Be less distracted, more productive

 

I’ve found myself having this problem over and over: distraction.

Aside from the offline ones, I’ll focus on the online ones for now.

It just amazes me sometimes how late it already got and how little progress I made in my to-do list. It’s not just amazing, but sad, and costly. And I yet have all those things pending! So I’d also say: frustrating.

Where did that time go? Well, most I don’t know, somehow it just vanished. Many times I’m fully aware, and it usually boils down to distracting things I have at my fingertips, almost in front of my eyes, most of the time.

Things like Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Digg, Instructables (those last two not so much lately), etc. Facebook is a big one, since it doesn’t just show you the contact’s activities, but also all those pages one “likes” and keep posting new, interesting, damned articles.

Well, I kinda fixed the Facebook thing and Gmail lately, a bit.

Gmail I’m not opening every single email anymore now, and I’m not labeling everything, either, creating filters or organizing the arriving messages anymore. I just:

  1. Quickly glance the inbox’ top.
  2. Delete all the uninteresting or irrelevant ones immediately.
  3. Delete Facebook notifications (I’ll be shown those over there when I visit, anyway).
  4. Open the important ones and reply if necessary.
  5. Ignore the rest, leaving it unread in the inbox.

It’s worked OK so far, have been checking email much faster now. Yet, I go back to that inbox all too often, so now I decided to not keep that tab open all the time and, instead, visit it in two or three times a day only. Now I just have to do it. :P

Facebook has been a bit more challenging, it still takes too much time. Some days I just opt for not even going to the Newsfeed. I still go to the Internet Marketing Super Friends group daily, usually straight from the bookmark.

Despite the lack of visits, I still find myself wanting to see every single item in the News Feed sorted by Most Recent when I do spend time there. The last couple times I did make it faster browsing similar to Gmail.

  1. Ignore most new connections of friends with others I don’t recognize immediately from the picture or name.
  2. If I recognize someone, I may request to connect myself, but that rarely happens now.
  3. I try to just browser the feed fast and if I see anything interesting, open it in a new tab (the post time is the permalink to the post).
  4. Get as fast as possible to the point where I left last time.
  5. Go to the tabs I opened, read and close them one by one. Whatever I’ll do with them, I try to do quick: comment, share, bookmark; and if I don’t see an immediate use, I’m trying to close even without fully reading.
  6. Important not to leave them for later cause they tend to stay there for days.

Another thing that helps browse the News Feed faster is to have every contact and page organized in a few focused lists that you can then filter your News Feed by for a quick, on-topic browsing. I find that the most time consuming ones are the pages with too many interesting articles almost daily. But browsing by topic actually makes it faster than jumping from one thing to the next randomly. I have to add that the list filters don’t work very well and sometimes mixes updates from seemingly random contacts not in the list.

And yet another thing that’s great to remove stuff from the News Feed is to hide the application notifications, e.g. FarmVille, Mafia Wars, Horoscopes, etc., caused by friends that use them. Hover over the top-right corner of the notification and you’ll see a “hide” button appear. Click it and you’ll be presented with three options: click the middle one to hide that app in the feed. Voila! Do this with every app you see show up there, that you don’t care about, and you’ll cut down the browsing time considerably.

I’ve just installed RescueTime to log what I do and see if I finally notice where the rest of the hours went. Even if they are spent on things that I’m aware of, I’m sure that I’ll be able to optimize best if I know where it’ll pay off most.

A while ago I read a nice article by Paul Graham on distractions. His solution is very nice, but I’m afraid that I don’t have a second computer to do it myself, but I try to come close with what I have.

What I’m going to try starting today is to keep my browser open for work only (during work time) and close it when not in use. I find that having it minimized just begs to bring it to the front too often, usually with an array of open tabs that are way too distracting. Most of my work is web related, so I can’t just not use the browser, but I can keep only the production pages open. And close everything else. Close the browser when not in use.

Another big one is chats. I used to have Trillian open all the time, with all the MSN, AOL, Yahoo! and ICQ chats online. I don’t have that many contacts, but those I have are very nice to chat with usually. That made them worse! Chats started dwindling with the years, but the best was to simple not start the chats at all. Went to edit the Windows startup programs and got the chat ones out.

Well, let’s see how these changes I just made today do make a difference in how much I get done a day.

Post a comment on how this helps you or what you can suggest me to do to improve what I’m doing! :)

Edited to add the procedure to hide Facebook apps notifications from the News Feed. I just taught my wife how to do it and realized I missed including it here.

The best oil spill cleanup solution

 

If you weren’t hibernating underground these past days, you most probably heard about the oil spill. You can count on the oil idiots to screw up the world a little more. And then you have other people trying all these hard, expensive, and ineffective “solutions”! Looks like they’re more into making spending money with all the expensive stuff, than actually putting an end to the nightmare.

