When doing anything on a computer, I tend to multitask a lot. As research suggests, this is actually counterproductive and I've been looking for ways to avoid it. This is a collection of techniques that I have tried and that have worked for me.
Time-tracking can be a double-edged sword. One of the reasons for multitasking might be high levels of anxiety, and tracking the time you take to do your stuff might make it even worse. Fortunately, that is not the case for me (I do have high levels of anxiety, but the stopwatch doesn't affect it), so pay attention if it's not making things worse for you if you decide to try it.
For me, though, tracking time works as a sort of personal commitment. I've written it down here that I'm going to work on my website, so no cheating and checking on Twitter while I'm at it. I'm not entirely sure why this works, given that I'm not interested in the actual times getting tracked. Still, I try not to taint my metrics by doing something else once I start tracking time.
I have two hypotheses for this which are sort of interconnected. One is that time-tracking increases the costs of context switching. I am free to do whatever I want, as long as I register it on my tracking tool. Going from my text editor to Discord is not just as simple as hitting Cmd+Tab any longer, I have to make a stop to record it. This ends up being a good thing, as the (perceived) cost of exchanging activities is higher than to just continue doing whatever I was doing. This is also why I don't think automated approaches like Timely's would work for me.
The second is that it sort of ritualizes the end of a task and the beginning of a new one. As much as I like having millions of songs available to me in a streaming service, I do kind of miss the physical ritual of picking up a CD case, opening it, putting the disk in its player, and then hitting play. It gave me a clear separation between what I was doing before and what I'm going to do next. Time-tracking is not so ritualistic (and, definitely not as physical), but it gives me this same idea of something ending and something new starting.
You can check my Tools of choice to see what I'm using for time-tracking.
- Page creation.