I was lucky enough to attend the local maker faire known as the TC Minne Faire. It was an awesome experience. I will write about a major realization that I had in a following post, but I wanted to get some pictures up.
OK, so I’ve been crushing it lately. Things are flying off my to-do list. I feel like my productivity has been sky high. And one of the best parts, as I am faculty, when my work is done, my work day is done.
Here are a few of the techniques that I have been using:
1. My new standing desk
I’ve been using a standing desk for about a week now. On a side note, I couldn’t stomach the $$$ to buy one and many of them didn’t fit my needs so I build my own. When I was at my old job, I used a spare OPAC stand, but only to minor success. The desk I built only cost me around $50 at Home Depot, and I didn’t even need to cut any wood. Basically it is two wall shelves the bottom shelf being much deeper than the top shelf. I elected to sand, stain and drill cord holes in mine, but you could certainly skip all of that.
The first few days were difficult and painful. I would stand for an hour or so and then need to sit down. Now, on day 5, I’ve been standing for 5 hours without a single problem or desire to sit down. Here are a few links on the benefits Smithsonian, Lifehacker, and Fast Company.
I have found myself more engaged with the work that I am doing. I feel far less distracted (I’m not sure why). I find myself walking around and mulling over ideas (I plan to get a big white board to begin writing on). And I feel much more energized. This was unexpected. I have even been going to bed earlier and waking up far earlier than before (could be coincidental, but I don’t think so).
2. Keeping a to-do list.
I have always had a hard time with a to-do list. The problem is that I typically have 3 or more lists going at the same time. I’ve decided to stick with Google Keep (at least for now). There is a great Chrome Extension to place your Keep in a panel on the side of your screen. You can see mine in the left hand corner of the page in the above image. This means it’s always watching me, and I it.
If I were to switch to another setup (and I’ve tried many of them), I think I would go with Any.do. It has some great features, and recently won the Lifehacker most popular to-do list. But I don’t really need anything super robust, just a simple list will do.
3. Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a rather simple productivity technique. You work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. You repeat this 3 times, and on the fourth iteration you take a 15 minute break. This technique is the most popular technique for increasing productivity according to Lifehacker readers. I’ve also tried other techniques (GTD, Covey, etc…) but they tend to be over complicated, spending a lot of time on the system instead of the task, and one-size-fits-all.
I’ve been using Marinaratimer. It has a standard Pomodoro timer, which I find really nice. It lets you change the sound it plays when your time is up. I just run it in another window in the background when I’m working. The nice thing about this web app is that it also lets you create your own interval schedule. This is what I’ve been using. I work for 20 – 25 minutes (one leg dedicated to email) with breaks on schedule, but I also change my break routine. For me I take a break, then use the ab ball, then meditate, then take a 20 minute walk. It was really cold here today, so my walking break was just me walking laps in my garage. Each of these activities is design to improve productivity and creativity. You can see it below. I really like this approach, and the ability to customize.
The hardest thing to do is to take a break when the bell chimes. However, I learned a valuable lesson from Cory Doctorow in Context, about setting a goal and stopping when you hit it.
Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence.
Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence.
That way, when you sit down at the keyboard
the next day, your first five or ten words are
already ordained, so that you get a little push
before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit
of yarn sticking out of the day’s knitting so they
know where to pick up the next day—they call
it the “hint.” Potters leave a rough edge on the
wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the
night—it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.
4. A Plain Text Editor.
Again, this is a trick I learned from Cory Doctorow. In the same book I mentioned above, Cory decries the use of modern word processors. He argues that while these tools are full of wonderful features that can help you edit later, they basically only serve as a distraction while writing. I can’t agree more.
Forget it. All that stuff is distraction, and the last thing you want is your tool second guessing you, “correcting” your spelling, and so on. The programmers who wrote your word
processor type all day long, every day, and they
have the power to buy or acquire any tool they
can imagine for entering text into a computer.
They use a text-editor, like vi, Emacs, TextPad,
BBEdit, Gedit, or any of a host of editors. These
are some of the most venerable, reliable,
powerful tools in the history of software (since
they’re at the core of all other software) and
they have almost no distracting features—but
they do have powerful search-and-replace
functions. Best of all, the humble .txt file can be
read by practically every application on your
computer, can be pasted directly into an email,
and can’t transmit a virus.
