Category Archives: Productivity

Further Thoughts on Being Productive

I’ve recently come across Cate Huston’s blog and she has inspired me to start blogging again. I thought I’d echo her post “Thoughts on Being Productive” with my own. I had been wanting to catalog my current best practices anyways so I can remember it in the future. Maybe many years from now, I’ll dig it up like they recently did with the E.T. Atari cartridge.

Mechanical Keyboard

I use a CMStorm QuickFire Stealth keyboard. I originally got into mechanical keyboards because of StarCraft 2 and picked CMStorm because they sponsor one of my eSports heroes, Polt. I realized though that they made typing really pleasant and as a result, programming. There’s just a satisfying feeling to the way mechanical keyboards respond to your fingers. I use the Red Cherry MX switches because they are a lot quieter than the clicky Blue switches that people use, plus they require a lower force to actuate. I’ve outfitted a keyboard at a previous client with red O-rings to make them quieter but they change how they feel so I prefer them without the O-rings.

Magic Mouse

Apple’s Magic Mouse has not changed in a while but it is still the mouse that I use. Some people may say that it is not quite as ergonomic as a Logitech Performance Mouse MX. However, for me, I’ve found that using that a Magic Mouse lets me click with two or three fingers at once, distributing the force needed among my fingers. I guess low force is key for me and programmers in general should think about this as well. If you’re a good programmer, you’re going to be typing and clicking a lot, so you should consider how you’re going to take care of your hands over the long run.

For gaming, I use a Logitech G300. It works well with my finger-tip style method of mousing, like the Magic Mouse. The many buttons are a lot better for control though. I won’t use that mouse for day-to-day development though, because then my index finger gets worn out.

Thunderbolt Display

The classic Thunderbolt Display is a staple of iOS Developers everywhere. I use one, propped up on a Beats headphone box (they’re really strong – a big chunk of the price is probably in the packaging…) with my 15″ Retina MacBook Pro centered underneath, in front of it. I don’t have many complaints about it especially since it serves as a hub for Ethernet and USB and it has a lot of real estate.

However, I think we should be well into 4K Displays soon so I’m looking forward to having a 27″-32″ Retina-quality display for day-to-day development sometime in the next year.

Walk 9,000+ steps a day

When I was an Indie Developer, I had no idea, but I basically sat around all day. Last year for my birthday, I got myself a Fitbit Flex and measured myself. I was shocked to realize I was super sedentary and was only taking an average of 3,000 steps a day. Recently, I joined Capital One and between a combination of walking up 5 flights of stairs from where I park to where I work, walking around the floor where I work, walking on a treadmill desk for a bit and going to the mall for lunch most days (plus some walking at home), I’m up to 9,000+ steps a day. As a result, I’ve lost 10+ pounds in the past 2+ months and have gained more energy throughout the day.

Stand or talk a walk every so often

Fitness aside, I think it helps to take breaks during the day. I’ve literally sat for hours at a time in front of a computer and I’ve come to realize that it is bad. Spending time with your computer is fine and all, but just not so many minutes straight. Every so often, at least once an hour, either stand up and stretch or take a quick walk. I’ve been doing that over the past year and it has helped me avoid the aches and pains that I’ve had throughout my career when I sat at my computer too long.

Also I use an push-button sit-stand desk. At home, I use a GeekDesk and at work, a Haworth. They’re both great desks in my opinion. I probably sit 2/3rd of the time and stand 1/3rd of the time, but the key I think is just varying it throughout the day. I find I can work effectively either way.

Treadmill desks like I mentioned earlier are also good, but they make you give up a lot of manual dexterity. So they’re not great for wiring up storyboards and configuring auto-layout. However, they’re fine for doing things like checking email and Twitter or reviewing resumes where you’re doing more reading or viewing.

Immerse yourself in headphones

I work in an open workspace. I think it is pretty cool with the different textures and varied lighting making it a very pleasant place to be. But frequently I want to tune all that out and really focus in on my code. I’m not sure if we Apple is going to acquire them or not, but we’ve got a rack of Beats headphones at my work, both the Solo HDs and the Studios. They come in a variety of colors so I can sort of match them to my outfit, which sounds vain when I type it out, but trust me, it is kind of a nice touch, especially with my blue shirt that matches the Beats blue perfectly. In any case, we have a rule on my team where if someone has headphones to not interrupt them, so as a result, I can get a lot of work done, with music that helps my mind flow. Plus I may dance a bit when my desk is standing. Because if you’re enjoying what you do and enjoying how you do it, I think you can be really productive.

Pavlov’s Inbox

I realized this week that I’m like Pavlov’s dog.  The New Mail bell rings, I see the number of unread messages in the Mail.app dock icon and I compulsively check my mail.  I’m not sure, but I might have gotten hungry too.

I think this realization came from the book The Power of Less.  He advocates checking your email twice a day.  That’s not quite enough for me, but then again I realized I was sabotaging my productivity with the continuous Inbox checking.

A good compromise I think is to:

1. Turn off all sound notifications

2. Turn off all dock badges

3. Check your email on some other schedule that you control

I use Mail.app and SpamSieve.  So here are screenshots of what your preferences for each should look so that all sound notifications and dock badges are turned off:

Mail.app

Mail.app - no notifications or dock badge

SpamSieve

SpamSieve - no notifications or dock badge

I hope this improves your productivity without shutting off the outside world of email.  It has worked well for me the past few days.