Productivity


Productivity

ASMR Rooms and Immersive Single Tasking

29th November 2020 PERMALINK • 2 min read

Cal Newport, writing about ASMR and something called ASMR rooms:

The reason I know about ASMR is that as these “tingle videos” grew in popularity, they spawned a sub-genre called ASMR rooms. The goal in these videos was no longer to trigger the classical tingling response, but instead to invoke a sense of meditative calm and focus.

One such video, for example, is a mostly static shot of Charles Dickens’s victorian-style writing room, with animated flames crackling in the fireplace and a storm raging outside the windows. The scene runs for close to two hours. The only thing that changes is the intensity of the rain:

This is the first time I've ever heard about ASMR rooms, but I find them rather intriguing. ASMR isn't something I'm particularly interested in, but the idea of having a video used for background noise and visuals seems like it would be useful to me.

He writes about how one of his readers makes use of ASMR rooms to immerse themselves into a single task. They do this by playing one of the videos full screen, with the audio playing through noise-cancelling headphones, and then having a word processor in front of it. I'm sure the bigger the screen the better the effect this would have since it would allow you to immerse yourself even more in the environment.

When I'm home by myself, I find that when I try to try to focus on a single task, I get easily distracted. When my girlfriend is home, or even when I lived with my parents, the television is usually on in the background, and people are moving around me. But when I'm on my own, I have the lights turned down to a minimum, usually, the room I'm in has a very dim light, no other light is turned on, and I'm usually sat in silence.

Sometimes I find myself playing a podcast to keep my brain occupied, but if I'm reading or writing, a podcast can also be a distraction. I have the same issue with music.

One tool I have found to help calm the mind is ambient sounds. Not to aid focus, or remove distractions from an environment, but to help to fall asleep. I have one of the small Alexa devices in my bedroom so I use that for this purpose. As it has various skills where you can say "Alexa play something sounds", and it plays an audio track for one hour. I find that I enjoy rainforest sounds, and my girlfriend prefers rain sounds.

When I'm trying to focus on a task I think I need the background sound and also something visual. That's probably why I've found that background noise with apps like Dark Noise doesn't work that well with me. But the idea of an ASMR room certainly sounds like it could work.

The ones that seem most interesting to me are the ones that relate to Harry Potter. For some reason, the scenes seem rather relaxing. I'm not sure if it's solely because of the scenes that the creators have chosen, or the connection I have to the books/films, but they seem to be the ones that attract me the most.

As I'm writing this post, I've been playing various videos on an external monitor which is located behind and to the side of my laptop that I'm writing this from. I have the audio routed to a HomePod Mini which is also on my desk, and I became a bit extra and I changed the smart bulb in my office to a dim orange to set the mood. It does seem to have helped my focus, but obviously, I'll keep trying this idea and hopefully, it helps me stick to a single task and minimise distractions.

If you want to check these out for yourself, here are a few that I've found:

Productivity

Staying Productive on Distracted Days →

8th November 2020 PERMALINK • 1 min read

Cal Newport:

I don’t normally spend much time reading information online, so I definitely noticed this morning the unusual degree to which I was distracted by breaking election news. This points to an interesting question that I’ve seen discussed in some articles in recent days: what’s the best way to keep getting things done on truly distracting days?

My answer: don’t.

Cal Newport is the author of many books relating to reducing distractions and focussing on deep work. So when the above question is posed to him. you may expect a very long and informational response. But instead, he has a very quick, and somewhat surprising answer.

But his short answer, along with his reasoning afterwards, resonate with me quite a lot. Mainly that not every day needs to be a day where you knock loads of things off your to-do list. Some times you need a rest, you need to focus your mind on something different, or maybe you just have something else you need to deal with.

Sometimes I go through patches where I want to be "productive" all through the day, every day of the week. But very soon, I realise that is just isn't sustainable. What is sustainable though, is allowing yourself to rest, have fun, and not feel like you always have to be achieving something. Because when you do choose to get to work, you go at it full of energy, and ready to really dive into your work.

