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  • Doug Belshaw 7:30 pm on February 28, 2020 Permalink
    Tags: , novelty, productivity   


    Sometimes when I wake up my mind is alert and active. I just want to get on with the day and get through everything on my to-do list. Other days, my mind is easily distracted. For example, yesterday morning, I spent what felt about ten minutes looking at the ripples projected on the ceiling from the light of our fish tank.

    It’s on days like these that I feel like sacking everything off and going for a long walk. In fact, that’s exactly what I did last month and, as a result, discovered a dismantled railway less than five miles away from our house. The real problem, it would seem, is that that anything that looks or feels repetitive is absolute anathema to me. I also can’t stand to be constrained, either by other people’s requirements, or by the straightjacket of self-imposed routines.

    Novelty is what I seem to be programmed to be on the lookout for. It’s certainly something I cherish. I’m not sure that I’m so different to everyone else in that regard, although I do sometimes wonder how people manage to stay in the same job for five years, or even a decade, at a time.

    The thing I seem to be good at is actually a side product of this magpie-like search for novelty. It’s an increased tolerance for ambiguity; an ability to swim around in ideas and concepts not fully formed, sometimes with others, sometimes by myself. I suppose I just don’t like jumping to conclusions.

    So on days like yesterday, when my mind seems to be particularly fond of pausing, looking around, and wondering, I’ve learned to just let it. Depending on how far down any particular rabbithole I’ve gone by breakfast time tells me whether it’s worth doing any productive work.

    As it happened, my routines carried me through yesterday. Do this, and then that, in this order. “Ninety percent of success”, someone once told me, “is showing up”. And therein lies the rub for people who don’t see themselves as cogs in a machine.

  • Doug Belshaw 9:57 pm on July 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , kanban, productivity   


    I use Inbox by Gmail on both my consultancy and Moodle email accounts. It’s revolutionised my email habits, because:

    • I’m prompted to follow-up on emails that haven’t had a response after three days
    • I can pin emails with an action to perform
    • The ‘snooze’ functionality takes emails out of my inbox and brings them back to my attention at a time I specify

    That’s great for emails that I just need to reply to. But when there’s an action attached, I often have to then add that to Trello or another productivity tool.

    So KanbanMail looks useful:


    It does exactly what you think it would do:

    How KanbanMail works

    • Emails start in the Uncategorized column
    • Drag an email to To-Do, Do Today or In Progress
    • Drag it to Done and feel great about yourself!

    $12/month sounds a bit steep, but I might give it a try.

  • Doug Belshaw 2:12 pm on August 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , productivity,   

    Perhaps we just don’t know how to measure ‘productivity’, anymore. Or said differently, the nature of work may have changed so much that the tools we use don’t measure all the outputs.

    Stowe Boyd
  • Doug Belshaw 1:46 pm on August 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , productivity,   

    We’d like to believe — and we are intensely sold on — the notion that if we use better tools for communication, coordination, and cooperation then we will be more productive, more engaged, and more personally fulfilled. This is what I call techism. It’s odd that although we are using work technologies more than ever our productivity has slowed in the past 10 years or so, after an initial surge following the emergence of the internet. So the thesis of techism is unproven. And of course, these technologies are wildly different, and don’t necessarily play nicely with each other. Maybe we have too many tools, and a smaller number of dominant ones — like email in the early days of the Internet — could make things easier, if not better in some deeper sense?

    Stowe Boyd
  • Doug Belshaw 1:42 pm on August 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , open offices, , productivity,   

    The official story is that today’s workplace is designed to increase the likelihood of serendipity, creativity, innovation, and human happiness, but the hard reality is that most companies are decreasing the square footage of offices to save money, even when evidence suggests that many people are less happy, and less productive in open spaces, especially introverts.

    Stowe Boyd
  • Doug Belshaw 1:37 pm on August 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , productivity, , teams   

    One issue is that different teams use different messaging services. Lyft’s product and engineering teams use Slack, while some in the legal and HR teams use Google Hangouts, said an employee. Mr. Morelli, echoing efforts by Lyft’s “internal communications team,” urged more people to use “Facebook for Work.” That way more workers could get on the same page on company-wide matters, he suggested.

    From an article cited by Stowe Boyd
  • Doug Belshaw 10:18 am on July 31, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: calendar, productivity, reminder, search   

    Why I’ve started an ‘anti-calendar’ 

    Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

    For the last few years, I’ve tracked my migraines on a calendar called, funnily enough, MIGRAINES. It helps me remember when they were and if there were any particular triggers. I also occasionally add something we’ve done as a family into the shared family calendar retrospectively, as it helps me to remember when it happened.

    This morning, I bought some new trainers as, prompted by my six year-old daughter’s question, we did some research yesterday that advised changing running trainers every 300-400 miles.

    I didn’t have a way of tracking the number of miles I’ve run in a pair of trainers, until I realised that, much as Umberto Eco had an anti-library, I should have an anti-calendar. It was effectively just formalising something I’d already kind of started.

    It couldn’t be simpler to set up an anti-calendar. Here’s the steps to do so in my tool of choice, Google Calendar.


    1. Click on the drop-down next to ‘My calendars’.

    Select ‘Create new calendar’.


    2. Give your calendar a name.

    I went for the super-descriptive ‘When I did stuff’.


    3. Add something to your new calendar.

    Here I’ve added ‘Bought New Balance trainers (590 v5)’ which is short but specific.


    4. Perform a search for your event to make sure it’s working.

    I just searched ‘trainers’.


    All that’s left to do is to add anything that’s already happened that you need to remember. It could be purchases. It could be when you got your hair cut (if, like me, you don’t go by appointment). It could be the time you had a realisation about a thing. Whatever you want. It’s your backwards calendar, after all!

    Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

  • Doug Belshaw 6:10 am on April 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , productivity,   

    Our minds must relax: they will rise better and keener after a rest. Just as you must not force fertile farmland, as uninterrupted productivity will soon exhaust it, so constant effort will sap our mental vigour, while a short period of rest and relaxation will restore our powers. Unremitting effort leads to a kind of mental dullness and lethargy.

    – Seneca, On Tranquility of Mind

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