Vitamin-R 2 notes

Notes from trying to learn about Vitamin-R version 2:1

Shortcuts

global:

  • ⌘⌥R (Bring to front/hide) [default: Cmd-R]
  • ⌘⌥N (bring up Now & Later board)
  • ⌘⌥L (Later board)
  • ⌘⌥S (Scratchpad)
  • ⌘⌥O (Objectives)
  • ⌘⌥⇧O (read objective aloud)
  • ⌘⌥S (start time slice)
  • ⌘⌥U (pause/resume time slice)
  • ⌘⌥E (end time slice)
  • ⌘⌥B (start timed break) [deleted]

in-app:

  • ⌘-1 (toggle Statistics Window)
  • ⌘←/⌘→ previous/next screens
  • ⎋ [Esc] or ⌘W: hide/dismiss Vitamin-R
  • ⌘↑ bring up the gear menu
  • ⇥/⇧⇥ move between controls (outside text field). You need to use control key in field (i.e. ⌃⇥)

Checklist for tasks/objectives

  • immediate (can be completed in time slice)
  • specific
  • actionable

Reasoning

The purpose is to break up large tasks into short time slices with specific reachable objectives. Each slice moves closer to the goal while not triggering fight-or-flight response to prevent procrastination.

  • Vague objectives cause procrastinations (uncertainty triggers fight-or-flight response)
  • Unreachable objectives lead to failure (setting unreachable ambitious goals reinforce failure behaviours “not quite good enough”)
  • Small successess = motivation (e.g. GTD forces next action”. success breeds success)
  • Attention is more limited than time (quality time is hard to come by and when differs from person to person)
  • We can’t multi-task (esp. “male-differentiated”or “l-mode” brains) due to 5-7 sized in working memory
  • Distractions are killer (causes us to dump the 6-8 working memory stack, one distraction is more costly than the time it takes to deal with it because of that)
  • Exocortex (external cognitive artifiacts) fills in gaps in brain function (ex. external tools like a paper and pencil can assist in tasks like long division)
  • L-mode to R-mode (expertise is usually R-mode but L-mode works in conjunction to train that, also need to do something if R-mode doesn’t have an answer)
  • Time slices are the building blocks (aka chunk of time, sprint, time box, pomodoro. Really an “attention slice” because we can only concentrate on one thing for a limited time)
  • Pomodoro Technique: Developed by Francesco Cirillo using a (ticking) tomato kitchen timer. 25 minutes of work with 5 minutes breaks 4 times followed by 15 minute break. It may be a bit rigidm but can be customized with a continous ticking timer (® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Notifications ⇒ During Time Slice) and by setting the default settings on the workflow (® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Workflow)

