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Remainders 12.14.2006

Web Worker Daily has been running some good open thread posts as of late. Today’s is no exception – “What do you rely on most, besides technology?”. Not surprisingly for the audience at hand, coffee is mentioned several times.
Derek Jones of Koru Productions has an excellent outline of how he uses Apple’s Mail.app to get his GTD Org-Fu on. It it rock solid and takes you step by step through his process of reaching inbox zen. (via Hawk Wings)

Lists of My Father

My father, Kenneth, was in town recently. He lives in Washington DC currently but comes here regularly, mainly to help my grandmother Grace with ious household and administrative tasks. That being said, he always makes a great effort to also spend quality time with me, my wife and my sons as much as possible. I love my Dad. I consider him one of the closest people I have in my life. Due to the distance, I don’t get as much time with him as I would like but the time we share is always filled with love and means the world to us both. This particular trip was shorter than his usual ones. He had very many tasks to pack into that short amount of time. I knew ahead of time that I probably would only get to see him for an hour or two. The reasons for which I fully understood.
He stopped by our place the night before he was set to leave for home. We hung out for a little while, had some wine and “shot the breeze” as we normally do. Then, as he was wrapping up to leave he thought of another thing he needed to take care of before he got on the plane. He pulled out a sheet of legal style paper filled with other actions he had previously written and it immediately caught my attention.
He has a great system of to-do list making! Simple but highly effective. I peppered him with questions about it.
He described that he basically lists an action verb in the margin (left of the line) and the task in the main section (right of the line). He pointed out that beginning each task on a to-do list with a physical action verb is crucial for completion (i.e. Buy Milk, Call Bob, etc.). In addition, separating these verbs using the red margin line on a legal pad allows for easy scanning for related tasks and easy grouping into contexts. In other words, if he is at his computer he will pull out his list and be able to easily pick out all the ones that begin with “E-mail”.
For someone who is not a member of the GTD cult I have to admire how much he has the stuff nailed.The fact that he can do this using almost any old pad of paper is thrifty, ubiquitous and further proof that it is not about GTD per se or the “right” tools, it is about finding a system that you trust. It is also another sign that this apple, despite the physical distance, has never strayed far from the org-fu of the tree.
Thanks, Dad.

Remainders 12.06.2006

Quaffability is a great new blog about wine. You know you have to love a wine blog who’s tag line is “mostly wine – mostly under – mostly from Trader Joes”. (via Princess Bethany)
Business Week has a good article on the Best Buy Headquarter’s radical work redesign. They call it ROWE, which stands for “results-only work environment”. Here is the most interesting part… “It wasn’t imposed from the top down. It began as a covert guerrilla action that spread virally and eventually became a revolution. So secret was the operation that Chief Executive Brad Anderson only learned the details two years after it began transforming his company”.
Wordie is a new site that is kind of like Flickr but for words. Hear or read a cool word that you would like to keep track of and remember later. Wordie will help you do that. Every time I try to dismiss the usefulness of such a thing in my head I come up with a situation I could see myself using this for. (via TechCrunch)

Yojimbo GTD

Tim at Hawk Wings beat me to the punch as I was going to post about this. Recently, there was an excellent write up on the Yojimbo mailing list by user Robert Foxworthington on implementing a GTD system in Yojimbo using a combination of collections and tags. Great example of how, with a little outside the box thinking, you can implement a GTD system using almost any tool. The reason: It is not about the tool it is about having a system that you trust.

Parallels has Windows 0wn3d

OK, this changes the game quite a bit. According to a screencast on Michael Verdi’s blog, the next version of Parallels, the PC Virtualization software for Intel based Macs, will apparently allow you to run PC apps side by side with your Mac apps. Not the “Windows inside of a window” we have all been forced to use until now. Not only that but you will also be able to use the same key commands in the Windows apps for copy and paste and such as you do on the Mac. Also, you will also be able to seamlessly copy and paste between PC and Mac apps. You have to watch the screencast – This is huge!
Furthermore, Apple has gone on the record once again throwing their support behind Parallels in a recent analyst meeting as they are “very pleased with Parallels software and didn’t feel the need to compete with its own version of embedded virtualization”.
(via Ethan and OS News)

Remainders 11.30.2006

Aurora is a free digital alarm clock for Mac that integrates with both iTunes playlists or ElGato’s EyeTV. It is highly configurable and features such nifty features as a sleep timer, support for an Apple Remote and volume fade-up. This sure will help me out for those early sessions at Macworld this year. (via Lifehacker)
Ben Stein makes a compelling argument from a conservative point of view for raising taxes on the rich. Heresy you say Mr. Rightwing? Well, Warren Buffett agrees with him. (NYT via Kottke – Evil yet Free Subscription required)
LifeBoat is a new Mac backup application that auto syncs files and/or directories to a USB key or external drive automatically upon connection. It backs up the files to a read only DMG file that is then easy to mount and get your data from.

