June 12, 2006

Slim kicks some corporate butt

If Escape for Cubicle Nation has not gotten on your radar scope, take a moment to check out Pamala Slim's excellent blog on all things wrong with the corporate cubicle culture and many things good about going into business for yourself.

Her Open letter to CEOs, COOs, CIOs and CFOs across the corporate world is just too right on the mark not to read right now.

June 06, 2006

Dealing with Microsoft Attention Pickpockets, part 1

Poking round my 80/20 charged RSS FeedDemon reader this morning, I read a solution to an attention pickpocket that has been with me so long, I’d stopped realizing I was being robbed each and every day. What’s more, this particular thief has been at it for a decade, stealing a bit of attention here, a little more there, from me and every Microsoft Windows user on the entire planet.

I’m talking about being forced – hell, encouraged – to have a messy, distracting desktop when we all know that a messy physical desk steals attention, diminishes productivity and generally makes it harder to get things done. But, because some nameless UI designer 20 years ago decided it was just fine to have a cluttered desktop we’ve all been stuck with this productivity drag.

I’ve watch people who run Fortune 1000 companies, stern-faced executives who would fire on the spot any employee who worked in a pigpen of a cubicle, hunt and poke through an entire screen of attention-draining clutter every time they wanted to do something – anything – on their pc.

I – like you – accepted this state of affairs as some sort of physical law - that there had to be icons on my pc’s desktop, each a tiny little attention leech, pulling me off purpose every minute of every workday. And I – like you –deleted the crap my laptop’s manufacturer put on the desktop, and dug around to get rid of the Internet Explorer icon. But as much as I wanted a clean desktop to go along with my clean desk, I could never get rid of that damned Recycle Bin, and so it was joined by this current file and that current file until my desktop was buried with icons.

Every so often I – like you – revolt and dump everything off the desktop into a folder. Ah! A breath of fresh air. But then the insidious process would start all over again, lead by that damn Recycle Bin icon. Over and over and over, from one pc to the next.

No more.

Thanks to that post at AJ’s blog (Desktop Zen – Reducing Visual Clutter on your Desktop), I was able to completely clear my desktop. No more Microsoft-sponsored attention pickpockets on my desktop, no more attention surcharge on every thing that matters to me, no more kowtowing to some idiot artiste UI designer idea of productivity.

My desktop is as clear as the view from a beautiful tropical isle; my productivity and focus have soared; Lord, I can see again, praise be!

Here’s How:

  1. Create two folders in My Documents - __Downloads and __Working and move your files off your desktop and into these folders. The underscores sort these folders to the top and underscore that these folders are working areas not storage. As you work, save to __Working and download to __Downloads and process these files to where they should go by day’s end.
  2. Move application shortcuts off your desktop – they don’t belong there. Think about that. How many doorknobs do you need to use a door effectively? One. How many shortcuts do you need to access an application? One – if it’s in the right place. You can put shortcuts on three different parts of your start menu, or on the Quick Launch toolbar. See AJ’s post for details if you need them.
  3. Now the secret sauce:
    create a Desktop toolbar. Briefly, right click the taskbar and select Toolbars>>Desktop. Shrink the Desktop toolbar down and click the chevron “>>” to see the Recycle Bin, My Documents, and several other useful system icons. Want more visibility for your Desktop toolbar until you get used to it? Drag it to the top of your desktop.
  4. Right Click your desktop, go to “Arrange Icons By” and de-select “Show Desktop Items”. That’s it: your desktop is clear.

Life is beautiful again.

Cleanclean

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June 05, 2006

Multitasking causes Overwork, not long hours.

Doc Hallowell over at CrazyBusy has a short summary of a study on a thousand Americans about the whys and wherefores of being overworked done by the Families and Work Institute, and being in a state of perpetual overwork, I practically broke my fingers this morning going there in the hopes of some relief.

The study done in 2004 confirms the obvious: about 1/3 of us are chronically overworked, and being overworked leads to mistakes, pisses us off and screws up our health. No surprises there, but it never hurts to see the numbers.

