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ToadCast 014 - Everyone's got a phone and a toilet

Joining me for our 14th ToadCast is Chris Trahey where we talk about doing what is right for your clients and the benefits of developers as technical sales. We also discuss notification overload, the anxiety surrounding a desire to know everything, and managing your todo list.

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We have a handy form for you to submit questions, topic ideas, and tips that we'll read on the air! Yay. Give it a try.

Thanks for listening.

Topics discussed:

  • opinions in php frameworks
  • forward deployed engineer
  • Devs as technical sales
  • Being a good steward to your client's needs
  • Notification overload and how to get things done
  • Turn off push notifications!
  • Dealing with information overload and wanting to know everything

Show Notes:

Date posted: February 19, 2013


Use TabsOutliner: Chrome extension that let's you save entire groups of windows or tabs. Can track the hierarchy in which you found/opened them, and pin entire sets "for later," before closing them and reclaiming system resources.

Thanks Tyler, I'll check that out. I've been using TooManyTabs in Chrome and it does something similar, but not as sophisticated.

I no longer know when I get an email! After listening to the podcast and having some discussion with some of the Toads, I took time this morning to look at the notifications I am getting. Immediately, I turned off browser notifications for gmail, disabled the 'unread count icon', and turned off the push notifications on my phone. Then as the day went on, any time there was a notification of any sort, I took a moment to think about if I really need to know about 'that thing' every time it happens. Basically came down to having zero notifications at all. I check my email and phone often enough, but I don't need them to pull me out of my flow.

Disabling the unread count icon was huge for me. I didn't realize how many times throughout the day I'd look at that number then pause to think if it was different than the last time I looked at it.

I've also stopped using Apple's Mail program and just use gmail for both personal and work emails, but in full screen mode and swiped out of view. So the only time I know about email is when I swipe it back into view which I will only do in those pauses between tasks when I think about it.

The one notification I've left on is the one that tells me the coffee shop downstairs is about to close and I should go now if I want more. Very important.

I've found the easiest way to stay focused is to route all notifications through my phone. Email, meeting reminders, chat and of course text messages are all routed to my phone. I like having access to all of that data for times when I'm away from the office and it gives my family access to me if there is an urgent need for my attention. Having everything in one place also makes it easier to manage. That means when I'm at my desk and focused on a task I am distraction free. It's an easy way to control the flow information and availability requests.

Just thought of another tip. I use Chrome so you'll have to figure this out for other browsers. I don't keep much in my bookmarks bar at the top of Chrome, but I do put a few frequently visited sites up there. I've been realizing that it's a huge distraction to have those so readily available while I'm working on tasks and find myself opening reddit or hacker news compulsively and without thought. Now when i'm working I hide those by using Chrome's shortcut ⌘ + shift + b

Thanks for having me, Robbie! I enjoyed our conversation and my subsequent reflections. You mentioned your feeling that people have less will power over themselves than they do over their context, and therefore context changes are a more viable route to self improvement. That got me thinking about User Experience in what we develop.

Think about the user's perspective: your software is a context, and their experience is the "self". There are generally two options for self-improvement:

  1. Modify the self to fit your fixed user task models
  2. Choose a different context that does a better job of working with their existing task models (and even a better job drawing them into better ones)

I think you see where I'm going with this: Most users will choose the second option, and your insight hints that it might be their only real choice for having a better experience.

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