Ubiquitous Capture and The Steathy Pen

One of the main tenants of the GTD methodology is the idea of ubiquitous capture. That is, a way to always get that stuff you have floating around your noggin out of it and into a trusted system that will allow you to evaluate it later. For many, having a pen to write stuff down with at constant disposal is the easiest, quickest and most cost effective solution for this. Problem is, most pens are better designed for the shirt pocket than, say, any other pocket that you more regularly have available in this increasingly casual society.
That being said, here is a rundown of some stealthy pens that can fit in all manner of other places so that you are never without a way to jot down that next great idea (or just an addition to your honey-do list):

Lamy Pico – This is the one I own. The Pico is a really stylish and slick little pen that is the size of a really small cigar when closed and extends to a full size pen when open. I actually keep it in the bottom of my wallet with some half-size index cards thrown in to complete the kit. Although this combo is not my main capture device, this helps ensure that I am never without one.

The Inka Pen – Really small when closed and has a loop that attaches to your keychain. Once detached, it converts to a full size pen and even has a PDA stylus. This is one I would have gotten if I had not seen the Pico first.

Levenger Silvertini Wallet Pen – This small, elegant, sterling silver pen is designed to attach onto a wallet, checkbook or other small personal accessory. It is only three inches in length so it can fit almost anywhere and has a strong clip so it wont get lost. It does not expand to a full size pen so you will not be writing a novel with it but that is not the point.

Bookmark Pens (via David Seah) – I have yet to find these but they sure do look interesting. They are sold as flat pens that are designed to attach between the pages of a book. They kind of look like they would make a book the size of a Moleskine bulge a bit but it might . David has a good write-up if you follow the link.

FoldzFlat Pen – This is a pen that folds into a flat unit the size of a business card for easy carrying in the card slot of a wallet. Looks kind of goofy to me but there are no points for style in this list – only functionality.

Pilot G2 Mini – The Pilot G2 was my pen of choice for a long while and is a fantastic gel roller with unbelievable smoothness. The mini version is just a good but in a package small enough to carry in a front pocket with little notice of it being there. A good and cost effective solution.

Zebra F-301 Compact – This is another “convertible” pen. Only 4 inches when closed it converts to a regular size pen once opened. Another cost effective solution.

(Late stage addition)

Fisher Space Pen – How could I have forgotten the venerable Space Pen? This lovely little feat of space age design is certainly small enough to carry in the pocket of your choice and can write on almost anything. This is the pen of choice for many a GTDer. I have been properly scolded for this original omission in the comments.

Remainders 11.27.2006

Idio Magazine is an interesting idea. It is a virtual flash based magazine with content that is customized to your interests.
The new Spot speakers from JBL are so retro cool that even the wires are wrapped in cloth – old school style.(via RetroThing)
Civil Netizen is a Mozilla based file transfer utility for sending files that would otherwise be to large to e-mail. Currently in beta, they are inching towards an official release with a sexy interface redesign for the Mac version. Works for Windows and Mac with a Linux version promised.

Microsoft Research: MyLifeBits, Multiple Monitors and You

My friend Tim Erlin, pointed me to this Fast Company article titled “A Head for Detail” about an experimental software project called MyLifeBits and how Microsoft Researcher Gordon Bell is using it to create a lifetime store of everything. Everything he sees and says, his phone calls, his e-mails, every document he writes or reads – everything one could conceive of is captured and stored in a searchable database designed for quick recall of every possible aspect of his life. Here is an out take:

“As we chatted about ious topics–Australian jazz musicians, his futuristic cell phone, the Seattle area’s gorgeous weather–Bell’s gear quietly logged my every gesture and all my blathering small talk, snapping a picture every 60 seconds. Back at his office, his computer had carefully archived every document related to me: all the email I’d sent him, copies of my articles he’d read, pages he’d surfed on my blog… He plunked down in front of his computer, pulled up a browser, typed in “Clive Fast Company,” and there they were: Hundreds of pictures of the meeting scrolled by on his screen, and the sound of our day-old conversation filled the room. It was a deeply strange feeling.”

Besides being a brilliantly written article, an engaging and fascinating read, it really highlights some of the groundbreaking findings that are coming out of Microsoft Research and it implications on productivity in the workplace.
For instance, the research on how multiple monitors increase productivity has provided backing to my personal crusade I have been leading at work to make sure that any IT staff member who wants an extra monitor receives one. I also hasten to remind the management types that the research actually shows that three monitors is the sweet spot (I am still working on winning that one). The point here is that searching around the Microsoft Research site can dig up some fascinating stuff that is just over the horizon including some stuff that you can use to your benefit today.
As a final note, there is a fun little side link to the article that tells you how you can start to create your very own MyLifeBits using off the shelf technology and software that is out today (including Mac Org-Fu cult favorite DEVONThink).

Remainders 11.10.2006

I have not used Microsoft OneNote much as I am not a very regular Windows user. That being said, here is an excellent tutorial on using it’s Note Flags feature to get your Org-fu on.
I am a big fan of Blinksale for invoicing clients for my business. Now they have added integration with Basecamp for sharing client info between the two apps. Pretty nifty!
Stikkit is a new web application that is basically like sticky notes – except these sticky notes get parsed for data. Enter a address for instance and it will automagicaly get parsed out and added to a contact section, links get added to bookmarks, etc. Looks interesting but it certainly wont replace my fave.