Gulf oil spill from orbit

Gulf oil spill from orbit

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably wanted to see that mess cleaned up soon… I’ve read up on this and have found what I consider to be the best solution yet!

Why? Because it’d be cheap to deploy, effective to get the oil off the water without messing up the coast or killing the sea life and it’d also take care of the oil composting it!

A couple or so years ago I read a post that talked about a cleanup project that used hair mats to pick up the oil. “This is great” I thought, because it worked well to pick it up. Problem was, it’d not scale well. You’d need a hell lot of hair to clean that black shit spreading in the Gulf. And a lot of work to actually do the cleanup.

Enter these guys who recently demonstrated a similar solution to the above, but with a much more abundant material: hay!

Now, that’s a nice solution right there! Simple, cheap, effective. Gather all the hay you can (watch the needles!) and throw it to the wind off the shore! Load ships with it and scatter it offshore. Spread it between the coast and the blot. Do it around it as well. Let the hay pick up the thing, the oil sticks to surfaces fast. Hay provides lots of surface to stick to. And hay floats, as does the oil. Let the waves do the rest.

Now, what do you do with that oily hay afterward? Some would say “burn it”… yeah, as if we needed more of that crap up in the air. Others would say “recover the oil” and have it burnt later, too. I say enrich the earth with it. That way, instead of a half-solution, you’d have a complete one in the eyes of nature, albeit not so much in those of the oil pushers.

How can you turn that thing into food for nature, though? Mushrooms. No, not that kind! No, I didn’t have any before writing this post, either.

Remember the hair mats thing mentioned earlier? Well, what they did after picking up the oil was grow mushrooms on them. Oyster mushrooms, it said. Have them absorb all the oil and after about 12 weeks, compost them!

Oyster mushroom

Oyster mushroom

Actually, I read that these mushrooms have even been found growing on the dry skull of a dead whale in the 19th century. That seems to prove that those mushrooms wouldn’t have much problem growing on that oily hay even if it came from salt water.

I wonder if the hay could be sprayed some spores before deployment. The mushroom may even start growing on them while still floating!

I can’t think of a better solution for this mess right now. What about you? Share your thoughts leaving a comment. But if nothing else, spread the word, share this post. We need as many as possible aware of this solution, especially near the coastline close to the problem.

Lots of great men and women with land and tons of hay would be overly glad to give trucks of the stuff to fix this. Hell, their coasts will be a damn mess if they don’t, and I’m sure they don’t want to just sit waiting for others to spend their taxes and still not solve it!

And it’s not just them, it’ll affect us all if this isn’t fixed. It’s all the one same planet we live on, and what happens in one place, will have an effect somewhere else. And if this is fixed there, it’ll also have an effect elsewhere with this problem. Have this solution spread through the web like that oil on the water.

Click the share button of your choice and lets solve this mess! :D

My favorite Studio Ghibli movies

 

This is probably one of the first studios people outside Japan learn about when they start watching anime, mostly thanks to its latest movies by Miyazaki Hayao: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.

None of those is in my favorites list, though… Actually, I like Takahata Isao’s works best and I can say I love all his movies, at least those I watched:

Grave of the Fireflies Grave of the Fireflies

Only Yesterday Only Yesterday

Pom Poko Pom Poko

My Neighbors the Yamadas My Neighbors the Yamadas

Goshu The Cellist Goshu The Cellist… Yeah, I know it’s not a Ghibli production.

It’s not like I enjoy nothing by Miyazaki-san, I love these:

NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind

My Neighbour Totoro My Neighbour Totoro

Kiki's Delivery Service Kiki’s Delivery Service.

And there are also a couple other movies by Ghibli, but not by the above directors, which I happen to love as well:

Ocean Waves Ocean Waves

Whisper of the Heart Whisper of the Heart.

All in all, I owe this studio a lot of favorites and wanted to share them with you. Rent or buy them, well worth your time and money. If possible, get them in Japanese with subtitles, not dubbed in english, they’re much better in their original form. ;)

Cool construction worker skills

 

Found these videos and felt like sharing them here. They show some pretty good team work by these construction workers from other parts of the world. Really hard workers.

The techniques are pretty cool and could easily be used in earth construction methods as well if needed.

I remembered a friend that had years of experience in construction in Uruguay, telling me how he had this worker that could plaster a wall using a shovel! He’d pick up some concrete and throw it against the wall as if his shovel were a huge trowel, speeding up the process a lot. It must take a lot of muscle, technique and practice to achieve that, the trowel can be hard enough. I searched for a video of something like it, but didn’t find one.