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My Best Practices + Favorite Apps for Getting Work Done Distraction Free

working in meditation chair in studioGetting work done.

Sound dreary and dreadful?

But what about our dreams, heart’s desires? Stuff we feel deeply compelled to do?

Some of that stuff is work, some is play. Work and play both fall under the life-category of “Non-Negotiable”.

There’s work for money. Working for an employer or running a business.

And work for “love” or living well:
Art, hobbies, cleaning or working on our house, caring for our pets, raising children, volunteering our time for worthy causes, getting politically active in our community.

These, too are work– in my world, anyway.

Playing isn’t extracurricular. It’s as non-negotiable as work. 

Make sure play is scheduled in or it might not happen.

Surround yourself with people who love to see you play, who love to play with you and who inspire you to play like a pro.

Of course work isn’t play, but it should feel good. But not so good that we don’t wanna get it done.

Working fast doesn’t mean stressing out or rushing ourselves like slaves.

Rushing promotes sloppy and half-assed work. Low-quality work steals from us– as well as those we work with and for. 

(((Remember, we work for our boss or ourselves, but also for those we take care of– our kids, pets, friends.)))

“Asteya” is a Sanskrit word translated as “non-stealing”. Most of us don’t shoplift, pick-pocket or steal flowers from our neighbor’s yard, but we do steal from ourselves and those who depend on us.

Stressed out, rushed work leads to time-theft.

What’s the #1 place time goes when it’s been stolen by work??

It goes to the Land of Do-overs.

You have to take at least one step backwards to enter the Land of Do-overs.

Do-overs are downers. Slow-downers and mood-downers.

Looking back on 2014, I now know that I spent way too much time in the Land of Do-overs. I was more or less a Do-over Queen.

That’s in the past, though.

I’ve declared 2015 the year of working better + less.

Working fast without rushing is a part of working better.

Working better is about working while being relaxed yet focused.

Being relaxed yet focused means being non-sleepy and non-stealing– not letting distraction steal our time.

What you might’ve missed about me over the last few months:

I dimmed my digital lantern from mid-December 2014 to early January 2015.

During that time, I stopped all work, didn’t sit down at a desk, took down all work-related social media posts, put my newsletter on hiatus.

I suspended all future work plans and just lived in the moment like never before.

Now, after being back to work for a month, here’s what’s changed.

When I’m working, I’m working. That means:

  1. I’m at my desk only when work requires me to be.
  2. No more goof off breaks at my desk, like hopping on social media for “just for a second” to clear my head. No more checking email every 15 minutes “just for a second” because, HEY, maybe a new email is there!
  3. If, while at my desk, I get confused about anything, I either remain at my desk and figure it out immediately or stand up and walk away.
  4. This is the BIGGIE. ONLY 4 hours a day at my desk. Setting the timer (see below) for 4 hours. When the timer dings, I’m done. No cheating.

More about the 4 Hour Rule:

  • Knowing time is strictly limited to 4 hours helps me take desk time seriously and stay focused. I have a newfound respect for my desk.
  • This 4 hours includes breaks, so when I get up from my desk (which is pretty often) I’m gonna stay aware of my time and use my break to really feel better. Rest my eyes or go outside. Dance or lay down. Not sitting at the desk and looking at dog videos as a way of rejuvenating.
  • Some days I’m doing as much in 4 hours as I used to do in a whole day. The most powerful difference is WAY-LESS DO-OVERS REQUIRED.
  • I feel so much better after work, I have so much more energy for playtime!


Here are some apps I’m using, along with the 4 hour desk limit, to help me work better and work less:

Tomato.es: Tomato.es is an app that helps you utilize the Comodoro Technique. Don’t know The Pomodoro Technique? It helps you get your work done by working in 25 minute increments and then breaking for 5 minutes to do something more physical.

Tomato.es is essentially a timer set up for 25 minutes for work and then 5 minutes for breaks. I used to use the timer on my iPhone to do “pomodoros,” but I like this app because the timer automatically re-sets itself.

trello: Graceful, streamlined, to-do list maker and organizer. Create, organize, re-organize your lists by just moving items around. You can make lists within lists and mark things as TO DO, DOING and DONE. Share the lists with your teammates, family or whoever you’re collaborating with. Notations and other written details can also be recorded and attached to list items.

Asana: Their tagline is: “teamwork without email”. I have found that 30% or more of my collaborative work has been spent on email. I realized it only after working on other people’s projects where Asana was the central hub.

With Asana, everyone accesses a whole project in 1 place..Your systems sail along almost on their own. You won’t believe how much time is saved by everyone having a way to view what is being done, will be done or has already been done– and why. All the shared materials, files etc. are all in the project as well, not being passed around via email or spread all over the net.

Unroll.me: Newsletters a part of your work or passion project? Or do you like getting emails from your favorite stores? What about all those discount travel deals you need to know about when you gotta get out of town? This app “rolls up” the newsletters you choose, puts them all into one roll that you can open and scroll through when you’re not working. This app moves all the distraction out of sight.

Pocket: All those things you wanna look at while working? Like articles you wanna read? Put them in your Pocket to look at later.

Self-Control: Piick what you want to blacklist- email, for example, or the whole internet or just certain sites. Set it’s timer, and say bye to distraction. Mac only, but so, so good.

Freedom: Like Self-control, but works on PC. You actually have to re-boot your computer in order to cheat and sneak a peek of internet distraction.

Newsfeed Eradicator: Maybe you need the net in order to do your work but don’t need Facebook. Communicate with others in better ways– or not at all. Keep working. Visit the newsfeed later during playtime!!

I think 2015 will be the year of mindful working + playing. And anyone can find a way to work better + less.

Let me know your best practices for staying focused and what tools you use.