The secret to a really productive desktop environment

I recently discovered how to increase your productivity by 300% or more*. I’d like to share this with you, so that when you follow my advice, you can PayPal me €100 for every hour you save.

  1. Buy an SSD. Really, this is important.
  2. Switch to a minimalist desktop environment like XFCE.
  3. Turn off any and all distracting eye candy, transitions and animations.
  4. Replace the slow software you use with faster equivalents.
  5. Enable e-mail notification, but don’t look at the e-mail exactly when it arrives, leave it for a few hours or at least until you’ve finished what you’re working on at the time.

And here’s a screenshot of what that looks like:

I use Terminator instead of gnome-terminal or xfterm so I can look at multiple terminals and multiple tabs at the same time. One terminal has a red background so I immediately know it’s my local root terminal without having to read any titles. This saves me from switching between lots of tabs before finding the right thing.

The desktop environment is XFCE, which is super-fast out of the box, and I’ve set up the bottom panel so that it makes the best use of Fitts’s Law. The panel is 32 pixels tall, the window buttons are nice and big so it’s fast and non-annoying to switch windows. The bottom right has instant messaging, calendar and mailbox notifications and a volume slider — and nothing else! I could even remove the volume.

Also, there is a second monitor to the right of this one showing more stuff, so I can look at what’s really important right now with one glance instead of having to unfocus from the task in front of me.

The mail client is Claws Mail, which is fast as hell and has many time-saving features for hardcore mail users like me.

The web browser is Chromium, which is Chrome without the Google in it. It’s very fast, still faster than Firefox, and more stable IMHO, so that crashed browser sessions don’t lose me any productivity.

With this setup, every response I want from my PC is almost instantaneous. I click check mail, whoosh, there’s the new mail. I ctrl-enter to send an e-mail, fthagn, the window is gone, the mail is sent. No effects, no wobbly windows, no desktop cubes, no sliding shit, stuff just happens super-quickly instead.

The rest is just discipline. Focus on the task at hand and build a desktop environment for yourself that doesn’t distract you. No Twitter, no Facebook, no games, no news, no RSS feeds. Do those in your spare time. I’ll pretty much guarantee you’ll be more productive like this.

Now about that PayPal donation (thanks!):


One thought on “The secret to a really productive desktop environment”

  1. Prima, vielen Dank für die Tips.
    Für die Entwickler unter den Lesern finde ich noch TMUX [1] und guard-livereload [2] erwähnenswert. Diese sind für mich mittlerweile unverzichtbar geworden. Guard ist übrigens nicht nur für Ruby/Rails-Entwicklung sondern auch für PHP sehr gut geeignet: in Datei Guardfile die Endung .php hinzufügen, Chromium-Extension Livereload installieren, ‘bundle exec guard’ und das Coden geht dann fast automatisch 🙂



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s