Archive of posts with tag 'productivity'

Against Recurring Meetings

October 5, 2022 • #

I have a bone to pick with recurring meetings. They’ve become a scourge that’s been amplified with fully distributed teams. What may start with clear intent as a space for a team to coordinate continuous work eventually devolves into a purely ceremonial affair. And they’ve gotten 10x worse since the pandemic turned every meeting into a remote one. This effect was visible long before COVID, but I think remoteness has magnified the negatives without adding any positives.

Recurring meetings

Since no one has to book a conference room, the bar to generating tons of ceremony...

Tools and Craft with Andy Matuschak

May 13, 2022 • #

The latest episode of Notion’s Tools & Craft podcast features the excellent Andy Matuschak, talking about his research, productivity practices, and more.

Also check out Andy’s work on smoothly-ratcheting goal tracking and mastery learning.

Don't Confuse Motion With Progress

January 13, 2022 • #

When I read Cal Newport’s Deep Work a few years ago, one of my favorite ideas in the book that I keep coming back to in conversations is the idea of “busyness as a proxy for productivity”. Here’s how he puts it:

In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner

We’ve all worked with violators of this. People that always have fully-booked calendars, can never...

Hammock-Driven Creativity

March 2, 2021 • #

Here’s Rich Hickey (creator of Clojure) on the benefits of stepping away from the computer, in his talk on “hammock-driven development”:

He differentiates what the “waking” mind and “background” mind are good at, which I’d interchangeably refer to as the “at the desk” mind and the “away from the computer” mind:

  • Waking mind:
    • Good at critical thinking; analysis, tactics
    • Prone to finding local maxima
    • Can feed work to the background mind
  • Background mind:
    • Good at making...

How I Plan My Week with Roam

November 4, 2020 • #

For years Todoist was my tool of choice for task management. When Roam came on the scene for me earlier this year, I’d seen pretty compelling methods from the #roamcult for how to manage todos inside of Roam with its TODO feature. It was an intriguing idea: such a fast and simple way to capture things without leaving the current frame.

But it took me a while to go all-in on Roam for tasks. Todoist was so embedded in my muscle memory, especially with its accessible web and cross-platform...

Two Years of Everyday Writing

October 19, 2020 • #

Earlier this month I passed the 2-year mark of writing on this site every day. If on that first day, deciding to embark on this streak, you’d told me that in October 2020 I’d still be going, 2018 me would’ve laughed it off. Doing it even for a few months sounded impossible.

What helped make it reality was converting writing into a continuous background activity, an ever-present filter for thoughts, ideas, and readings to pass through. Every time I read an article or have an idea, I filter it through the writing lens — Would this make a good article? Do...

Readwise, Books, and Spaced Repetition

August 7, 2020 • #

In his piece “Why Books Don’t Work,” Andy Matuschak made a strong case that books are a poor medium for knowledge transfer. Even with the most advanced book experiences today (like digital ebook downloads to a Kindle), if you took away the digital e-ink screen, a reader from the 16th century would still recognize books as no different than what they had. We’ve added digital on-demand access, dictionary lookups, and the ability to have a library in your pocket1, but the fundamental model for conveying...

Measuring Productivity

July 30, 2020 • #

Florent Crivello had a short thread on Twitter contrasting the effectiveness on systems between Goldratt’s The Goal and Bill Walsh’s The Score Takes Care of Itself. One of the replies linked to this piece from Scott Young I found interesting for a couple of points on measuring productivity of systems.

The idea in books like The Goal and its modern IT counterpart The Phoenix Project...

Image credits: Scott Young

Weekend Reading: Dracones, Calendars, and Science 2.0

June 6, 2020 • #

🐉 Hic Sunt Dracones

Adam Elkus with a great essay on the current moment:

“Is this as bad as 1968?” is an utterly meaningless question precisely for this underlying reason. People do not invoke 1968 because of the objective similarities between 2020 and 1968. They do so because we have crossed a threshold at which basic foundations of social organization we take for granted now seem up for grabs. This is an inherently subjective determination, based on the circumstances of our present much as people in 1968 similarly judged...

