8tracks: Your All-Day Stimulus Shelter

October 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The last few weeks? Busy busy busy. And it’s not the kind of busy that has me rushing from one meeting to another. It’s the kind of busy that has me shackled to my desk, with a million little blurbs of copy to write. This is no small feat, considering I work in an open-plan office that is rife with distractions.

In previous posts, I highlight apps like WriteRoom and Isolator that help address this. See no distractions, check. Now it’s time to hear no distractions.

Earphones are the office worker’s salve for the open-plan epidemic that plagues many workplaces. I would even go as far as saying it’s an absolute essential these days. I read somewhere that the brain is naturally predisposed to zero in on voices, so even when you’re reading or writing, the brain will gravitate to the voices it hears nearby. Add that to the other noise around you, and it becomes a bit of a challenge to truly focus. What the mind needs is a stimulus shelter. This is where earphones and music come in handy.

Now I don’t have to tell you that music is a great way to drown out office noise, improve mood and increase productivity. Some people have set playlists for specific tasks, but I just kind of wing it. When I’m particularly busy, I don’t want to bother with endless fiddling with my iTunes, deciding what song to play next, so I’m really glad I found 8tracks.

8tracks is a free social music app on the web or on your mobile device where you can stream playlists that users create for every mood.  Type in a genre, an artist, or even a keyword and 8tracks will generate a list of playlists you can choose from. Follow people whose musical taste you love, create your own playlists, and share them on your social networks. I can just leave it on, enjoy the music, and get working on that mountain of copy. I’ve been on 8tracks for a few months now and its gotten me through a lot of stressful work days. I haven’t made any playlists yet, but you can follow me and check out some of the people I follow.

Any suggestions on who else I should follow? Drop me a line here!

Choose from several playlists on 8tracks



Clear: The Pretty Way to Productive

September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment


I am one of those people that are forever making lists. I make the lists, cross a few things off it, then I make new lists. I write them on little scraps of paper, I write them on my notebooks, and I write them on my gazillion apps. (I kinda wish there was an app to manage all my other to-do apps.)

Why I find comfort in making lists and why making my to-do list takes up half a day will be a topic for another post. But what I wanted to write about today is an app called Clear.

Clear is a to-do app that takes full advantage of the gestures feature on the iPhone. Pull down or up to create a new item, swipe right to mark as done, swipe left to delete — all the while giving each item its own place in a spectrum of color to live in. That makes it way more pleasing to look at than a plain white list with a tick-box, which I suppose could help motivate you into at least looking at your list. There’s nothing magical about Clear. Just an app that does what it does, but boy, it sure does look pretty doing it.

Clear turns your to-do list from a cold, austere thing impatiently tapping its foot into a warm and pleasant guide, if you will, to making your day more productive.

So pretty.

Clear is available for $2.99 on the app store.

Haiku Deck: Short and Sweet

September 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ever attend a presentation and be absolutely wowed by the deck? Or sit through one where you had to lean forward in your chair, squint and read the teeny tiny text on a crowded slide? The presentation deck can make or break a pitch and more often than not, we see decks that confuse rather than convince.

“But presentation apps can be such a pain to use sometimes,” you complain. “What font? What layout? And where do I find the visuals to go with my slides?” I hear ya. I know you’re tired. I shed a tear for you every time I see a deck filled with bullet points and hideous clip art. That’s why a lightbulb went off in my head when I stumbled across Haiku Deck for the iPad.

Haiku Deck comes with five free themes you can use to get you started. Once you’ve picked a theme, just type in your text, and the app will take a keyword from your slide and fetch Creative Commons-licensed photos that you can use as background. Choose your text layout, and wash, rinse, repeat until your last slide.

Present directly from your iPad, or share your deck via email, Facebook and Twitter. Haiku Deck will help you make your slides as spiffy and as can be and as easily as can be.

View the gallery of some featured decks here: http://www.haikudeck.com/gallery

Screenshot of one of the sample haiku decks by Adam Tratt

Haiku Deck is available for free on the App Store and requires an iPad with iOS 5.0 or later.


Single-Task Like A Boss With Isolator

August 27, 2012 § 1 Comment

There are a million and one things happening on the internet and we want to be a part of it all. We have multiple tabs open on our browser, apps running in the background, email that keeps pouring in, and various other odds and ends beeping endlessly.  Follow, comment, like, share, update, refresh, subscribe…explode.

In my previous blog post, I talk about a writing app that helps address the distraction problem. But distraction-free working, I realize, isn’t just for writers. This technology-borne attention deficit is an equal-opportunity vexation.

Enter Isolator.

This tiny slip of an app is a wonderful addition to your arsenal of distraction-free solutions for today’s distraction-filled desktop. Isolator sits quietly on your menu bar until you need it. Set the background color, set the transparency (I recommend setting it opaque, otherwise it just defeats the purpose), and you’re good to go.

Turn it on when it’s crunch time and watch the world wide web melt away. Ah, glorious. That’s what it feels like when the voices stop.  Revel in that for a moment, then get to work. It’s time to let the magic happen.

Isolator isn’t on the Mac App Store yet, but you can download it here for free: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/24052/isolator

Requires PPC/Intel, Mac OS X 10.4 or later

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