Thursday, January 26, 2006

Evaluating your workplace habits

Often times when you spend your 9-to-5 at the office, you feel like you're not getting as much done as you'd like. Or maybe you're just curious about how much of your work time is taken away by non-work distractions (impulse to web surf and other things). One tip I got from reading sites such as Lifehacker and 43 Folders is keeping track of the time you spend at the office. This means literally take note of what you're doing, including the start time and end time. Fortunately there are tools out there that help you do that.
Ideally, a tool that I'd like to use for this has the following features:

  • Small enough to fit in the toolbar and has an always-on-top option
  • Installed on the PC (because I don't always have internet connection)
  • Can easily switch from one task to another (because I do many different tasks in a day, and I don't do one task continuously from start to finish).
  • Has a decent reporting feature.
  • Free

I tried a number of different tools, ranging from the basic to the sophisticated, but finally settled on TimeTracker. It doesn't meet all my criterias, but I'll settle for it for now.
I've been using it for only 3 days now, but I'll share my experience. First, I regret to say that I broke the first rule of scientific study. When you're observing a subject, your observation is not supposed to affect your subject. However, in my case, the fact that I'm able to dissect my working habit as I'm doing it and evaluate whether it's good or bad, makes me improve my working habit at the same time. So at the end of 3 days, I see that I'm actually doing more work that before.

Well, in any case, even though my study is not valid, my goal to improve my productivity is achieved.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

GTD and ebooks

I became aware of Getting Things Done (GTD), a few months ago from various web sites around the internet. The more I read about it, the more I became interested in it. When I decided to buy the book, about 5 months ago none of the bookstores in Jakarta carried it. Fortunately Amazon carried the e-book version. 5 minutes later, I was happily reading the electronic version of David Allen's Getting Things Done on my iPaq hw6515.
This book started a whole avalanche of e-book purchases and the beginning of e-book love-fest for me. My preferred format is Microsoft's eReader (.LIT) because of the ClearType (seriously, I mean it) and other wonderful thingies such as bookmarking and highlighting.

The reason I prefer e-books to regular books are related to the teachings of GTD itself. GTD teaches you to utilize time more efficiently. The 5 minutes waiting for a meeting to start, the 2 minutes waiting for the light to turn green, etc. Those are the times I use to read my ebook. And I carry 10 books with me all the time... in my iPaq.

One good e-commerce site I discovered for e-books -- besides Amazon -- is FictionWise. Of course, relatively speaking, the choice of e-books for sale out there is pretty pathetic. I'm pretty pissed that publishers are not offering more titles as e-books and I can't understand (or rather, I refuse to accept the explanation) why they won't do that. Even if they offer a title, the cost is the same or more expensive than the paperback edition. Why? There's no cost for paper, no cost for distribution, no cost for the middle persons. Why the high price??