I’ve gazed enviously at many a productivity scheme. Getting Things Done™, do one thing at a time, use a swimming desk, only use hand-hewn pencils on organic hemp paper, and so on.
I assume most of these techniques and schemes are like diets or exercise routines. There are no silver bullets, but there may be an occasional nugget of truth among the gimmicks and marketing.
Inspired by a post about daily work journals, I have found one tiny little trick that has actually worked for me. It hasn’t transformed my life or quadrupled my productivity. It has made me a touch more aware of how I spend my time.
Every weekday at 4:45pm, get a gentle reminder from Slack, the chat system we use at work. It looks like this:
The #retrospectives text is a link to a channel in Slack that is available to others to read, but where they won’t be bothered by my updates (unless they opt-in). I click the link and write a quick bullet-list summary of what I have done that day, starting with “Today, I:”. It usually looks something like this:
My first such post was on August 16, 2016. To my surprise, I have stuck with it. As of mid-February, about seven months later, I have posted 134 entries – one for every day I have worked.
What’s the point of writing about what you’ve already done each day? It serves several purposes for me. Most importantly, the ritual reminds me to pause and reflect (very briefly) on what I accomplished that day. This simple act makes me a bit more mindful of how I spend my time and energy. The log also proves useful for any kind of retroactive reporting (When did I start working on project X? How many days in October did I spend on client Y?).
It may also be helpful in 10,000 years, when aliens are trying to reconstruct what daily life was like for 2000-era web designer.
Over at silverorange, we’ve been working on a new product called Neon.The goal is to see if we can create compelling reviews with limited input (often from a phone). Our current take on this boils a review down to a few basic elements of a review:
- Title (what are you reviewing)
- Pros & Cons
- A rating from 0 to 10
- An emoji to represent how you feel about it
You can also optionally add a longer description, a link to where you can buy it, and the price you paid.
For example, here’s a cutting and insightful review I wrote about a mouse pad.
Neon is in a closed alpha right now, which means that anyone can read the reviews, but to create reviews, you need to be invited to try it out. If you’re interested in trying out the alpha, or being notified when it is opened up to a larger audience, you an leave your email at neon.io.
I wanted to clarify for myself why it is that I don’t use Facebook or (for the most part) Twitter. Brace yourself for self-justification and equivocation.
First caveat: I actually do have a Twitter account (@sgarrity), but I don’t post anything (sort of, more on this later). I use it to follow people.
I don’t dislike Twitter or Facebook. They are both amazing systems. They both took blogging and messaging and made them way easier on a massive scale. As a professional web designer and developer, I respect the craft with which both Facebook and Twitter have built their platforms. I regularly rely on open-source projects that both companies produce and finance (thanks!).
Messaging and communication are too important to be controlled by a private corporation. For all of their faults, our phone or text messaging services allow portability. If I have a problem with my phone company, I can take my phone number with me to another company. I can talk to someone regardless of what phone company they have chosen. The same is true of the web and of email (as long as you use your own domain name).
I’m not an extremist. I don’t think you’re doing something wrong if you use these services. I would like to see people use more open alternatives, but I understand that for many, the ease and convenience of platforms like Facebook and Twitter are worth the trade-offs.
All of this is to say that you can now follow @aov_blog on Twitter for updates on my Acts of Volition blog posts.
While I’m contradicting myself, I also have a third Twitter account, @steven_reviews, which I created to share reviews for a new site I’m helping to develop and test at work (more on that soon). While I may opt out of these services personally, if there’s a compelling reason for me to use them at work, or my reluctance proves a significant hindrance for those around me, the scales of the trade-offs may tip in a different direction.
Oh, and I also help manage the @silverorangeinc Twitter account as part of my job.
Now, get off my #lawn.
I find Jeff Atwood’s pragmatic reaction to the Trump presidency to be hopeful in his specific plans and actions. Well said.
As a general rule: Do not show up late to a meeting with a coffee.
I did this today, but you never should. The message is clear.
Microwave Time Remainder Temporal Disorientation – definition: The disorientation experienced when the remaining cook time on a microwave display appears to be a feasible but inaccurate time of day.
1:15 PM: Suzie puts her leftover pork chops in the office microwave, enters 5:00, and hits Start. After 1 minutes and 17 seconds, she hears sizzling, opens the microwave door and takes her meal.
1:25 PM: John walks by the microwave, sees 3:43 on the display and thinks: “What!? My life is slipping away from me!”
Cory Doctorow speaking on episode 221 of the excellent Changelog podcast:
“[t]here are things that are way more important than [whether in the internet should or shouldn’t be free]. There’s fundamental issues of economic justice, there’s climate change, there’s questions of race and gender and gender orientation, that are a lot more urgent than the future of the internet, but […] every one of those fights is going to be won or lost on the internet.”
Joel Spolsky, of Stack Overflow, Trello, and Fog Creek, did an internal presentation where he just walked through how he uses Microsoft Excel for about an hour.
It’s riveting for two reasons.
First, I learned a bunch of techniques that I didn’t know existed (transpose! named values! oh my!). Unfortunately, many of those don’t apply to Google Spreadsheets, which is worth using due to the simple and powerful collaboration tools. A few of the techniques are universal to spreadsheets, though.
Second, he’s good at it. There is something compelling about watching someone with deep skill and knowledge do their work, regardless of what it is. In the same way, I can enjoy watching a skilled musical perform regardless of my interest and taste in their musical genre.
This style of presentation, featuring a simple tour of the just-beyond-basic features, is a great way to share with co-workers. I’ve learned a ton from watching Stephen use Photoshop, and I got hooked on split-panes in iTerm after watching Malena screen-share in an unrelated presentation.
With the help of a few of my co-workers, I’ve written about a new design sprint process we’ve been using at silverorange, and how it applies in healthcare organizations. It started as a post on our silverorange blog, but was pulled into GV‘s Sprint Stories publication (thanks to John Zeratsky).
If you love design processes and healthcare (and who doesn’t), read the article: Running a design sprint in a healthcare organization
“We as human beings find a way to waste most surpluses that technology hands to us.”
—Stewart Butterfield of Slack speaking on The Ezra Klein Show podcast.
He also makes a good analogy between our difficulty managing the new ability to communicate with anyone/anytime and the difficulty of dealing with the abundance of easy/cheap calories available to many of us.