A Couple Of Lessons I’ve Learnt At Work Over The Past Few Weeks

The last two weeks have been really horrible. I’ve been working late nights, rushing deadlines, training for the upcoming performance at Commencement and most importantly, not getting enough rest. So my body finally gave way, and I’ve been sick since Saturday.

Firstly, I really would like to apologize for the severe lack of updates on the blog. I know I’ve promised to write posts on how I’ve managed to increase my focus and my own productivity through designing the environment around me. I’ll get back to writing those posts once I’ve cleared the backlog at work.

Secondly, I’d like to just take some time to share a couple of things I’ve learnt at work, over the past two weeks. You’ll probably find this useful.

Learn how to effectively manage your own production time

I never thought doing so was important until I was already 6 feet under, digging my own grave by promising deadlines that I couldn’t meet. A lot of the things I’m doing at work now is relatively, if not completely new to me. And because the tasks are new, I haven’t really been able to estimate a good production timeline, which is really crucial, because you always have to know when you’ll be able to deliver your finished work.

What happened was, when repeatedly asked when I could complete Task X or Y or Z by. I gave an answer like “Oh, I should be able to get it done in 2 days“. Instead of properly considering how much time I actually had on my hands to complete those tasks and give a realistic answer.

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We All Love Being Heard

I’ve been toying with subscribing to Spotify Premium for the longest time. Afterall, it only costs 9.90 SGD a month. That’s like the cost of two Starbuck lattes.

Free desktop and mobile high quality audio streaming, anytime, anywhere. Subscribing should be a no brainer, right? Strangely enough, the answer is no.

I think it’s because if I do subscribe, it’ll be the first time I’ve ever properly subscribed to anything for myself, and so it’s kinda scary. I’m a little scared by the thought of being hooked on a service that sucks money from me on a monthly basis, no matter how small that amount is.

So, I turned to the Twitterverse for advice, hoping that one of my followers/friends out there would give Spotify Premium a glowing review, thereby giving me an excuse to finally subscribe to the service. What shocked me wasn’t the fact that my question didn’t get a reply from anyone on Twitter, but the fact that I received a tweet reply from @SpotifySG.

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How I Burnt My Last Weekend Being Productive

My last weekend wasn’t a weekend because most of it was spent clearing the huge backlog of work that I had slowly accumulated over time. The good thing is even though I pretty much burnt the entire weekend working, I managed to get some extremely productive work in, and achieved much more than I usually would have been able to.

It’s a timely reminder of how it always pays off to be focused and productive when getting things done. That said, I can definitely work with better time management as I only managed to sleep in the wee hours of the morning on both days of the weekend.

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Optimizing Your Browser’s Start Page

A 3 min task that will save you a lot of time

In my previous post, I talked about automating our digital lives and making it more efficient by designing friction out of our environment through streamlining unoptimized workflows and removing distractions.

For a start, I’ll be sharing how I set myself up for success by designing my browser (environment) to get the best Internet experience with as little distraction as possible. And today, I’ll be talking about why and how I optimized my browser’s start/launch page.

Why bother?

It’s important because we use Internet browsers all the time, in fact, my browser is the first app I open when I get on my computer and it rarely gets closed after. I spend a lot of time on my browser every day, and I’m sure you do too.

Here’s where things get interesting. If you know the important keyboard shortcuts like I do, you’d be able to save precious seconds every time you wanted to close or open a browser window. If you have an optimized browser start/launch page like I do, you’d be able to access all your favourite websites in one simple click.

Add that all up and you’ll realize that it’s a whole lot of time saved.

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Automation And Designing Friction Out Of Our Lives

It’s all about designing our environment

I’ve been spending an obscene amount of time on the computer, in my case a 2009 Macbook Pro, ever since I’ve started working and freelancing. It has gotten to the point where I’m now spending at least 10 hours on the computer every day. While I’m not sure how much of it is actually being spent productively, I definitely know that I have a ton of unoptimized workflows and distractions that steal time from me, slowly but surely.

Unoptimized Workflows

I like to lump stuff like an inefficient system of getting down to email inbox zero, trying too hard to multi-task on one screen, or even not knowing simple keyboard/application shortcuts, into the category of unoptimized workflows. Unoptimized workflows can easily be identified and optimized to streamline productivity.

