists do it, amateur writers do it, blogs and ‘How To’ lists espouse it.

Three hundred, five hundred, a thousand words per day; it’s often referred to as the Golden Rule to successful writing. You try it, and it goes fine for a few days, then something comes up and you miss a day, then you get back to it with fewer words, and a downward spiral begins until you look back with a heavy sigh to acknowledge that your word count goal failed. You feel like you’re not cut out to be a writer, after all, you can’t even complete the basic task necessary to succeed.

Stop.

Clear your mind.

Analyze.

Revisualize.

Don’t become that boss who walks in with a list of tasks and no idea how things really work on the ground level.

Does a “Words Per Day” Goal work for you?

Words per Day is general advice given by a broad spectrum of writers whose lives aren’t like yours. Just like you’d never take on a competition body builder’s work out routine to get back in shape, don’t take on a professional novelist’s daily word count. It’s likely that their lives aren’t like yours. Even if you have committed to writing full-time, you may want to look at your habits.

Find What Works for You

What should you do then? Instead of racing to impose some arbitrary daily word count on yourself, start with looking at what your schedule. Take a look at the stuff that goes on the calendar: work schedule, family obligations, and routine things that need to be done.

Think about the less obvious things like holidays and shopping, social events, and the work that keeps your home going. These things don’t follow a specific schedule but are necessary and can pile up on you before you can say, ‘Oh no! It’s my sister’s birthday this weekend and I haven’t even thought about a gift!’.

When you can visually look at your life in these terms, it’s easier to see your time flow. Don’t stop there and start filling in the blank spots with words per day. Look a little deeper. Think about the times of day you feel your best mentally. When does your mind feel free? Does your mind never feel free? It’s important to know these things because if the rest of your life is on fire, no amount of advice or tricks will help you with your writing project.

Figure Out What You Can Trim

Time management is at the heart of the matter and understanding how it applies to you, your writing project, and your life specifically is so important.  Once you’ve analyzed how you use your time, you can look at how you can reorganize your time. You can trim up some loose ends, identify some time wasters, and get ahead of some of the things that languish until the last minute.

When the train is rolling on smooth track, it’s less likely to derail. When life is rolling more smoothly, you can consider what kind of word count goals you want to make. You may find that an alternate schedule of words works better for you.

Maybe it’s “X” amount of words per week because some of your days are jam packed with necessary things. Maybe you set a monthly word count goal because your weekly schedule has some expected unpredictability in it. Whatever you find, you can be confident that it uniquely fits your life. From there, you can modify and change it as you go along to better suit your project goal.

As always, get to know yourself and be kind along the way.

Productivity · Time Management · Writer Self-Care

How to Know When It’s Time To Move On

I hate big changes. I kind of always have, when I was kid and my parents would mention they were thinking about moving, I would immediately begin to cry. We moved a lot when I was little, I went to four different elementary schools. Each move came with new struggles, bullying, and loss, so for me I began to just despise the idea of big changes.

I’ve spent a lot of my life outside of my comfort zone, there are times I definitely cling to it. But as a person and a writer, I know the times I’ve grown the most are when I step outside of that comfort zone. Still, I’ll cling to that comfort for a long time before I realize it’s time to move on. I’ll also pour myself into spaces with little to no return, because they’re comfortable. I also like to stay busy, so I tend to volunteer to help support different projects and communities often.

I’ve noticed some signs though, that tell me it’s time to move on, and I’m going to share them with you in case you would benefit. These may apply to a job or a volunteer position, but they could also just apply to life as a whole.

1. The joy is gone.

This was a big sign for me when I recently stepped down from a position I had held for nearly 3 1/2 years. I still loved the space/community, but fixing issues in it had started to give me anxiety. I no longer loved participating in the activities I used to adore there. I thought the feeling might go away, but after months it didn’t. That was the biggest indicator for me it was time to make a plan to step down, and hand the reins over to someone who still had the joy that I had lost. Passion, especially when it comes to volunteer opportunities, is so important.

2. You’ve hit the goals you wanted to accomplish in this space

I personally have a bad habit of jumping down rabbit holes that aren’t actually my rabbit holes. A friend says “let’s build this cool thing!” and I’m down to do it and willing to learn what is needed to make it happen. Because of that, I tend to consciously and unconsciously set goals for myself as we build out a new community or new space. These goals have been things like improving my coding skills, upping my graphic design abilities and creating a fun, low-drama space where people can freely write and create. With some of these spaces, you could always learn more, but if you feel like you’ve built the skills you needed to it may be time to see what comes next.

