How To More Than Double Your Productivity With Just 3 Mouse Clicks

1) Close the Email program you are currently running.
2) Close the Web browser (all of the screens if you happen to have many).
3) Close the Instant Messenger (or messengers if you happen to run several chat programs).

Do it now.

Now write some code, create some art, compose music or do the tasks what you really should be doing. And no excuses: you can very well use Notepad or something to write blog posts. No, you don’t really need to dig all that info from the web while coding. If people really have important information for you, they can use the phone. (And if that starts to bother, close your cellphone too)

That’s pretty much it.

When you have finished some of your actual work, you can go online again.

If can see this line of text, you are doing something wrong (since you should have closed the web browser already).

How to Stay In Heaven (Keep Inbox Clean)

Chris points out that staying in Heaven is hard when your inbox is getting alerts from certain places. My very simple solution for this thing is:
1) Stop the alert (why would you need to get alerted anytime somebody posts a comment somewhere? Couldn’t you simply check those comments via the forums at some point?)
2) Create a message rule (these might get bit ugly when you start wondering what there rules were, and that way you can miss something… but if you can make a really strict rule that takes the email sender + email subject, and throw these emails to certain folder, it could be ok) – basically the idea is to get certain emails automatically moved to the place (folder) they belong.

I’ll be giving more reports on my progress here. Right now there’s 12 unread emails, gotta keep cleaning…

I’m In Heaven (My Inbox Shows “Zero Emails”)

About a week ago I wrote about cleaning your (okay, mine) email inbox and today I finally finished it. I was about to leave 2 emails there, but then thought: “whadda heck, I’d just might do this now” and replied those emailed and archived all my inbox emails.

I was thrilled to see empty inbox.

Seriously, I now have empty inbox, and it’s amazing feeling. I feel like there’s no longer “small matters bugging me in the email”. I think it’s awesome.

I hope to get addicted on this.

I’m a Darn Proud Cleaner (Are You?)

Yesterday I spend several hours cleaning my email inbox, and got rid of hundreds of unread emails – and cleaned several folders I had created. I didn’t get to zero emails in my inbox, but with this pace I’m there (hopefully) very soon and tend to keep that way. It’s a wonderful feeling to see an empty folder (instead of a folder with hundreds of unread emails).

How many unread emails you have in your email box?

How often you clean your email?

7 Days Has Passed, What Happened?

It’s 7th of January, 2009. Seven days has passed, and I’d have a question: have you started taking action to reach your goals for this year?

Seriously, I have been thinking and planning, planning and thinking my goals for this year, but haven’t really done much yet. (Okay, I have been sick, but that’s still an excuse). It’s “only 7 days”, but that’s already about 2% of the time we have for year 2009.

I don’t mean you’d need to rush or anything… but I think we gotta wake up if we really want to finish the stuff we plan for the year 2009.

If you already have goals, start working on them. If you don’t have goals, set them.

Have you already started taking steps towards your goals?

Mailbox Flood

Juuso is out-of-town now and will come back maybe tomorrow (or so). This is a scheduled post.

Darn, it’s Xmas time and my mailbox is dangerously flooding. At the time of writing there’s over 60 unread messages in my inbox (which is bad since I try to keep it as close to zero as possible). The fact that I’m away almost a week probably makes the mailbox even more cluttered with emails.

Usually my basic strategy for dealing with email inbox is quite simple: mark read & delete posts in batches – read only the ones that seem reasonable to read (and reply right away instead of thinking that “I’ll deal with this next week”). Usually there’s still several emails that are waiting to get answered. This way I hope to have a “clean inbox”, thus I can rest assured that I’ve dealt with the important posts.

What’s your strategy on dealing with emails, and how you keep things effective?

Game Producer Christmas Calendar – Day 20 (Time to Make Some Time)

Jake participated in the ‘Write to Santa’ contest (contest is still going on a few days, so write!) and asked more time. This wish got me thinking about the issue.

How to get more time?

I’m not saying I’m any more expert on this issue than you, but that won’t stop me saying what I think (After over 1000 blog posts written in this blog, I’m pretty sure you know this).

I’ve written a lengthy post titled 100 ways to be more productive which offers plenty of ideas on how to be more productive and get more time (worth checking by the way), and I think we all have ideas on how to get more time.

I think one very important thing in getting more time is to decide to make time. I think we all need to realize that we cannot get everything. We must choose to make time. There’s a story about this old businessman whose doctor said that the old man could not work in his current 8-12 hours-per-day pace. The businessman could work only 2 hours a day, or his health would be gone soon.

When the businessman heard this, he realized that he needed to really decide what’s truly important and concentrate 100% on those issues. No more 8 (or 12 hour days). 2 hours was all there was.

This made the businessman to have much more productive hours than he could ever have.

Sometimes the way to get more time, get more done – is to do less.

How to Set Up The World’s Simplest Version Control & Backup System (Takes Like 5 Minutes)

I’ve used some version control system such as SVN, and different backup software but all of them have one problem: these complex systems might require quite a lot of work to set up, and it’s quite likely that you’d need technical guidance to get them to work (well, I suppose unless you happen to be an unix geek). That’s why I wanted to try something different. Something simpler that does the job.

The simple version control system
During the last weekend I looked into setting up a very simple backup / version control system, and it took me like 10 minutes to find the necessary information and set everything up. It isn’t the most optimized system to back up stuff, but at least it’s extremely simple and it does what’s it supposed to do: it backs up data and creates versions.

I used the information provided by the LifeHacker simple version control and did some modifications to make it work for me.

