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I have a problem with distractions. It took me a very long time to figure this out. I've always known that I have problems doing some things, but it's pretty easy to figure it's because you're lazy, or just not very good at what you're doing, or what have you. Once I realized that I really do have a problem with distractions I was able to make some changes in my work environment that really have helped.

One technique that has really helped me is to use “clear” to clear my terminal windows. It's important to realize that I do most of my stuff in terminals. My X Windows setup has 15 terminal windows spread out over 4 virtual workspaces. I try to keep a particular terminal cleared unless I'm actively working on (or need to be working on) something in that terminal. that way they serve as reminders if I'm in the middle of something, and are not distractions otherwise.

For IRC, I've come up with a couple of tricks that really help to not distract me. We use IRC extensively for business as well as personal communications. Because of that, I frequently check IRC. I've set up my IRC clients so that - will cause a blank line to be inserted into the IRC display. That way a very simple glance will tell me if I'm caught up with the latest messages or not.

My laptop doesn't really have the screen real-estate to always have the IRC client in front of me. However, when I'm in my office, I have a monitor set up which mostly just displays IRC. I use “x2x” to allow me to control that display from my laptop keyboard/mouse. So, I can just glance at the IRC display and get back to exactly where I was. On my laptop, I have xchat set up on it's own workspace, so I have to switch there, then switch back to where I was, but I frequently forget exactly where I was, which virtual terminal I was on.

I'm thinking about giving up one of the virtual terminals for an “always on” xchat on the laptop. I just set it up, we'll see how it works to sacrifice a couple of terminals for that. I was going to do it earlier, but I got distracted.

When reviewing documents, I usually use “vi” to edit them. I usually use the cursor to keep my place, but usually that isn't enough. If I have any lines above where I'm reviewing, I tend to keep re-reading them. Scott (who is too shy to write, so I won't link to his journal yet :-) pointed me at a great vi command for helping with this. z will move the current line to be the first line in the terminal.

This works better than my old method, which was “L”, scroll down, then “H”, because you can only scroll down to the bottom of the file, leaving the last page unable to make use of hiding the stuff I've already reviewed. “z” is immune to this, which is great.

Hope some of these techniques help others reduce distractions. I've found they really help.

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