By Nathan L. Walls

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Articles tagged “productivity”

Pixel rigs


Photo by Digger/ATL on Flickr from the Pixel Rigs group

Michael Lopp has a, so far, two piece series on screen arrangements and productivity with Mac OS X Lion. One of the links back in the second piece talks about the Flickr group Pixel Rigs, which Lopp established back in Jan. 2008.

While the series itself is interesting, and I find myself nodding along, what is more interesting to me is how diverse pixel workers set-up their physical environments. Everything from very small, sparse layouts to, “Holy heck, he has how many screens?.” There are few observations I have about what I’m seeing:

  • Some folks like lots of screen real estate. A lot of it is cobbled out of various monitors (as above). Others get things as homogenous as possible.
  • There’s some variance in number of monitors, but what interests me is where people focus attention. Is the biggest monitor front and center? Do people split their screen arrangement right down the middle?
  • There’s a definite DIY feel to a lot of set-ups. Particularly for the vertically oriented monitors for folks who like to see lots of lines of code or CLI scrollback all at once.
  • I’m surprised at the ergonomics of a lot of set-ups. A lot of times chairs, mouse and keyboards, internal light and external light all seem off. Clearly, someone’s desk set-up is very personal, but I’m somewhat surprised someone else would find some of these arrangements comfortable.
  • The other surprise is the amount of cable clutter and other visual noise people are OK with

By looking at these and critiquing, what I’m really doing is exposing my own pickiness. For instance, having a keyboard propped up by a mouse pad on one side. Would. Bug. Me. Likewise, I see a lot of desks that don’t leave much, if any room for mousing or have no space for a notebook or book stand. I don’t know what people’s circumstances are, or what compromises they’re making for a given set-up. But there are a few that are set-ups I’d value myself. That’s what I’m looking for. An idea.

Deliberately spending time

Mind Mapping

I’ve been reading New Year’s related tweets and links with interest over the last few days. New Year’s and resulting resolutions make for a favorite time to rethink prioritization and life lived. I’m in that considering group. I changed jobs not quite halfway through 2009 and became a manager in October. Consequently, I’m very deliberately studying my new role, where I want to go and how I want to get there. I’m also looking at personal goals.

Three books I’ve read in the last 12 months are shaping my thinking. I recently finished Leo Babauta’s The Power of Less. I eagerly devoured Andy Hunt’s Pragmatic Thinking and Learning after his presentation at the inaugural Developer Day. After I landed the new gig, but before becoming a manager, I read Michael Lopp’s Managing Humans.

I found more value in the last two books than in The Power of Less, quite probably since most of the material is very similar to what I’ve read elsewhere. If you’re familiar with 37signals and underdoing your competition, David Allen’s Getting Things Done or even Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Babauta’s not breaking much new ground for you.

But, what I have been focusing on after reading Babauta’s book is refining my processes of time management. Despite the book not striking me as original thinking, I may be working with it best in terms of actually getting my butt in gear and establishing new habits. Enter Pragmatic Thinking and Learning and something Lopp/Rands calls the Trickle List.

After reading The Power of Less I found myself thinking of several things I want to spend time on, and get cranky about when I don’t. I decided to use one of the techniques Hunt talks about — a mental map. On it went things I already do out of habit, things I want to start doing. It’s ambitious, more for the amount of things I want to try to get to, but I’m not planning on doing everything every day, either. Nor are these things that are particularly large. It is a helpful tool for me to see what spills out as important. I’m going to turn this into my own trickle list (possibly two, split between work and home).

As the seed of this post germinated, I saw two items on Twitter. The first was a tweet from my friend Steve Burnett, leading to the One Week Digital Cleanse. In a nut, spend the first week of the year without social media or spending time on empty net calories. Perhaps that Twitter/Facebook addiction isn’t so hard to break, after all. That’s more than I care to do. Instead, I’ve distilled what I want into this: Be deliberate about how and where I spend my time. What time I do spend on Twitter or watching Hulu is predicated on completely enjoying it. When it’s interfering with the other things I want to do and enjoy, stop.

The second Twitter item was from Dan Benjamin on New Year’s Day:

The change you experienced last night at midnight is available to you every moment of every day. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

While the New Year is a convenient time to decide on changing life, there is zero reason why right now is not a better time instead.

Productivity of a Submariner slides and links

I presented “Productivity of a Submariner” at BarCampRDU on August 8, 2009. My thanks to everyone who attended and asked thoughtful questions about how this might or might not work for them.

I’m OK with not making it through the entire presentation. I learned a lot from the questions, and next time, I know to know my environment and time things better. Regardless, I’ve posted the slides of the full, intended presentation as a PDF document.

I had to gloss over resources at the end, so here they are in link form:

I’d like to extend a very special thank you to my wife, @5x5 for her assistance in listening to the early run-throughs and offering advice in tuning my presentation. For what it’s worth, she warned me about letting the presentation run off the rails with questions.

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