Thoughts on productivity,
communication and tech.

May 17, 2012  

One way to access articles on the Internet is to surf to the web sites where the articles are published. This can be time-consuming, but thankfully there is a faster and more convenient way.

Thanks to RSS technology, it is possible to access content such as articles and blog posts without using a web browser.

RSS content is made available in feeds that are updated as new content is published on a web site. A lot of web sites offer such feeds. The feeds can contain full articles or shorter versions.

RSS Readers can be used in order to subscribe to and read RSS feeds.

I use the service Google Reader (which handles my RSS subscriptions), together with the application Reeder, in which I read the RSS content.

I like Reeder because it looks good and works well. It’s also convenient that the app is available for iPhone, iPad and Mac.

If you want to learn more about RSS, then you might be interested in Wikipedia’s article on the subject.


May 16, 2012  

Every week, I listen to a new episode of Mac Power Users, a podcast made by Katie Floyd and David Sparks. It’s a great opportunity to learn new things about productivity and Apple-related technology.

On the latest show, David Sparks talked about his new electronic book: Paperless – A MacSparky Field Guide. The book is a step-by-step guide to making the transition to a paperless lifestyle.

I became interested, picked up a copy at the iBookstore and opened it on my iPad. After that, I was completely sold on electronic books.

Paperless is unlike anything I have ever experienced in any paper book. David Sparks is a good writer and the book is packed with useful information, but what really fascinates me about Paperless is the experience.

Paperless contains features that are completely impossible to include in a paper book. For example:

  • Lots of video content, both in the form of screencasts and “real life” videos that complement the text. For example, David Sparks writes about the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M, a dedicated document scanner, and includes a video of it scanning a document.
  • Interactive content.
  • Image galleries, in which related images are grouped together.

One thing that I really like about the book is the sharpness and quality of the images – they really are a joy to look at on the new iPad.

The book was created with Apple’s iBooks Author software, and the great reading experience shows that the iBooks format has huge potential.

Paperless not only shows you how to let go of paper. The book in itself proves that digital content can be completely superior to paper.


May 13, 2012  

Even if you are great at what you do, there are several obstacles that can prevent you from doing great work on any given day.

Multitasking is one source of such obstacles.

Multitasking, in this context, means working on more than one thing at a time.

Problems with multitasking

A person who is multitasking is repeatedly moving his/her attention between different tasks. This necessarily causes a lot of interruptions.

For example, let’s say that you are writing a document and have your e-mail open in the background. In the middle of a sentence, an e-mail arrives. So you stop writing and start reading and then replying to the e-mail.

In the middle of answering the e-mail, you get a phone call about a completely different issue. When the phone call is done, you get back to the e-mail. Because of the phone interruption, it takes some time to get started again.

Once you’re done with the e-mail, you decide to get back to the document. Now, because of the previous interruptions, you need some time to get back into your writing flow. In fact, at this time, it is possible that you have completely forgotten what you were supposed to write next in the document.

Because of these kinds of interruptions, it takes longer to complete tasks than it would take otherwise.

Multitasking is also hard. It takes effort to constantly move one’s attention back and forth between tasks and it is easy to feel tired and stressed out.

One thing at a time

In my opinion, it is better to try to avoid multitasking as much as possible. Instead, try to work on one thing at a time with full attention and focus. And when you are done, move on to the next thing and focus solely on that. For this to work, it is important to prioritize correctly and to choose the right thing to work on before starting.

Working on just one thing at a time may not be possible for everyone. For example, if your job requires you to answer phone calls and e-mails quickly, then it is obviously not a good idea to turn off your phone and your e-mail to focus on other stuff. However, I do believe that many can take at least some steps away from multitasking.

To me, the benefits of doing one thing at a time are evident: it’s far easier to get more and better work done, it is less stressful and less draining compared to multitasking.


May 6, 2012  

We live in a busy world and many of us have lots of things to do each day. We need to remember and keep track of a lot of things, both on the job and in our private lives.

This is a challenge. There is a limit to how much we can juggle in our minds at any given time. When you reach a certain limit, it is easy to feel really stressed out and to forget or overlook things.

The checklist is a part of the solution to this problem. By writing down your tasks, and then checking them off as you get done with them, things become a lot easier.

  • Less stress.
    By writing down your tasks, you are in a way transferring them from your mind to the checklist. You free up space inside of your mind, since you do not need to think about the tasks all of the time. Personally, I think that this goes a long way in relieving stress.
  • You don’t need to trust your own memory as much.
    By reviewing the list as often as you need to, you can ensure yourself that you are not forgetting anything important.
  • It feels good.
    Yes, it’s a great feeling when you are done with a task and can check it as done in your list. You acknowledge to yourself that you have progresssed and that you can move forward with other things. The feeling that you are in motion is a reward in itself.

The idea of capturing your thoughts in an external system that you have faith in – is an important part of David Allen’s productivity system GTD (Getting Things Done).

There are many ways of making checklists: pen and paper, index cards and computer software are some examples. I personally like the software OmniFocus, which is available for iPhone, iPad and Mac.