In pursuit of productivity

Everyone has their own definition of productivity, and their own vision of how best to achieve it.

For my own part, I get more done by avoiding all the desktop doodads and whirligigs. I have my own faint streak of attention deficit disorder to contend with, but I would suspect that a lot of the desktop gadgets and tools that people consider essential to their day-to-day tasks … are really just stealing their attention away from the things they should be doing.

So I stand by my answer to that thread — that the most productive desktop for me has been one without any superficial layout or oddball keystrokes or hot-wired graphical arrangement or esoteric time management software. You’re free to add or subtract from just about any desktop or packaged distribution, just as you’re free to build up from nothing and fine-tune every last option. That’s the beauty of Linux.

But I still feel less is more. Take away the distractions and you will find yourself getting more done at a better pace, and if that’s what you mean by “productivity,” that’s what I mean by my answer. :mrgreen:

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8 Responses to “In pursuit of productivity”


  1. 1 CorkyAgain 2010/04/14 at 9:50 AM

    The next best thing to a console, CLI-only environment is a window manager that strips off most of the “chrome”. No system tray or other ribbon of things vying for your attention. No window title bars with minimize/maximize/close buttons; there are keystrokes for that. No scrollbars, there are keys for that too. Devote as many pixels as possible to the actual work at hand.

    If you can run the app full-screen and eliminate all the window-management stuff altogether, even better. You should begrudge even a one-pixel border around the window!

    dwm, xmonad, and musca are just a few of the possibilities. I like tiled windows, but many of these stripped-down window managers support floating or stacked windows too.

    Sometimes the work we’re doing has to be done in X. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a productive, spartan environment.

    • 2 Artopal 2010/04/14 at 6:29 PM

      The scrollbar is not just there to be clicked and dragged, but to convey information about where in the document you are at the moment.

      While working with text, fullscreen is not always a good choice, at least not maximising horizontally. If there is not a way in the application to reduce the margin, the lines are to long and hard and tedious to read. Between 72 and 80 caracters is the rule of thumb for readability.

      But yes, less distractions, more productivity. :)

      • 3 CorkyAgain 2010/04/15 at 7:38 AM

        Good points.

        When editing rich text I only use tools that allow me to set the right margin.

        When editing source code, I want to see the line as it was written, not soft-wrapped. (But I also prefer short variable names and other programming stylepoints that help avoid long lines.)

        As for knowing where I am in the document, I rarely need that info. When I do, I turn on line-numbering. :)

  2. 4 road 2010/04/14 at 11:34 AM

    this is actually one of the main issues keeping me from switching to Linux at work. it’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but I’m afraid I’ll spend all day trying to compile a utility or configure a display adapter or something instead of, y’know, working. there are other reasons, but deep down this is the one i’m afraid of. at the of the day there’s just not that much fiddling one can do in windows or OSX compared to linux.

    • 5 mulenmar 2010/04/14 at 3:02 PM

      So wait — are you afraid of being required to tinker, or are you afraid that you’ll *want* to tinker?

    • 6 Artopal 2010/04/14 at 6:40 PM

      Then do it at home, not at work, half an hour a day, as a hobby, because of curiosity, and because it’s free, anyway. When you find a setting which suits your needs and you feel comfortable with, it’ll be half an hour (max) to clone it at work, and by then you will be proficient with what you want to do.

      When I was trying Linux for the first time, I had just one computer, live-cds were something new, and Windows 98 SE was running good on it (with me constantly keeping it tidy). So I has also like «Why try something new when the old ain’t broken and my lack of knowledge will certainly make me ruin my setup?». I was most afraid of grub, partitioning and dual booting, as I feared to mess my boot sector and my disk, and I had no backup disks. After a while I was able to purchase a second hand laptop, and the fun began… ;)

      Nowadays I have 3 machines, and two of them have always 2 partitions (besides swap): one for doing real work, one for testing whatever distrowatch throughs at me.

      And yes, my working environment is still changing, and I am still learning (I’m a slow learner).

  3. 7 Jan 2010/04/14 at 11:51 PM

    I have just started using OpenLook again after more years than I care to admit. This critter is so bare bones it makes FVWM look like a full KDE4 install.I may get around setting up my system menu, but for now I’m just using xterm
    to launch stuff.

  4. 8 eric 2010/05/05 at 10:51 PM

    I second the use of minimal window managers (if you are using X et al.). In my case, ratpoison is the best at fitting in with my needs.

    I have two monitors on most systems I use (not my laptop). If I’m doing code development, I can have one display with emacs full screen for writing code and the other display showing the running program. If I’m writing (documents, that is), again one display will have the document full screen and the other will have reference material (dict, bibtex, even a browser for searches).

    I have nothing else on the two screens so I do not get distracted at all… (well, I can dream).


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