So, Bethany and I go away on a (well deserved and needed) vacation and the whole world decides to come up with things I should be posting about. Of course now I am so busy catching up with the overload of stuff that I was so busy avoiding. Therefore, just some quick ditties about it all for now with more follow up on some of them (especially the first one) later:
Backpack Calendar Launch – 37 Signals finally released the calendar component of my fave tool Backpack. It is finally here and boy is it easy to use. You will now find it next to the pages link at the top of your Backpack pages. I have spent the past several minutes (yes minutes, it is that easy) dumping all of my upcoming events in there from my trusty Moleskine planner. To those of you who are already Backpack users and/or 37 Signals fans, it should come as no surprise that the calendar is nearly perfect. It is incredibly well thought out, straight forward, supports e-mail and SMS reminders, natural language input for events, iCal standard sharing, everything you need and nothing you don’t. I will give a complete review and how it is working into my Org-fu soon… Oh, and while we are on the subject, My Business Magazine has a great interview with Jason Fried of 37 Signals. Check it out.
OmniPlan (Beta) – The gold guilded gods at OmniGroup have announced and released a public beta of OmniPlan – A new project management application that, from my first glance, looks as easy to use and powerful as all of thier other products. As one would assume, it has all of the standard project management stuff. Gantt Charts, task management, resource allocation and assignments… The works. All of this wrapped up in the standard OmniGroup cocoa flavored painless to use wrapper. Well worth checking out for anyone with a project to manage.
43 Folders Series: “Back to GTD” – Have you fallen off the GTD bandwagon? Have you let your things get undone? Just need a little refresher to get you back to an inbox-state-of-mind? Then Merlin Mann has just the thing for you. In this series he will cover not only how to get your GTD back on track but also surmise how it got off in the first place so that it wont ever happen again. He kicks off the series with the best way to jump start your GTD – The fast “mind sweep” . Worth a read even if you have your org-fu neatly aligned because you never know what little yummy info nuggets Merlin may drop even on a well trained info-ninja.
Geek to Live: Quick-log your work day – Gina over at Lifehacker has some great tips for keeping a work log. While her guide is a little Windows-centric, the basic premise can be achieved with any tool. I have been doing this for a while now using PB Wiki. It really comes in handy at review time when I want to see where all of my time has been going or, at the least, why I seem to be working my ass off and nothing is getting done. Anytime I get an interruption, I log it. Anytime I get pulled away from one task to start another… Yep, log that too. That way, when the boss comes and asked why I have not gotten insert task or project here done, all I have to do is pull up the log and show her why.
So, my poor little Powerbook G4 12inch decided to have a line vertically down it’s screen yesterday. Therefore, I had to take it in to be sent off to the mothership for what seems to be yearly maintainence. Thank god for Applecare or I would certainly be at the highway onramp begging for change by now. Oh, and I was told that they are pretty busy right now so the repair might take longer than usual. But it is not all bad. There are some truths that save my well cooked bacon in times like these.
First is my backup portable machine – a old Thinkpad running Ubuntu Linux. It is no speed demon but it is small and light and is fine for getting the job done. Heck, I even like the keyboard better than on my Mac. With all of the recent talk about long time famous Mac users in the technorati switching to Ubuntu, I largely shrug and can’t for the life of me figure out what all of the fuss is about. I am a long time Mac user and a huge Mac fan. I have a Macintosh consulting business and am the resident Mac guru for one of the top colleges in the country. Yet, I am here to admit, it does not really matter to me anymore what machine I use or what platform I am on. So much of what I do is web based that I can be on any machine and do what I need to do. As I write this, I am using Writely and I started this post on my Mac at work. Added to it on my PC running Windows at work when I happened to be on that machine. Now, I am on the Thinkpad running Ubuntu at home. Platform, to me, is nearly irrelevant. I know I keep hammering away on this Web 2.0 stuff but I am so excited to be living in a world where the internet has finally leveled the playing field and computing is almost ubiquitous. In the words of Donald Fagan, “What a wonderful time to be free”.