Workflow

  1. Define Time Slice through the define objectives popup: consists of objective and time frame
    • clear, specific, and easily reachable (can be completed in time frame) objective [see checklist above]
    • define time slice duration: by dragging the slider
      • ideally, time slices of 15-25 minutes with breaks (it’s an art)
      • two indicators: the Resistance Level and the Motivation Level: these are linked to duration and provide a guide to choosing, they are not logged.
    • eliminate distractions (visual clutter) by hiding non-essential applications and/or desktop (esp. social media, games, movies, music, e-books
      • can always exclude certain apps from the list (or always ignore certain apps) via: ® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Distractions
    • can restore recent objectives
    • can tag quickly
  2. Work on Time Slice to help you stay focused by reminding you of your objectives and the time pressure that you are under
    • ideally time splices are small
    • Visually, the menu bar displays the remaining time
    • Audio cues through periodically play ticking clock sounds (optional)
    • Can also block out distractions in noisy environments through sound masking with Noise Machine integration via ® ⇒ Tools ⇒ Noise Machine to play noisescapes. If you need all 29 noisescapes, download Noise Machine and install it and Vitamin-R will recognize it immediately. Tips
      1. Start with a low volume setting. You need to give your brain time to get used to the new sound. Starting at a low volume, and only going up in volume once you no longer consciously perceive the noise, is a good way of acclimating yourself to this technique.
      2. Beware of headphone volume settings. Using headphones amplifies listening damage. If environmental noise is a big issue for you, you might want to invest in a pair of isolating earphones.
      3. Try “pink” noise first. Most people find “white” noise to be annoying, and many of those who can tolerate it find that it takes a lot of getting used to. “Brown” noise seems easier to get used to than “white” noise, while “pink” noise is preferred by many. Experiment to find what works best for you!
      4. Use background noise only when you have to. There is little point in training yourself to ignore white noise if you have a quiet workplace or do not find the noise around you distracting.
    • Use speech synthesis to inform you of the time passing. Fully customizable:
      • how much time has already elapsed
      • how much time is left
      • re-state your objective
  3. Record & Assess: to allow you to become more aware of what works for you and keep you motivated by recording your successes. It will ask you to:
    • rate your attention/focus level
    • mark the time slice as overall success
    • mark objective as completed
    • if you have not managed to complete the time slice, it guides you through the process of assessing whether you should continue immediately or take a break first.
    • It will automatically record the details of your time slice and your assessment of it to allow you to gain more awareness of our work habits
      • objective
      • tags
      • time-frame
      • duration
      • completion status
      • concentration level
  4. Timed or Informal (open-ended) Break
    • You are then sent to one of the above
    • Guilt free breaks are good (recharge batteries, avoid injury/health issues, allow R-mode to trigger)
      • timed breaks prevents open-ended ones/procrastination without the guilt or hurdle of having to overcome resistance each time, by promising yourself to stop working for a finite time period
      • the priming technique idea is to plan what to work on while taking a break by using the Now & Later Board (and allow our r-mode brain to work on it during break). This prevents having work stopped at a decision point (drawing a blank) that isn’t addressed. You do this by inserting a question to help start next time slice, think about it for a few seconds, and think, “I’ll need to have a decision by the time I come back.”
      • leaving breadcrumbs Make it easier to restart tasks. One problem of breaks is dumping working memory and having to reconstruct it. The idea is to write working stack to a text editor (just enough to jog the memory) so it can be restored when starting work again. You can do this by putting (only a few thoughts) in the Now & Later board below.
  5. Go to 1
    • If timed, this is automatic
    • If open-ended, you need to go to Vitamin-R

Now & Later Board

now & later board is a full-features RTF scratchpad to leave anything on to be a “memory outside yoru brain” (c.f. exocortex)

  • notepad that you can use to keep track of the resources you need to achieve your current objective
  • jot down notes to dump your working memory
  • remember things for later and getting them out of your mind without having to worry about forgetting them
  • plan your current activity
  • keep snippets

It is also a good place to review before taking a break (a la priming).

It is divided into four different sections:

  • Now Pad is for dumping your working memory to make it easier to recover you were should you get interrupted or run out of working memory.
  • Later Pad is for everything that goes through your head but isn’t relevant to what you are working on. Put it here, forget about, and continue on with task so you won’t worry about forgetting about it whille working.
  • Objective section (same as time slice objective) is there to remind you of what you are currently working on and modify it if you really have to.
  • Scratch Pad is a free form note taking tool for everything that does not fit neatly into the other categories

There are ready-made templates that get inserted at the beginning of the relevant sections and walk you through the questions to ask and the things to write down. You can restore them by clicking on the gear icon in the bottom-left of the Board.

Examples:

  • Phone call during time splice you have to pick up. Jot down phone number in Later pad and keep working.
  • If you forget what you are working on use the Objective section, then read the New pad to get back into the zone
  • The Now pad has only the current thing working on. The next thing can be put in the the Later pad while workign on it

The FastType feature allows you to create action items, bulleted lists and checklists with a minimum of fuss by automatically translating certain characters into those formats.

  • * task: bulleted list (use Tab to create indentation level)
    • action: indeded arrow (action item)
    1. item: number’d list
  • done’: make a checkmark
  • text –: strike out entire line
  • –: make a separator
  • F6/Shift-F6 move between fields

The Statistics Window

Commands:
* Tools → Statistics → Toggle Statistics Window (or Cmd-1)
* The bottom-left popup menu chooses display period

It is really important to choose the right time and place for a specific kind of work and it can be tricky to work out what really works best, instead of acting like all chunks time is interchageable. Finding the right times to do the right sort of work helps get rid of internal and external “friction” in our effort.

The Statistics Window provides many tools that allow you to gain objective insights into the work patterns that actually work best for you.