3. It’s time to do other things.

Sometimes projects stall or fail or you out grow them. It can be tempting to keep investing time into something in hopes of a different outcome, but there are times where sinking more hours into something is just wasted time. Try to recognize when you’re just treading water and start swimming toward something new.

4. Your efforts aren’t appreciated or your contributions aren’t recognized

I am so bad about this one. When I tell people about myself, I often say that I consider myself to be a real-life Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec. I will take on way to many projects and work my ass off to make them happen and make people happy while I do it. This has led to me working for or helping people who actually don’t care how much time and effort I’m putting in to bolster their project.

These people are usually easy to recognize, usually working for them looks something like this.

  • They never say “thank you” or praise the work you’ve put in. Ever.
  • If they do say thank you, it’s only because you saved their ass or made them look good.
  • They don’t put in much work themselves. You and others are always the one building things/improving things.
  • They don’t respond regularly to you, they often drop conversations and never get back to you.

If you’re building someone else’s community or helping them with a project and they can’t even say “thank you” to you once in awhile? Run. Run like hell and take all those skills you’ve built and build your own dream. Start your own project.

Don’t sink another month into supporting something that isn’t yours or isn’t something you truly believe in, especially if you aren’t being paid for your time.

Productivity · Time Management

Writing Sprints – What They Are And How They Can Help You Finish What You’re Working On

I started doing writing sprints 5 or 6 years ago, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I still use them pretty often today. I am not the fastest writer when it comes to typing under a time crunch, but sprints are a quick and easy way for me to get some words on the page.

What Is A Writing Sprint?

A writing sprint is a set amount of time where you write like your life depends on it. During a sprint, I do my best to cut out distractions and just write. I usually set time frames of :15-:25 minutes for my sprints, with short breaks in between. The time doesn’t really matter, you can do whatever works best for you. I have friends who go for a full hour, and some that prefer 10 minute sprints.

Sprints led me to the Pomodoro Technique a few years ago. Pomodoros function in a similar way to Writing Sprints. You work for 25 minutes or so, then take a 5-minute break, then do another 25 minute “Pomodoro.” Once you’ve completed 4 Pomodoros (about 2 hours) you take a longer break, usually 30 minutes or so.

Sprinting Is Best With Friends…Or Co-Workers…Or Other Authors

I can definitely self-motivate when I need to, but during NaNoWriMo I actually schedule a daily sprint with writing friends. This means I’m more or less obligated to show up daily and sprint with them. At the end of the sprint, we all share our word counts or we talk about how productive the sprint was for us. 

To be honest, it’s a little competitive, but not in a negative or hurtful way. If I have friends who are writing 1K words in 25 minutes, it motivates me to go a bit faster, because I know I’m not really competing against them word for word. The only person I’m really competing against is myself. 

It’s a lot like having a gym buddy. If you know your friend is going to be there waiting for you at 6 AM to hop on the treadmill, you’re probably a lot more likely to show up and do the work out. 

If you aren’t sure where to find friends or people to sprint with, there are tons of discords and other places out there with writers just like you! I’ve found some on the NaNo forums and on the NaNo subreddit. 

I’ve even used the concept of sprinting/Pomodoros just to keep myself on task and productive. A friend and I have actually emailed back and forth for years during the weekdays, checking in with each other on what we got accomplished during our last “sprint.” 

Productivity · Time Management · Writer Self-Care

How To Declutter Your Digital Life – Digital Tools Vs. Digital Distraction

I’ve been reading Cal Newport’s “Digital Minimalism” over the last few weeks. Like many people in their 30s, I started using social media in my early 20s and I’ve just continued to use it, without realizing how much digital clutter was making its way into my life. I did not realize the negative impact digital clutter was having on me. Our social media apps and programs are built to be addictive and to make us feel like we’re engaging and talking constantly with other humans.

There is some value in social media and other tools of the digital age, but not all of it is equal.

In Newport’s book, he discusses the concept of choosing your digital tools wisely and decluttering the tools you use that may cause you to become distracted or put you in a feedback loop for online approval. This hit me really hard last week. I have a wonderful husband who who has been really supportive of me lately. I had a sudden impulse that I needed to share how wonderful he was on Facebook…Instead of simply turning to him and telling him how much I appreciate his support. Sure, sharing on Facebook would show others how I appreciate him, but the point was to be grateful to him, not to showcase my gratitude to the world.

