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Setup Restricted User Accounts to Focus and Get Things Done

Setup Restricted User Accounts to Focus and Get Things Done

    Do you have your email alerts on, Twitter apps pinging you every second, or IM up and running 24/7? Have you noticed that these constant distractions tend to, well, distract you? If so, rather than turning these things off you can design and create totally different user accounts on your Mac or PC to help you concentrate on the work at hand.

    Figure out what you need

    The first thing you must do is figure out what tools you need in what context and then create a separate user account that contains those tools. For example, if you are a writer you may want to have a “writing account” where all you have access to is a simple text tool (or whatever writing tool that you prefer) and everything else is locked down.

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    Some contexts that you work in require access to a bunch of tools, so you have to sit down and list out only the tools you actually need. This is the first step to create environments on your computer that don’t destroy your concentration and attention.

    Figure out what you don’t want

    Next, after you know the contexts of your life and also the tools that those contexts require, you have to list the things that you want to stay away from in those contexts. Maybe for your “writing account” you don’t want to have access to the Internet, or maybe you want to only access a certain site on the internet (your blog for instance). You may want to also limit the apps that you can use on this account to a few different text editors and utilities.

    It’s important to be honest with yourself and not to fall into the trap of saying, “yeah, I probably will be fine if I enable IM on this account. I mean, how will people get ahold of me?” The real question should be, “what is the bare minimum I need to get things done while doing (insert the context of your life here)?”

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    Process and tools

    Setting up these accounts is pretty easy on a Mac or PC.

    On your Mac, probably the best way to do this is to go to Settings -> Parental Controls and create a new user. Give it the name of the context that you are trying to work under. From there you can setup application restrictions, site restrictions, etc.

    On a PC (Windows 7) you can access Parental Controls by clicking the Start Menu, search for “parental controls” and clicking on the option that comes up. From there you can create new accounts as well as control their time usage and applications restrictions.

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    Of course, you can always get around these restrictions by using your administrator password, but it is another burier to cross. When you are about to enable IM on your account that you are trying to get things done on, you can stop for a moment and refocus.

    There are also ways to block certain websites or only allow certain websites (which may be an easier thing to do in some cases). But, if you want to get very binary with this you could use a tool like Freedom or even turn off Internet access completely on certain accounts. Freedom is a great tool to turn off your Internet access for a set period time. It disables your network access at a physical level, so only a reboot of the computer will get it back. Yet another burier to keep you from wasting time.

    Conclusion

    Creating separate accounts for the different contexts in your life to enable and disable certain tools and software may seem like overkill. But, if you are struggling to pay attention while you are working on your computer, it may just be the exact thing you need. Give it a try to see if restricting yourself and controlling your computer accounts can help you get things done.

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    (Photo credit: Modern laptop with metal padlock on screen via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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