It’s pretty easy to get distracted when you’re an IT worker. You’re usually sitting in front of the biggest time-waster ever invented: the Internet. What’s more interesting: endless coding or that “Which Dr. Who Character Are You?” quiz?
Unfortunately for the IT crowd, it’s coding that pays the bills. It’s time to ramp up productivity levels, and these 11 productivity tools are just the way to kick your work drive into high gear.
The Pomodoro Technique
Invented by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s, the Pomodoro Technique is a deceptively simple time-management strategy. Set a kitchen timer for 25 minutes. When it dings, take a five minute break. After four 25-minute sessions, or “pomodoros,” take a 15- to 20-minute break. Easy, right? While it may seem elementary, many IT professionals swear by the Pomodoro because it breaks a long project up into easy-to-digest chunks.
While traditionalists use a Pomodoro tomato timer (the timer originally used by Cirillo and the namesake of the technique; “pomodoro” is Italian for tomato), more modern Pomodorians resort to apps or online timers to keep track of time. One popular free online timer is Tomatoi.st. Other options include the Adobe Air app Pomodairo or the Mac app Pomodoro.
Forget typing in URLs. Forget your bookmark bar. Site Launcher lets you launch websites at the press of the button–or rather, the press of Ctrl and the space bar. Simply assign your favorite websites with a letter shortcut–G for Gmail, for example. Hit Ctrl + Space to pull up Site Launcher, then hit G and Gmail will start loading instantly. Ctrl + Space not working for you? Just reassign the hotkey.
Billed as “ridiculously simple online storage,” ExpanDrive delivers just that. Now you’ve got an extra drive that links directly into your FTP, SFTP or Amazon S3. Best of all, it’s fast and reliable. ExpanDrive is available for both Windows and Mac.
Sick of your browser telling you that “Wikipefia” or “Googel” doesn’t exist? Typos happen all the time when we’re typing URLs at lightning speeds. Enter URL Fixer. This handy Firefox extension acts like a spell checker for your URLs so that the next time you type in “apple.con” URL Fixer will catch it and slyly ask if “apple.com” is what you really meant.
Are you a strong advocate of the double monitor? Are you also a Mac-hating Windows fan? UltraMon was made for you. This Windows-only utility is designed to enhance your double monitor usage. Its features include buttons that let the user easily shift a window between monitors and configuration capabilities for up to ten monitors (should you be so lucky).
UltraMon also puts a monitor-only taskbar on each screen that only highlights that monitor’s tasks. On the aesthetic end, you can sync your screen savers or add multiple desktop backgrounds.
Though it doesn’t boast as many features as UltraMon, Second Bar is the UltraMon answer for Mac users. SecondBar will stick a drag-able menu bar on each screen, so you can more easily access all your apps’ features and functions.
Sick of all the Firefox tools yet? We didn’t think so. This extension/web service lets you save your favorite bookmarks from your Firefox bookmark bar and then access the same bookmarks on any computer.
No more reprogramming your favorites again and again on multiple computers–just install Xmarks, log in, and bam. Your bookmarks are loaded, no matter what computer you’re working on. Xmarks improves your search function, too: it adds images or screen shots to your search results and rates search rankings based on other user’s ratings.
Faced with a large file you need to send–and fast? Even Gmail’s hefty space allowances don’t allow for over-sized files. Just upload any file up to eight GB and grab the resultant link. Email your link instead of your file.
Your coworker can visit LargeDocument and grab thatpesky over-sized file. LargeDocument is free and doesn’t require any log-in information. Want to link LargeDocument directly to your Gmail? No problem: LargeDocument has a Gmail gadget so you’ll have direct access to the site’s services from your inbox.
AutoHotkey and TextExpander
The concept for AutoHotkey is a IT professional’s delight: write your own scripts and give ’em hotkeys. It’s perfect for quickly inserting commonly used texts or abbreviations. This one takes a little time to set up and get going, but once you make the initial time investment, it’s a real time-saver. This free open-source utility is only available for Windows. Mac users, you’ll have to grit your teeth and pay for the ever-popular TextExpander.
“Pair programming” is a technique that involves two programmers. One writes the code (the driver), the other checks it (the observer or navigator). The two programmers switch roles after a certain amount of time.
This technique can save tons of time, especially in regards to troubleshooting code and problem-solving. However, paired programming isn’t for everyone: IT folks tend to be solo types, and they often don’t play well with others.
If you’ve got an effective team, however, pair programming can produce more effective coding with less bugs than solo programming. Looking for that ultimate paired programming setup? This blog figured out a foolproof setup that still allows for privacy and plenty of workspace.
Conclusion: Now Muster Up Some Motivation
It’d be nice if someone would invent a Virtual Nun app that would smack your wrist with a ruler every time you procrastinate. Hopefully, these productivity tools will help you stay on track and on target, even without the assistance of virtual Sister Mary Frances. Now go forth and code like your salary depended on it…because it does.