Over the summer, every weekend was a 3-day weekend for Microsoft Japan employees. The company tested a 4-day workweek without reducing salaries. According to Microsoft, the result was a productivity increase of 40%. It seems that the biggest contributor to that boost is that they cut way back on meetings which, as a rule, waste a lot of time. From National Public Radio:
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Because of the shorter workweek, the company also put its meetings on a diet. The standard duration for a meeting was slashed from 60 minutes to 30 — an approach that was adopted for nearly half of all meetings. In a related cut, standard attendance at those sessions was capped at five employees.
Citing the need for a shift in time management, the Microsoft division also urged people to use collaborative chat channels rather than "wasteful" emails and meetings...
Four-day workweeks made headlines around the world in the spring of 2018, when Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust management company, announced a 20% gain in employee productivity and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance after a trial of paying people their regular salary for working four days. Last October, the company made the policy permanent.
Around this time last year, I picked up a Surface Go. It's been a great piece of hardware. While it might not be the most powerful Windows PC going, it's got more than enough guts to power me through a day of writing, editing and photo tweaking in situations where hauling along my laptop isn't desirable. Better still is the fact that, at the end of the day, it's an absolute beast for consuming comic books and RSS feeds with. My only complaint is that most of my workflow is made possible by rocking a system driving Mac OS. While the situation has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, a number of apps that I rely upon to get shit done aren't available as a desktop app outside Mac OS. Day One, a journaling app that I use to record my PTSD symptoms and travelogues is a big one. OmniFocus, a GTD project management app is another. Up until now, I've been getting by by using the iOS versions of these apps on my iPhone when I'm on the road with my Windows 10 machine. It's less than ideal. Happily, I think I can put a pin in this workaround, now. Today, I sorted out a more desirable workaround: Using Android apps in Bluestacks 4 inside of Windows 10.
The last time I took Bluestacks for a spin was a few years back. It was intriguing, but still too buggy and slow to be of much use to me. Read the rest
Economists are famously fragile about their field; after all, this is the field that created a fake Nobel prize to give its practitioners the veneer of credibility and empiricism that actual sciences enjoy.
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The inside of my head is an absolute crap place for productivity. I tend to fixate on old horrors, recent regrets and small shames that swirl around the inside of my brain like greasy water bound down a drain. It makes for a lot of noise while I'm trying to write or focus on my day job--listening to music with lyrics or, on bad days, even a melody, can lead me to distraction. When I'm set up in a coffee shop or another noisy locale and need to churn out some words, I wind up getting nowhere.
Last year, a friend turned me on to Lustmord: it's the working name of Welsh musician, sound engineer and, as near as I can tell, dark wizard, Brian Williams. Wikipedia notes that Williams is often credited with inventing Dark Ambient Music. I credit him with giving me the space I need in my skull to get work done.
In turns, Lustmord's music has overwhelmed me with feelings of calm, dread and and well-being. Played late in the evening in concert with medicinal amounts of Jameson, it helps to distract me from the pain in my body and the dogs barking in my head.
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One of the big problems I've had with taking long drives, anywhere, has been that I'm forced into unproductive time when I should be working. This isn't a problem when I'm going on vacation. But here's the thing: I seldom take a vacation. As I'm self-employed, there's no such thing as vacation pay in my world. When I stop writing, the money stops coming in. Working on the road is possible--all I have to do is tether my laptop to my iPhone and I'm in business.
So long as I can keep my laptop, you know, in my lap.
Maintaining a stable platform to work on while my wife wheels us across the continent has proven difficult. I've tried lap desks, balancing my computer on a backpack, you name it. My computer always slides around, making it damn near impossible to type. What's more, a neck injury that I sustained eons ago makes it painful for me to tilt my head down for any length of time. This combination of poor conditions has forced me, up until now, to twiddle my thumbs for hours at a time, working only once we've come to a stop for the day.
However, I think that I may finally have figured it out.
RAM Mounts makes a wide variety of mobile work solutions to keep nerd stuff in one place while you're driving along. Cops use RAM Mount gear in their cruisers to keep their laptop secure. Their in-vehicle smartphone and tablet stands are, arguably, among the best out there. Read the rest
Perpetual Guardian is a 250-person New Zealand investment company specialized in trusts, wills and estate planning; this March and April, the company experimented with a four-day work-week, and based on independent academic assessment of the program, they've decided to make it permanent.
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I pay for a monthly subscription to Adobe's suite of photo editing apps. They streamline my workflow on my Mac, iPad and iPhone. What's more, they allow me to make my mediocre photos almost look like they were taken by someone who knows what they're doing. I'll be the first to admit, however, that subscription-based software is bullshit. Yes, you'll always have access to the latest updates that the application developers have to offer, but for all of the money you're paying over the course of months, or even years, you never end up with a product that you can say you own. Stop paying that monthly fee and you're left with bupkis. I don't much care for how that feels. I'm also not crazy about how much horsepower Adobe's software needs to perform well. Photoshop and Lightroom work great on my 2015 MacBook Pro. The same goes for Adobe's mobile apps on my iOS devices and Android smartphones. Unfortunately, the pixels flow like mud if I attempt to do any image editing in Lightroom on my Microsoft Surface Go. It's just not powerful enough. Happily, I discovered Affinty Photo a few years ago. It's a low cost Photoshop alternative for iOS, Mac OS and Windows that, for many image editing tasks, is just powerful enough to get shit done.
