It’s a simple question that built the Twitter empire 140 characters at a time.

What are you doing?

And yet, I feel that although I use Twitter fairly often, I do not actually ask myself that question enough throughout the work day. How many times have you found yourself wasting what would be otherwise productive time doing something… well, unproductive?

If you’re a regular reader here, then you’ve heard of Merlin Mann by now. I’ve written about his sites, and I’ve written about his Inbox Zero solution for e-mail (which I will swear by for the rest of my life). It won’t come as a surprise then that the Mann who built the 43 Folders site on the principles of Getting Things Done and general productivity has once again come up with a nifty little tool for staying on track.

This “tool” is actually a web page that asks,

In his article discussing the page, Merlin explains why he set this page to be the first tab any time he opens a new browser window or tab set.

It’s not a new idea, it’s not particularly interesting or sophisticated, and it’s certainly not anything you couldn’t whip up for yourself (and better) in about 30 seconds. So, why share it?

Because, your brain needs a Dad. If this can help you, awesome. If your immediate reaction is to think, “Oooo…I know how I can add way more features like a social network and procrastination stats!” hang it up; you’re already screwed.

I have always been able to focus on the task at hand, and still can without so much as considering an interruption that isn’t catastrophic. However, that same focus applies to the distractions as well.

If I am going through my RSS feeds, or programming for a side project, or reading a book, or any number of other activities that are not productive work, I will stay focused on that task, often for too long. It’s easy enough to set timers to alert us to our tasks and the amount of time that has passed, but it is also easy to silence the timer and plod ahead without first addressing the most important question.

Merlin links to Mark Wieczorek’s “Get Back to Work” solution which is similar, but is more in the vein of a task list. Task lists tend to distract me unless I am using pencil and paper. Sometimes technology can get in the way. Of course, I don’t believe that people can multi-task.

We can chew gum and walk, or even juggle, but in reality, our minds are switching between tasks at a rapid pace, and the task that requires concentration at that moment, gets the mind’s attention. This is also why driving while talking on a cell phone is a bad idea. Even with hands-free headsets, our concentration can be pulled from the road to our conversation, but I digress.

I used Merlin’s “RN:WAYD?” page for a couple days and found it to be quite useful, so I took his advice and made my own implementation of it here on Indigo Spot. Nothing has changed on the page except for the removal of Merlin’s Google Analytics code, the migration of resources (image and css) to my server, and integration into the site’s theme.

You are welcome to use my page, or you can download a little package of the “Right Now” files that I zipped up and roll your own reminder page. If you add a neat new twist or evolve the solution, let me know. I’d be interested to see it.