And the unexpected benefits of what seemed like a thing I’d never use.
So, previously: my gorgeous 27in iMac is away off with the faeries – i.e. being seen to by Apple – and while it’s gone, I’m working on my old and I had thought underpowered MacBook Pro. It’s not underpowered. For the most part it’s doing its job well, I am doing my job fine. It’s got a broken keyboard but I’ve plugged in my iMac’s one and that’s all tickety-boo fine.
What’s really changed is that I’ve started using the Mac’s Full Screen jobbie. In pretty much any software you use on a Mac, you can tap a button or press a key to make that app fill the screen – and hide everything else. I have never used it before. I don’t want 27 inches of white blazing out at me when I’m writing.
Plus, it’s a slightly clunky idea because of the way you get back from this full screen lark to regular larking. You mouse up a bit until the menu bar reappears, then you find the button. Somehow a bit ugly.
Yet with a much smaller screen, I tried using this in one app and I’ve liked it so much that I’m using it in every app. I find I can swap between these full screen applications like moving from Word to Safari without closing the full screen, moving to the other app and reopening the full screen. Just the usual Command-Tab takes me through full screens.
Not always very smoothly. I seem to end up paused, hovering over the desktop for a time while it all figures itself out. But usually, I’m in Safari now, I’m in Mail next, it’s a quick thing and not anywhere near as disruptive to concentration as I thought.
But here’s the thing. Concentration. What I didn’t appreciate was that full screen apps hide their menu bar and that means they hide the clock. Hiding the clock turns out to be excellent: I could focus on the thing I was doing and spend whatever time it took. Of course, I have to leave for a meeting in a while so I couldn’t ignore time altogether but for about 90 minutes, I could.
Time passed but I was entirely focused on the job and if I sometimes longed for a tea break, I didn’t once stop to think about whether I had enough time to carry on.
If you’re not on a Mac, thank you for reading this far, and go find a way to switch off that damn clock. It’ll help you.
There’s some smart and simple advice from productivity writer Grace Marshall: get a stopwatch. Well, if you have a phone, you have a stopwatch, but get it and use it. Time what you do.
Time your distractions
Next time you tell yourself you’re just going to have 5 minutes on Facebook – set a stop watch and see how long you actually spend. It may only take 5 minutes to post your update, but if you start scrolling, clicking and exploring links, how long is that actually taking?
Test those two minute jobs
We all have things we perpetually underestimate. What are yours? For me it’s the bitty jobs. The things I think will only take two minutes (e.g. email file) but actually take anything from 5 minutes (connect to server, wait, find file, type email, press send) to 15 (oh wait, that’s the wrong format, fix that, change the date, add that other bit of information, save it to PDF, check it looks alright, now type the email and send it…) Next time you tackle your simple, mundane or bitty jobs, use a stopwatch and see what you discover.
If I weren’t such a nice guy, I’d steal each one of these thirty and claim them as my own, once a day for the next month. And actually many of them are ones that I do so, you know, if they pop up again from time to time, it’s coincidence. But this collection of short tips is a smart read and it’s also got several tips that I did not know before and fancy using now.
Such as the very first two of the thirty:
1) Buy an hourglass.
Lots of us use timers to break up our tasks into manageable chunks. But how many times have you turned over your cell phone to panic about how little time you have yet? Invest in a couple of hourglasses that measure different times. You can see immediately how much time you have left, without having to calculate what you can get done.
2) Get a clock.
Did you know that the subtle sound of a ticking clock could make you more productive? The tick-tock gives your subconscious a sense of urgency so you work faster. If you don’t want a clock, there are plenty of timer apps that allow you to turn the tick-tock sound on.
I’ve got a ticking clock and it isn’t ticking so much for some reason, but I’ll look into that. I’ll also look into the hourglass, maybe as a Christmas present to myself, as asking Siri to set a timer on my iPhone for an hour is so passé. I’m looking at that Koch 11000 1-Hour Hourglass Renaissance, pictured above. I’m just looking.