Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged Productivity.

Graph Your Inbox

Check out this nifty extension that allows you to search, filter, and graph your Gmail activity over time.

Bill Zeller's free Chrome extension graphs trends in your Gmail, using the same functionality as Gmail search. I could spend all day mining for trends in productivity, friendships, and word usage.  Here's a nice example from my inbox:

email visualization #1

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AndreaSep 22, 2010

Are Computers Changing Your Brain?

Research says that information overload causes distraction.

We've previously spent time worrying that the internet and computers are changing the way we think and process information. The New York Times recently had a rather sad article which gives an account of the negative impacts of technology on our ability to focus. Constant digital stimulation is creating attention problems:

While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress. And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist.

The article includes two simple interactive tests, one where you can test your focus, and one where you can test your ability to juggle tasks. I took the test and am actually better at concentrating when there are more distractions. If you knew me, this might not come as a surprise.

The heavy concern laid out in the article is that the overuse of technology may diminish our empathy by limiting our interaction with each other.

This got me thinking. Is there something we can do, as designers of technology, to make things that help our brains?* Should we be thinking about design which helps users concentrate? Or are our jumpy, distracted thought patterns a necessary side effect of the Information Age?

I discussed this with a colleague, who wryly suggested we write novels, not blogs. Hmmm....

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AndreaJun 16, 2010

Four Design Links: April 1, 2010

Four Design Links is a review of the design- and ethics-related stories we've been reading online this week.

1. Building a Better Estimate

Probably the best thing I read this week, business-wise. In this blog post, Andy Rutledge discusses how to improve one's job estimates.

The secret? Don't rush into it. Don't quote the client your ideal figure; get to know them first. Then, adjust up or down based on your perception of the relationship.

At DLB, I think we do a good job with our ideal estimates and we certainly take clients' differences into account as part of that calculation -- provided we get a second job with them. But for first-time clients, I can see the wisdom of resisting the urge to commit to an estimate too soon...

2. A Dream of a Well-Designed Credit Card Agreement

From TED blog, check out this simplified credit card agreement:

Alan Siegel's Redesigned Credit Card Agreement

A legible, good looking legal document? What a delightful dream (er, inspiration). Truly the stuff of TED.

3. Saving time for doing nothing


Lately, I've been enjoying Bobulate (read as: the opposite of discombobulate), a recent addition to my blog rotation. Great layout and content.

Liz, the author, references a great piece on the importance of keeping un-busy. Much of creativity --even productivity-- depends upon not working from time-to-time. When you're busiest may be when you need free time the most. It's something to keep in mind as the semester ends (for some of us).

4. Spy Party

Last, something else that caught my eye last week, Wired has a story detailing one of the most interesting game designs I've heard of in a while.

WIRED: SpyParty

Spy Party is a two player game where one person plays a spy in a party full of computer-controlled guests. The spy must perform several tasks while blending in with the AI. The other player is a sniper who observes the party and has only a single bullet with which to kill the spy.

Read the full description -- sounds intense.

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NickApr 1, 2010

Two Monday Worries: March 8, 2010

Two Monday Worries starts your week off right, tracking troubling tales trending in design, advertising, and ethics.

1. Google is Making me Stupid

I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle...

The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.

Read the whole article here and an interesting follow-up here. (Thanks, Seamus.)

Detail of 'Google Monster' by Asaf Hanuka
Detail of Google Monster by Asaf Hanuka

2. Max Barry: The Lawnmower People

But [corporations] weren’t enough of a person, apparently, so now they have First Amendment rights. In particular, they have the right to spend as much money as they like on political advertising: airing ads in favor of anti-regulation candidates over pro-regulation ones, for example.

The Supreme Court has let them into homes: now the [corporations] will speak to us through TV, radio, internet, print, and tell us who to vote for. That might not seem like a problem. After all, you are a smart person. You’re probably not persuaded by advertising. The thing is, everyone thinks that, and advertising is an $600 billion industry. Someone, somewhere is getting $600 billion worth of persuasion.

Read the whole article here.

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PaulMar 8, 2010

Four Design Links: February 4, 2010

Witness the return of Four Design Links!

1. Saul Bass: On Making Money vs Quality Work

"It costs every designer money to make things beautiful."

2. Productivity in 11 Words

To-Do List
Photo by Jayel Aheram

"One thing at a time. Most important thing first. Start now."

Probably the best thing I read last week.


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NickFeb 4, 2010


I personally tend toward a clutter-free desktop. The new year gives me occasion to reflect on this rarely considered productivity commitment.

I recently had occasion to review a personal classic from Coding Horror, Desktopitis. The plot is basically this. Jeff Atwood calls out some random presenter for his (very) cluttered desktop. To wit:

A cluttered desktop

Here's Atwood, excerpted:

After the presentation, I ribbed him about his desktop...He said he considers the desktop dead space if it doesn't have something on it. I think his exact words were "make the desktop work for you". That's a unique perspective. It's more of a portal philosophy. Fill the desktop to the brim with tons of stuff that's relevant to you, so it's always at your fingertips.

I realize there's no right answer. Some people strive for blank, zen-like desktops, and some people fill their desktop with as many icons, gadgets, and gewgaws as they can possibly jam in there. It's a religious debate...But I still maintain that it's unhealthy to turn the desktop into an artificial destination. It's like the Las Vegas strip; no matter how many zany attractions they add, eventually visitors have to come to terms with the fact that they've arbitrarily chosen to build those attractions in the middle of a vast, inhospitable desert.

For my money, I just can't figure out how you'd ever find anything on such a messy desktop. When I'm browsing a directory, I can sort, search and so on. It sort of reminds me of people who just have huge stacks of books and papers on their physical-world desktop, instead of in a (physical) filing system or on shelves. It's a lot of clutter for what I can only imagine is a marginal-at-best gain in productivity.

That said, it is interesting to consider the perspective of keeping everything I might need right at hand as I review my productivity habits for early-year revision. I don't think I'm persuaded, but it's nice to hear a counter-argument from a (presumably) computer-savvy advocate of a (rare) alternate view.

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PaulJan 29, 2010
Tagged with: Desktop, Productivity, Zen

Brand control by cultural improvement

In today's world, every employee you've got is a steward for your brand. You should probably treat them as such.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the recent PR disaster at Domino's Pizza. To recap, Domino's suffered a major impact to brand perception as a viral video made by two less-than-savory employees in a Domino's kitchen rapidly and probably lastingly besmirched Domino's online presence.

Noid: p0wn3d

I also noted that since this, media bloggers are in overdrive, trying to prepare damage control strategies to offer their clientèle in what everyone now understands are inevitable future instances of similar PR pandemics.

It strikes me, though, that in this instance an ounce of prevention would be worth a pound of cure. Or a ton.

While no one ought to attempt to justify the behavior of the two employees, it's worth considering that the whole incident might have been prevented if they had a different relationship to their employer. Many companies feel comfortable relying on the bad economy (or other mitigating factors) to motivate employees to perform well at their jobs. This means that these companies can jettison part of their own responsibility to help ensure satisfaction among their employees. Since they can, of course, they often do.

We all know, also, that there has been a particularly strong correlation established between happiness and productivity. We also know fewer Americans than ever are happy in their jobs. As any behavioral psychologist will tell you, when people are unhappy, they act out. Sometimes this means merely wasting company resources playing Solitaire all day, and sometimes it means making a video of yourself and your co-worker violating every health code known to man in your employer's kitchen, and then posting it on the Internet.

I don't have any strong evidence to demonstrate the relevance of these observations to this particular instance, but as a small business owner myself, I'm pretty sure they're worth considering.

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PaulMay 4, 2009