While setting up a new laptop, I realized how much of my installing and tweaking was intended to help with one primary goal: managing focus. I wanted to share some of my technological coping mechanisms, so here we go.
The new 12" retina MacBook is incredible. The screen is gorgeous, the form factor is perfect, and it’s lighter than my iPad. No external monitor. This is important. I need to manage focus, and a major way I accomplish this is only having one application visible at a time, in glorious full-screen mode.
Music keeps me in the groove, so headphones have to make the list. These Sony earbuds are incredible on flights (or on my bike, shhhh) and the Sol Republic Master Tracks are great for the office. The Mini Jambox is perfect for bringing the tunes anywhere else. RIP Rdio. Spotify is my jam, now.
Mailplane is “the best way to use GMail on your Mac”. I have four tabs, one each for Mail and Calendar, work and personal. My customizations for the GMail UI are based off of Jason Long’s great styles.
Inbox Zero For Life is the One True Way to manage your GMail. Read that. Twice. Triage, Star, Do. I’ve been managing my email this way for a few years now, and it is the single greatest focus and productivity boost I’ve ever had. I use the GMail iOS app on my phone. I keep trying others in hopes of a faster experience, but multiple accounts and access to starred emails are key, so it stays.
Ideally every pixel on your screen helps you focus on doing that one thing. However the OSX UI, specifically the top menu bar and desktop notifications, are conspiring against you. Bartender reduces all that menu bar clutter and puts all those attention-seeking icons behind one stealth star (or dot, or whatever, but, you know, alliteration is fun). Burn desktop notifications to the ground. For everything. Literally no piece of software is important enough to interrupt what you were already doing.
Speaking of notifications, let your phone buzz to remind you about that meeting. It’s fine. Buzzing is all you have, of course, because having a phone that rings is like being punched in the face while you’re sleeping. I put the phone face down on my desk when I’m working so I feel the buzz, but aren’t distracted by what it’s trying to tell me.
F.lux is great because it helps you cope with that glaring bright screen in the evenings when you should be doing something else but aren’t.
Pocket is incredible for focus. You know when you see a link to that interesting thing? Put it in Pocket. Read it later. Or don’t. Just definitely don’t get distracted by reading it right now.
Momentum says hello to you and shows you gorgeous photos when you open a new tab in your browser. It helps remind you that you’re a human being and the earth is a gorgeous place.
AdBlock Plus is great for when you actually want to read that thing on the internet. If there’s an ethical ad-blocker that pays authors, do let me know. That aside, the web has become unreadable so ad-blockers are just essential, sadly.
You’re already using 1Password, yeah? The “what is my login and password” dance is a hell of a concentration breaker. Use 1Password. Use 2FA everywhere you can. Never commit a password to memory. Use that mental space for song lyrics instead.
iA Writer is the absolute best writing experience on desktop or mobile. It’s pretty perfect as-is, but I‘d pay an obscene amount of money for it to be the front-end to Google Docs.
I think by writing, so I have hundreds of markdown files filled with all sorts of things. I save all my work files on Dropbox so it’s completely worry-free and accessible when mobile, too.
I would be lost and drowning without a Field Notes notebook in my pocket. “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.” Uni Jetstream pens are the best. No debate there.
Bonus recommendation: this wool felt and leather laptop sleeve from Hard Graft is so incredibly gorgeous that I swear it makes me more focused. Put it under your laptop and your phone on that flap. Perfection.
OK. So, there it is. 3..2..1..focus!