I think Digital Minimalism has some great lessons to teach, even if I don’t feel like all the lessons fit perfectly for me. Since a lot of the work I do is online and through social media, I can’t abandon those tools entirely, but I can make them better tools and less distracting.

Digital tools add value and help us live better lives.

Digital distractions keep us from living that better life.

I definitely recommend checking out Newport’s book, but here are some ways to get started tossing out the digital clutter:

Delete The Apps That Aren’t Serving You

I went through my phone and removed applications that I don’t regularly use and I removed some that I felt like didn’t really add value to my life. I have a handful of “games” I play when I need to de-stress or take a breath, but I also had some games that had started to feel like an obligation, something I had to log into every day. Those went bye-bye.

I also deleted apps that I had downloaded with good intentions but hardly used or never used. If there comes a time that they server a purpose for me, I can download them again later.

Unfollow, Unfriend, Unlike and Leave the Group

Last night, I went through all of the groups I was in and pages I had liked on Facebook. I removed any group or page I felt like didn’t add to my digital life. I’ve already done this sort of thing with Instagram and Twitter. I joined a lot of these social media applications early on in their existence and over the last ten years or so, I’ve liked and joined so many groups and pages on a whim that add nothing to my life.

While these apps can still be more of a distraction than a tool for me at times, at least know the content I’m viewing when I use them is catered to the life I currently want to live.

It’s a lot like clearing out an old box of stuff from ten years ago. The woman I am now doesn’t have a use for some of the things she would have dearly loved in her 20s. It also helps me make space for groups, pages and people who actively add to my digital life and help me keep my focus on where I want to go in my real life.

Productivity · Review · Time Management

Trello – A Visual Way To Plan Your Productivity

I recently discovered a great new tool for productivity tracking called Trello that has helped me a ton! I still use my bullet journal as well, but I keep my monthly goals and planned projects on my Trello board as well so that way they’re just a click away when I’m working on various projects. I wanted to give a brief overview here on my blog so you can see if it’s a tool that might help you as well.

What is Trello?

Whether you are working by yourself or with a team, you can use Trello to track your tasks visually on a board. Overall, I found the user interface to be really fluid and easy to use, so there’s not much of a learning curve to figuring out how to use the boards.

How to Step Up Your Board

You can really set up your board in whatever way works best for you. You can make lists and then fill them with cards that represent different tasks.

I’ve set up some of mine by laying out goals for each of the coming months and each month was its own list, but I’ve also found I like the “To Do, Doing, Done” list layout as well, because it helps me focus on what my current projects are. Here’s an example of what your board could look like:

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You can also easily drag and drop cards between lists, so it’s simple to move things around your board as you need to.

Features I Love About Trello

Color coding, the ability to add checklists, and the ability to add deadlines are by far my favorite features! You can add a color label to cards, so if you have interconnected projects you can add the color label to them and easily see where all the different pieces are.  

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Checklists are nice if you are like me and love the feeling of marking something off the to-do list.  You can also see how many of the checklist tasks have been done by just looking at the board itself, so you have an easy idea of how much more you need to do. Deadlines are something I like to have, even if I miss them, so I have something to work towards.

If you haven’t tried Trello out, I would definitely give it a whirl! A basic account is free to use and it has all the features I mentioned here. If you’re looking for more advanced features, you can get a Business Class account for you and your team, which is super affordable at $10 a month.

Productivity · Time Management

How To Achieve Your Goals With An Accountability Buddy

Creative work can be isolating and it is easy to lose your motivation when you feel like you spend day in and day out working on your projects alone. Finding a friend or creative partner to help you stay on task is a great way to keep yourself motivated. I have had a few different accountability partners over the years and it has made all the difference.

A few years ago a dear friend and I decided we would work together through “accountability sprints” where we would check in via email every hour or so to see what the other had worked on. More recently, I’ve done weekly or bi-weekly check-ins with my accountability partner because that’s what our schedules allow for. If you need motivation and you want to start looking for someone to help hold you accountable, here are some tips and tricks I have learned over the years.

Make Checking in a Habit

I’ve done this a few different ways.  As I mentioned above, I have had partners I checked in with pretty frequently and some that I only checked in with every week or so. When we check in we always go over what we accomplished, what we did not quite finish, and what we want to do in the future.  You can use tools like a shared google doc to keep track of what you are currently working on, so your partner can visually see what your goals are and what you are working towards.

