Productivity, redux

A while back I blogged a grandiose scheme for reclaiming my fragmented attention stream. These plans included such things as separating work and personal mail completely, and checking each only during the appropriate time; minimizing meetings (both number and length); killing Twitter; minimizing IRC; organizing feeds; and so forth.

I have managed to do many of these things, discovered that others are too restrictive and unrealistic, and added a few other things to the list. Overall the experiment is going swimmingly — I feel much, much more focused, productive, relaxed, and happy with what I’m accomplishing.

Here’s a rundown of what didn’t work, what did, and the new things I’m trying.

Didn’t work

Work and personal email: Trying to separate work and personal mail and maintain some pretense of “regular business hours” when figuring out when to pay attention to which was a failure from the get go. I’ve been working from home for three years and I love my job — the lines between “work” and “life” are blurred beyond recognition. And I kinda like it that way.

Minimizing IRC: IRC is one of the primary discussion and communication channels in the Mozilla Project. If you really want a better sense of what’s going on around the project, you have to join more channels, not fewer. I’ve found an IRC client (Linkinus) that deals with large numbers of channels better than XChat, which is helping.

Did work

Minimizing meetings: I now have three standing meetings per week, accounting for roughly three hours of my time. I had three meetings in addition to that in the past week, but each was under 15 mins in length (with further followup via email). The rest of my time is my own, and I have two full days that are entirely meeting-free. Having huge blocks of uninterrupted time? Turns out it’s awesome.

Killing Twitter: I regressed on this one for a while and reinstalled Twitter for a few weeks, but have just killed it completely now. It really is nothing but noise.

Organizing feeds: This works like a charm. I do occasionally flip through my non-work feeds during the week, but for the most part I save them for evenings or weekends.

Unplugging: This is a bit of a misnomer now, since “unplugging” doesn’t actually mean “getting away from the machines”. It does, however, mean “getting completely away from work stuff” for at least a couple of hours per day. This is where I watch a few episodes of Buffy while playing EverQuest2, for example, or catch up with the week’s TV shows. It’s really no more complicated than giving myself permission to just ignore work for a few hours a day (and more on weekend), but it works. I recommend it highly.

New stuff I’m trying

Killing Facebook: I am no longer using Facebook at all. Not only did I shut off all notifications, I actually “disabled” my account. No more vampire invitations for me! Honestly, if people want to contact me they know how to find me without Facebook.

OmniFocus: The good folks at the OmniGroup have released the first public beta of OmniFocus — their personal productivity and organization app. It’s great. I’ll be pre-ordering it to take advantage of the price reduction.

Spaces: The new Spaces feature of OSX is fantastic. I only have two spaces set up right now — one for my regular mass of apps (IM, IRC, OmniFocus, feed reader, regular browsing, etc.) and one that’s completely empty except for whatever app I’m using to accomplish a task (usually TextMate or Firefox). Being able to just flip-flip-flip between workspaces and clear out all the distraction is just brilliant.

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2 thoughts on “Productivity, redux

  1. Since I started full time work very recently I’ve grappled with similar things but have had some different results than you. Particularly, I’ve been able to separate home and work e-mail pretty well. I’ve got two Thunderbird profiles; one for work, one for everything else. When I go home for the day (or stop working for the day), I switch to the other profile and don’t open the work one again until the next day. This may work for me because most of my mail is bugmail or mailing lists that don’t need immediate attention. I’ve found this really helps me get more done during the day since I’m not distracted with random people e-mailing me, or random RSS feeds (web comics are killer for me here).

    I tend to lurk on IRC in my off-work hours.

    I totally hear you on meeting minimization. Since I’ve taken a hiatus from QA my meeting schedule has gone done to 2 hours per week and I can concentrate on things for longer periods of time. As you said, it’s awesome!

  2. Since I started full time work very recently I've grappled with similar things but have had some different results than you. Particularly, I've been able to separate home and work e-mail pretty well. I've got two Thunderbird profiles; one for work, one for everything else. When I go home for the day (or stop working for the day), I switch to the other profile and don't open the work one again until the next day. This may work for me because most of my mail is bugmail or mailing lists that don't need immediate attention. I've found this really helps me get more done during the day since I'm not distracted with random people e-mailing me, or random RSS feeds (web comics are killer for me here).I tend to lurk on IRC in my off-work hours.I totally hear you on meeting minimization. Since I've taken a hiatus from QA my meeting schedule has gone done to 2 hours per week and I can concentrate on things for longer periods of time. As you said, it's awesome!

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