Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
I definitely waste more of my time than I’d like. Mostly on Twitter, but also just with this mysterious business of general internetting. I’ll sometimes catch myself switching between 7 open browser tabs, each containing something I want or need to do, and doing none of it. And none of the productivity plug-ins or apps I’ve found do quite what I want, because my requirements are incredibly specific. What I needed was:
I found a few things that were close, but their faults always meant I stopped using them. So I made my own, in Game Maker Studio.
I wanted to be more conscious of how much time I spend doing non-productive things, so I wrote a taskbar timer app.
— Tom Francis (@Pentadact) September 17, 2015
@Pentadact Unfortunately since I hadn't invented it at the time, I have no idea how long I wasted on this.
— Tom Francis (@Pentadact) September 17, 2015
(v3.0, 2.5MB, Windows, installer)
It’s a little application that you leave minimised, and its name on the taskbar changes to reflect how many minutes have passed since you set it.
So when I sit down at my PC, I start it, and then only when I actually get down to work do I click the satisfying button to reset the clock. That way I can glance at it to see how much time I’ve wasted, and once that becomes a point of shame and regret, I get on. And I click Reset, so it’s now a tally of how long I’ve been productively working.
It only shows minutes in the taskbar so that there’s no distracting ticking, but it shows seconds in the window if you switch to it, so you can see it’s going.
I only just made it today, so I can’t say whether I’ll stick with it, but I like it so far. It’s very satisfying, and its discouragement is very gentle. Once I’m aware of my bad habits I’m usually pretty good at adjusting them subconsciously without much faff.
Gustav: Cool. I once made a small app to counter a similar problem. At random intervals, a window would pop up and ask me "what are you doing right now?" I would then write a few words about what I was currently doing ("game dev", "browsing Reddit", " doing homework", etc.). I also saved these words with time stamps, which is a bit funny to look back at once in a while.
As you wrote, just the mere act of having to be conscious aware of what you are doing helps a lot with minimizing procrastination.
TR: Depending on your work habits, if you get the app to check the currently active window title/class, you could perhaps get it to automatically determine whether you're working or not.
If a window with "gamemaker" in the title is the active one, you're working. If you find "facebook", "twitter" or "gmail" in the title, and the class contains "Chrome", then you're clearly not...
If you have access to the Windows API in GM, it's
Iajawl: The secret is out. Tom Francis wastes time writing blog posts about wasting time. I then waste my time reading and replying. Possibly someone else will waste their time reading what I am writing now.
When will this madness end !
Gustav: TR: Then you might as well install a dedicated program such as RescueTime. It tracks and organizes what you do on the computer.
R Flaum: I use ManicTime for similar purposes. The advantage is that you don't have to set it yourself -- it automatically keeps track of what you're doing. The disadvantage is that you have to pay for it.
Tentaculat: So you used Game Maker Studio to write a clock application? You're trolling, aren't you? What about efficiency? This is an outrage! THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS. School children have been ARRESTED recently for doing something similar.
You can download Visual Studio Community edition. Start a desktop application project. Drag a label or whatever c# or vb.net uses these days to display text. Drag a timer, set the interval to 1000s, set enabled to true.
Drag a button. Double click, write some code.
This application used 3.4mb, as opposed to 8.4mb, and it didn't touch the CPU%, whereas Tom's Timer fluctuated up to 0.8%.
Hang on, why the fuck is this using 3.4mb? Fucked if I know.
It also had a smaller install footprint. Since .NET is cross platform these days, you could probably port it to other major platforms.
I give Tom's Timer 70%; it sets out what it intended to do, but with little flair or concern for optimisation.
Shaun Cheah: Thanks to Tentaculat's review, I will be acquiring a copy of Tom's Timer to test on my computer. I would be interested in seeing this Visual Studio knock-off, though. Efficiency is fun!