What, in fact, these days is an operating system and why does it matter? I mean, for most of my purposes the internet itself is my OS of choice. About the only client side stuff that even really matters to me is having a good browser. Although I am pretty addicted to Firefox, I find myself using Safari and Flock just as much lately. See, even saying “good browser” offers many choices (none of which really matter more than the next). I use whatever happens to be launched and will get me to my “OS” as quickly, safely and compatibly as possible. OS? What OS? Why do I need to care about an OS? Let’s be honest, I like the Mac because it is stable, fast, elegant and things just seem to make sense and work well together. I could also say this of Ubuntu to a great extent. Then there is Windows… Well, it is more stable with Firefox and running SP2…
That is not to say I do not have some apps I miss. Usually, I write all of my posts in MacJournal. It’s full screen mode and one click publishing to my blog can’t be beat. It is a truly fantastic application. Reading feeds is not the same on Bloglines as it is in Newsfire (nothing is like Newsfire) but for the time being it will do just fine. There are a few things I do not keep online and use a desktop app for like my check register. But even that has an online, Web 2.0 equivalent if I need one. And how does anyone get anything done quickly without Quicksilver? But seriously, it is not the end of my world. For day to day stuff I am set. My productivity does not even see a slight dip. I just use another tool or choose a new way to go about things. I am even just as comfortable using webmail as I am a mail client.
Do I prefer one over the other? Sure, but if my Mac disapeared tomorrow I would not loose too much sleep. I would toss and turn a little for a few days. I would probably cry a little before I finally dozed off. But only because a machine that was elegant in every form and fuction and a trusty friend is no more. Not because it stopped my forward movement.
Very interesting explanation of dimensional theory all the way up to the tenth. Easy for even a quantum physics lay person to imagine and understand. Fascinating stuff:
Imagining the Tenth Dimension (via“ Kottke)
Here are some random items regarding text stuff I have been collecting for linkage and feeding thought…
Barkings! | The Small Dog Apple Blog: Lowly Old TextEdit – This is a great write up of that often forgotten but consistently improving text editor that does not get nearly the press it deserves – TextEdit. That’s right, the one that comes with Mac OS X. The most recent version of TextEdit is actually a fairly capable basic word processing machine that can do tables, outlines, lists, formatting and more. The other benefit, if you are using Mac OS X, is that it is free. Personally, I think that TextEdit is enough word processor for most users.
WriteRoom | Hog Bay Software – WriteRoom is designed to do one thing and one thing only, provide a full screen distraction free writing environment. Basically (pun intended), you fire up write room and your screen fades to a black blank state. Start typing and your green text is auto-saved on the fly. When you are done, you can export your text to a text file – ready for you to take anywhere. Simple as pudding pie. Again, one benefit of this app is that it is free. Still, for a little money, you could do the same thing and oh so much more with what I use which is…
MacJournal | Mariner Software – MacJournal just plain rules when it comes to getting text done. I will write more about how I use it and, occasionally, Mariner Write to do almost every post you see here. For now I will simply metion on MacJournal’s full screen writing mode (which I am using right now) and how it does everything that WriteRoom and has a few full screen mode features like a scroll bar that WriteRoom does not. Of course, MacJournal also does a bunch more so when I am done typing this I will click one button and publish this but, like I said, more about that in a few days…
Seems as if Amanda Congdon, host of Rocketboom, has had a falling out with Andrew Baron and is now off the hit video blog. I don’t know the full story of what has happened but, let me just say that, without Amanda, why even bother to watch. Not only was she quirky and cute but she has what David Lee Roth calls “CharASSma!” What a huge loss of this great daily vlog and here is to hoping she channels her many talents elsewhere soon. She has a short video post about not being on the show on her personal blog here:
Several days ago I had a revelation about my current use of Backpack as a GTD tool and how I might use it even more effectively. Part of this revelation was spurred by an e-mail I received from Swedish reader Daniel Westergren who had some questions about my use of Backpack for GTD after reading my Productivity Whitepaper. The subsequent e-mail exchange that followed led me to some serious “getting real” about my system.
I have described my system in great detail before so I wont go into any more here. Basically, up until now, I have been using the front page in my Backpack as a “Today” page – i.e. things I would like to get done today. I have been moving by copy and paste next actions from my @Action, @Projects, ious individual project pages and @Errands pages to the front page. In other words, my own laborious “kinkless” system of next actions. One benefit to this was the very act of doing this forced a daily review of the items and projects. The obvious problem was how time consuming and counter efficient all of the shuffling around is. Basically, I was using the front page for all of my next actions and therefore would end up with duplicates as keeping track of it all was a tangled mess.
