Reducing Distractions with Do Not Disturb

Smartphones are the best and worst thing to happen to productivity in the last ten years. On the plus side, you have 24/7 access to a world of information. The downside is that the world has 24/7 access to you.

Apps and websites can send you notifications whenever something “important” happens. That importance (and our willingness to be interrupted by it) can vary with what time it is, where we are, and what we’re doing. If I get an iMessage while I’m watching TV, I probably don’t mind being notified right away. But if it’s 2:00 am, or I’m in a meeting, or I’m trying to focus, it can probably wait.

Fortunately, your smartphone can help you out, sometimes automatically. Here’s how to configure iOS’s Do Not Disturb feature to help you get more done during the day and sleep better at night.



Five Things to Understand About Getting Started

I’m learning to play golf.

I decided to take up the sport a couple years ago. It’s a walk in the park with friends, punctuated with the swing of a club. There is etiquette, honor, and tradition. You’re out in the fresh air, getting exercise and clearing your mind.

When our daughter was born, the time I could spend playing golf dropped considerably, and I’ve only recently started playing again. I’m still very much a beginner. I haven’t quite yet recouped the cost of buying the clubs in saved rental fees, though I’m close. I can still count on one hand the number of courses I’ve played.

Getting started is easy. Keeping going is the hard part. Here are five observations I’ve made in these early stages.



Why I Have Four Scanners

Productivity and organization go hand in hand. The more organized you are, the more time you will spend doing and relaxing, and less time hunting for things you can’t find and worrying about what you might have forgotten.

If you aren’t scanning paper documents and storing them digitally, you should be. Digital documents can be easily searched, backed up offsite, and accessed anywhere by anyone who needs them. The key to going digital is a good scanner.




Creativity, Inc. (Random House, 2014)

Want a glimpse into what makes Pixar Pixar? Ed Catmull, who has headed Pixar ever since it was still owned by George Lucas, and Amy Wallace take you behind the scenes for a look at the magic that makes the magic.

Catmull explains his business, leadership, and management principles against a backdrop of Pixar’s history. From their early days as a struggling computer hardware company (yes, Pixar made and sold computer hardware at one point), to their ascendance to one of the most beloved movie studios ever, to their successful merger with Disney, and how they breathed life back into Disney Animation Studios. Having worked with Steve Jobs for over a quarter-century, he not only goes into the effect that Steve had on Pixar, but also the effect that Pixar had on Steve.

On building the right team:

If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.

On keeping an open mind:

There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.

On trust:

Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.

On golf:

Play the ball where the monkey drops it.

I originally bought the audiobook, then picked up the ebook so I could highlight it. It was worth buying twice. The anecdotes about Pixar and Steve are great, and Catmull and Wallace do a good job of drawing useful lessons out of them.

2014 Reader Survey

I want to make this blog as useful and relevant to you as I possibly can.

Would you please help me out by telling me a little bit about yourself and what you’re looking for? I’ve kept the survey short, so it should take you less than two minutes to complete.



How to Keep Errands to a Minimum

Last Saturday, I ran into a hitch while running errands.

After I’d left the house, I discovered I hadn’t read through the instructions completely for one of my errands. Even though you can complete the application online (which I did from my phone in a parking lot), you still have to print out the completed application and bring two forms of identification.

Fortunately, I was able to come up with both while I was out (vehicle registration counted as a form of ID) and I could complete my errands without having to go across town twice to go home. If I had been prepared, I could have gotten my errands done much more quickly.


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