Devices

Refining My Device Usage to Maximise Value

4th June 2018 PERMALINK • 2 min read

With iOS 12’s imminent announcement, I thought I’d prepare myself for a new way of using my devices.

For months now, I’ve been trying to refine my use of my devices, apps, and services that I use. But I think a different approach is needed, and I hope that future OS updates will help me along the way.

The method I’ve been using for a while is quite a harsh one, where I disabled notifications, and everything associated with them, on nearly all applications. Along with getting rid of some apps/services that I don’t think provide any value.

But while I think this has been a step in the right direction, I don’t think it’s a particularly accurate way to achieve my goal of adapting my devices to my needs, and for it to provide me with the most value as possible.

That’s why I’ve now done a complete reversal and turned on all the notifications, and possible distractions on my iPhone. In the short term, I’m hoping this will let me find out where I don’t need to be spending my time and also see if there is any value to them. I mean, I know notifications can be valuable, but I want the right balance. And by turning them all off, I’m potentially missing out.

So tonight, I’ve already gone through a few apps to disable types of notifications, and in some cases, just deleted the app entirely. For example, I have an app for a restaurant I go to maybe once every two months, but they send at least one offer notification every single day.

What I’m majorly hoping for in the next iOS update, are pretty minor things. With the ability to group notifications having the highest priority. I can’t even bear thinking about the types of apps that would benefit from this, because it’s probably all of them. I also think there can be improvements made to the way notifications are visualised. Because even grouped, it’s still just a list.

Then there’s priority, not all bits of information are equally useful. And if they are, you might not need to know about it right now. Things like iMessages are more important than likes on an Instagram post, and work emails are certainly not relevant out of work hours, or maybe even a work location. So there’s a lot of work that can be done here, involving sorting, filtering, and queueing/snoozing.

If all of these issues are “resolved”, then I think the way devices are experience, and even used, will change quite a lot.

There’s also one more tool that would be able to help focus your device usage on a bigger scale, and that would be a way to monitor/visualise your usage, or habits, system-wide. Of course, you can kind of track this by using the battery analytics that tells you the time on screen for apps, but I want it better, and more in my face. Because more insight can only be better.

This is, of course, a long-term goal, and maybe more of a process. But I plan to write about my journey of focusing my usage of devices, and in general, refining my life to maximise value.

I have a few more ideas that I want to try soon, so you’ll find these here only blog as well.

iOS

Using Workflow as a Site-Specific Browser →

12th July 2017 PERMALINK • 1 min read

Michael Rockwell, over at Initial Charge write a piece about a really interesting way to give web apps a more native feel on iOS.

Firstly, he mentions Fluid, which is an application for macOS which lets you “convert” web apps into containers that run as normal apps:

On macOS, there’s an application available called Fluid, which lets you create site-specific web browsers. Many of us use web apps everyday and Fluid allows you to run them side-by-side with your native applications without being sequestered inside of a web browser. Fluid is a handy little tool that every Mac user should have in their arsenal.

I hadn’t heard of Fluid before, so I’m going to try this myself, but it’s not as good as his next suggestion for iOS:

To build these site-specific browsers, it just takes two simple actions — a URL action with the web app’s address and the Show Web Page action. When run, Workflow will open up the URL in a Safari View Controller, which gives you access to your action extensions alongside forward, back, and refresh buttons. From there you can give the workflow a name, set an icon color, and a glyph to fit the website or web application’s functionality.

So, he uses Workflow! It’s something I haven’t thought at all about before, but it makes sense. You can use the standard Safari View Controller inside Workflow, or you make partner it with apps like Sidefari, or maybe even add another layer to it with Opener.

I’ve actually just set one up myself to handle my the interface for this blog, which runs on Ghost.

Whether you use macOS or iOS, there’s a solution for you in this post!

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