On my low-powered Surface Go, Affinty loads in half the time that Photoshop does, allowing me to get in and out of working on a photo quickly before uploading it to go along with a story. Read the rest
Silicon Valley's War on Walls has declared its first casualties according to a new study in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Those casualties are workplace interaction and productivity. Read the rest
When I'm away from home, I hate carrying my laptop. There's not enough room to use it in coach seating on an airplane and it weighs more than I care to haul around during a press junket. Typically, I pack my 9.7" iPad Pro, instead. It's great for editing photos with, but as a text generation and editing machine, has its flaws as well: Any keyboard case I use with it proves too damn small for me to reliably type on and that it won't work with a mouse or trackpad really slows my workflow down. I've been looking for something that can stradle both worlds--the portability of a lightweight tablet with the ease of use that a mouse can bring to the party--for some time now. My main work machine is a Mac, but I use Windows 10 on a regular basis, as well.
As such, I've got my fingers crossed that Microsoft's Surface Go will be the low-cost, juuuuuust good enough work machine that I've been looking for.
From The Verge:
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It has a 3:2 aspect ratio display (1800 x 1200 pixel resolution), the signature built-in kickstand with unlimited positions, a front-facing camera with facial recognition login, and Microsoft’s proprietary Surface Connector port for charging and connecting to a desktop dock. Microsoft has added a USB-C 3.1 port, capable of charging the tablet or outputting video and data to external devices. It has also rounded the corners a bit compared to the latest Surface Pro, but overall, it’s the same familiar magnesium design Surface users have come to expect.
In Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less (published in 2016, just out in paperback), Alex Soojung-Kim Pang painstakingly investigates the working lives of the likes of Charles Darwin and finds that history's most productive high-performers were working about four hours a day and slacking off the rest of the time: napping, strolling, having leisurely lunches.
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I’ve used an Apple Magic Trackpad for the past eight years – basically since they became available in Canada. I love them for the fact that all of the muscle memory that I’ve developed using trackpad-based shortcut gestures with my MacBook Pro work exactly the same with the Magic Trackpad while I’m hooked up to an external monitor. What I don’t like is the price. Apple products typically cost more than their Windows or Linux-powered equivalents do. I remember telling myself as I bought my first Cupertino-designed trackpad that the +$100 price was cool because it was an investment in gear that I use, daily, for work. And besides, it’s made by Apple – it’ll last for ever!
Five years into owning my first Magic Trackpad, I found myself routinely tearing it apart in order to fix the wee button inside of it that registers clicks. It was a pain in the ass, but I couldn’t afford to buy a replacement. At the time, my wife was finishing her degree – what I pulled in was pretty much it for income. What I’d spend on a new trackpad would buy us groceries for a couple of weeks. My friend Susie found out that I was doing this and told me to cut it out: She had a new Magic Trackpad for me, still in the box, never opened. A week later and my first Magic Trackpad was out with the recycling.
Fast forward to 2018.
My second Magic Trackpad, which I had been so happy to receive, was on the fritz. Read the rest
The fine folks at Freedom of Thought share tips on How to Focus Intensely, and it shares a lot of good ancillary insight in the process. Read the rest
Although the YouTube channel The Financial Diet usually offers financial advice, in this video host Chelsea Fagan talks through the Sunday routine that’s helped her become more productive despite her naturally lazy, type-B personality. Read the rest
David Lynch, Chuck Close, Susan Orlean, and a sampling of others describe the mysteries of inspiration that generate their ideas in this short but sweet film by Andrew Norton. Read the rest
Bruce Sterling's new short story, "Sgt. Augmento," is an eyeball-kicky post-cyberpunk story full of Sterlingian zeitgeist: in the robots-took-our-jobs future, the narrator joins the army to augment his guaranteed minimum income, but finds that overseeing robot combat isn't to his liking, so he musters out into a precarious existence clinging to the side of the sharing economy. Read the rest
After we realized that Merlin Mann had tricked us into adopting Getting Things Done as Boing Boing's operating manual, we started using the CIA's Simple Sabotage Field Manual (1944) and are getting more things done than ever before!
Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences.
When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committee as large as possible — never less than five.
Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
Organizations and Conferences
In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers.
Insist on perfect work in relatively unimportant products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw.
To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions.
Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do. Read the rest
If you have room for a 3-meter diameter sphere on your property, you can escape without leaving your yard with the Podzook. Just close the gull-wing door behind you and work or relax. Read the rest