Mental Experiment One: Distraction Management

Guys, I’m going to cop to the fact that I’m insanely bad at managing my day-to-day life. I’m really good at letting my inbox pile up though.

Here’s what I’m looking to do with this experiment.

#1 objective – create distraction-free work environment so I can work more productively.

Yak Shaving

#yak shaving objective 1purchase new laptop completed. I purchased a Lenovo Thinkpad T430s – refurbished. It’s 14″ form factor with an SSD. It cost me $330ish with tax. The only things you can buy new at this price point are cheapo boxes with 15″ monitors (too big for daily carry, IMO) and eMMC bullshit instead of a full drive. I have a spare SSD that I’ll swap in and I’ll probably load Arch Linux on. The goal is work, so my idea of work is a very minimal setup, perhaps with no desktop environment (at least for a while). Further, I’m going to put a printout of a Dvorak keyboard on the side (mainly for where they’ve moved the special characters) and just use that. I type both QWERTY and Dvorak relatively fluently, but I’ve standardized on QWERTY for a long time since I typically have managed servers and desktops that other people use as my day job. Now I get to have my nine-year old’s bedroom just the way I want it and if I want a John Elway poster above the bed, there’s no one there to stop me.

#yak shaving objective 2 – workspace. Right now I have a desk with my 3-screen gaming PC on it. I also try to work on this machine. Holy mother of distractions, Batman. Trying to get work done on this box is a bad idea. It leads to marathon youtube sessions, gaming, and idle chatting with friends instead of work. But I also have a card table in my office. In order to clear this secondary workspace, I have to get through my physical inbox, which currently has a router, a box of 96 crayola crayons, an REI fleece from approximately 2005, a bluetooth Star Trek communicator badge, a Spider-man notebook, digital camera, unopened earbuds, a small icon of Buddy Jesus, and literally hundreds of pages of handwritten notes. David Allen, I am not.

sidenote: I do have an AlphaSmart Neo and I like it, but I read that you could rearrange the keys, so I pulled a key off and broke it. Stupid mistake. Beyond that, the goals of having a laptop are threefold. #1 get comfortable with Linux, especially Linux command line work – as a daily driver. #2 learn vim like the back of my hand. #3 have a real box that I can instantly sync with my machine. The Alphasmart is a great idea, and maybe someone should relaunch it in the era of distraction, but with a usb drive that saves as plaintext instead of as a printer. Right now I have to wait while it laboriously “types” its contents and right now, that ain’t me.

#yak shaving objective 3 – backups. I’m living a lie. I have a NAS gathering dust in a box in my office and there is no excuse. I am a man who knows how important backing data up is, and I’m not doing it. This is insane and incredibly lame. I’m deeply afraid of going through ebook pdfs, Dragonball Super episodes, and torrents of Buffy the Vampire slayer to figure out what I need to keep so I can safely upgrade the firmware though. Ugh.

#yak shaving objective 4. Too much data. How much stuff do I actually need to have as physical media that I own? Certain stuff, yeah. But there is plenty of stuff that I should mercilessly delete and never look at again.  Beyond that, I have a half-dozen folders marked “IN” that just have random files in them – Java and Python projects, writing stuff, pdfs, reference documentation for stuff I don’t support any more, etc.

#yak shaving objective 5. Off-site backups. It is %current_year% and I don’t have offsite backups. This is just blasphemous. Solving the backup problem is going to eventually have to run into the off-site backup problem.

#yak shaving objective 6. Privacy. We are post-Snowden, post-CIA, post wikileaks and I need to encrypt my shit for my own sanity. How am I going to solve this?

# Main objective 2 clearing out inboxes. If there’s too much static it’s hard to hear the signal from the noise. Clearing inboxes has been a best-practice of mine for a really long time. Helps you feel on top of your work, helps you feel on top of your day.

There’s Yak shaving for this as well – clearing out mailing list subscriptions that no longer interest me, following rabbit holes, etc.

Here’s the project for the next few weeks. I work on these issues and I share how it’s going. Yes, I want to do things like the Wim Hof method, but honestly being able to survive in sub-zero temperature seems much less important than stopping myself from watching “Important Videos” on YouTube through the entirety of my writing time.

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