Build Trust and Be Comfortable

You need to be able to give and take constructive criticism from your accountability buddy.  If you can’t be honest about your productivity with your partner, then it may be difficult for the partnership to really push you to do more.   

The two best accountability partners I’ve had were people I was good friends with first.  We both knew when to say “Hey, dude, you are slacking” and when to say “Hey, I know you did not hit all your goals this week, but you worked really hard and that matters.” Finding someone that you share enough trust with that they can give you honest feedback and helpful praise is really important.

Make Sure You’re On Similar Levels Creatively

A couple years ago I met a friend who I thought would make a good accountability buddy.  They were just starting to build a writing career, so they needed a lot of feedback, but they seemed rather eager and willing to do start the work so I dove in.  As time went on, I realized that I was giving them a lot of constructive comments on their work and trying to motivate them past the planning/plotting stage of their work.  As the months wore on, they stayed stuck in that stage and I realized it was not working out for either of us.

It’s best to find someone who is on a similar level to you creatively.  If you work with someone who has some finished work and has shown they can start and finish their projects it is more likely you’ll both be able to move forward creatively together.

Be A Good Buddy

One thing from my career as a teacher that stuck with me is that you need to give a good amount of positive feedback and give negative feedback carefully and kindly.  This applies to being a good accountability buddy too! Think about the feedback you give and make sure it’s both helpful and productive. You want to be a good cheerleader for your buddy and have them be a good cheerleader for you too!

Productivity · Time Management

Why You Should Trade in New Year’s Resolutions and Set Goals Instead

One year ago, my best friend and I sat down and set goals for the year.  She and I have spent the last three years or so encouraging and supporting each other toward our goals.  I remember right around the time that she and I got serious about our work, a friend in our community posted publicly that “New Year’s Resolutions were worthless.”  I grumbled defensively to myself, but in some ways now, I agree.  It is one thing to write down a bunch of resolutions, it is entirely another to set achievable goals for the year.  

Back to the goal setting.  A year ago, at the end of 2015, my best friend and I made our set of goals.  We separated them into different categories: Main Goals, Emotional/Spiritual Goals, Secondary Goals, and Tertiary goals.

There are two things you should focus on when setting a goal, it is best to ensure that it is both measurable and achievable.  While saying things like “I want to be a better writer” is all well and good, unless you outline how you’re going to progress toward that goal, it isn’t very measurable.

Our Main Goals were the most important for us to achieve.  Mine were things like “Write 500 words a day.” and “Write at least 1 short story a month.”  I also wanted to win NaNoWriMo again, and even though I did not accomplish all these goals, I still made a lot of progress.

My Secondary goals included things like “Blog on a regular basis” and “Find regular freelancing gigs.”  This year, my blog has grown a lot and that’s allowed me to connect with other creative people, both other writers and artists.  Their influenced has helped me to get closer to what I want out of life.

Tertiary Goals were things we wanted to work on, but may not get to in the long run.  My main goal in this category was to “Learn more about Graphic Design” which I did some of, but it certainly was not my focus in 2016.

When my friend and I met to talk about our progress, we were both a bit astonished.  My goal was never perfectionism, though I did not meet some of my goals, I made progress toward becoming the person I want to be.  We had both grown a lot over the last year.  If we had not set these goals, kept each other responsible for them, we would not have been able to see how much growth had occurred in the past year.

When I set goals this year, I added one more thing.  A theme for the year.  For 2017, my theme is Authenticity.  Though 2016 was a rather rough year in a lot of ways, but one thing I learned during it, was that I was much happier when I was authentic.  So this year, I will continue to focus on trying to be authentic and being the best version of myself I can be.

What about you?  Do you set yearly goals?  Do you have New Year’s Resolutions?

 

 

Geeky Stuff · Productivity · Time Management · Writing

A Geeky Guide to Leveling Up

In a video game, when you gain enough experience points and you’ve fought enough monsters, you level up.  Leveling up generally means that two things happen: First, you get access to better equipment and new quests, and second, the quests also have leveled up and you face a new level difficulty.  So how do you level up your real life?  How does it feel once you’ve leveled up?  What do you do once you’ve leveled up?

Start from the bottom and break down big goals.

