Sometimes I find that I need to concentrate, but there are too many distractions. Emails, IRC, and Twitter are very useful, but also create interruptions. For some types of task this is not a problem, but for others the time it takes to get back to being productive after an interruption is substantial. Or sometimes there is an imminent and important deadline and it is desirable to avoid being sidetracked.
Self-discipline is one approach for these situations, but sometimes it’s not enough. So I wrote a simple Python script — screentimelock — for screen which locks the terminal for a period of time. I don’t need to use this often, but since my email, IRC, and Twitter clients all reside in a screen session, I find it works well for me,
The script is started by screen’s
lockscreen command, which is by default invoked by Ctrl-A X. Then, the screen will be cleared, which is helpful as often I find that just seeing the email subject lines is enough to act as a distraction. The screen will remain cleared and the terminal locked, until the next hour (e.g. if the script is activated at 7:15, it will unlock at 8:00).
It is of course possible to bypass the lock. Ctrl-C is ignored, but logging in from a different location and either killing the script or re-attaching the screen will work. Still, this is far more effort than glancing at the terminal, so I find the speed-bump screentimelock provides is enough to avoid temptation.
I’m releasing this software, under the BSD license, in the hope that other people find it useful. The download link, installation instructions and configuration parameters can be found on the screentimelock homepage. Any comments would be appreciated, but despite Zawinski’s Law, this program will not be extended to support reading mail 🙂