Feb 15, 2021

Attention OS

As I wrote about last week, I aim to work by focused time blocks. There are a lot of apps and settings in MacOS to manage notifications, timers, snooze, etc. However it would be a pain to setup everything, if even possible, to properly work by blocking-out hours. You can turn off all notifications and go to airplane mode but that’s pretty radical. I already have barely any notifications enabled and I need the internet for references in most of what I write.

So I’d like an app for that, although I used OS in the title because it would likely have to be at that level to work smoothly. I’d like to be able to setup things like:

  • Templates of days I can re-use. Four blocks of one hour with two short breaks, lunch, and end of day. Why do I have to do recurring meetings that are always one wrong click away from breaking? Maybe a selection menu you can summon around where the “all day” events and reminders are displayed. Once the template appears, it’s its own thing I can adjust for that need if I need to. (Calendars, wifi, and printers. The three horseman of crapulence.)
  • Multiple connected timers. Timer for the block, and timer for eye pauses or whatever else. That’s very specific, but I’m pretty sure people working in Pomodoros or other similar systems would like to have a couple of timers going. There are apps for that, but often for phones (I don’t work on my phone!), and they are not dependent on each other, just in the same app. Also, I want everything to work together, not just the timers.
  • Snoozing of task or calendar reminders should include the option “after block” and only a few should even be able to pop during the block, never mind being snoozed. One exception is reminding me of a call 10 minutes after a block, for example.
  • Email shouldn’t be fetched during blocked time.
  • Notifications other than events coming very soon or phone and texts coming from VIPs should be muted.
  • Less intrusive alarms. I don’t need a window popping, a loud noise, or a notification sliding in front of my eyes. A slowly pulsing light in the toolbar would be enough, kind of like the “breathing” light Macs used to have in the front of the case.
  • This one’s for the iPhone: default notification setup that applies to every new app. Let me switch things on later on if I want to. I don’t need to be disturbed by a new app because someone did something and I didn’t think to go turn everything off right after the install.

Some of these might be very pointed to my own needs but at the same time these computers are used for work and there’s an ever-mounting pile of scientific evidence that focused work, breaks, and a general respect of our attention helps our mental health, creativity, and productivity. The OS should support that.