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Getting started with Session on Mac

Philip Young

27 January 2021

In this guide, you'll learn how Session can help you stay focused and productive with some simple setup. Here are benefits you're going to experience:

  • automate and change your environment (Do Not Disturb, auto play Spotify),
  • stay more mindful with task at hand,
  • stop working too long and take a necessary break,
  • stop spending time and stuck on one problem,
  • block external distractions (website, apps, notifications)

If you want a guide for iOS, go here

Start small / take a rest before working

I found this very helpful when I'm bored and don't want to work immediately. Either:

  • work for just 5-10 minutes. You can quickly change the timer by rotating the dial clockwise, or
  • Take a break first. You can do this by rotating the dial counter-clockwise. When I'm ready and relaxed, I start my focus with Session.

Experiment with your Session duration

Some people find joy working in:

  • 25 minutes followed by 5 minutes break,
  • others in 45 minutes session with 15 minute break.

There are no one size fits all. Find the one that works for you. Experiment. Iterate. Also remember that your ideal workflow can change. I personally found that 25 minute Session works best for the past 4 years. Nowadays I found joy working in 45-15 minutes interval.

You can set this up from session preferences (menu bar icon > Preferences) and change the duration.

Stay focused and on track with Calendar integration

I've been planning my day with Calendar and Session. It's been a huge game changer for me. Here's how:

  1. Every week, give a daily theme for each day. Just choose one, not two or more. Consider your day is a complete success when you finished it.
  2. Just plan the day in general. 2 hours from 14:00 - 16:00 on project A, 17:00 - 19:00 on project B. Keep it simple.
  3. Time block ~10 hours of each day for Sleep + preparation. This way you can visualize how "little" time you have each day to do something meaningful.

This is very simple—non complex way to manage your day on weekly basis.

You can enable this on Session Settings > Calendar

Visualize how your day and week goes with Calendar and Session

You can also see your Sessions on Calendar. I keep things simple—just time block Sleep, afternoon walk, and reading.

If you noticed, yes, my sleep schedule is messed up (from 4 > 14). And on Wednesday I have so much on my thought that I can't sleep! Worked some Sessions until morning. This is unhealthy and I'm planning to fix it.

Anyway, the point here is it'll give you bird eye view of how your day goes and how you can be better next.

You can enable this on Session Settings > Calendar

Always show notification

One of the biggest problem while working and thinking for me is how I can stuck into one problem, try to solve it in many different way, and found out that it's actually not that important, or I've spent way too much time on it.

Session can help you with that.

Showing a persistent will help you to be reminded to:

  • take a break (instead of overworking)
  • nudge you back to reality when you're too consumed on one thing.

Session can keep "you're working too long" notification persistent on your monitor.

Open Spotlight (search), find System Preferences > Notifications > and find Session

  • enable Allow Notifications,
  • set alert style to Alerts, and

Reminder to take break interval

This, in combination with Always show notification will help you to stop working, pause, or taking break for too long.

  • Open Session Preferences > Sound and notification > and Notify when session/rest/pause went too long.
  • Set the reminder duration to 5-15 minutes. Experiment which one work best for you.

Block distracting websites

I found Twitter, app analytics, and "Session" finances steal my attention on daily basis. Turning them off is a good idea.

On preferences, you can block distracting website.

Session also will remind you about what task you're currently focusing on. All blocked websites will be restored when your Session has ended.

Block applications

Same as website, you can block application with Session. If you want something more restrictive, you can also use Session automation to force close Application (like Slack) when Session has started.

Keyboard shortcuts

keyboard shortcut

Navigate Session directly with Keyboard shortcuts. Start and end your Session without even having the app shown. You can even change the keyboard shortcuts to your liking.

Automate and change your environment

Imagine having no distracting notifications while working on your Mac. It's possible by turning on Do Not Disturb. Yes, you can turn it on manually when Session has started, but that's tedious. What if you can turn it on when you started your Session, and disable it after Session ends—all automatically?

You can do it with Session Automation. Do not disturb automatic on/off is only one example what Automation can do. Other scenarios:

  1. session_start

    • Turn on Do Not Disturb
    • quit Slack
    • change smart bulb to cool color
    • play Spotify playlist "focus"
    • start time tracking app (like Toggl)
  2. session_went_too_long

    • change Spotify playlist to silently reminds you that your Session has went too long
  3. break_start

    • change smart bulb to warm color
    • play Spotify playlist "relax"
    • record time tracking app
  4. stop_working

    • Turn off Do Not Disturb
    • reopen Slack

If you're interested, you can learn more about how to integrate Session Automation.

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