I’m writing in Gedit (remember I’m an Ubuntu user) as it comes standard with my OS. What I’ve noticed is that I write when I’m suppose to be writing which means I am writing more (quantity counts here). Then I edit better (in word processing software) when I’m supposed to be editing. I know that there is very little research about writing in the digital age (we do research reading a lot though), but it has been invaluable for me to mimic pen and paper.
I also use a couple of other little tricks, but they are really not essential. So, what types, tricks and techniques do you use to be more productive?
In preparation for my maker space class, I’m reading Makers by Cory Doctorow. This is a fantastic book, and does a great job describing the maker mentality and culture. I’m very sad that I didn’t select it as one of the texts for my course.
There is a great dialogue in this book talking about 3D printers. When one of the characters asks “what are they supposed to do with those” 3D printers, we get a powerful narrative in response.
Everything…Make your kitchen fixtures. Make your shoes and hat. Maker your kids’ toys–if it’s in the stores, it should be downloadable, too. Make tool chests and tools. Make it and build it and sell it. Make other printers and sell them. Make machines that make the goop we feed into the printers. Teach a man to fish, Francis, teach a man to fucking fish. No top-down ‘solutions’ driven by ‘market research’…the thing that we need to do is to make these people the authors of their own destiny
That is the power of the 3d printer, the maker movement and DIY culture. You have, at your fingertips, the means of production to shape the world in which you live, and you can do so free from dictates and mandates of companies worldwide. Where computers and the Internet gave us all the tools to become authors, the maker movement has given us the tools to become manufactures, creators, inventors and tinkerers.
The maker movement is shaping up to be more disruptive than the Internet and Computer revolution was. This is simply amazing. And I’m excited about this for a variety of reasons. Much like the Internet and Computer revolution, we are seeing the major innovation happening in garages and community spaces across America (and abroad). This is great because it will help de-concentrate the wealth that has amassed in a few tech hot spots (i.e. Silicon Valley). I think this is always a good thing for innovation, social good, and business reasons.
But what I’m even more excited about is to witness what industries will be disrupted by this movement. The Internet and Computer revolution caught many industries off guard, but truly destroyed or dramatically altered many of them. The music industry, journalism, banking, retail, just to name a few, we’re all caught off guard, but have been forever change. We are just beginning to see how the maker movement will change industry, but with one important twist.
The Internet and Computer revolution were all about improving productivity, efficiency and concentrating and centralizing wealth, power and control. I know some may argue that this is not true, but it is really hard to find examples in which that has not been the ultimate case. For example, blogging has been concentrated and centralized into two or three main providers (WordPress which I use, Blogger and maybe Tumblr). What is often forgotten when talking about blogging, is that it can be traced back to the Zine movement, and is just an extension of that movement. However, now only two companies control and profit from blogs.
The maker movement, on the other hand, is not yet controlled by a few companies. Moreover, it will be really hard to centralize the niche production occurring through the maker movement. It seems that the next industry that will be heavily disrupted will be the makeup and cosmetics industry. In a recent video I watched someone demonstrate a 3D printing demonstration, but what she was making was niche makeup. For $300 you can buy a printer that will let you create any makeup color you want. This is simply amazing to me. Companies that charge huge sums of money for unique colors will find themselves quickly out of business.
Yes, I know that many people take issue with 3D printers. How many plastic trinkets does one person need? When a new technology comes out, we often are unsure how to use it and how it will fit within our broader world. Just because millions of people Xeroxed their hand, butt, face or whatever didn’t mean that Xerox machines were not an important invention. The same is true of 3D printers. We may not be able to see the trees through the forest right now, but sure enough, many companies and industries are going to run smack dab into the middle of those trees.
What industry do you think will be revolutionized next?
To begin always anew, to make, to reconstruct, and not to spoil, to refuse to bureaucratize the mind, to understand, and to live life as a process – live to become…
Greetings LIS 7993. Here is a brief introductory video explaining a few things before our first class meeting on Monday, June 2, 2014 in CdC 005 at 6:00pm.
Again, if you have any questions, please email me, comment below or find me on twitter.com/infoactivist or check our hashtag #scumakers
I hope you have time to stop by and check out this amazing Maker Fest hosted by St Paul Public Library. It is Saturday, June 28th from 11:00am – 4:00pm. It will be hosted at their awesome new Arlington Hills branch. See their website for more details.