Tag: GTD

On taking notes

cu_home_taking_notes

I have been remiss at writing new content for this blog, and whilst this topic isn’t one that I said I’d post about (those posts are coming, I promise), it’s something I was discussing yesterday and so is at the forefront of my mind.

Like many people I still use pen and paper when taking notes, and regardless of the type of meeting I stick with three basic categories.

  1. [] Actions either for me or my team to do. Includes things that need done immediately or things which it would be good to do in the future.
  2. ? Questions on things I want to learn more about, which relate to my team. Whilst these may also be actions (typically they involve asking people questions) I differentiate them because, until I’ve asked the question, I don’t know enough to decide on whether there is anything to be done (caveat: if it is a burning issue, I’ll like put this against both categories ? [] ).
  3. I Information which covers all sorts of things from useful URLs, to quotes, to product names and so on.

I also “style” my notes, with the appropriate shorthand symbol first, then a gap, then the text for that item. Keeping that consistent makes it very easy to scan down my notes to process them.

[] email report to Fred
[] speak to Tina about next phase of work
? what is the cognitive learning project, who is running it?
[] write a blog post on the Information Strategy Pyramid
I stats for last week 103 open, 74 closed

Processing the notes, again, depends on the type of note.

For actions as, unless they can be done straight away (I think that is a GTD methodology thing? If it takes 1 minute to do it, and 1 minute to write it up and put it in a list, then you are better just doing it), they are transcribed into an online task manager application I use called Remember the Milk. It has a very nice iPhone app which makes it easy to “take my list” with me at all times.

Questions are simply a matter of being asked. That may drive further actions or information which are captured accordingly.

Anything I’ve noted down as information is either processed electronically, if it’s something online I’ll visit it and either bookmark it in my del.icio.us account, add it to my list on Instapaper (again, which has an excellent iPhone app), or grab it and store for later in Evernote (again, a useful iPhone app helps).

Whilst all of that seems like a lot of work, it’s very maintainable, and I spend less than 20 mins a day processing my notes. However it helps me keep on top of several different streams of work, and so far it hasn’t let me down. I’ve been using the shorthand symbols for a long time now, but obviously the electronic processing of these things is new.

So, what about you? How do you take notes? Are you a mindmapper? A random scribbler? Or do you, like one lady who attend a presentation I did a few years ago, do you draw out the subject and the notes in one go?

Whilst I remember…

Did I mention we are off to Spain on Friday morning?

Well, we are, and there are loads things still to do. Not all are related to going on holiday but the holiday has an impact on them all.

1. I’ve not even considered packing but then you do get rather blasé about it when you are returning to the same place, and will be frequenting the same haunts (for new readers; my father-in-law lives in Spain, and has done for a few years now). We don’t even bother with anything ‘smart’ as we eat out at the more local restaurants than anything fancy, and that’s when we eat out at all.

2. Then, of course, the iPod needs to be loaded, books need to be chosen, and I really MUST start using that alarm to make sure I get to bed on time as we need to be at the airport at 4 a.m. on Friday morning… which means leaving the house sometime around 3 a.m. which in turn means that I am seriously considering just staying up.

However, on Thursday, which we both have off, we are heading up to Perth for lunch with a family friend, nipping in to the butcher to buy some rib-eye steak for my father-in-law, and then I’m hooking up with friends in the evening for dinner and some diet cokes, whilst Louise will be acting like a teenager again and going all wobbly for some oik called Justin Timberloch, or something…

3. Of course there are somethings that need done on this site (search not working?), and that’s before I even bother my arse about thinking about email addresses and whatnot – I reckon I’ll stick with my ‘name’ domain for that, and leave the email address for this domain dormant for now.

And yes, I’m still looking into the whole “coloured name” for my mum (which for some reason is harder than it should be!).

4. Ohh my head, too much going on. I have a new guy starting today, and loads of stuff I really need to get done to give me a reasonably clean slate to come back to, although why we continue to do that is beyond me, what difference does going on holiday make, there is ALWAYS stuff to do.

5. I have a package that I’m quite keen to get my hands on which, currently, looks like it will arrive at my office on… ohhh go on, guess which day…

6. I’m also hoping to pre-publish a few posts to carrying things over whilst I’m away, one of which is quite intriguing, if I say so myself, so keep yer peepers peeled people!

7. The great Scottish Blogs cleanup continues and, whilst I’ve had over half the batches back now, I’ve yet to sit and go through the database and start whacking dead sites. It’ll be a long slow job that one, and I’m not sure I’ll have the time until I get back from my holiday. Ohh and the blogmeet is now organised, Edinburgh, 19th May at 2pm in the Jolly Judge. Be there!

8. Last but not least, I can’t for the life of me get some simple CSS floats to work. A sidebar on the right, main content on the left and the sidebar KEEPS DROPPING BELOW THE MAIN CONTENT!! It’s killing me, and no end nor combination of tweaking margins, padding, widths, nor clearing left, right or all, is making the blindest bit of difference. ARGH!

And breeeaaaaaaatthheeeeee…

Finally, before I dash off, some links/apps that I’ve found useful over the past few days.

1. If you are moving your WordPress installation, to a new domain, or just to a new directory, you must must MUST head over to this wonderful site. This is the page I used to move my WordPress domain, and it went without a hitch. All in it took me about an hour to do, tops.

2. That alarm thing I was asking about the other day, well Banshee Screamer Alarm seems to fit the bill. Ignore the fugly look, it meets all my criteria. It has a “start with windows” option (ok, everything has that via the Startup folder but hey, it’s worth mentioning), minimises to the system tray, needs set only once and will repeat on chosen days at the set time, can start an application or open a URL when the alarm time is reached, and can be used silently.