Weekend Reading: The State and the Virus, Future of Work, and Stephen Wolfram's Setup

April 18, 2020 • #

🏛 The Individual, the State, and the Virus

I agree with most of Kling’s takes here on the role the state should play in the coronavirus crisis.

👩🏽‍💻 Mapping the Future of Work

A nice comprehensive list of SaaS products for the workplace, across a ton of different categories. Great work by Pietro Invernizzi putting this database together.

⌨️ Stephen Wolfram’s Personal Infrastructure

Mathematician and computer scientist Stephen Wolfram wrote this epic essay on his personal productivity...

Weekend Reading: Enemies of Writing, Wealth, and the Superhuman Inbox

January 25, 2020 • #

✍🏼 The Enemies of Writing

A great piece from the Atlantic’s George Packer, a transcript of his acceptance speech for the Hitchens Prize.

At a moment when democracy is under siege around the world, these scenes from our literary life sound pretty trivial. But if writers are afraid of the sound of their own voice, then honest, clear, original work is not going to flourish, and without it, the politicians and tech moguls and TV demagogues have less to worry about. It doesn’t matter if you hold impeccable views, or which side of...

Weekend Reading: Signaling, Busyness, and Magic Ink

September 28, 2019 • #

👏🏼 Applause Lights

This is from 2007, but is still a very astute observation in how politicians and activists use rhetoric to signal rather than recommend a real, actionable way forward on issues:

The substance of a democracy is the specific mechanism that resolves policy conflicts. If all groups had the same preferred policies, there would be no need for democracy—we would automatically cooperate. The resolution process can be a direct majority vote, or an elected legislature, or even a voter-sensitive behavior of an artificial intelligence, but it has to be something. What does it...

Managerial Leverage

August 5, 2019 • #

Andy Grove is widely respected as an authority figure on business management. Best known for his work at Intel during the 1980s, his book High Output Management is regularly cited as one of the best in the genre of business books. After having it on my list for years and finally reading it earlier this year, I’d wholeheartedly agree. It’s the best book out there about business planning, management, and efficiency, still just as pertinent today as it was when it was first published in 1983.

Its relevance more than 30 years later attests to the...

Habits vs. Goals

July 8, 2019 • #

As I’ve written before on this topic, separating goal-setting from habit-forming is important to do if you want to have success at either. Often people set goals without defining the daily behaviors that will enable them to achieve said goals.

I felt the goals I set this year were firmly in the SMART category, but it’s required diligence not to fall off the wagon of the daily habits. I set some big numbers down (importantly, only in a few areas), so I needed to break down those into daily and weekly patterns to pace...


June 5, 2019 • #

I’ve written here before about my enjoyment of working on the iPad Pro. Even with the excitement around Apple’s launch of the new Mac Pro this week, my favorite announcement was their “specialization” of iOS in the new iPadOS.

Running down the best features:

  • Denser screen real estate — Anyone that uses an iPad for work lots of different apps is familiar with this gripe. The giant screen with a sparse scattering of tiny icons looks sort of ridiculous. That plus the addition of the anchorable Today Widget view on the left will both...

Weekend Reading: Mental Models, Git History, and Notion

March 16, 2019 • #

🧠 A Latticework of Mental Models

This is an excellent archive on Farnam Street with background on 109 different mental models — first principles, Occam’s Razor, probabalistic thinking, and many more. So much great reading material here to study different modes of thinking. Like writer Shane Parrish puts it, this latticework helps you “think better”:

The quality of our thinking is proportional to the models in our head and their usefulness in the situation at hand. The more models you have—the bigger your toolbox—the more likely you are to have the right models to see...

The Personal Security Footprint Review

December 12, 2018 • #

Once a year around this time I like to do some “winter cleaning” of my personal security footprint, mostly covering passwords and internet service accounts I have that may be out-of-date, unmaintained, or unneeded.

1Password is a dream for things like this. If you don’t maintain an account, it’s well worth setting one up for the family with their 1Password for Families product tier. Worth every penny1.

