The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Better Defaults

Productivity in 2017: What we learned from analyzing 225 million hours of work time.

This article provided some interesting, yet not surprising, results from the RescueTime team for 2017. I love that they’re scrubbing the data they receive and combining the results. The thing I took away the most from the report was this:

Email rules our mornings, but never really leaves us alone

That’s something I’ve been working hard at the past couple of months. I’ve longed believed in the idea of batching email, but have struggled to adopt the practice. Back in late November, I signed up for Setapp and started switching my subscriptions there. One included app was Focus. And I’ve grown to love it.

It's a very simple premise in that it blocks certain websites (and comes with a pretty good default black list). But it also shuts down specific apps and has a schedule for "focus time" each day. I have it run from 8am–12pm every day (4 hours) and it blocks email and Twitter clients for me.

It's a simple thing and easy enough to just shut off the app itself. But the fact that I have chosen to have it run and have set this schedule has been enough for me to remind myself I want this change. And if you do try to shut it off, it gives a little prompt asking something akin to “Are you sure you want to do this? You set this schedule!” It’s just enough friction to keep me from making a change.

RescueTime also gives you the ability to focus, but it’s a backwards model. The default is that distracting apps and web sites are allowed and you have to start a focus session.

Focus is the opposite — it’s a set schedule for focus with the ability to take a break during the regular schedule (as recommended in Deep Work under Embrace Boredom, Don’t Take Breaks from Distractions. Instead Take Breaks From Focus). The fact that I don’t have to think about this at all is liberating.

As they say regarding productivity, create better defaults. Add friction to distracting activities. Make it easy to start the tasks that matter. Soon, habits will form.

One step for me is email. I'm not dealing with it until the afternoon each day.

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