Step-by-step guide for setting up a version control system
(I’m using Dead Wake game example here)

  1. First I created a folder “G:\Dead Wake\versioncontrol” (it’s on my second hard drive)
  2. Then I created a “versioncontrol.bat” file and put the following code inside it (this all should be in one line):

    xcopy “D:\Dead Wake\development” “G:\Dead Wake\versioncontrol\%DATE%” /V /I /S /Y

    (This copies my development folder files under the versioncontrol folder, and creates a ‘date’ folder there. Notice that I use the /Y to overwrite files automatically: since I launch this backup script several times a day, but want to store only the latest version for one day, I have made it to overwrite possible files)

  3. Last but not least, I used the Vista’s Task Scheduler to create a “Dead Wake version control” task: it will launch “versioncontrol.bat” several times a day.

    I created 3 triggers and set up it to launch version control “Daily at 10 o’clock”, “Daily at 14 o’clock”, “Daily at 18 o’clock”. (LifeHacker provides information on how to set up scheduled tasks)

And that’s it.

The results
Now the system will automatically backup the project folder three times a day and copy it under the version control folder. It also puts a date, so I can easily see on what date the version was created. If I want to manually launch the backup process, I can simply double click the “versioncontrol.bat” file.

Some notes
I realize that this isn’t as sophisticated nor optimized system. For example, it would copy only modified files (if you want to do that, then check out “xcopy /?”, there’s help information for that too), but to my needs this is good enough. The files aren’t compressed (zipped), but since I have only like 70 megs of data (and a big harddrive), it’s not a big deal.

Simple system
On a good side: you don’t need much expertise to set this up, and it’s very quick to run (of course depends how many megs you have) – and you can launch old versionsvery easily (since you don’t need to unzip anything) if needed.

Simplicity & easy of use in backing up data were my goals, and if you want to do something more sophisticated & optimized, then you gotta look from somewhere else.

Variation
If you don’t want a daily data, you can also use something like: (in the “versioncontrol.bat”)

xcopy “D:\Somestuff\” “G:\Somestuff Backup” /V /I /S /Y

This would copy everything under “D:\Somestuff\” folder to “G:\Somestuff Backup”. Notice, it wouldn’t create “date” folder, so it would be merely a one-time backup of your existing data. This can be useful for bigger amount of data, but this system would benefit from “copy only changed files” type of solution.

This way, the ‘mirror’ wouldn’t become too big. (Imagine if you copy 100 gigs of stuff, just to notice couple of days later that your harddrive got filled since there was so much data).

Anyway, this can be a good way to backup data that doesn’t change so often (unlike your current projects).

Word of warning
I think this system is as simple as it can get, but if you don’t know what you are doing, then be careful with the data folder sources and destinations, and do an alternative backup of your product files first (zip everything for example). You don’t want to overwrite your original stuff. Make some test folder backup first to see it actually works. I won’t be taking blame if you manage to overwrite your project files when setting up this backup system.

It shouldn’t happen, but I just want to make sure we know what we are doing here.

Thanks to LifeHacker.com for the helpful tips.

Update: Tip from Toni for compressing files:

I did make something similar but I added a command-line compressor because them files tend to add up fairly quickly. I used 7-Zip cmdline version.

Here’s instructions on how to get 7-Zip command line version working

Deadlines Are Not Evil

I discussed with one guy about project work and he brought an interesting point. He said he had a project that would take about a year to accomplish. In the beginning of the project he was bit worried that there didn’t seem to be specific dates set at all. This was bit stressful since he knew that there was one big deadline set (the one year timeline), but no deadlines for smaller goals or milestones. He wasn’t sure what to focus on next.

He discussed this with his project clients and finally at some point they managed to set a few milestone deadlines. Just merely attaching a specific date to an upcoming meeting was relief for this guy. He said it made his work more clear. Now he didn’t need to stumble forward, but he could organize his work so that he would first go towards the first deadline. After that he’d know when the second deadline and what it was all about. It brought clarity to set ‘what’ the next milestone is about and ‘when’ it is supposed to occur.

This isn’t always possible to do: deadlines can be missed, features might not make it to the milestone, something unexpected occurs, fixing one bug creates four new bugs…. anything can happen.

Even though deadlines can be tricky one, it doesn’t mean one shouldn’t use them. Deadlines can inspire people to meet the deadline. They can bring clarity. They can be helpful. Check out some famous quotes about deadlines, perhaps they’ll inspire you to think about the importance of deadlines:

“A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.”
-Rita Mae Brown

“They didn’t want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.”
Robert Heinlein

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.”
-Nolan Bushnell

And one of my personal favorites…

“I’ll need daily status reports on why you’re so behind.”
- Dilbert’s Boss

Deadlines aren’t necessary evil. It depends how you set them.

Pretty Simple Way to Have Incredibly Effective Meetings

How come there’s so many project leaders who tend to have these huge meetings where everybody needs to participate and where there’s 700 topics in the agenda. No wonder the meetings are long, boring, and accomplish very little.

Here’s a simple secret: have only one objective for the meeting.

It might sound a bad idea, since there’s so much things that you need to accomplish. Well, I think it’s better to at least have one successful meeting -rather than a series of failures. If there’s so many things you need to accomplish, then the problem isn’t necessary the meeting. It’s something else. It’s something that lead your team to a situation where your meetings are huge, and accomplish very little or nothing. If that’s the situation, then taking a step towards to a method where meetings are simple and something is decided in an effective manner doesn’t sound so bad to me.

Give it a go. If it doesn’t work, then you can always revert back. Instead of creating agenda with loads of topics and many things to decide, have a meeting where there’s only one objective. After that objective is accomplished, the meeting is over. If you need to decide about technology tools, then have a meeting about that. Don’t even try to bring holidays, bonuses, gameplay design, business deals nor other ideas in the meeting.

Keep it short. Keep it simple.

Keep it focused.