What would your digital name be?

I watched a documentary the other day on Kim Dotcom, the founder of megaupload and various other tech ventures. Mr Dotcom was born Mr Schmitz, but changed his name in 2005, to match his entrepreneurial schemes.

It got me thinking about names in general. Names historically developed from a relationship to a person’s lifestyle. Many surnames we have today can trace their roots back in history to jobs that people had and places they lived. So why not do that today, just as Mr Dotcom.

So I pondered a little. I looked at my life and came up with the following possibilities, related to the digital world that I inhabit:

Darren Buffering – in honour of the way I seem to struggle to finish things, or at least take a while to get them to a standard that others can relate.

Darren 404 – for when I am not feeling too good.

Darren /b/ – being creative can lead to doing some pretty random things at times.

Darren Exporting – whether it is audio from Logic or video from Final Cut, this seems to take up a lot of my time.

On a more serious note. We are defined by what we do. Although the above is a little frivolous, it does take on a more serious dimension. What name would others give to us after seeing what we do, or how we act?

And, dear reader, what name would you give me?

How to have a distraction free, productive environment

images of useful appsI write these words whilst people talk and cups clink. I have a cup of tea and I am surrounded by the sounds of a typical coffee shop. However, I am sitting in my room, at my desk at the end of a very productive morning. Two tasks that needed doing, now completed.

I write these words on my computer, using Scrivener, without any other distractions. I am not connected to the Internet. I am not getting updates from Facebook, twitter or email. I have quite simply disconnected.

I have worked in a similar way for most of the week and it has worked. I have been more productive. I have completed tasks and I have completed them quicker than I thought. So what is the secret of my success?

Firstly I want to point out that I have already begun to be more focussed on things as part of my goal to be mindful. I am using a pretty basic to do list, with a simple autofocus approach. To be productive I, and so do you, need to know what we should be doing.

Secondly, I am using two wonderful pieces of software that I really didn’t think would make any difference at all.

Coffitivity

Background sound has always been helpful to the creative process. However, if it gets too repetitive, or even too melodic, it can have a negative effect. Enter Coffitivity a simple program that creates the ambient background sound of a coffee shop.

I was sceptical. Could something so simple actually work? Well, for me, it certainly has. I have background sound that can be set to a certain volume and also be tweaked slightly. There are currently three background settings to choose from. This simple background noise enables me to focus on what I am writing, but also occupies enough of my subconscious so that it doesn’t run off and lose interest in the task at hand.

You can use the online version, but there is also a Mac app version to download. I am using the app version, because of the other piece of software I am using.

Freedom

I was astonished at how easy I could be distracted by the Internet. I would convince myself that I was doing vital research, but exactly how much research can be done on Facebook, tumblr or news sites.

Enter Freedom. This simple app allows me to turn off my Internet connection for a set period of time. I enter the desired number of minutes I want to work on a project and off I go. I have no access to the Internet. The only way to get access back is to wait the number of minutes, or restart the computer.

I have been shocked at how such a simple application can help with focus on a project. I know that I can’t be distracted by anything online, but I also know that in a number of minutes I’ll be able to visit whatever site I want.

Simple focus

It is the simple focus given by both apps, which works for me. Coffitivity gives me ambient background sound and Freedom stops me from being distracted elsewhere. I have also been using Antisocial. This works in a similar way to Freedom, but only blocks email, Facebook, twitter and any other sites I wish to add. This means that now I have written this blog post, I can check the links, and upload it, whilst blocking any other unwanted distractions.

I’d love to hear any productivity tips you’ve found, just pop them in the comments.

Blogging is dead; long live the blog

Blogging is dead.

I look at some old bookmarks on my browser. I click on the links. I visit the blogs. They haven’t been updated for months, some even years. I feel sad for times past. I remember happy times reading what was written. I laughed at some situations, commiserated at others. I made virtual friends. Now those blogs are either finished or in hiatus. I have lost contact with those virtual friends. I miss them. Nostalgia.

Blogging is alive

I look at my RSS reader, my tumblr dashboard, Facebook news feed. I flip through Flipboard. I click through on interesting links. I visit the blogs. They are all recently updated. I can relate to what is written; the photos and videos shared. I laugh at some situations, commiserate at others. I have virtual friends and some people I know offline too. These are blogs I read now, some have run for years, others months, others just weeks. Life moves on.

I should update this more often