You may wander into a few caves where there are level 70 trolls and you’re still rocking your level 5 daggers, metaphorically, of course.

In normal person speak:  You may have big goals you’re trying to achieve or big obstacles to overcome.  Rather than running full tilt at these things, sometimes it’s best to break what you are doing down into smaller, more achievable goals.

If you want to write a movie and get it made, but have never written a script before, setting a 3-month deadline for that goal is likely to lead to some heartache.  That’s making your goal int a level 70 troll, and you’re not ready to fight that troll.

Instead, you might want to take a screenwriting class, or read books on screenwriting.  Maybe your 3-month goal is to take a class and have a rough draft of your script, by that point.  That’s more like a level 10 troll, and something you can definitely manage.

Leveling up takes work.

In lots of games, there are ways to grind and gain levels quickly.  The problem is, if you don’t put the work in, you miss valuable lessons and content along the way.

Most of the people you admire scraped and hustled when they started out.  Lots of writers worked a full-time job while writing their first novels, comics, etc.  There might be a few that got lucky and somehow got the maximum payoff for minimal effort, but those people are usually few and far between and they often had someone helping them along the way.

There are times that putting in the maximum effort will be frustrating and disheartening, but we don’t get anywhere by standing still.  Keeping going.  If you work strategy isn’t working and you’re not making progress, step back and re-assess.

How do you know when you’ve leveled up?  Things get harder.  But they also get easier.

You know you’ve leveled up with the difficulty of things kicks up a notch, but you also find yourself able to rise to the occasion.  You’ve worked hard to gain new skills and insight, and though the new challenges are unfamiliar or unventured, you still have a bit of inspiration to go after them.

I won’t lie, there are times “gaining a new level” fills me with worry and anxiety.  I wonder if I am able to face the new challenges in my life and still manage my time.  You can use that fear as fuel, take it as a dare to dream bigger and do more than you did before.  In many ways, our biggest limits are in our head.

Productivity · Time Management

Productively Tools: RescueTime, Momentum, and Strict Workflow

If you are anything like me, you probably hop on the computer and at first you’re totally ready to write, but only after you check facebook.  And tumblr.  And several other sites that suck your time into the void, never to return.

I won’t lie, I still do this, but I’ve found a few handy tools that help me cut into that time and ensure I stay productive with my writing time.  Here they are:

Rescue Time

Rescue time can be install via the link above and I also have the Chrome extension on my browser.  With the Chrome browser extension, I can check my productivity for the day at the top of my browser.  You can also go to their website and sign-in for more detailed information.

REscuetime
My weekly dashboard at Rescue Time’s website

My favorite feature?  The weekly productivity email I get on Sunday.  Each week it shows me how productive I was, what I spent most of my time on and how my productivity compares with the week before.  It’s an easy way to see how much time I’ve spent on facebook, or other sites, and how much time I spent in Scrivener writing.

You can categorize your activities however you like, which is great!  If you actually use facebook for business on a regular basis, you can change its category to reflect that.

Momentum

Momentum is one of those awesome little extensions/apps you use so often you forget how helpful it is.  Momentum is replaces the new tab page with a dashboard you can personalize.  It includes: A place where you can put your focus for the day, a to do list, a place for your favorite links, the weather in your area, a beautiful background image and inspirational quotes.  

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I don’t use the to do list as much, since I have my bullet journal for that, but the reminder of what my focus is helps me stay on track for the day.  The background images tend to be very breath-taking and inspirational for me as a writer.  It also helps you remember that you should be working, when you open that tab to check out what’s happening on Twitter.

Strict Workflow

I’ve written about the Pomodoro Technique before, where you work in 25 minute on/5 minute off productivity units.  Strict Workflow extension works with that template, except it works for your browser.  When you press the little red tomato at the top of your screen, it blocks distracting sites for 25 minutes, so you can work uninterrupted by your need to see what that friend from high school is doing.

What the 25 minutes is up you’ll hear an alarm go off, and you can then click the now green tomato for a 5 minute break.  You can surface facebook, tumblr and any of your other blocked sites for 5 minutes, then the alarm will ring again and you can again click the tomato to start another 25 minute work session.

STrictworkflow

Be aware, once you install this extension the only way to see the sites you have blocked during that 25 minute work session is to uninstall the app.  You can also change which sites you have blocked and what amount of time you want to work/have a break.

 

Hopefully these help you!  Let me know what you’ve used to be more productive!  I’m always up for new tools.