Seven Tools to Help You Hit Your Deadlines

It’s hard to get things done. We’re living in a world full of noise and flashing lights, where Facebook and Twitter beckon with a notification and that sweet rush of dopamine. I know I give into this temptation more often than not, and especially when I should be writing my way through a difficult scene.

Like this, but with more tears and less organization.
Like this, but with more tears and less organization.

Since I am an imperfect person, I know this is going to happen. You have to retrain addicts and give them the tools they need to function and succeed. Writing in the digital age is much the same. Sometimes when you can’t break those bad habits, the best thing you can do is lock away the temptation. Here are seven tools that have helped me get shit done and hit my deadlines:1. Pomodoro Method – You’ve probably heard a lot about this method of time management. That’s because it works. The 25-minute intervals with short breaks in between can be adapted to writing, office work, chores, and more. I keep bookmarked for my day job, writing, and freelance work.

2. Freedom – For those of us who have impulse control issues (including yours truly), Freedom can feel like a weight is lifted. Simply select which websites you want to block, set the timer and go. You can even set recurring, automatic blocks during your optimal working time so that temptation doesn’t get too strong. It’s not a free service, but there are fairly regular sales on the annual and forever memberships that are well worth your money.

3. Noisli – I love music, but sometimes I just need some white noise. I used to live near some train tracks, and I loved listening to one rumble by late at night while I sat up to read or write. Noisli, a free service, allows you to mix different background noises to your specifications. Want to write in a coffee shop during a thunderstorm? Sure thing. Campfire by a river with a dripping faucet? Odd, but they can do that too.

4. Spreadsheet of Shame – This is a recent favorite of mine, and that’s coming from a guy who gets headaches working through Excel Spreadsheets. The Spreadsheet of Shame is a relatively simple tool, that will help you signpost milestones for your long-form writing projects. It’s been helping me hold myself accountable and is honestly one of the most useful things I’ve ever stumbled across online.

5. Forest – Maybe you’re a cell phone addict. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve been pulled into spirals of 2048 addiction before, but never again. is an app available for Android, iOs, Windows Phone and desktop browsers. Set your timer, plant a tree and get to work. If you use your phone while the timer is going, your digital sapling dies. Stay strong and resist, though, and you get the start of a digital forest. There are some great metagame elements as well, and this is pretty powerful when you couple it with the Pomodoro method!

6. Buffer – If you’re like me, Twitter and Facebook can mean doom for a day’s productivity. I try (and fail) not to open them before lunch. However, Buffer is a tried and true app I use to automate my tweets. It analyzes your posting history and looks at when you are most likely to maximize your interactions, which is a huge bonus. Even better – it’s free!

7. Mechanical Keyboard – I figured I should throw one analog solution on here. I use a Monoprice Mechanical Keyboard with Blue Switches. The clicky clacky noise and physical response of the switches seem to help draw me into more of a groove than most modern keyboards. There are many mechanical keyboard evangelists online, and they’ve converted me.

Everyone works differently and these are just a few ways I try to optimize my workflow. What tools do you use? Comment below with your strategies for limiting distractions.

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