When it comes to writing, my intentions are oh so good, my planning is mediocre and my execution is randomized. The two random options are either off-the-cuff creative outpouring, or meandering drivel that hits the recycle bin 6 months later. I’m quite convinced that a major part of the problem is the planning/organization stage, and since I started using Things for task management, and Dropbox for file syncing, I’m doing a much better job of outlining ideas, and formulating a reasonable plan for completion. Having provided, then, the bridge between intention and execution, I now face the final battle in consistently writing, and that would be actually writing.
Let’s just say I can be easily distracted. The internet can drag me in so easily, mindlessly checking and rechecking emails, reading old gReader feeds, looking at things I’ll never buy but think might be useful some day in a specific situation when I won’t have access to buy them anyway. You know how it goes. Enter Vitamin-R. The team at PublicSpace.Net have created a multi-function tool for Max OSX that acts like a personal trainer for task execution in the digital realm. Essentially, you take the task you’re about to work on, set a time limit for the work right now and set Vitamin-R in motion.
In the menu bar, you’ll see a clock counting down the time allocated and, depending on your preferences, audio reminders sound to tell you how much time is left, whilst a ticking clock gives you an extra sense of momentum. Personally, I typically mute all sounds but I have considered a good use for the voice reminders. My go-to composition tool when on my MacBook is WriteRoom, mainly because it does one thing only – provides a place for writing. It does not do major formatting, picture insertion, table creation blah blah blah. It just provides a minimalist writing space, and it can be set to full screen so nothing else distracts. This is great because I am one to get distracted, even by the layout of the words I’ve managed to scrape onto a page. However, in this fullscreen mode the menu bar also gets hidden, hence my idea of activating the voice countdown to give me an aural reference without enabling my web-based diversions.
Upon completion of a timeslice, users then rate their focus and have options to take a break (open-ended or fixed) or to continue with their work. This continuation allows you to start something fresh, or to continue the previous task. Timeslicing is a way to increase productivity by eliminating procrastination and giving a routine sense of accomplishment. If you opt to take a break, Vitamin-R prompts you to enter a plan of action for when you return so that after your break, you are ready to get the job done right away.
Along with the task logging, productivity coaching and slick interface, Vitamin-R has a system wide keyboard command (Opt+Command+N by default) that brings up a scratchpad. The scratchpad has several tabs, most notably ‘now’ and ‘later’, which act as idea captures and brain dumps. ‘Now’ is for anything relating to the task at hand, whilst ‘later’ provides an ideal area to ditch anything that is irrelevant to the work but needs to be remembered. This gets rid of the mental itch that distracts from work, and allows you to return to it later for either immediate action or for entry into a task management program such as Things.
Speaking of Things, Vitamin-R also integrates with Culture Code‘s product as well as with OmniFocus, the two biggest Mac productivity tools. Drag a to-do from Things and drop it in the timeslice description and the two are linked, allowing you to work through your to-do list and check them off as finished within Vitamin-R.
Whilst not a Vitamin-R piece of code, it is also possible to move new items to Things from within the ‘Now’ or ‘Later’ board by selecting the text, right clicking and using the system-wide context menu entry that is active when Things is running. It might be nice to see Vitamin-R’s developers put a nice GUI on this but the functionality is still there. This is great because as you’re working you now have a single place to ditch those annoying brain reminders that occur when you’re least likely to be able to take action on them, and then a convenient way to move those tasks to your task management application.
I’d say that Vitamin-R is a simple, effective and winsome application. The collection of tools provided incorporate so nicely into your regular workflow, whether you’re using Things or Omnifocus, or not as the case may be. Unobtrusive, supportive and it also provides data to help you analyze when you struggle most with getting to the task at hand, and when you shine at your work.
Vitamin-R is available as a full-feature trial download, the limitation being it expires after 14 days. A full-license can be purchased for just south of $20. For the procrastinators out there, this might be a good investment!