Archive for October, 2005

Microsoft BusyBody Can Tell If You Are Truly Busy

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Discover has this interesting article which, among other things, highlights a new experimental program from Microsoft called BusyBody which detects how concentrated you are when you are using your computer.

If you are really focused then it can decide to allow interruptions (like IM and email notices) through or to block them when you are highly focused on the task at hand:

“Computers can learn to detect different levels of concentration on their own. That’s the premise behind BusyBody, a new software package under development at Microsoft. The software is designed to sense the “cost of interruption” at any given point in a user’s interaction with the machine. When you’re surfing idly through the blogosphere, the cost of interruption is low. When you’re cramming to finish a report, fielding 10 different instant messages from friends might be too costly.
 
BusyBody learns these states by watching multiple levels of activity: everything from the number of mouse clicks per minute to the number of windows open and the time of day. Microphones allow the software to sense when you are engaged in conversation. At the outset, as BusyBody monitors shifting behavior, it occasionally queries you about the interruption cost at that particular moment. Then it looks for telltale patterns in all the data and determines your focus mode on its own.”

So long as it doesn’t send a report to the boss, this sounds cool!

Using Acrobat as a Tablet PC Highlight Searcher

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

StudentTabletPC is trying to use Acrobat as a searchable document highlighter for the Tablet PC:

“If you’ve used Adobe Acrobat 7.0 before, you likely know that you can mark-up your PDF files by highlighting text, underlining text, and adding comments. By selecting a commenting option and using the comment list/summary, you can give yourself a list of every word you mark up.”

highlights

How Can I Stop Procrastinating

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

A good thread at Metafilter as a reader asks how to stop a life long habit of procrastinating:

“I always do a great job with the short-term projects. I dive in, do the work, and within a day I have put together a high-quality final product.

I find it nearly impossible to handle multi-week or multi-month projects well at all, though. Sometimes I can plot out all the steps I need to take to define the project. I may even begin the process with gusto. But then a vast cloud of lethargy descends, and all I can make myself do is work on more short-term stuff or waste time. Finally, when there are only a few days until the deadline, I get a great burst of energy and start pulling things together.”

Deskloops

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Another contender in the vexxing problem of having so many frickin windows open (hello - the desktop metaphor is soooo broken) is Deskloops.

Deskloops arranges all your windows horizontally and lets you scroll thru them. You can even see a little 3D loop of all the windows.

Deskloops

You start the scrolling by moving your mouse to a screen edge. This is nice in that you dont ever touch the keyboard (if you are mouse centric at least) and it does help with screen clutter. What it doesnt help with is the workflow problem - how to glide easily from app to app to app. Well, I can dream can’t I?

Via Lifehacker.

Do You Refer To Your Notes?

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

tablet pcI was reading about the pros and cons of Tablet PCs when I came across this post by Michael Hyatt where he discusses his reasons for giving up on his Tablet PC.

Although there are the usual suspects (Windows sucks and Tablet PCs are too slow) the most interesting reason is his assertion that he doesn’t take notes for the purpose of looking back at them more than once.

“I found that I rarely refer back to my notes. Instead, I take notes to focus my attention and organize my thoughts. I derive most of the value of taking notes while I am in the meeting itself. If there are items that need further attention or follow-up, I flag them. After the meeting, I enter those in Entourage.”

I realize this is how I use notes also - the end product, the notes, are almost irrelevant compared to the act of taking them. Its just like the saying, plans are useless but planning is invaluable.

Why Bad Habits are Hard to Break

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

Ever wonder why it is sooooo hard to permanently stop a behavior that you have identified as “bad”? A new study from MIT suggests that our brain literally gets programmed with the habit and although we can overpower the program with our will, it remains dormant until just the right stimulus comes along to re-ignite it:

“Habitual activity–smoking, eating fatty foods, gambling–changes neural activity patterns in a specific region of the brain when habits are formed. These neural patterns created by habit can be changed or altered. But when a stimulus from the old days returns, the dormant pattern can reassert itself, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, putting an individual in a neural state akin to being on autopilot.”

Using Only a Tablet PC for 8 Weeks

Friday, October 28th, 2005

3060000000051219.JpgEric Mack challenges himself to see if he can get by with only a Tablet PC for 8 Weeks:

“I’ve decided to challenge myself to see if I can effectively use my Tablet PC as a total replacement for pen, paper, and books. Next week, I start an intense 8-week business law course and I’ve decided to use this course as the subject of my next Tablet PC challenge. My objective is to determine what the benefits/drawbacks of using a TabletPC as my sole tool (to replace pen, paper, and yes, even Post-Its) for the next 10 weeks.  I’ve previously blogged about scanning and annotation tools. Now, I’m going to see if I can live with all of these tools in an intense way for the next two months. I figure this will be the tipping point for my use of a Tablet PC.”

Bad Diets Harm Productivity

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

It probably goes without saying, but let’s say it again anyway… You need to keep healthy if you want to get more things done.

“A study of 1,124 UK workers by health charity Developing Patient Partnerships (DPP) found that over half of UK workers are so stressed out they barely have time to eat, while over 50 per cent blame weight gain on eating badly at work.

According to estimates, 18 million working days are lost in England and Wales every year due to obesity.”

Life Hack Father Danny O’Brien

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

LifeHacker interviews Danny O’Brien who himself coined the phrase life hacks:

“Life hacks popped out of an ongoing discussion I’d been having with people about “secret software” - the scripts that geeks write for themselves to get them through the day.

You usually don’t hear about these mini-programs, because they’re not the sort of thing that you either build up into commercial software, or spend the effort tidying up to release as open source. They’re just too personal to the coder who wrote them.”

Managing Paper in the Office

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

paper systemA lot of interesting comments in this thread on paper in the workplace. Especially fascinating is the post by Martin Ternouth (search for it on the page) detailing his elaborate and long used workflow for managing papers at his desk:

“Twenty years ago I was in a job that combined three competing timescales: Corporate Planning, which was looking ten years ahead; several large systems projects that required operational planning and monitoring over eighteen months; and a payroll department paying 15,000 staff — any one of whom could turn up very angry without notice and insist upon seeing me. My desk system had to have all operational information immediately to hand, but in such a form that it could be cleared instantly: either to receive a hostile visitor complaining of a mispayment, or to substitute the paperwork for another complex problem totally unrelated to the last. To serve these functions I devised a paper-management system that has remained substantially unchanged for the last fifteen years.”

Getting Things Done, GTD, Mac, Personal Productivity, Time Management, Motivation



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