Good hygiene with passwords has been a perennial problem in internet-land, and the security risk only goes up with seemingly-daily announcements of the next...

A Couple Years with Todoist

December 7, 2018 • #

For all of the todo list apps out there, I’ve only seriously tried a couple of them. After using OmniFocus since its first version, I switched over to Todoist a couple years ago. There are many I haven’t even tried, but I’ve always tried to stay focused on doing the tasks rather than fiddling with my system. It’s especially ironic with productivity apps to be constantly messing with the workflow in search of some kind of optimization. As Tom eloquently put it a few years ago: “todo lists don’t make...

Link Queueing with Shortcuts

November 9, 2018 • #

Most reading on my iPad happens in Reeder, Instapaper, or a browser. I wanted to come up with a way to save URLs in a text file for easy access for new link posts and archive purposes. This seems like a great candidate use case for trying out Workflow again which Apple has renamed Shortcuts.

I use Ulysses for most note-taking and writing purposes on the iPad. It syncs with iCloud between desktop and mobile, has good organization support, and is a good Markdown editor. it also is integrated with Shortcuts.

First I set up a sheet in Ulysses called...

Writing Workflow

December 13, 2015 • #

I write a ton on the computer, whether it’s for our product blog, internal documents, product help guides, this blog (rarely), or many other things, I tend to stick to the same set of tools for different pieces of my writing workflow.

Everything I write, even things like meeting notes only for myself, I write in Markdown. It’s essentially muscle memory at this point. I write for Jekyll-based websites quite a bit, I write issues and wiki pages on GitHub, I keep my personal journal in Day One, and several other places. All of them...

Task Capture with Siri & OmniFocus

November 10, 2015 • #

I’ve talked before about the concept of “ubiquitous capture” and how achieving a system where you never lose an item is an ideal for a seamless GTD setup. No matter what task management tool you use of the hundreds of options, both automatic or analog, there are still moments when a fleeting piece of info we want to remember — either something new to do or an idea or breakthrough on an existing project task — slips through the cracks. The best system for managing all of your collective “stuff” is any that you trust to be the go-to...

OmniFocus 2 for iPhone

October 23, 2013 • #

I’m an OmniFocus-flavored GTD adherent, or try to be. The iOS apps for OmniFocus were huge contributors to my mental adoption of my own GTD system. When OmniFocus 2 dropped a few weeks back for iPhone, I picked it up right away.

OmniFocus iOSThe new design lines up with the iOS 7 look. I really dig the flat UI style in utility apps like OmniFocus, or any app where function truly overrides form in importance—typically anything I open dozens of times of day as part of my routine. The new layout gives...

Dropbox and Backups

June 13, 2013 • #

I use Dropbox as the nerve center for all of my digital goods, keeping data, configurations, histories, log files, and anything else I need access to centralized and available from my Mac or iOS devices.

Here are a few of my daily tools or information trails I want to keep synced up, so anything here can be a few clicks or a search away:

  • Instant message chat history
  • iTunes library
  • Histories + log files
  • OmniFocus backups

Chat Archiving

I use Messages on the desktop for all chat conversations with my Jabber and Google accounts. I...


April 16, 2013 • #

Drafts app for iOS

Through a number of recommendations around the web, I’ve started using Drafts, an iOS app with an interesting workflow model that’s helping me replace a number of input channels for capturing different pieces of information while on-the-go.

It’s positioned primarily as a text editor or note-taking app for iOS, but it introduces a fundamentally different approach to the capture → process flow than most other solutions I’ve tried, even ones that I like. Like most heavy mobile users, I have a suite of apps I use constantly to capture different inputs:...

Rediscovering GTD

February 6, 2013 • #

For the last month or so, I’ve been readopting the GTD methodology for organizing my work, personal and business. I read David Allen’s book back in 2007, and attempted to adopt the workflow. This was before having any sort of smart device, so workflow systems were much different back then. My system when I initially jumped in involved pens and pads, inboxes, folders — most of the recommended elements from the book. I didn’t last long, and since then I’ve only dabbled around really getting back into it. Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin’s recent podcast series on...