Therefore, here is what I am trying out to make my Backpack system a little more productive:
My Page Setup
Inbox (Home Page) – True to the spirit of GTD, the “home page” in Backpack has been re-titled “Inbox” and basically acts as a digital Inbox. There is one list on this page. One big dumping ground for any action item or project that pops into the head. Just what the name implies. Because it is on the home page it is easy to get to quickly (also, as Daniel pointed out when I ran it past him, easy to get to and dump things from a mobile device – those euros love their mobiles) and that is what you want for an Inbox. Very GTD. When time allows (daily review), two minute or less items are knocked off right away (per The David) and any projects are migrated to and fleshed out on the @Projects page or it’s own separate page (more on that in a bit).
@Projects – This page exists how I use it right now, with a separate list for each project, but with an added but important modification. I have added a topmost list titled Next Actions. N/As are then moved from the projects below to the NA list at the top via Backpack’s ajaxy drag and droppiness. This way, I go to that page and see right away the next actions for all of the projects on the page.
Individual Project Pages – Now I should take a moment here to clarify what the projects are on the @Projects page. That page is for smaller one-to-five step projects as to do anything else would make the page too confusing and long. Projects that are larger than that (my wedding for example) I actually break out into their own separate page as they may have multiple lists and sub projects. Another advantage to this approach is that you can use the other features of backpack like notes, attaching documents, etc. for things that are specific to that project. With that being said, I still make a next action list the first list on the top so I can see right away what I need to do. I have an example project page here: Sweetime Project.
@Someday – Like any good GTDer, you need a space to defer and to dream. The someday/maybe list is where you do that. Scan this as part of your weekly review.
OK, so here is the workflow in a nutshell…
1. Log into Backpack.
2. Process Items in the Inbox using the “Three D’s” (Do, Defer, Delegate). Move any projects to either @Projects, an existing project or a new project page as appropriate.
3. Switch to the @Projects page and process the Next Actions list at the top accordingly.
4. Switch to any individual project pages. Do the same thing.
5. Feel smug about your Org-fu.
Notes About Contexts
I myself do not use contexts that often. Mainly it is because I find most days too interrupt driven to have a block of time to work on a specific context list and Backpack does not seem well designed for them. I just do what I do, when I do them, where I can do them. That being said, I do foresee a way to make contexts a part of this system. Place them before the action to be done. This can be especially useful on project pages where you can group items on the Next Action list by context. For example:
Call – Bob re: Chocolate levels.
Call – Peter re: Additional flavors of creamy nougat.
Computer – Google map Tobelerone factory.
Computer – Look up Wikipedia entry for William Wonka.
Errand – Buy a box of Kit Kat bars for evaluation.
Another way to handle contexts would be to have multiple context lists on individual project pages. I suspect that will get messy quite fast but your milage may y.
Other Pages to Consider
The idea and motivation of all of this is to not only show you what I am doing but also to help spur ideas for you, the reader. Ultimately, the only system that works is one that works for you. That being said, here are some other pages you may find a useful part of your Backpack GTD setup:
@Waiting For – These are items that you delegated or deferred pending others but still need to track. It would be useful here to add who you delegated the item to and the date (i.e. “Call – Board Members re: Drop in stock price > Bill 06.27.06”). Include in your weekly review.
@Stalled – This is an area for projects and/or actions that are currently inactive or stalled for an indefinite period of time. Ditto for the review.
Using Tags for Review Time
Backpack has a feature that allows you to tag pages. I have started using this feature to easily do my daily, weekly and monthly reviews. Basically, every page has one or more of these tags with the exception of the front page which has all of them. Why does the front page have them all? Because that way I can click on “daily” and it drops down a list of all of the pages I should review daily. Same with weekly and monthly. Thus allowing me to easily cycle through the pages during those review times right from the front page.
I have not been with this new setup long but it seems to be working well thus far. The “rethinking” of the front page has really been a huge time saver and helped me focus on getting things out of my effed up mess of a head fast. Simple and seemless capture and collection is the first step of what GTD is all about. I then can spend time on processing them later.
