Apps/Chrome Extensions on a Mac to Optimize Your Time
Being a distance based coach for competitive athletes has been an amazing experience. It is not without its challenges, however. During my time thus far, I've come to find ways to reduce distraction and make the most of my time--sometimes a fruitless endeavor and sometimes actually worthwhile. If you're sitting at a computer for 8+ hours a day (or however much time you spend at the computer at home or at your local coffee shop), that can really be draining.
The modern computer experience is filled with distractions. Notifications and badge alerts call to you, badge alerts pop up in the corner demanding your attention, and icons everywhere distract you visually. As much as we can convince ourselves we are multitasking creatures, the fact is that we function far better as single-taskers. Coaching itself is rife with the needs to handle data quickly and comprehensively at the same time. Here are some application suggestions and tips and tricks to keeping your experience with a computer on a day to day basis manageable, fun, and worthwhile. My hope is that these tips will provide you a small respite from the onslaught of notifications, distractions, and generally make your user experience better.
WriteRoom is really just a simple text editor that blankets the background so that the only thing you see is text and a simple blinking cursor. It is customized to scroll as you type and allows you to change font and color settings to your own preference. I’ve found if you have ideas you need to really just focus down on, this is a great solution. IA Writer is another one, and there are also versions that play you relaxing “zen” music with simple photographic backgrounds, but I found this to be an elegant solution to distraction free writing when you don’t need to reference other material.
Besides the ability to actually record your screen (which is incredibly useful for creating startup approaches for athletes, doing technique analysis and explaining computer issues) ScreenFlow has this handy feature that lets you hide all of your desktop icons. I sometimes open up the software just to hide the icons and clean up my visual distractions. Of course, you can sort your projects and files somewhere else, to minimize the amount of things on the desktop, but this goes a long way itself toward keeping you single-tasked.
Ahh, now we arrive at the mother of all distractions--social media. For fitness professionals, social media is a necessary way to interact with others, share opinions, speak with experts and make connections. Many coaches use it to actually interact with athletes on a regular basis. There can be so, so, SO many distractions though with a constant scroll that never ends, FOMO (fear of missing out), an often times negative and pessimistic stream of shared videos and articles, clickbait and other traps of the mind. Messaging is very useful, though. Why not access the messenger without the rest of it? That is exactly what FreeChat promises and provides, allowing you to contact people without all of the other distractions. We'll talk about Facebook a bit more down the page.
Magnet is a simple utility that allows you to snap windows to sides, full screen, or corners and is excellent for screen real estate management. It works for dual screens as well. I highly suggest two screens, by the way! As I understand, snapping windows is common on PC operating systems but hasn't been integrated for Mac. This simple utility solves the dilemma and allows you to focus on 2-4 windows at a time with minimal clutter.
Oh holy mother of usefulness! I find myself taking screenshots of an athlete in the middle of a lift, drawing lines and arrows, and then immediately sending it to the athlete. You can add text, boxes, lines, and so on. You can do timed screenshots and optionally save all of this directly to Evernote. As a bonus, you don't have to save the file before you send it...you just drag it directly from the app to your preferred destination. It's fast, lives in the menu bar, and is unobtrusive. Great little utility.
This is one of my favorite little utilities for its ability to minimize the noise of background windows and focus in on something you really want to read, watch, or listen to. You can change how much the background is dimmed and map it to a keyboard shortcut for easy access. Well worth it.
We've come to the end of the applications! Of course, I' omitting standard ones that everyone will know, like cloud-based storage solutions, note-taking applications, and email applications (Airmail ftw). We're moving on to ways to modify Google Chrome to work best for you. You're probably spending a huge chunk of your day in an internet browser and we can leverage that to make your experience better.
Magic Actions more than any other thing for me, makes watching videos fun. You can watch videos full window size and add that cool ambient background effect that TVs these days can do, hide the comment section (ahhhhh...doesnt that feel better), and automate playback quality to a certain size. If you spend a lot of your day watching athletes lifting, listening to vlogged updates and so on, why not make it a fun experience? Not to mention you can hide ads, stop autoplay, or boost speed for slower internet connections.
If you want to be watching a video but not have it be the star of your screen, Floating for Youtube is great. It essentially allows you to "picture in picture" your YouTube video and pop it up in the corner of your screen. This is great for watching an athlete lifting while writing feedback to send. The uses are limited only by your imagination, but this is another great space-saver when you just want the video part of the video and not the whole browser window.
Flatbook cleans up Facebook a bit by removing ads and reformatting things. I think its a nice improvement on the original user interface and a worthy extension to add, especially one you can get for free. Besides the developer asking you to share his extension, its great! Less distractions and a cleaner look, in my opinion.
Ahhhhh. Sweet nature. Momentum gives you a beautiful new tab window every time you open your browser, with the time and a simple greeting. In the corners you can find the weather, a collection of links, a search function, and a motivational quote at the bottom. If you're into Todo and to-do lists, you can access that in the bottom right. The pictures selected really are top notch. I look forward to these every day.
Spreed is an extension for Chrome that allows you to speed-read articles. It works really, really well. You can't believe it, but you can keep up with words flashing on the screen at 400 words per minute without too much difficulty, chomping through essays worth of information in no time. What's better, you can paste ANY text into Spreed to be read in the same way. Want to get through that email? Pop it into Spreed and voilá--instant reading. The comprehension is up to you.
How many times do you think you check your phone or browser for Facebook or Instagram? I wouldn't be surprised if it was literally over 100 times a day (1, 2, 3). Its a serious problem when the information there is poor quality, the connections are short lived and based on an overly positive image of others, and your very livelihood depends on you egnaging with this media. For those who can't unglue themselves from social media long enough to stay on task, StayFocusd helps limit distracting websites entirely. You allow yourself a certain amount of time on specific websites per day and it cuts you off after that. You can assign yourself an amount of time and and which websites you want to block, what hours to start the clock, and what to do if you run out. It can even prevent you from trying to change settings, ya addict.
I know, I know. Adblock is so basic! Its included here because I'm surprised how many people still don't know about Adblock. If you are worried about denying your favorite friends and retailers valuable ad revenue, there are versions of ad blocking software that are less nuclear or fair to businesses, or contribute some money to a charity of your choice (cool huh). Note that some websites like Forbes.com literally won't let you view web pages if you have an ad blocker, which is a mild frustration especially considering the benefits of an ad-free surfing experience.
Well, here at the end I want to leave you with a few tips to ease the cognitive clutter that can eat away at your thinking ability at any moment. It really can be a finite resource, and protecting that resource should be a large goal of yours as coaches, athletes, students, or citizens of the world. Studies have shown critical thinking decreases with cognitive strain and we are more likely to make quick, System I/intuitive choices when we are under duress.
14) Remove as many numbers on your screen as possible
Badge counts from your email, unread messages, unseen notifications, and so on are pulling at your attention. Find a way to disable as many of these that are nonessential as possible. If you check your email regularly, you don't need a badge count anyway.
15) Hotkey Search
Chrome has a really cool feature where you can hotkey search to different websites. "[y] [space] [insert search word]" will automatically search YouTube, and you can configure searches for Amazon, Wikipedia, and really any other website of choice. It cuts down on the intermediate step of pulling up the homepage for these websites to reach the appropriate search bar.
16) These are all crutches
A final tip that these are really just crutches. The REAL item of efficiency, work and work ethic ultimate ad blocker, ultimate time saver and decision maker is your brain.