Software is Eating Productivity

I discovered last week that I’m much more productive when my computer isn’t in front of me.

It was an accident really. I had papers to grade, and when I got into the office in the morning, I just sat down and got to it.

In the process, I was not distracted. I didn’t feel the need to knock people’s socks off with jokes on Facebook and I didn’t find myself wandering off to read people’s complaints about my favorite college sportsball team on sportsballteam.com. I was also more likely to let text messages go unanswered when they weren’t popping up on my computer screen. For whatever reason, I’m happy to let my phone wait. Eat it, phone.

There’s a larger theme here that I’ve uncovered for myself over the past year or so, which is that I need to get more selfish with my work time. Do Not Disturb is looking more and more like the most important feature on any of my devices. It’s otherwise too easy for an interruption to send me ricocheting all over the Internet.

Friend sends a text message about meeting up for dinner sometime. 4-hours later I wake up in the gutter, covered in AppleScripts, a beta release of Taskpaper in my pocket, and my intentions shattered into tiny fragments across the road. Watch your step until we’ve had a chance to vacuum the area. Some of the pieces are very small, and very sharp.

Which brings us once again to Facebook.

Ah, Facebook. My favorite thing to complain about. What would I continually threaten to quit if I didn’t have Facebook? How else would I daydream about getting more done? Well, switching to Taskpaper, for one thing.

Quitting Facebook seems like it would be a really simple way to get large parts of my life and mental bandwidth back. Without worrying about saying happy birthday to someone I sort of knew in 3rd grade, I might be able to focus on doing something in the present.

There are plenty of studies pointing to problems caused by Facebook, that I know, or at least I suspect, that I would be doing myself an incredible favor by just deactivating the stupid thing.

Not only does it serve as a distraction, but it also toys with your emotions. When going on Facebook, you are embarking on an emotional surf safari. Catching delusions of grandeur from some dumb joke or feeling left out by your two Facebook friends on vacation in Croatia, even though you haven’t seen them since middle school and it’s their honeymoon.

Even right now, while I’m writing about it, my brain is trying really hard to command-tab over to Safari so we can get some cheap happy brain squirts. I’m fighting it, but all it would take is being momentarily distracted by just about anything for my brain to automatically pull up Facebook and start mashing that rediculous “Like” button over and over again.

Mash blue button for happy. MASH MASH MASH. Wipe drool from chin.

Deactivation.

Since taking Facebook off of my phone a few weeks ago, I have felt a little less nuts. I’ve been in trouble with friends and family less. And it’s been awhile since I’ve lost large swaths of time scrolling through the increasingly bizarre and frightening political beliefs of the people I’ve collected over there.

I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.
– HAL 9000

Now that I’ve come this far, I think I’ve talked myself into deactivating. At least until February. I want to see how much of a difference that I notice, and I’m curious about whether or not I will miss using it.

Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.
– HAL 9000

The Plan:

  1. Pick a date to deactivate
  2. Inform the people that I’ll be deactivating on said date
  3. Deactivate
  4. Avoid fiddling with Taskpaper again
  5. Profit

Here goes…wish me luck.

Minimum Viable Music Fandom

I like Apple Music. There. I said it.

I also liked Beats Music. So that might not be a big deal.

It came along at a time when my willingness to be fussy about listening to music was at an all time low. I’m trying to do the least amount of music management possible, short of listening to the radio. Having two boys under five at home and a time-intensive job will eat away at the margins of time where curating music used to live.

We walk in the door, I flip on my Bluetooth speaker, open the Music app, it shows me five or six playlists that are going to be fairly close to what I want to hear, I hit a button, and it just goes.

There’s no flipping through CDs, scrolling through music files, downloading or syncing or anything. There’s no time spent burning cycles and searching for what I’d even be interested in listening to right now. You also don’t have to make a playlist for every album you’d like to keep in your collection (looking at you, Spotify). All of my purchased music and streaming music that I like are together in one collection. At last.

As well as that, connecting through bluetooth to your speaker is as simple as 1-2-3. Bluetooth speakers are not only easy to use, but they play music so much better than if you were just playing it through your phone or your earphones. If you’re interested in purchasing, rest assured the meilleure enceinte Bluetooth 2020 are reviewed and listed on iTest’s site. They certainly are a valuable investment!

I’m also not trying to keep my music off of the cloud, or sync with iPods, or maintain metadata in my iTunes collection. Sure the UI is complex, but I haven’t found it to be the nightmare that many have. Also, I haven’t lost any owned music. But I don’t really worry about that, since I can’t imagine a time when I’d stop using streaming music.

All of that being said, I have two gripes with it. Both of which will hopefully be solved soon.

  1. It doesn’t work with Sonos yet — Sonos is launching their Apple Music beta later this month, but it’s been a really long wait. Bluetooth speakers are an OK stopgap, but not a permanent solution.
  2. It’s hard to tell what is downloaded versus what is in the cloud. When Wifi is problematic at the gym I’d like to listen to what’s on my device. I don’t have unlimited data, and I don’t want to accidentally burn through my data plan listening to Slayer on the treadmill, so I’ve turned wireless data access off for the music app. It’s a sensible solution until you’re away from wifi and want to search for something … it doesn’t work.

Ultimately, Apple Music gives me what I have always wanted from a streaming music client. Minimum Viable Music Fandom.