As with everything here, your comments, questions and criticisms (assuming they are constructive) are welcome. It is only through such an exchange this post exists to begin with.
This news is now all over the place but I would be remiss if I did not say something about it. In case you live in a world without media and have not heard, Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway and the worlds 2nd richest person, is going to give away a vast majority of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. You read that right. The worlds 2nd rich person is giving most of his money to the foundation of the worlds richest person.
Now before all you pinks get your panties in a bunch about rich guys giving other rich guys money, let us remember just how much the Gates Foundation has done to fight diseases, improve education, build libraries and sponsor NPR. Just think how much more they could do with even more money and resources. I mean, seriously, diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis could be a memory in a relatively short time with enough money thrown at them. The possibilities of this kind of philanthropy are staggering.
FORTUNE Magazine: Warren Buffett gives away his fortune
Starting this week, I am moving from my trusty Moleskine Pocket Ruled to a new Moleskine Pocket 18 Month Softcover Weekly Planner. As regular readers know, I have been breathlessly anticipating the arrival of these new planners. They have a new layout which features a weekly calendar on the left hand page and a basic ruled page on the right, therefore allowing me to keep my action items and calendar items in one easy to carry place. Here are some quick initial impressions:
• I am not sure if this is due to age or wear and tear but the paper in the new planners seems brighter than that of the ruled style I was using.
• The pocket on the new planners is not gusseted like the old style and, therefore, items placed inside are a bit more difficult to see and access.
• The ruled lines on the new planners also seem to be closer together but I have not actually measured to see if that is correct.
• There are a wealth of additional pages included in the planner. Some you might expect like Time Zones, International Dialing Codes and Distances (a grid to figure out distances between major cities). There are some others that are surprising but useful such as Travel Planning pages, a page with a ruler on the side for being able to mark down measurements and some monthly pages for 2006-2008 to mark birthdays, anniversaries and other similar items.
• These have a softcover unlike the standard hard cover Moleskines. Although it is soft it still seems very durable and well designed (perhaps even better because it can flex a bit) for carrying in your pants pocket.
• I also have switched the pen I am using from the (still awesome) Pilot G2 Pro with a .05mm cartridge to a Uniball Signo Micro 207. This is due in part to Mike Rohde’s review and recomendation and also to my own side by side comparison. The Uniball has a slightly slimmer line and seems to dry more quickly. So far it is being good to me.
All in all, I am pretty pleased thus far. Also, a major shout out to Ninth Wave Designs where I purchased it from for the very fast delivery and friendly service. They rock and I recommend them highly for all of your Moleskine needs. they also have a great blog filled with lots of drool worthy artwork and Moleskine pr0n
On June 15, 2006 at 9:30PM, Bethany and I were married in a small candlelit ceremony with our family and close friends in attendance. It was beautiful, romantic, filled with love and plenty of fun. There are way to many details of the evening to post them all right now. All I can say is that it was a perfect day in every respect. From picking up friends at the airport, to picking up the cakes and desserts, to getting dressed, to seeing my beautiful bride for the first time, to taking pictures in the park, to eating dinner with the Best Ma’am and Man of Honor, to the space lit entirely by candles, to the beautiful music, to Rev Xanthia, to the heart felt and personal vows, to the moment we kissed, to the dessert and very expensive champagne, to the wedding night spent in our new loft space at home – It was all like a very beautiful dream. I know it was not because we have pictures to prove it all really happened.
This was followed by a whirlwind of setup, cooking, driving, picking up, delivering, frantic hand waving and then…
On June 17th, 2006 at 7:00pm, Bethany and I had a kick-ass reception. I won’t go into great detail as Bethany has done a much better and more thorough job on Indebride (she begins her 12 step program soon we hope). Let me just say that we put a lot of work into it and had a lot of fun. It was the exactly what we both wanted and envisioned and came off without a hitch.
I am still filled with humble wonderment every time I look at her and say “This is my wife”.
Update: Pictures from our friend Val here.
I feel like Michael and I have just been knighted by the queen! My website, co-designed with Michael, has been picked as one of the Screens Around Town by the 37 Signals guys. This is a regular feature of web design they deem to be top notch and examples of “Getting Real”. It is quite an honor.