Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Driven to Distraction

Friday, July 22nd, 2005

There have been a number of articles about email and other technology interruptions/distractions lately. CNet adds their own to the mix. Of course, stepping back can be difficult:

It’s all part of a culture shift that has accompanied all of the new modes of communications. These days, corporate culture frowns on those who turn off their instant messaging software or don’t respond quickly to the latest e-mail.

“People start to look at you with contempt or disgust if you shift away from the technology,” Honore said.

I think this will start to switch as people become truly fed up with being expected to be constantly available. I like being able to keep up with what’s going on all the time, but I would hate to be expected to be instantly responsive 24/7.

Don’t talk on your cellphone while driving. At all.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Today’s no-brainer: do not talk on your cellphone while driving. I don’t know why anyone would still do this, but CNN indicates that you’re four times more likely to have a serious accident while yakking away on your phone. Of course, the idiot industry spokespeople say everything is fine:

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, a Washington-based trade group, downplayed the findings, saying the distractions associated with mobile phones are no different from those encountered by drivers who eat or talk with passengers as they drive.

Well, first, you shouldn’t be eating while driving either. But talking on your cellphone is very clearly different than talking to someone in the passenger seat. The passenger sees the same road conditions that you do, and the flow of the conversation is better – they see when you’re unable to talk, and shut up so that you can navigate a tricky situation. After all, they’ll die too if you flip the car. The pressure of a normal phone conversation with someone who can’t see the road, on the other hand, means that it takes much more effort to keep the conversation going – the person on the other end is less forgiving of pauses and lack of attention. Plus, with cellphone voice quality usually being poor, you have to concentrate much harder just to hear what the other person is saying. That’s why hands-free headsets don’t really help either – physically holding the phone up to your ear is less of an issue than being distracted by keeping the conversation going.

I love my cellphone. But I like not being messed up in an accident even more. Here’s something to not just minimize – don’t do it at all.

Simplifying the organization stuff that was supposed to make things simpler

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

A Million Monkeys Typing has The Beginner’s Mind, a Zen riff on too much organization getting in the way of living an actual life:

Why did I need to have several versions of a contact list, in three different forms? One is enough. Did I really need two ways of tracking projects, and did I really need a web interface for them? Why did I need four different calendar-based ways of keeping time? Did I need to make all my project files text-searchable? Was it necessary to have my IM lists tied into my contact lists?

Phew. I’m feeling tired just thinking about it. Let this be a warning to all of you. Via 43 Folders.

Handhelds/PDAs replacing laptops? I think not.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Brighthand recently ran an editorial titled Handhelds vs. Laptops — How to Lighten Your Load in One Easy Lesson. Well, that’s an appealing premise – I’d love to lighten my load, but I still take my Thinkpad with me when I need something more than my cellphone. It isn’t because handhelds and PDAs aren’t amazingly capable. It is because I don’t want to spend the time and effort learning the foibles of another operating system, figure out how to get my data back and forth, and have another thingee to charge, maintain, etc. Blech. Laptops are getting very small and light. I think they are going to win for any real work situation.

And yes, I’ve tried the fold-up keyboards, pocket versions of Word and Excel, and the whole 9 yards, so no comments about how I just need to try it out.

In defence of idleness

Monday, June 27th, 2005

AlterNet is running a Mother Jones interview with Tom Hodgkinson about his theory that idleness is a good thing. I was skeptical of some of his points, such as:

I had lunch with these French people who said, “Travailler moins, produire plus.” In other words, the less you work, the more you produce.

The problem is that France is not generally regarded as a highly productive country, with their massive social spending. But when I looked for data to back that up, I was surprised to find some well-regarded sources indicating that French productivity is actually pretty darn good. It is even better by some other measures. It is important to note that Mr. Hodgkinson is not advocating laziness, but rather less fixation on “time is money” as a reason to maximize work hours. Moving away from maximizing the time spent on work for money can free up time for other work and creativity:

For most of us, the opportunity to become creative is being squeezed at both ends. We think, “Well, I’ve been doing all that work, and now I’m going to reward myself by doing a lot of spending.” What would happen in the days before time was money and money and machines weren’t quite so dominant would be you’d have all this other time when you’d do what turned into hobbies. Little things like making clothes, baking bread, cooking, even useless things like bird-watching, sketching flowers, playing guitar in the home — that sort of time is gone. And the time we have? We’re so exhausted, we want to let ourselves get sucked in to the escape world of TV. I’m speaking from experience; I’m not above all this.

I’d say idleness is a red herring for this article – I think the point is more about limiting unfulfilling work for cash, and the problems that causes with consumption.

Blurring work and home

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

Brighthand mentions a study about mobile technology vs. longer working hours. Yes, it is probably true that being more connected means being available for more work. But the real question for the worker is whether it increases satisfaction or reduces stress. Wouldn’t it make more sense to measure these variables? Well, not if you’re the boss, I guess.

“In the future office, there will be added pressure to adapt quickly to change, work smarter, increase productivity and perform duties outside of one’s job description,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “The good news is that emerging technological tools and educational opportunities will better enable professionals to meet these challenges.”

Hm. Well, that’s good for employers, but why not focus on the good for workers? I know that I feel more relaxed if I know there’s nothing going on I need to know about, so that’s a plus. But I don’t want the obligation of being constantly available, and that’s what will probably happen.

Morning roundup: saying “no,” gold staples, faster fast food

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

There’s no better way to minimize the amount of stuff on your plate than saying “no” to the stuff that doesn’t make sense. LifeHacker points us to To-Done’s tips for saying no. Cool Hunting shows us gold-plated staples as a fashion statement. I suppose it looks very minimalist from a design perspective when used as an accent on a shirt collar, but the concept of golden staples leaves a funny buzz of ostentation in my head. I’m holding out for the gold-plated binder clip myself. Can’t get your greasy burgers fast enough? Contactless payments with your credit card will save you a few seconds. They are trying to replace cash – one less thing to carry, but I hope it is secure.

To-Done: Geek to Live

Friday, June 10th, 2005

Essay a few days ago from To-Done called Geek to Live. Unfortunately, I know exactly what Keith means when he is talking about new stuff like Backpack, the current darling of obsessive task and organization geeks (which is actually pretty cool, although I don’t use it myself):

It’s quite often that when a new tool or technology comes around I begin to feel this strange pressure, from where it comes I’ve got no clue, to jump on that technology, figure it out, use it and make my life “better.” I hate that feeling.

Yeah. I used to work on designing PIM applications (calendar, contacts, tasks, etc) for Pocket PC devices, so I’m already warped. But the bottom line is that if it isn’t clearly helping, it is surely hurting since you have to learn it, maintain it, deal with its bugs, blah blah blah. Don’t be fooled – if you can’t see the clear need, just ignore it until you do. File it away in the back of your head, and you’ll remember it when it really does become critical.