While making the tea light centerpiece I, of course, made some mistakes. Luckily, wood can be a forgiving medium. Here’s a little video on how to fix those mistakes.
I made this tea light centerpiece for my wife on Mother’s Day 2019. This is the first project where I remembered to video the process, so enjoy!
Mistakes were made.
It will come to no surprise for those who know me. I have a hard time focusing for any significant period of time. Of course, this issue does not mix well with a remote, full-time job.
Thankfully I’ve created systems to mitigate my lack of attention-keeping ability. Here they are.
Have a dedicated office
My family and I are fortunate enough to have an extra room in the house that we set aside as a dedicated office space. This provides several benefits, but my favorite is they psychological separation of work/play. After 3.5 years of working from home I have trained my brain to switch into work mode when I enter the office. A door that can lock from the inside is also a great benefit on the rare occasion I have to work when my family is home.
Keep devices out of the office
While I’ve disabled all but the most useful notifications on my phone, the mere presence can lead me to pick it up. Same goes for the iPad.
Blanket rule: No devices in the office unless they’re being used for testing.
Block distracting apps with impunity
This is my coup de grâce but it took a while to catch on. Too often I would leave my email open or forget to turn on DnD in Slack. I’d see a new message came in and before I knew it I was down a rabbit hole that almost always lead to some obscure Wikipedia page, subreddit, or StackExchange community. For a while I searched for an app that would not only block distracting websites (of which there are plenty) but also applications.
Finally I landed on Focus (aff. link). Focus fit both of my criteria. I could block all of those websites where I typically end up as well as quit any distracting applications. As soon as a focus session starts anything on the block list disappears. For me that means TweetBot, Spark (for email), and any games simply go away. All of this was good, but I needed to go further. I had to remove any chance that a moment of weakness would have me stop the focus session.
Enter Hardcore Mode
Hardcore mode does exactly what you think it does. Once a focus session has started, there’s no way to turn it off until the countdown or schedule is finished. This mode does allow for breaks but only to the limit you set below.
Speaking of schedules, I’ve found that setting a focus schedule helps me get more done in just a couple of hours than I ever had in an entire day. Combined with Hardcore Mode I have no choice but to stay focused on the task at hand every morning. In case you were wondering, I do my best to reserve afternoons for meetings, communication and other miscellaneous tasks.
Tying it all together
The feature that really sold me on Focus was scripting. This would allow me to get rid of every last distraction. You can create separate scripts for when you enter and exit a focus session. Here are mine:
# Set Slack DnD export PATH="$PATH:/usr/local/bin" /usr/local/bin/slack snooze start 180 say -v Samantha get to work
# Turn off Slack DnD export PATH="$PATH:/usr/local/bin" /usr/local/bin/slack snooze end say -v Samantha done
Using a great bash utility I’m able to set my Do-Not-Disturb status for Slack as soon as my focus session starts.
Focus also provides a URL scheme to start & stop sessions from other apps. I made use of this by creating an Alfred workflow that would begin a 5 minute countdown before starting a focus session. This allows me to finish a conversation with a coworker or write up a quick email to a partner before getting back to my focused development work.
So there you have it! This is how someone with attention issues can thrive in a remote work environment. If you have any other tips to add I’d love to hear from you on Twitter.
Even when you come back empty-handed the time has not been wasted. Hunting provides us with so much more than meat.
In the stillness of hunting you have time to stop, to listen, and be present with yourself and the great outdoors.
There’s an old saying, “Make hay while the sun shines”. It means you should get your work done while the conditions are favorable. No distractions. Don’t even think of dilly-dallying!
You never know when the power will go out. Or you’ll get the flu. Or your kid will get sick. Or all of the above.
So make your hay, develop that app, write your comment or so your work while the sun is still shining.
In support of my 2017 tech trends I’ve done my best to look away from screens and create more with my hands. Cooking is one of the ultimate creative outlets. It’s conjuring something (hopefully) amazing from basic ingredients and feeding your family in the process. Better yet, you know what you’re putting into your body. Not that I worry about eating organic or not enjoy the occasional patty melt from Whataburger.
You can play the home version! Get a hunk of beef, throw some herbs and spices on it, cut up an onion, cover and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 3 hours. Don’t look at it. Trust the oven. That’s called a pot roast. And it doesn’t get much easier than that.
Still want easier? Fine. Get a cold pan on the stove. Lay out thick-cut bacon. Turn the stove on low. Flip the bacon every couple of minutes turning up the stove a bit each time. 15 minutes later you have perfectly cooked bacon.
Now get in the kitchen!