Spotify playlists to help with focus and concentration

Every person on this planet has the same amount of time on a given day, it is 24 hours. There are multiple ways to accomplish some results within that time: we can work longer or we can use time more efficiently.

One of the techniques to use time more efficiently is deep work. According to the book with the same name, deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.

As a software engineer, I need to focus on cognitively demanding tasks, and I try to do the job in a state of deep work. I found that I can much easily to enter the “flow” when I listen to easy, relaxing music. It establishes background noise that guards from the outside fuss and helps me to concentrate on the task, to mentally focus and get together.

Spotify already prepared playlists with such music. Here are couple of playlists that I listen:

I also highly recommend to buy good noise cancelling headphones. I personally use Bose Quite Comfort 35 and they are great, I was blown away by the noise cancellation

Do you try to enter the state of the deep work? What techniques do you use?

One simple step to prevent distractions: disable Outlook email notifications

Our daily life is filled with distractions: received a new instant message, boss just stopped by, urgent task appeared on our radar. And emails, emails keep arriving. Dealing with distractions may trick our brain into thinking that we are constantly doing something important, like solving problems, making some progress. However, distractions are the ultimate productivity killers. Whenever we need to switch to the different activity we need to go through the lengthy context switching process. And it takes time to go back to the previous activity.

Hardly any office job now can be done without use of an email. And most of email clients will gladly notify us that some email arrived using notifications on our computers. Those email notifications are yet another source of distractions. Personally I had a problem with those notifications: whenever I saw notification about new email I felt immediate urge to open Outlook and check what is the message is about. It was happening even for not important or not urgent emails. And then it took me 15 or more minutes to get back on track (“Ok, now, what the heck I was doing?”)

I solved this problem by simply turning off the email notifications. As a result I was able to stay more focused, get more things done and feel less stress.

How to disable email notifications in Outlook for Mac?

Step 1: Go to Outlook menu, then click Preferences

Step 2: Select “Notifications & Sounds”

Step 3: Uncheck “Display an alert on my desktop”

That is it! You will no longer be bugged by annoying alerts that were preventing you from getting the work done.

So when to read those emails?

In some sense software is controlling us with constant notifications: “ding” and we are rushing to check what’s new just happened. But things should be in reverse: software is our tools, not our masters.

Same with email. We should be deciding when to check new mail, reply, etc.

I found that few things work for me best:

  • I check emails only few times per day
  • In the morning I just glance through the emails to check whether there is something really urgent that I need to drop everything and do right now. Otherwise I don’t want to spend time reading/replying to the emails as it can easily sidetrack me from accomplishing whatever I planned to do that day.

Lets be honest here: how often do we get an email that we need to reply or act upon the very same minute that we received it? One email every year? So should we always be on the lookout for it and sacrifice our productivity and work-life balance? I’ve answered this question to myself: no.

Microsoft Flow’s Todoist connector is broken, no workaround available

Microsoft Flow is a free tool that can automate some routine operations, like automatically adding calendar events, forwarding emails, and so on. I have been using it for many years now, since it just launched. And Todoist connector is one of my most used building blocks.

Unfortunately it recently stopped working. Todoist developers deprecated legacy API and Microsoft didn’t update the connector in time. Now all the jobs are failing with this error:

Action 'Create_a_task' failed
Error Details: The response is not in a JSON format.

{
  "error": {
    "code": 410,
    "source": "flow-apim-msmanaged-na-centralus-01.azure-apim.net",
    "clientRequestId": "fa463f14-500d-4ca2-8350-e4f4646ab93a",
    "message": "The response is not in a JSON format.",
    "innerError": "<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC \"-//W3C//DTD HTML 3.2 Final//EN\">\n<title>410 Gone</title>\n<h1>Gone</h1>\n<p>This API endpoint is no longer available. Please refer to our documentation to upgrade your client to use the latest API version: https://developer.todoist.com</p>\n"
  }
}

Fix: no, ETA: no

There is no fix or a workaround that I am aware of. I have reported the issue here: https://powerusers.microsoft.com/t5/I-Found-A-Bug/Todoist-connector-no-longer-working-due-to-the-API-endpoint/m-p/355721#M5216

It was acknowledged, but there is no information whether the fix is in progress or when it should be deployed.

Do you use Microsoft Flow? What is your workflow setup? Please share it in comments.