Unlike almost every other geek, I want only one monitor. When I sit down at a desk with a monitor, the laptop’s lid gets closed. For me, it works better to keep things simple. In fact, there’s usually only one window showing on my one monitor. I’ve found through a few months of experimentation that the fewer distractions I have visible, the better I’m able to focus. It seems obvious now that I write it out, but it was a hard thing to figure out in a culture of pervasive multitasking.
This discovery has prompted a lot of changes in my workflow. I installed Spirited Away and use it almost constantly so I don’t have to think about only keeping one window open. Instead of using Freckle’s built-in timer for tracking my work, I use Tictoc so my timer is visible. That’s one thing that should stay in my face! Last but not least, whenever I can, I use paper.
When I’m meetings with clients, I’m taking notes in a paper notebook. I find it easy to write and listen at the same time, but switch to typing and I’m lost! While I’m working, I’m constantly taking notes: how wide each of those columns needs to be, questions to ask the client, potential bugs I’ve found. It’s all in the notebook. I’ve even been known to write code on paper when I’m trying to plan out a solution to a bigger problem.
These techniques are things I’ve discovered by constantly iterating on how I work. I pick something to try, and I run with it. Sometimes I discover a great new way to work and sometimes it flops. But without constantly seeking ways to improve, there would never be any progress.
What techniques do you use to help get things done?
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