I think I have settled on a pretty effective daily workflow as a follow on to my RSS reduction exercise. It is now a week that I have been running with the new system and so far I have to say that I don’t feel like I have missed out on anything, nor do I feel that I am as shackled to my Mac as I used to be.
The key to this change working for me is two fold – better distribution of information/tasks across a number of computers, and better prioritisation and allocation of time to specific tasks. As such some (or all) may not be possible for others I know, but heh you are smart – improvise!!
The first thing I have done is to distribute things across two browsers on my Mac mini (Firefox and Camino). Firefox is what I would say is my primary browser. I use it for Google, my site, twitter, forums that I am regularly active on, sites related to articles and reviews, basically sites that I am ‘in and out’ of all the time. I use Camino for things like DIGG, my personal blog and Flickr, work related stuff, eBay etc i.e. for tasks that I dedicate specific time to. I do it this way to minimise the distractions that occur when you have everything in one place. For example the Camino window is set to ‘full screen’ so that when I am using it I focus 100% on that topic (say DIGG) without getting distracted by anything else happening on my desktop, open applications etc. I know I could shut down or hide things like iChat or email but I find that too much hassle and I rarely remember to do that.
The second thing that I have done is distribute a number of sites and podcasts between the Mac mini, the Desktop PC (which is in my room) and the iMac (which is in Sands room). There are a couple of podcasts that we like to listen to each day, and these are now on the iMac so that it makes me sit away from my computer (so I don’t get distracted) and enables us to sit down, listen and discuss over a cup of coffee. On the Desktop I have news and references sites open in Firefox that I like to dip into from time to time, but again I want to make myself focus 100% on those sites without any distractions. I have also set up a number of the podcasts that I like but am happy to listen to in the background as opposed to needing to concentrate on as I take notes etc. In effect I am utilising the iMac for some specific ‘down time’ tasks, the Desktop as a general media information hub, and the iMac for the day to day and work related stuff, but even this has been prioritised through the use of different browsers.
Now, the thing to remember in all this is that I ‘work’ from home – on the odd occasions that I do work – so I have way too much time on my hands. As a result it is really easy for me to sit at the Mac for hours on end dipping in and out of stuff. In theory this is great but in practice I find that it means I get obsessive about reading every email as soon as they arrive, keeping my RSS count zeroed etc. I have had to find a way to stop doing this!
So eventually – my revised workflow …………
First thing I do is check emails and RSS for comments awaiting moderation or response. I then prioritise this by time zone – basically are they from someone who is likely to be awake and therefore needs answering straight away, or can they wait until the person is awake? If possible I try and respond to the comments at the same time as prioritising them.
Next I go through my emails and try to respond to as many as I can straight away. If that’s not possible I will file them into a series of action folders so I can get back to them at a later stage.
Next up its the turn of the RSS feeds – again with a view to identifying those that I want to read later, those that I may want to post to a blog later on, and those that I have no interest in.
I will then cast a quick look over twitter and iChat to see who is around.
And that is Phase 1 complete – I am just trying to get a ‘picture’ of what is where and what needs to be done with what and when. I don’t get bogged down in details or specifics at this stage, and I try and clear as many tasks away as possible – the yes/no/thanks stuff.
Next up – set iTunes downloading podcasts on the iMac, Mac mini and PC and go get a cup of tea! Over tea I listen to a news podcast from the UK, mull over the stuff that needs to be done that day, and try and agree some sort of schedule with Sands for the things we want to do both individually and collectively – exercise, blogging, consultancy, projects etc.
Then I like to try and get any review(s) and articles finished off and posted that are scheduled for that day. This will all be stuff that I have already been working on – no new RSS stuff yet. Key for me is getting the work in progress stuff out of the way before adding to the ever expanding ‘to do’ list. That done I would cast an eye over the comments and emails that I have filed away for later and clear those down. I would recheck the inbox and RSS for new stuff that has come in and pretty much go through the same process as earlier. Then with an updated picture in my mind I would probably go for a run and use the time to draft in my mind anything I wanted to write or post, and think through what I was going to do with the stuff that I had looked at that morning. Run over the next couple of hours will be taken up with writing and blogging. I would then tend to take a break and spend time over on DIGG, eBay (I always seem to be watching some items or other either with a view to buying or research), the news sites. Post lunch I only do the consultancy work, and any projects (editing photographs etc). Living in Spain a siesta is pretty much mandatory and I use this time to totally get away from the screen. Early evening I may watch some TV or a movie, go through the same filtering process as earlier in the day and then will probably spend most of my time on twitter, iChat, Skype etc in the evening as the majority of the people I communicate with are in the US so either 6, 7 or 10 hours behind my time zone.
So there you have it. It seems to be working for me. No doubt it will get modified and of course everyday isn’t the same but what I do like is that this workflow allows for great flexibility as and when ad hoc things arise. It also helps me to spread myself around the 3 Macs and PC in the apartment which I really like.