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Work & Productivity

Working From Home with Linux During COVID-19

The COVID-19 situation here in the United States has resulted in several non-remote employees suddenly finding themselves working from home. Naturally there’s a ton of posts about this around the web but I realized that there’s almost nothing for a desktop Linux user like myself.

In 2020 just about everything is web based; Workflows are synonymous. Much of this post is about creating hard lines between personal time and work time using the Linux hardware I already have, nothing more.

Use a separate user account for work

It’s imperative to create hard lines between work, and our other files. To accomplish this on a single desktop I decided to install the latest version of Lubuntu. Its a lightweight desktop offering a calm traditional workflow that doesn’t get in the way.

Much boring… no distractions.

To begin I restored my primary system’s Peppermint 10 files from yesterday’s Déjà Dup backup. This allowed me to gain access to my files, browser history, and accounts saving a hours of setup. Additionally I set my system to backup daily to a separate drive folder onward. This will insure I keep work separate from life.

Next, I removed all my personal files… Videos, photos, games, and anything else that could become a distraction. However, I did retain my music library because I’m at home and that means loud music.

Lastly, I installed all the software a WordPress developer should need. GIMP, Inkscape, fonts, git, LAMP and a few separate WordPress installations for testing new code.

Just one of my WordPress installations and git repository cloned… Ready for edits.

There’s web based access via Firefox to my employer’s Microsoft suite and various cloud services.

Miscellaneous Workflows

  • A web based Pomodoro timer to remind me to get up and take a short break every 25 minutes
  • My trusty Bullet Journal to rapid log to do items, thoughts, ideas and the day’s progress.
  • A beverage, usually black coffee or water.

That’s it, nothing complicated or over thought. If you take anything from this post just create a separate user account on your favorite Linux distribution and only include your work files within it. Keep everything else a reboot away. Fewer distractions will keep you focused on the task at hand.

Peppermint 10 desktop

When the clock strikes 5 p.m. I log back into Peppermint with my work files put safely away until tomorrow.


Current Status
  • Listening to: "Hand's Off…She's Mine" by "The English Beat" on "I Just Can't Stop It"
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Joseph Dickson is a WordPress Developer in Los Angeles CA.

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How I’m Using my Bullet Journal in 2020

2020 begins year three of an experiment in analog productivity. While researching productivity systems like Getting Things Done, reading The Myth of Multitasking I discovered that no single app was good enough to replace a Bullet Journal.

Over last 38 months I’ve refined my method into a reflex. David Allen describes this as Mind Like Water where everything is stored in your trusted system and nothing relies on memory. A trusted system is different for everyone. Mine is the core modules of the Bullet Journal system because I prefer all my actionable items to be in a single place whether its a project, to-do item, or key points from an email, Basecamp, Slack or a conversation.

Ninety percent

Rapid Logging represents at about 90% of how I work in my journal. Where a bullet represents a task, a dash represents a note, and a circle an appointment. Within a typical day my “Daily Log” is often just linear thoughts, many may not to be revisited. Even if they’re completely ignored they still have value months or years later… Its nearly impossible to judge in the moment.

Evaluation

Recently Daily Logs have been useful as a tool in my annual performance evaluation. Using my 2019 Bullet Journal and flipping through the pages I created a Custom Collection containing all the accomplishments over the past year. Many of which were referenced in daily logs as passing non-actionable notes taken during a meeting or noted from an email. Without this log its unlikely I would have remembered to mention some of the smaller yet impactful projects of that year.

What’s My Typical Day?

Mostly email, Basecamp, phone calls and in person interactions. The problem is none of these solutions are compatible with each other. Sending an email to Basecamp doesn’t make sense. Often more effort than its worth. Additionally, typing notes in an app can be disruptive or inefficient. Humans have been writing for over 4,700 years. Meanwhile we’ve been using smartphones for just over a decade. Clearly writing has had more time to develop, its nearly as automatic as breathing.

How do I choose when to write it down?

First, a pencil or pen is almost always at my side with my Daily Log open. If anything remotely important or interesting enters my consciousness I jot down a reference during or following its passage.

Second, To-do items that take longer than two minutes are writen down either before or after they’re completed. Here’s an example my typical notation method.

  • Correct typo, press release, JD
  • Reply, Gravity Forms, AC
  • Delegate, Image color correction, LB

The pattern is simple

  • Action, Topic, Initials of person(s) involved.

Context in my Daily Log often if not always fills in the details. Few tasks appear alone and are usually related to previous or future references in the log.

How this helps me as a web developer

As you could guess, my daily Log is full of dashes followed by hexadecimal color codes, class tags, WordPress classes, pixel, rem, em and other measurements. While inspecting web developer tools in the browser I’ll quickly take down the details allowing me to inspect once and build a brief library of CSS adjustments or some other mundane task.

When it comes to networking, server maintenance and debugging a WordPress website my log will often be full of simple notations found in some log somewhere

The Benefit

Using a Bullet Journal to manage appointments, draft blog posts, or manage to-dos gets me away from screens, and personal assistants. Even if its only for as little as 20-45 minutes those small chunks through the day it add up. Frequently means I’m spending that same time outside email or some other distracting service.

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Joseph Dickson is a WordPress Developer in Los Angeles CA.

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Foliate a modern eReader for Linux

Sometimes I just want an eBook reader that gets out of the way and Foliate might just be minimalist alternative to Calibre I’ve been waiting for. I may actually enjoy reading on my laptop again.

Want to highlight text and take notes… No problem, Foliate can do that.

highlighting text
Highlighting text and taking notes in Foliate

Want to use your favorite system font? You can do that. Remarkably it works very well. I’ve been using eBook readers for over ten years now and selecting custom fonts has always been a challenge. But here it’s as simple as changing your text editor font in a GNOME application. In fact everything about this application was designed to work well in GNOME.

select system fonts
Selecting Red Hat Display Bold

White background and black text hard on your eyes after hours of reading. Changing between defaults is a few toggles, radio buttons, and sliders away. No need to learn using cascading style sheets.

Almost forgot, you can look up definitions and Wikipedia references.

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Joseph Dickson is a WordPress Developer in Los Angeles CA.

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