Category Archives: productivity

Personal productivity reading list

Dean Michael C. Berris commented on my blog:

Great online PIM links! I’ve fallen in love with Ta-da and backpackit! :D

There’s plenty more where that came from. Let me tell you how I get my
productivity news so that you can catch the same wave.

– I learn about cool new sites through, a social bookmarking service.
Check out my inbox to see my
subscriptions. I don’t visit all the new sites every day. I usually
page through a few screens, opening interesting or popular sites in
background tabs until I feel I’ve caught up well enough. I don’t
worry about missing good stuff because I’ll catch them when other
people bookmark the sites again.

– I read many productivity blogs in my feed aggregator. I like

Bloglines because it allows me to
categorize my subscriptions. I can read all the productivity-related
entries in one go. You can check out my subscriptions.

– I get comments on my blog. Thanks for all the tips!

If you’re just starting out in personal productivity, particularly
geek productivity, here’s what you should read:

– Danny O’Brien. One of the guys who started the whole thing. Check

out Cory Doctorow’s notes on his talks about lifehacks. looked at alpha geek habits. . , a linkblog fueled by an active community. summarizes and links to good posts from many
blogs, but you might also want to add some blogs to your aggregator to
make them easier to visit. Here’s what I’d recommend: – Merlin Mann’s posts ripple through the productivity blogosphere – Clear writing – Longer, more reflective articles

Have fun, and happy lifehacking!

Hacking my productivity

Still plugging away. Wow, I’ve been working on this for quite a while,
and I don’t feel too fatigued yet. Here’s what I tried:

  • Munch on things regularly to keep a good sugar level. I brought
    plenty of apples and bananas, and I’ve been raiding the bread and
  • Drink plenty of water. This also forces me to get a bit of
    exercise. I find I get very thirsty when I think… <laugh>
  • Set my computer to force a 5- to 10-minute break every hour.
    Microbreaks (15 seconds every ten minutes) are also useful. I don’t
    find myself losing track of ideas, and I can stay on track better
    when I know regular breaks are coming up.

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Random Japanese sentence: 雨が土砂降りに振りはじめた。 It began to rain cats and dogs.

Turning downtime into uptime

One of the reasons why I wanted a Blackberry or some other portable device was to make better use of those interstitial moments walking from Graduate House to the subway station or taking the train. I had thought of using the time to practice connecting with people, but it’s hard to do that when people don’t smile or make eye contact. I’ve also tried reading. I snag a newspaper on my way out and keep a folder of executive summaries from Books24x7 in my backpack. Listening to music? Sure, although I usually find myself looping over one song or album.

After hearing Dan Zen describe his experience with recording a video
blog while driving his car (kids, don’t try that at home!), I thought:
hey, why not record on the go? The quality’s going to be terrible –
lots of ums and ahs and random traffic noises – but just as blogging
helps me refine my thoughts, talking about things will help me refine
my stories.

It turns out that the digital voice recorder I bought
almost a year ago is surprisingly useful. The low
sensitivity setting on the microphone works perfectly for noisy
settings, and I can pick out my own voice easily. For presentations
and the like, I set it on high sensitivity so that I can record the
presentation clearly even on the iPod screen.

Good stuff!

Random Japanese sentence: フランス語のCHATは英語のCATを意味する。 The French word `chat’ means `cat’

Thinking about responsibilities: glass, metal, or rubber?

Tim Sanders has an insightful post on thinking of tasks as either glass, metal, or rubber. From his blog post:

  • If I drop an action item made of glass, something gets broken. It has a guaranteed negative outcome not to do it.
  • If I drop and action item made of metal, nothing gets broken — but there will be plenty of noise and maybe even a dent claimed.
  • If I drop an action item made of rubber, it will will probably bounce either back to the tasker or to the right person. This is probabaly an action item that is either silly or not my role.

Mondays are the best days to deal with “glass” things, he says, and people should minimize the number of glass things they’re juggling at a time.

Come to think of it, my life is like that. It’s not just a matter of
keeping all of the balls in the air, satisfying all the
responsibilities – there’s never going to be enough time for that! I
have to think about which responsibilities I don’t really need to take
on, things that can bounce to someone else…

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Developing a better sense of time

One of the things I want to do is develop a good sense of how long it
takes me to do something. Better time estimates lead to better
scheduling, better sense of what I can commit to, and ultimately less
stress and more happiness. =)

Fortunately, Planner makes it easy for me to do really detailed
time-tracking. When I mark a task as in progress, the clock starts
ticking. When I postpone or close a task, the system clocks out

I find that my attention occasionally strays. Sometime ago, I wrote a
function to help me keep track of what I’m supposed to be doing.
Today, I’ve decided to try estimating task completion times for more
of the tasks on my list. I modified my old function to tell me how
much time has elapsed since I started the task. This doesn’t take into
account previous clock-in/clock-outs, but it will do for now.

We’ll see how well it works. =)

;; I've bound sacha/planner-what-am-i-supposed-to-be-doing to F9 F11. I
;; start out by clocking into the task (use planner-timeclock.el and
;; C-c TAB to mark a task as in progress). Then, when I find myself
;; getting distracted, I hit F9 F9 to see my current task in the
;; minibuffer. C-u F9 F9 jumps back to the task so that I can either
;; mark it as postponed. M-x planner-task-pending (bound to C-c C-p in
;; my local config) and M-x planner-task-done (C-c C-x) both clock out
;; of the task. If I want to jump back to the previous window
;; configuration from that planner page, I can just hit F9 F9 again.

(defvar sacha/window-register "w"
  "Register for jumping back and forth between planner and wherever I am.")
(defvar sacha/planner-current-task nil
  "Current task info.")
(defadvice planner-task-in-progress (after sacha activate)
  "Keep track of the task info."
  (setq sacha/planner-current-task (planner-current-task-info)))

(defun sacha/planner-what-am-i-supposed-to-be-doing (&optional prefix)
  "Make it easy to keep track of what I'm supposed to be working on.
If PREFIX is non-nil, jump to the current task, else display it
in a message. If called from the plan page, jump back to whatever
I was looking at."
  (interactive "P")
  (if planner-timeclock-current-task
      (if (string= (planner-task-page sacha/planner-current-task)
          (jump-to-register sacha/window-register)
        (if (null prefix)
            (message "%s %s"
                     ;; Minutes so far
                     (timeclock-seconds-to-string (timeclock-last-period))
          (frame-configuration-to-register sacha/window-register)
          (planner-find-file (planner-task-page sacha/planner-current-task))
          (planner-find-task sacha/planner-current-task)))
    (if prefix
      (message "No current task. HEY!"))))

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Random Emacs symbol: cal-tex-mouse-filofax-week – Command: Two page Filofax calendar for week indicated by cursor. (Hey, I didn’t know we could print Filofax calendars from Emacs cal…)