What was more interesting to me was the difference the study found between being in Overwork Hell and working long hours. They are not the same thing.

Because many people focus mainly on time worked as the major predictor of being overworked, they overlook other aspects of the way we work that our analyses show are, in fact, more significant predictors of being overworked than hours worked.

Particularly important is what we call lack of “focus”—or more precisely, the inability to focus on one’s work because of constant interruptions and distractions as well as excessive multi-tasking required to keep up with all that has to be done on the job.

The real culprit behind that hellish feeling of being ground into bloody pulp by all the work demanding our attention isn’t the hours we spend – it’s the way we multitask till our brains are ready to explode trying to cope with it all.

Put another way, we’re trying to keep afloat bailing the lifeboat with a leaky Styrofoam cup called Multitasking.24110927_14bb50d833_m

So maybe the key out of Overwork hell is asking the question: if we can’t multitask our way out of here, what way of working will work? Something to ponder.

 

May 24, 2006

Blogging from Word 12, beta2

If you are reading this post every blog posting application including my favorite, BlogJet, is in trouble. That’s because I’m writing it in Microsoft Word 12, beta2 and just clicking the nice Publish button.

Word12blogging

Good:

  • No more crappy TypePad editor!
  • Simplification of my life.
  • Supports posting to different blogs.

Bad:

  • Too new for much info on how to post to a WordPress blog,
  • Categories are unsupported if posting to TypePad.
  • Posting embedded images directly to TypePad does not work.
  • All the good social bookmarking, technorati tags will need to be added (Or will it? – Investigate this!)

Office 12 Beta2 is freely downloadable from Microsoft. It's far from perfect – it's a beta! But the long and short of it is being able to blog from Word is simply awesome.

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April 11, 2006

Podcast and transcript re micro-ISV book

No, the RSS feed hasn't gone south here; I've been underblogging lately as I deal with a number of other projects. Expect to see a lot more material here, real soon now.

That said, if you're still wondering if you should get Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality, you'll find a podcast and a written transcript of my interview about the book by Josh McAdams of http://perlcast.com fame at his web site today. And if you email Josh, you might win one of the 5 free copies he and Apress are giving away today.

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April 06, 2006

GTD: 2006.48: rediscovering focus

Given the sheer number of things you are probably trying to achieve right now, and the torrents of information/media/data coming your way each and every day, it's ultra easy to misplace the ability to focus.

You remember focus, right? You would sit at your desk and concentrate on exactly one thing for a set period of time or until it was completed. Kind of like taking a test in school - you take the test, and then you were done. Done feels good.

I miss focus.

In fact, I miss focus so much that I've decided to start a routine to start getting back into the habit - the productivity habit mind you - of taking a block of time and focusing on exactly one thing for that period.

Here's my Getting Back Focus Routine (GBFR):

  1. Carefully pick the 1, 2 or 3 things today I am going to focus on. Not 27; not even 5. 3 things that if done with the best I can muster I can feel like was time well spent.
  2. Decide how long to focus. Most productivity experts advise 90 minutes - give or take 30. Since I know I'm out of the focus habit, I'm going for 60 minutes.
  3. Then, after I've dealt with email, voicemail, forum mail and yesterday's mail, after I've gotten all settled into my workspace, I turn off everything: email, phone, music, nagging issues, other projects, everything.
  4. I then spend a minute thinking about what I want as the Desired Outcome. I get a good clear fix on it.
  5. Then I start a kitchen timer, set for 60 minutes. Until that timer goes off or I reach the Desired Outcome, no interruptions whatsoever. No "just a quick check of email", no "what's new on Digg", no nothing. One subject, one hour, one worry, one Desired Outcome.

I'm finding that I'm getting caught up with all the projects I've got open - and less stressed about it. You might want to give it try too!
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March 31, 2006

A disturbing report.

A Reuters story picked up by Wired last month documents something very disturbing: as our lives have grown more connected, more technologically advanced, we are getting less done.

