My Productivity System or How I Get Things Done

One could say: your productivity system can’t be that good because you haven’t written a blog post in ages. True, and here is why: I deliberately put some activities on hold the last 6 months. These ‘activities on hold’ happened to be the public ones: speaking, organizing meetups and blogging.

Why did I do that? Because I switched jobs AND I made a career switch. From an infrastructure architect, I decided to take the plunge and join a company that develops back-ends (API’s) and links and integrates them with all sort of systems. So I needed all my energy to be able to make this switch and in the same time add value to customers. Which is why all extra curricular activities where put on hold.

In the meantime I finally developed a GTD system which fits my needs and works for me. So let me to share that with you.

Why a productivity system?
Because in this day and age there is so much a person has to process and remember. At home there is taxes, bookkeeping, laundry, sports, shopping and so on. At work the customers, the team and the MT should be kept happy (and vice versa, obviously). On top of that I want to spend time with my SO as much as possible, to study and write code and blogs for fun.

With all this stuff going on one could easily become overwhelmed, lose control and end up having a burn-out. So I need to plan. I want to be able to concentrate to the tasks at hand and I want to improve my system over time. And obviously I need an app to help me remember and organise.

Turns out there is no single app that fits my needs do I have to combine three: Omnifocus, Harvest and Focus:

My personal system

So here it is. My personal system is like a funnel: I start collecting and organising all tasks, then I track time for a collection of tasks and I need to focus on a single task (‘deep work’).

This is how it works:

1. Note every single task item you can think of down.
2. Finish every task that will take only 2 minutes.
3. Put the remaining tasks into categories. E.g.: work, client x, sports, study.
4. Assign the tasks a start date or a due date..
5. Focus on your tasks for today and nothing else.
6. Track Time for these tasks
7. For the task at hand that requires deep thinking and concentration use the Pomodoro technique
8. Once a week: review the week and see when and where you were less efficient.

OmniFocus (only for Mac and IOS) fits well for this workflow. It helps you to focus only on the tasks you want (or can) do today, or place or when some condition is true.
This is a screenshot of the forecasting functionality of OmniFocus. For a given day you only get to see the tasks that you will be working on that day. And it has nice calendar integration a well.

OmniFocus does not a good job with time tracking, so in comes Harvest. Harvest is a very cool Time Tracking tool, which helps you see how productive you were on a day, a week and a month.

But Harvest does not let you focus. This is where I use the Pomodoro Technique. So in comes an app called Focus, which let me focus on the task at hand for 25 minutes.

The reason why I picked Focus is because of its integration with OmniFocus.

Mac only and Expensive?
Mac Only? Yes, unfortunately so (except for Harvest). I would love to OmniFocus going cross-platform, but it’s not going to happen.

Expensive? That depends. If you buy Asana or Todoist then you need to pay a monthly subscription to get at least similar functionality as OmniFocus. For the OmniFocus Pro version (and you are going to want that) you pay a whopping $79.99. So OmniFocus might be cheaper in the end. I use the free version of Harvest, and Focus costs around $7,99.

Take Aways
Developing a good productivity system that fits your needs can take months or even years. And in my case there was no single app that supported my needs. So I needed three. But I’m quite happy now. And I can see where I was less productive and why. And improve myself.

A big thank you for Asian Efficieny by the way. Their podcast is awesome and inspiring. Have a listen!

Docker for impatient newbies part 1: Getting started

Want to get up and running with Docker quickly? Here is what you need to package a Node application in a Docker container.

If you are one of the few that have not yet taken the plunge into Docker don’t feel ashamed. I haven’t either. I’ve been too busy doing other stuff lately. But yesterday I actually started using Docker because I had a real life use case. I have a Node application that I wanted to ship in a Docker container. And I wanted it quickly.

So here is what you need to package a Node application in a Docker container.

Docker for Mac and Docker for Windows

Step 1 is to install the Docker engine for Mac or Windows. Head over to https://docs.docker.com/engine/installation/mac/ and install Docker for Mac or Docker for Windows.

docker buttonfactory

What happens? You just transformed your machine into a Docker engine. With this Docker engine you can host containers, from images containing your applications.
This is how you get started and start developing. Production environments are better installed in another Docker Engine, somewhere in the cloud or in a datacenter.

Docker on Linux

The Docker Engine on Linux is in its natural habitat and installing it (on Ubuntu Xenial) is as easy as:

First steps

First, check the installation:

1.12 is the latest version:

docker buttonfactory

Let’s go ahead and create our first image for a Node Express app.

Package a Node.js Express app

Cd into a Node application you want to package, or clone mine. If you clone mine, install Node.js on your platform if you haven’t already. and check if it runs.

If all is well you will be presented with a static website. The theme is from Black Tie.

First step is to create a Dockerfile.
Assuming you are still in the node-express-starter dir, run:

This will be the folder structure from node-express-starter:

This is how the Dockerfile should look like:

What does this mean?

  • FROM: here we need to put the base image for our image. Lots of these images yoy can find on the [Docker Hub](https://hub.docker.com/explore/). I want the image to be as small as possible. So that’s why I’m using an [Alpine](https://github.com/mhart/alpine-node) based image.
  • COPY: I copy all the files from my node project to the /var/www folder on my Docker image
  • WORKDIR: /var/www is the workdir (pwd)
  • RUN: while in /var/www, the npm install is run to install all dependencies of the Node app.
  • EXPOSE: here you can set the port for communication with the outside world. My Node app runs on port 3000
  • ENTRYPOINT: the command ‘node app.js’ will run upon starting the container (not when creating the image of course)

Now create the container image. You should still be in the node-express-starter dir. Run the following command (don’t forget the dot):

This has created a Docker image with the tag (-t) ‘jacqueline/impatient’.

Now run it

With -d the container instance is ran as a daemon and the -p is the port redirection (3000 we exposed in our image will be forwarded to port 8080)

Now head over to http://localhost :8080 and you should be presented with the Node web application:
docker buttonfactory

Recap:

  • We installed the Docker Engine on our computer
  • We created a Docker image containing our Node app
  • We started an instance of this image

container

Stopping and cleaning up

If you work with containers, lots of harddrive space will be consumed. This is how you clean up stuff.

First, check which containers are currently running with ‘docker ps’:

Obviously, the one we just ran is active:
docker
Notice the container ID. You can stop this instance with:

Next, delete the container. First list all the containers:

docker
Again, notice the ID:

Now that the container is deleted, we can go ahead and remove the image. First check which images are present:

docker images

There are 2. I’m only going to remove my own image, not the Alpine one.

docker buttonfactory
In the screenshot above notice how I forgot to delete the container, but I could still delete the image with the -f flag.

The End. But will be continued.

Of course now that we took the Docker plunge, we now want to host our container in the cloud. At Digital Ocean, AWS or even Azure. This will be covered in part 2.