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How to Optimize Your Desktop

How to Optimize Your Desktop
Desktop

Does your computer’s desktop look like a jumbled mess or a sleek Ferrari?

The following tips, tricks, and power toys will help you turn your desktop
into a productivity machine.

Sticky Notes

Do you ever find yourself needing to make a quick to-do list or write down thoughts and ideas? Sticker Lite is a free Sticky Notes software that allows you to do just that. Using virtual sticky notes, you can keep all of the information you need to remember right on your desktop.

This productivity tool allows you to drag-and-drop sticky notes anywhere on the desktop.

You can also customize your notes by setting different priority levels: low, normal, and high.

Best of all, you’re not just confined to the desktop. Sticker Lite allows you to easily print your computer sticky notes and take them with you.

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Desktop Timers

A timer is one of the best productivity tools you can use. Ever since using a timer to complete my tasks, my productivity has increased by 300%.

My favorite desktop timer is Workrave.

According to the website,

“Workrave is a free program that assists in the recovery and prevention of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The program monitors your activity. Using this information, it frequently reminds you to take breaks, and restricts you to your daily limit.”

Like any desktop timer, Workrave can time your tasks and set a countdown for you.

However, it has lots of other cool features as well.

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Workrave allows you to set reminders to look away from the screen and walk around every so often. This has been a very useful feature for geeks like me who have a hard time stepping away from the computer.

Workrave allows you to set rest breaks, micro pauses and daily time limits.

This unique program also has exercises that you can do at your desk during breaks.

Find out more about this free software at http://www.workrave.org.

JDarkRoom

JDarkRoom

This is a very cool application that allows you to write more efficiently by removing all distractions. JDarkRoom gives you an entirely blank page on which to type. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM. When you’re done, you can save your work as a text file.

You can try it out for yourself and start saving lots of time.

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If you’re using a Mac, then I would suggest Writeroom.

Customize Your folders and desktop icons to easily locate your favorite applications.

icons

Customizing your folders and desktop icons can help you to easily locate your favorite applications.

This way, you’re not stuck with all of those bland, traditional folders.

You can find thousands of free icons at:

GTD Desktop Backgrounds

Bring GTD to your desktop with GTD desktop wallpaper. This desktop wallpaper will help keep you motivated and focused on Getting Things Done.

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If you’ve read David Allen’s bestseller, Getting Things Done, but can’t always remember all of the tips, tricks, and concepts held inside the book, then this wallpaper is the perfect reminder.

Download you own GTD wallpaper at…

AutoHotKey

Are you a shortcut junkie? If so, then you’ll love AutoHotKey. This application allows you to script any block of text or sequence of keystrokes to perform repetitive tasks at the push of a button.

It takes a bit of practice to learn to write your own scripts, but once you’re up and running, you’ll speed through your daily activities.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on 50 Essential GTD Resources, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, Do You Need a Braindump, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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