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Tech Productivity

Issue #209  (I Hired 5 People to Sit Behind Me) 02/13/23

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If you're ever interested in the history of note-taking systems and want to go down a rabbit-hole of sorts, I suggest starting with the Wikipedia page of Niklas Luhmann. Luhmann, who died in 1998, is well-known for his ground-breaking thinking in systems theory as well as originating a note-taking system that in many ways—either directly or indirectly—serves as inspiration for many of the note-taking systems, knowledge bases, and similar software that exist today.

Luhmann's note-taking system was referred to as Zettelkasten, which is a German word that means "slip box". As Wikipedia explains:

"A Zettelkasten or card file consists of small items of information stored on paper slips or cards that may be linked to each other through subject headings or other metadata such as numbers and tags."

Sound familiar? Conceptually, that's pretty much how a lot of electronic knowledge base systems work: bits of information that are linked via other smaller bits of information.
File Cards

Interestingly, after explaining a little more about how the system has been used in personal knowledge management, the article says:

"The system not only allows a researcher to store and retrieve information related to their research, but has also long been used to enhance creativity."

I just found it fascinating that it mentions creativity (which we might not immediately correlate with these systems) along with organization and research (which we might naturally associate with these kinds of systems).

As for Luhmann himself, his biography says he built up a Zettelkasten of around 90,000 index cards for his research, and credited this with making his extraordinarily prolific writing possible. His works were digitized and made available online in 2019.

Like I said, his main Wikipedia page has quite a few links you can branch off to in order to understand more about his work and how it relates to modern-day systems.

Now on to this week's hand-picked productivity links!


Tools & Apps — I really easy-to-use online tool that lets you quickly determine the time in multiple timezones, which might come in handy for determining best meetings times for remote workers.

Vikunja — An open-source, self-hostable to-do app that allows you to organize everything and collaborate with others, on all platforms, and options to view the list in various formats (Gantt, table, Kanban).

Retool Mobile — Build native iOS and Android apps with no mobile expertise—all you need is JS and SQL. Retool Mobile is the fast way for developers to build business apps for teams on the go, at a warehouse, or in the field. Teams of up to 5 can build for free.   sponsor  

pdfux — A set of 15+ free, privacy-friendly PDF tools to merge, split, extract, delete pages, reorder pages, mirror pages, and lots more.

Pulse Browser — An experimental fork of Firefox that enhances focus and increases productivity due to its hyper-minimalistic UI and built-in tools.

Vento — Chrome extension for quick and easy screen recording, currently free with unlimited recording length and 1080p video, but I suspect it may have a pricing model in the future, depending on demand.

DoomCheck — A lightweight solution for project planning for developers that includes analysis of hours to work, risk management, and monitoring of progress once the project begins.

Articles & Resources

I Hired 5 People to Sit Behind Me and Make Me Productive for a Month — The title is a bit misleading, as it means '5 people, one at a time', but this is definitely one of the nuttier ideas I've seen to try to be more productive!

4 Mental Traps That Kill Productivity — This is a really good list of traps that you may not have considered before, but there's also practical suggestions for overcoming them, so well worth a read.

Monitoring Individual Employees Isn’t the Way to Boost Productivity — It seems crazy that there are companies doing this. I also like the suggestion to do this anonymously in order to better understand overall pain points rather than placing blame on individuals.

Data is the Lifeblood of Modern Businesses — Bake data privacy and security into your product from day one by avoiding these common mistakes.   sponsor  

Four-day Week: Study Shows Working Less Boosts Wellbeing and Productivity — I don't think we need much more evidence that the 4-day workweek is a productivity booster, but here we are. The study involved 33 companies and nearly 1,000 employees in countries including the US, Ireland, and Australia.

Want To Escape From Hustle Culture? Contentment Is Exactly What You Need — Interesting quote from the article describing something called the hedonic treadmill: "You go full speed toward a goal, but when you achieve it, you continue sprinting toward the next thing, always dissatisfied with the present."

The Jazz Hop Café — A popular YouTube channel that has lengthy videos playing soft work-friendly music that can also be used for general relaxation.


Have a suggestion for a productivity-related tool, article, or other resource? Send me a direct message via X (@LouisLazaris) and I’ll consider including it in a future issue.

Stay productive!


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