Distractions

The other category I like to lump stuff into would be that of distractions. Things that fall into this category would be the incessant checking of Facebook and Twitter, mindlessly surfing through the internet, or even refreshing email inboxes every five to ten minutes. Distractions in my opinion are also easily identifiable, but are harder to eliminate than unoptimized workflows because they require at least some form of self-discipline.

I’m a sucker for efficiency and productivity. In other words, to avoid inefficiency, I always try my best to stay focused. Ever since I’ve embarked on my drive towards efficiency and productivity, I’ve discovered a slew of methods that have helped me to either optimize my digital workflows or reduce the amount of distractions around me.

If you haven’t yet read my post on Effecting Change With The Elephant, The Rider And The Path, you really should because it tells you all about how we can design our environments to help shape our behaviours and overcome the stubbornness of our subconscious minds.

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Migrating Your Google Reader Feed

Do it now. It takes less than a minute.

Google Reader ranks high on my list of Apps I use the most often. I use an iOS and OS X app called Reeder that pulls all my Google Reader feeds and consolidates them into a really sleek user experience and interface. Google’s unfortunate decision to kill the Google Reader months ago, with the date it finally goes offline set on 1st July 2013, has definitely lead to me scrambling to find an alternative before the actual kill date.

I actually discovered a similar service, Feedly, that pretty much does everything Google Reader does. I managed to import all my feeds from Google Reader in one click and it really didn’t take much effort on my part at all. If you’re looking for a replacement for  Google Reader, I highly recommend using Feedly in the interim.

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Featured On 8BIT’s Standard Theme

I hope I’m doing Standard justice.

I logged into wordpress today to a really nice surprise. I was puzzled because my site stats were showing a mini surge in referrals from Standard’s official website and really had no idea that this was coming. Upon investigation, I found out that my design of danl.im’s child theme was featured on 8BIT‘s official Standard Theme Showcase of classy customizations.

It totally made my day, and I’m really glad that my first foray into responsive site design has been pleasantly recognized. It’s a first for me, and I definitely hope it won’t be the last.

Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Jason Bradley, Michael Novotny and John Saddington, who’ve all played a part in the development of danl.im. They’re all members of the awesome team behind Standard Theme and I think they truly deserve a shout out. Thank you guys!

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Working And Freelancing

It’s no easy feat.

Working and freelancing at the same time, if not done and managed properly, can burn you out, deprive you of precious sleep, and mess you up really badly. But if done right, it’s an opportunity for accelerated and learning and exponential growth. In a nutshell, that’s what I’m trying to accomplish.

I’ve recently completed my degree and started working in a Digital Innovation Studio. I’ve been there for slightly more than a month and am really enjoying my work. While it is mentally exhausting, it’s also extremely interesting and fulfilling. No regrets whatsoever.

The thing is, right before school ended for me in May’13, I challenged myself by agreeing to take on a freelance design job that would have me putting in several hours every day on top of my full-time job up to the end of 2013. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

“Work is tiring, work is tough.”

I ended up going to work for 8 hours every day, coming home dead tired, having to work through the night till two to three in the morning to get my design work done for the freelance job. On top of that, I also had to factor in my twice weekly dance training sessions that more often than not, left me physically exhausted for the rest of the day, and pretty much zonked out the next day.

It was really tiring at first, but I’ve since gotten quite used to the current pace of things. I guess it’s really all about better time management, greater focus and increased productivity.

While there have been times where I found myself questioning why I even chose to take up such heavy workloads, working and freelancing at the same time does have its fair share of benefits.

I’ve learnt so much in the past two months, definitely more than what a normal job can offer. My full-time job has me learning more about design thinking frameworks, user experiences, product management and innovation on a daily basis. While my freelance job has me meddling with user experience and web design through the night. All this goes on with me constantly trying to manage my time better and increase my productivity.

One thing I’ve realized is that I’ve been making better use of empty pockets of time, that used to go to waste. You see, I used to laze about and not do anything if I had half an hour to spare. Not any more. Even if I don’t find myself doing something work related, I try to make a conscious effort to spend my time more productively.

I’ve also started using several productivity apps like Asana and Evernote. Asana helps me to keep track of every thing that I’ve got to be on top of. And Evernote helps me to collate and curate my thoughts within a single ecosystem that’s accessible on my iPhone and my Macbook Pro.

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