It’s currently running, and will launch a custom HTML page I knocked up which states, in large red (not yet blinking) letters GO TO BED.

Many thanks to B-Rad for suggesting it.

3. Thinking Rock is a GTD style application which I’ve been using for the past few weeks. I’ve mentioned it before but it’s getting a second mention because, frankly, the past couple of weeks have been frantic and without it I’d be lost. Whilst I have been busy over the past couple of weeks, knocking quite a few things off my to do list, the number of items and tasks that I needed to capture grew exponentially and Thinking Rock has helped me keep on top of all that.

Case in point is the site move, with multiple little things to remember, and new items being triggered as I stumbled across something else I hadn’t considered, the ability to quickly dump a one line ‘thought’ into Thinking Rock, processing it later on to add more detail and group it with other similar items, has been a life saver.

Even if you don’t ascribe to the GTD method, it’s worth a look. You WILL need to understand how the app works though as it’s maybe not immediately obvious, but the site has some good info on that front. Think of it as GTD-ish..

Right, that’s enough for now. Things to do, coffee to drink.

Personal Priority Ponderings

Despite the fact I’ve only been away for a week I seem to have lost some of my usual ‘productive’ habits and I’m struggling to get my head around everything I need to get done this week. Typically that means I resort to one thing. A big long list. Trouble is, having started it, I’m struggling to remember what should be on it (in fact I’ve just added two items in the midst of typing that last sentence, funny how the mind works, ain’t it).

It’s not that I feel particularly out of touch as much as that I’ve never really noticed just how busy my average day is and how far behind I fall when I’m out of my routine. Whether at home or at work I’m always juggling several different tasks, and spend most of my days progressing them when I can, and planning the next steps when I’m stuck.

Add in my new venture and it all gets a bit overwhelming. My To-Do lists are threatening to topple over and bury me under my desk… well they would if they weren’t all handled electronically.

Which reminds me of, and allow me to digress for a moment to mention, the cartoon in the Metro today. It featured a businessman daydreaming on his way to work: “World runs out of silicon chips, those with pen and paper skills treble their wages”. And whilst I’m off-topic I’ll also mention the interview I read, in the same paper, with Will Smith (the other Will Smith that is) which features a version of my favourite ever joke:

Two lions are walking down Oxford Street, ones turns to the other and says, “Quiet, isn’t it.”

A digression too far perhaps? Yes. I think so too. Now, where was I?

Whilst we were away in Spain, Louise said she’d write up all the family birthdays and whatnot for her Dad, unfortunately he doesn’t have a calendar app on his PC (not one that will remind him of things at least) so I suggested that I source an online version. Spookily enough I received an email this morning which included a link to Birthday Alarm which is almost ideal (if a little too cluttered and clunky for my liking), I think I prefer something like HipCal (still in BETA) but I’m open to suggestions. As long as it has the ability to send a reminder email for an upcoming appointment (two weeks before it’s due for example) it’ll meet my needs.

Hmmmm, there does seem to be a mood of organisation in the air. And it appears to be catching. Oh dear. Granted it’s not necessarily a bad thing but having looked at GTD methodologies and others and I wonder if they are more effort than they are worth. I’m not the only one. I think I’m more of a LifeHacker than a GTD monkey, preferring to a PocketMod to a Hipster PDA.

All that aside I’m actually hoping that this year I will be able to find a little more time for … umm… let’s call them “personal development activities”. Playing the piano, reading books, going for nice long walks in the countryside. You know the kind of thing. As odd as it may sound, the additional workload that one man designs may bring is actually causing me to focus more on the non-work side of my life. Hopefully that means less time wasted on the PlayStation and PC, less time sat on my arse on the sofa, and more time doing the things I really enjoy yet which always seem to be the first things to be dropped under the false of excuse of being “just too busy”.

I’m determined that 2006 will be the year of proper personal priorities and other potentially possible pastimes. It may also be the year of the alliteration but I’ve not really decided on that yet.

I also reserve the right to completely change my mind on this in a few months time.

How the web works

Or “The advantage of tabbed browsing”.

Before I start this is NOT a pro-Firefox post but I will be mentioning it as it’s my browser of choice. There are other browser that offer tabbed browsing.

Anyway, I was just randomly surfing when a post on Caterina’s site caught my eye. It’s about the book “Getting Things Done” which I’ve seen mentioned at 43 Folders and have on my Amazon wishlist, she links to a particular post on the 43 Folders website that itself contains several related links: a summary of the GTD methodology, a PDF of an annotated workflow of the method, another site with a more Windows based slant on some of the productivity solutions and the website for the man who wrote the book and started the cult of GTD (to uses Caterina’s phrase).

Caterina also mentions her new love for a certain brand of notebook, and offers a link to another blog post about them from where I find a link to a reseller of Caterina’s notebooks of choice and to the oft mentioned moleskin notepads.

Phew.

So why is this particular to tabbed browsing? Because I no longer need to move back and forward (or between open windows) to see the links between these sites as I used to do when attempting something like this using a single browser window (and you techies can keep your semantic definitions of windows to yourself, thank you very much). Maybe a quick screenshot will be better than my attempts to describe this.

Tabs opened in Firefox

It may LOOK confusing but you can follow my surfing thread from left to right, from Caterina through 43 Folders, GTD specific sites, on through David Allen’s site and to the moleskin notebooks.

And THAT, ladies and gentlepeeps (and everyone else inbetween) is why tabbed browsing is a good thing.

Now I just need to find a Firefox extension that will let me produce a list of all open tabs, and their URLs, and I’m a happy, although still knackered, bunny.

(And yes I’m aware of Session Saver but it doesn’t let you generate a list of the tabs stored)

This is all very much an excellent example of how a technology has been mapped to the way people work. Information design, if you will.