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Julien Couvreur's programming blog and more

Focus/Interruption management


Ever felt emails dictate your day and keep interrupting your programming?
Here is a small piece on the Tyranny of Email.

The next version of Outlook introduces a new type of toast, that is half transparent and displays the title of the email for a short while. It seems better than the folder icon in the system tray (that appears when emails have arrived) but I am not sure yet whether it'll make keeping the email client constantly opened a managable option.

I just started using a Outlook little trick to be notified with a sound only by some threads that are blocking me and that I am waiting an answer on.
I simply add a tag (notify:myusername) at the bottom of the email before I send it on the thread and Outlook picks it up when somebody replies because of a specific rule. The rule just states "if an email arrives and the body contains this tag, play a sound".
This way, I don't have to keep checking the emails I receive when I expect a response.

I think IM also has this problem to a certain extent. The first thing you need to do when you use MS Messenger is turn off the sounds and most of the toasts ("friend is now online",...).

I'm also having trouble with my project's build and deployment process. It takes too long (a couple minutes for build and the same for deployment) and I can't change the code during this time, if I want to debug what I just built. So I usually browse (or sometimes check my mail), but then I loose some of my focus. My solution to this is online bookmarks: it's just a one-pager stack of links where I store everything I want to give a look at later. This way I just give a quick look at slashdot or other sites, find cool links and stack them (using a bookmarklet and a customized version of Phoenix) without getting myself too randomized.

Here is an interesting social experiment to deal with interruptions during meetings. A parallel discussion is established through an online chat, that also gets displayed on a large screen for people to follow without being stuck on their laptops.
As this O'Reilly Network blog mentions, a RendezVous enabled IRC program would be nice. It would also be a nice alternative to the web chat program used during this experiment.

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