Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Low hanging productivity - improving your workspace

-6 Post author: Elo 09 August 2016 12:14PM

Original post:  http://bearlamp.com.au/low-hanging-productivity/

Tl;dr - Simple changes to workspaces like a big screen can make a big difference.


This week I spent a few days away from my usual desk.  I have been house sitting.  I didn't think too much of it; I tend to carry with me a portable lifestyle.  My laptop, some power blocks for my phone, and various supplies that make for easy "office"-ing around the place.  I usually don't carry a charger with me because when I know I will be gone a while I will take it with me.  

I have always liked a portable office.  The ability to stop, and continue later at ease was always important to me.  However recently I moved into a new place and set up a desk.  I figured I would tryX where X is workspaces (a post for the future).  I never set up a workspace for the reason of it not being portable.  The interesting thing that has surprised me this week is that I miss my big screen (which was a gift - I might have never bought myself a big screen).  

For whatever reason, the ability to view more space at once makes me more productive.  Combined with Linux's natural tendencies to have several desktop environments with simple switching.  My laptop screen is about 19in.  Which is plenty.  The new screen is about 1.5x that.  I never thought it would be useful, it took me years to do it.  If it broke today, I would be willing to spend up to $900 to get it back (which is more than six times the price of a new screen).  Right now I wonder how productive I might be with a 3rd screen... Or a 4th.  (or a 3D virtual reality work environment with screenspace limited by my eyeballs not my screen resolution...)

I feel like (along with other habits) I am probably working at 120% of what I was working before.  A fair chunk of which I owe to the extra screenspace.

Questions for today:

  1. What part do you remember adding to your workspace to help you be more productive.
  2. What's the coolest most awesome or productive workspace that you have seen in action?  How hard would that be to get for yourself?
  3. How can you make your current workspace a tiny bit more productive in anticipation for things you have to do tomorrow?

Meta:  This took 45mins to write.

Comments (7)

Comment author: cata 10 August 2016 04:40:12AM 2 points [-]

Pertinent to your questions, check out /r/battlestations.

Comment author: Elo 11 August 2016 03:46:24AM -2 points [-]

Neat. If you count the hue bulb in my desk lamp, and the Rpi and screen also on my desk - I probably qualify as some kind of tricked-up gangsta.

Comment author: SquirrelInHell 10 August 2016 02:43:52AM 2 points [-]

If we are talking about PCs, then mounting filesystems read only is a killer: https://sites.google.com/site/linuxpendrive/rorootfs

Comment author: minta98 09 August 2016 10:42:59PM 0 points [-]
  1. Having a constant clean workspace helps me. I always use a lot papers and files, so I've learnt that cleaning up a bit every hour or so really helps.

  2. I think the best place would be in a quiet small coffee shop with not too many people where you have a nice big table to yourself in a corner and with the lovely smell of coffee and buns... so beautiful haha

  3. At the moment my workspace is the library, because my desk at home is tiny and makes it hard to concentrate. But cleaning up the current workspace will definitely make it easier to get to work tomorrow for me.

Comment author: delton137 09 August 2016 09:42:55PM 0 points [-]

I am currently working from home and my laptop is now considerably more powerful than my desktop, which is 8 years old.

Anyone have a suggestion for a good external video card that would allow me to use two monitors to my new laptop? [it has a mini DisplayPort output and free USB]

Comment author: root 09 August 2016 03:04:37PM 0 points [-]

Can you give a picture of your workspace?[0] Mine is just a one screen with dwm[1]. dwm is simple and useful and I can easily switch between 'workspaces' with two buttons.

[0] Screencap works as well. [1] http://dwm.suckless.org/

Comment author: kithpendragon 09 August 2016 03:04:14PM 0 points [-]

The most surprisingly useful thing I ever added to a workspace was actually a second screen. Even with a Virtual Desktop Manager, having a second (in this case, smaller) screen on one side allows for more modularity in my work environment. My workflow consists primarily of two different programs that give different access modes for the same database [1], and it is unutterably useful to be able to essentially fullscreen both of them.

Less surprising but far more useful: macros. I probably save myself 1-3 hours of tedium each workday by having automated many small, redundant tasks. I firmly assert that humans should never be forced to count anything that is presented on a computer screen. Data parsing isn't all that hard (even easier if the parser can access the database layer, not just a report), and there is simply no excuse for tech having never written these programs themselves!

[1] This is a terrible paradigm: I tend to think of them as "Look" and "Touch", and a fair number of my macros exist only to allow me to use the two in a more integrated way.