Television Anarchy

Previously on SAW, I mentioned our big move. Before the move I made sure that our home was equipped with a cable modem because so much of what I do depends on having reliable Internet access. Paritally as an experiment, I purposefully neglected to set up cable television at the new house. This experiment has proven itself useful. This machine that centers nearly every American home wastes an inordinate amount of time and brain cells weekly in my home. I’m going to experiment with the following guidelines to increase my nightly productivity – it might be refreshing. How many hours did you waste in front of the television last evening alone?

  • Limit time to an hour per night, but consider leaving it off completely 1-4 nights a week (every night if it pleases you, but I just can’t do without LOST). Spend an hour of your normal TV time doing something productive but not taxing, you don’t want to turn downtime into hard work. By now we all know that productivity != hard work.
  • If you’re reading this, chances are you get your news on the Internet, so don’t tell me you HAVE to watch the nightly news. It’s just depressing anyway. A lot of families watch the news or some other TV over dinner. Talk to your family. “People who watch television while eating also tend to be unaware of how much they eat, which encourages overeating.” (citation).
  • Relaxing is excellent, and TV is one way to do that – but it shouldn’t be the only way to relax. Play cards with your family, roommates, neighbors (it’s a very good idea to meet and befriend them if you haven’t already), or pets. Game night rocks, and rather than relaxing by vegetating in front of the television, you can exercise your mind.

If you’ve got any experience with these sorts of exercises, please let me know. Have a wonderfully productive, relaxing, and fulfilling weekend.

Gmail:GTD with Bluetooth Camera

Yesterday, another parcel arrived from – yes, of course, my new bluetooth adapter. I will say that until recently, I was neither a fan of bluetooth nor camera phones, but now I am an advocate of both. I use gmail’s label & star system for GTD and the camera phone has added a new level of effectiveness to the system.

Frequently at a meeting, in the car, or even at lunch I’ll jot some visual notes down on my Hipster PDA that might include flow diagrams, purposefully arranged text, or drawings of mice. Rather than taking the time to somehow represent these non-linear, non-text thoughts in plaintext, I can take a picture with my trusty Nokia 6230, send it to my iBook via bluetooth, and attach it to the action or reference note in gmail.

In theory (I have not tried this yet, but probably will), I can record a memo on my phone, and follow the same procedure. This would be an excellent way to get song ideas into digital GTD action/reference format.

Persistent Card Hipster PDA Hack, New Gear

The other day it occurred to me that the use of a persistent card or two in my Hipster PDA may become useful. I happened upon this after moving into a new house and I kept noticing things that needed to be purchased (important, but still at a semi-leisurely pace). Rather than using a regular white blank card for this, I stuck a bright red card into the pile (in addition to my blue divider card). When I happen by a store, I can quickly find the red card, glance at my list and potentially scratch another item off the list. Now, I’ll keep a jot’n’scratch red card in my pile for shopping lists and replenish when necessary. I’m sure there are other things you can think of for a persistent card in your stack. Let me know what you think.

Also, two parcels arrived at my doorstep yesterday. My Fisher Bullet and Volant Moleskines have arrived! :) The bullet is a phenomenal piece of writing technology – small to store, but has the feel of a full-sized fine writing instrument (mine’s chrome, just like my dubs). I’m still getting used to the Moleskines and trying to remind myself to find the appropriate times to use them, but they’re such a nifty item that I’d probably be satisfied carrying around an empty one all day.

Big Move, 43 Folders Wiki

This weekend saw the intense drama of a family move. My wife, my infant daugher, and I loaded our lives into a 26-foot truck and brought it 5 miles down the road to the first home we’ve ever owned. I’ve moved a few times in a few different ways, but I can say now that the effort required of a move has little to do with the distance you’re moving.

All this to describe a shortcoming of mine – productivity during high-activity or high-stress events. All of the systems that make my daily life fall into place (mostly to overcome ADHD and the procrastination and disorganization that follow so closely) get temporarily abandoned when things just get too busy. My ratty moving clothes didn’t have a place for my HPDA, I didn’t have any furniture to home my inbox, there were plenty of people hanging around to tell me what to do, et al. As a result of this, I’ve been back to the old house twice to pick up random things we need to carry out our every days lives, and I still have no belts to wear. Of course, I’m back in synch now – but there’s got to be a better way to deal with the firehose-effect that comes with these sorts of situations. I’m open to suggestions of course.

In other news, Merlin Mann (of 43 Folders) has made public a wiki that is sure to bring more people, more ideas, and more momentum to the cause of the entire world’s ability to get things done more efficiently. His introduction:

The long-promised 43 Folders Wiki is finally up and running at W00t.

Be sure to check it out, and if you can contribute meaningfully, DO IT!

Sprinting over IMs and emails.

Nine years ago, if prompted by question or doubt I would have explained that “email will be forgotten about in a few years, after having taken a back seat to Instant Messaging and the next higher standard of super-instant communication.” Where I devised that theory is beyond me – I was much younger then and succumbed to my overwhelmed this is new and cool response to technology. My penance for communicating that thought to multiple listeners will be the following few points.

  • First the positive: Instant Messaging is a quick, easy way to communicate with friends, family, and even colleagues when your primary focus for that period of time is communication. Once the information has been shared (think of it as the time when you hang up the phone) sign off or put up a do-not-disturb away message and queue all incoming messages.
  • Sprinting… Merlin Mann (of 43 Folders) suggests using “sprints” to get through daunting tasks. He says
    “Stuff like cleaning off your desk, tidying the living room, or making a dent in a big pile of things to file. Try 8 or 20 minutes, set a timer, and go! Collections of micro-tasks can be knocked down quite nicely this way, and the timer gives you assurance you only have to work on it for so long.”

    These are the types of activities that I am most easily distracted from – and the “ding-dong” of instant messages can draw even the most savage productivity maniac across a castle from his duties to see what sort of interesting link Bob McRobertsburgchesterson has unmasked regarding last night’s episode of LOST.

  • Email is better… I have implemented GTD through gmail with labels for projects and my inbox as… well… my inbox. If someone sees that I’m not online or in do-not-disturb mode and their request or information is important it forces them to email me. At this point, I’ve eliminated a step because rather than me having to add an actionable item to my stack, someone else has done it for me. In theory, they’ve also had an excellent opportunity to include details that I may have missed in transcribing their request into my action. It should also be noted that I only recieve notification of new mail items once per hour to eliminate the constant interruption of flow when about 80% of my new mail is bantha fodder.

While Instant Messaging has some merits in the communication world, the always-on nature that many have come to adopt is counterproductive to the flow of accomplishment. A certain amount of downtime can be spent with it, and it serves as a nice record-keeping-friendly communication of project information, contact information, and knowledge sharing (be sure to turn logging on, it’s worth it!).