According to the study quoted, in 1994 we got about 3/4s of our work done in a workday. Last year, that was down to 2/3s and heading south rapidly. Meanwhile, we are spending more and more hours at work in front of our computers. Ten plus years ago, 82 percent of the people polled felt that they at least got half their daily planned work done; that’s now down to 51 percent.

What’s going on here?

I’d submit there’s actually a couple of different things going on:

  • First, the more connected you are, the more interrupted and interrupt-driven you become. It gets harder and harder to focus and concentrate on getting one thing done at a time.
  • Second, the balance point between consuming information and producing it has shifted so far over to the consuming side we have hardly any “processing cycles” left to work with. Consuming information is not the same as thinking, and the distinction is getting lost in the tsunami of info we are trying to cope with.
  • Third, we keep trying to put out the fire with gasoline. We add more and more connections, information, technology – from Skype to RSS feeds to iPods, in an attempt to somehow catch up.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m a programmer and writer by trade, a totally connected, technology driven kind of guy. Nobody is gone to take away my iPod! But there has to be an alternative to living like a rat in a high tech cage other than living in a cave.

I think part of that answer needs to be new kinds of software/web site/hardware that confronts this problem head on. But I also think we need more and better mental tools for dealing with an info-environment that is changing faster than we can adapt to.

The question is, besides Getting Things Done, where are those mental tools? No answers here and now, but I hope to broaden this blog a bit in the coming weeks and months to delve into this. And I welcome any and all suggestions you have!

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March 23, 2006

Oh Joy! International telemarketing calls!

Just got my third telemarketer call today - all three have been from India. Earnest young voices talking from the bottom of a well, imploring me to meet with their company's CEO who just so happens to be on his way to California right now!

Oh Joy - VOIP telemarketers. Just what I need after beating down the homegrown time wasters, we have a huge new pack of time biters to fend off.

By the way, I'm in no way discriminating against Indians or India or Indian IT companies: I hate any company stupid enough to think I would ever do business with them after they waste my time, regardless of where they are based.

Now I'm wondering, today it was 3 calls. What if tomorrow it's 5? or 25? or 125?

Groan.

March 21, 2006

Major positive reviews for the Book!

In case you're interested, there's been three recent major reviews of Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality I'd like to point out:

Slashdot gave it 8 out of 10 last Friday, with the reviewer, Alex Moskalyuk saying in part, "...for the use case when you think you can write a usable and popular Windows application and also sell it online to hundreds, thousands and (hopefully) millions of users, this book will be indispensable." Read the Slashdot Review here.

Gordon Graham, Editor of SoftwareCEO said in part today, "...I'll say it again: If you're a developer dreaming of starting your own software  firm, you need this book." Read the SoftwareCEO Review here.

And recently, Mike Gunderloy, well-known IT author and the driving force behind Larkware said in part, "...why on earth would you spend the  hundreds of hours to do all that research yourself, when you could just spend  the thirty bucks to take advantage of Bob's hard-earned experience?" Read the Larkware Review here.

All I can say to one and all is thank you!

March 14, 2006

Getting out from under

While blogging is great, there's no substitute for a reporter going out and actually digging up a story and writing it well. That's what Ellen McGirt of FORTUNE magazine has done in a piece called, "Getting Out from under".

There's lots of good stuff in this article for GTD-minded people, but there's one paragraph that superbly sums up the whole quandary:

So how are modern knowledge workers to weave their way through the minefield of interruptions and conflicting priorities? The simple answer is this: By figuring out what is actually worth paying attention to, and when. Which turns out to be really hard to do.

Take a few minutes out and read this one folks.


ToDoOrElse?


  • Who?
    Bob Walsh, (Author, managing partner of Safari Software, Inc. a micro-ISV)
    What?
    Exploring the intersection between Getting Things Done and building a micro-ISV.
    Where?
    Live from Sonoma, California USA.
    When?
    Once or so a workday.
    Why?
    Because there's a way to get everything done, I just know there is!
    Micro-ISV?
    Micro Internet Software Vendor, a self-funded startup company: See mymicroisv.com for information and resources.
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