Distraction-Proof Your Desktop

Distraction-Proof Your Desktop

Back in the good old days, when your pappy walked uphill both ways to school, it was hard to get distracted by a computer because, er, they didn’t exist. And even when they did, much later, the earliest Macs were good for little more than simple coding and word processing. But alas, those days are gone. Today’s Macs come packed with apps like iMovie, Photo Booth, GarageBand, and Safari, any one of which could consume your personal productivity for the next 365 days. So when your self-discipline falters, these steps will get you back on track in time to meet that big deadline.



> WriteRoom ($24.95)

> Think (free)

> Active Timer (free)


1. Turn Off Automatic Updates

Automatic updates allow OS X and other applications on your Mac to routinely phone home (via the Internet) and install new features or plug security holes. They also introduce a stream of potential interruptions to your workday. To turn off updates in OS X, open System Preferences, click Software Update, and uncheck the box next to Check For Updates. To turn off updates in Microsoft Office, navigate to the /Applications folder, launch Microsoft AutoUpdate, and check the radio button next to Manually. For Adobe products such as Acrobat Reader and the Creative Suite, launch Adobe Updater (/Applications/Utilities), open the Preferences, and uncheck the box next to “Automatically check for updates every month.” Other applications store their update preferences elsewhere, but those three should get you started.


Turning off automatic updates will preserve your work time, but you’ll need to check for updates manually to keep your system up to date. Set aside one day a month to do this.


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2. Turn Off Automatic Mail Alerts

Email may be the Web’s killer app, but Apple Mail’s automatic notifications are the real killer, and their victim is your attention span. Open Mail’s Preferences (Command-comma or Mail > Preferences), find the drop-down menu next to “Check for new mail,” and change the setting to Manually. Now that new email will no longer interrupt you, you can schedule several blocks of time throughout the day to deal exclusively with new messages. Quitting Mail when it’s not in use will free up system RAM in addition to much-needed focus time.


You don’t need to check email every five minutes - or every five seconds, for that matter. (That’s what your iPhone is for.)






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To take item #1 to the next level, turn off the "Check for updates automatically" setting in all your applications, then use VersionTracker to do the checking for you in one batch. You can do this manually, say, once every month. It will prevent those "An update is available" messages from popping up unexpectedly.

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