Carnival of Journalism: Hacking through life

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This month the Carnival of Journalism prompt (provided by Will Sullivan) was one that would potentially provide tons of practical advice:

What are your life hacks, workflows, tips, tools, apps, websites, skills and techniques that allow you to work smarter and more effectively? So for instance, what tools, plugins, apps and websites do you use to get the most out of the day?

JellyBirmingham on Jan 23 2009. mcbrihk/FlickrI still wasn’t quite sure how much I could add to this discussion. Then without realizing it I had to go through my process of distilling information and life in order to write a post yesterday. It described exactly how a typical day unfolds for me (even though there really isn’t such a thing as typical). The process of trying to explain how I approach the day got me to realize just how many life hacks are already in use.

Disconnection – I used to feel as though a web-based journalist needed to be connected at all times. I now approach it as a fire hose that needs to occasionally be turned off in order to truly benefit from it (and to keep it from washing you away). I stay disconnected the first 30 minutes of my day. It’ll be there when I’m ready to get started and I can always find what I think I’ve missed. There’s also at least one hour a day where I step away from the computer and just walk or read something that has nothing to do with current events.

Use time effectivelyFocus Booster has become one of my best friends. It’s available as  an Adobe AIR and web-based app that lets you run a Pomodoro technique-based timer on your screen. Using the defaults on the timer, it means I work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break before getting back to work.

Handle it once (twice at the most) – I’m still a big fan of Delicious as a bookmarking tool, though I’ve gotten horrible about tagging a page before saving. It has become a place to save interesting articles that I want to go back and read at night. I’ve also started to use Evernote as a place to save pages and notes pertaining to story ideas or long-range planning (and am much more vigilant about tagging those entries).

FilterFeedly definitely falls into this category – it lets me organize my RSS feeds according to topic and lets me see what’s going on at a glance, saving a few clicks here and there. I’m also in the process of organizing my Twitter and Facebook friends into lists. I’ve long used Tweetdeck but am starting to find myself opening Seesmic Desktop more and more – it lets me also keep track of activity on the Facebook pages I administer. During the day it’s easier to follow those lists pertaining to journalism and local issues – sometimes leading to finding  while at night it’s great to help me keep track of what some of my friends are saying and sharing.

04012006 Andre at the post race party. acnatta/FlickrHave fun – There’s a reason why I enjoy playing Scrabble and Bejeweled (and why car rides, bike rides and hikes are still important) – they’re fun! Those types of activities keep you from thinking about everything else that’s going on and sometimes you need to do just that in order to be more productive. It also helps you feel some nice form of accomplishment. This photo’s from shortly after the last 10K I successfully ran in 2006 in Charleston, SC. It was a nice day to lay back and enjoy the fun – after all, I’d just gotten over it – it being one of the largest (and newest) stayed-cable bridges in the Southeastern United States – and I’d found the friend I was supposed to meet up with halfway through it in the midst of 35,000+ people.

Sometimes you’ve got to remember that you’re supposed to be having fun doing all of this stuff. If you don’t, it can lead to a very stressful existence and worse, not producing the type of work you’re truly capable of.

So what kinds of life hacks help get you through it?

Photos: JellyBirmingham on Jan 23 2009. mcbrihk/Flickr; 04012006 Andre at the post race party. acnatta/Flickr

4 comments
Denise Cheng
Denise Cheng

I've totally been looking around for kitchen timers (no smartphone for this girl) the last several weeks to test out the pomodoro technique! Knowing you abide by it gives even more reason to try it out. And Joy (among a few others) also shares your love for Delicious.

Alarob
Alarob

This past week I started using a version of the plain-text task management method described here, using the app Notational Velocity. (Actually I'm using the fork nvALT.) For me the method is replacing the OmniFocus app, in which I found myself recording lots of tasks, but not doing them. OF is ingenious works great for others, but for me this plain-text method is an improvement. 

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