  • The Hour of the Day statistic shows you how your concentration levels change throughout the day.
  • The Day of the Week statistic does the same thing for the days of the week.
  • You can tag each time slice with as many tags as you wish, so you can run your own experiments by using the tag or date filtering features of the statistics window.
  • You can also use the Statistics window’s Report statistic to keep track of different activities, clients, projects, etc (if tagged).

Overview ChartL Allows you to evaluate both the total time worked during the preceding period and how your concentration levels evolved during that period.

  • Bar is time spent
  • Colors: (Red: Flow, Orange: High, Yellow: Good, Blue: Poor)

Examples:

  • You want to decide whether you are better off writing in your home office or in the coffee shop? Simply tag your time slices with “Location: Home Office” and “Location: Coffee Shop” and compare your concentration levels after a few days.)
  • For no fuss time tracking of client projects (via tagging): you can just tag your time slices with client and project data, such as “Client: John Herbert”, “Project: NoFuss.com”. The report statistic will then tell you exactly how much time, how many time slices and how many days you’ve been working on this combination of tags. Good for client-billing

Day-of-Week Analysis: evaluate how your concentration levels evolve throughout the week. (longer = more data the better).

  • bar is the percentage of time
  • days with no logged time slices will be “grayed out.”
  • if similar levels during the week: this is sustainable pace
  • if concentration drops at end of week it is because of overexertion: take more breaks, do renewal activities (exercise, relaxation)
  • if concentration rises during the week it is because you have problems getting started: take it easier during weekends, fail to finish work before weekend, sign of resistance to starting tasks

Log Book

Commands:

  • access: Tools → Logs → Toggle Log Book
  • access (advanced): Tools → Logs → Reveal User Log Folder
  • export: Tools → Logs → Export as CSV (good for timetracking and billing)

log book is see how spend time for insights, keep motivated.

  • work journal to backtrack to past tasks
  • re-examine details around a particular decision
  • motivate yourself by seeing accomplishments over periods

Things to store:

  • any data that might be useful later on
    • rationale for decision
    • links to external resources used
    • stuff from Now & Later Board
    • each line has a UUID under a separator. Do not modify (it might break things)

Integration

Dropbox

® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Cloud Sync ⇒ Activate Dropbox Synching (remember to do this on every Mac with Vitamin-R). Normally logs are stored in ~/Library/Application Support/Vitamin-R

  • Synchronize logs between Macs using DropBox
  • Future: Synchronize Now & Later

Growl

Uses Growl if available for notifications.
Customize through “® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Notifications”

Things integration

® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Integration

When you are asked to specify your objective for the next time slice, you can drag one or more to dos straight from Things into the text field (window must be open so no auto-hiding)

  • a hyperlink will be created to the to-do in Things
  • clicking on the hyperlink will bring you straight back to the corresponding to-do in Things
  • this hyperlink will remain clickable in your Vitamin-R log for future reference

W(Optional) hen the time slice is logged as “completed” (in the Rate Your Time Slice step) the to-do will automatically be marked as “completed” in Things.

Settings

  • “Dockless” mode (not available in appstore version): dock icon is removed and tit cannot be cmd-tab’d to (default). Activate by using main menu bar or keyboard shortcut. The Gear menu replaces the dock menu. (Select it by ® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Run as Full Application/Run as Dockless Application)
  • Change look, feel, and behaviors of Now & Later board with ® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Now & Later Board
  • Customize workflow (skip stpes, specify default values, etc) by ® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Preferences ⇒ Workflow
  • Customize keyboard access: To turn on full keyboard access do  ⇒ System Preferences ⇒ Keyboard ⇒ Keyboard Shortcuts ⇒ All Controls; customize global shortcuts in preference panel.
  • ® ⇒ Settings ⇒ Auto-Hide Window : Note that this doesn’t allow drag and dropping
  • Speech Reminder tags work properly only in minutes (there are special reminder placeholders)

References

  • Vitamin-R homepageread: 2014-05-06
  • Vitamin_R_User_Manual updated: 2015-05-05 read: 2015-06-04
  • Vitamin-R help pages read: 2014-06-06

  1. Yes, about halfway through, I started to use Vitamin R to help me plow through this. Note to self: buy over-the-ear headphones for work. 

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tychay

light writing, word loving, ❤ coding

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