Gmail:GTD with Bluetooth Camera

Yesterday, another parcel arrived from amazon.com – 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.

Kicking Instant Gratification Syndrome

A friend and I were discussing instant gratification syndrome and the causes, side effects, and work-arounds. It seems that the current generation of hipster-geeks has been handed everything on demand and that microwave ovens, broadband connectivity, cell phones, and instant messaging have infected us with this strange disorder.

Examples:

  • iBook On the Slow Boat – Back in October, I bought an iBook (right after the refresh) and of course there were delays and the reload button on my at-work-browser actually broke because I hit it too many times on the FedEx page. “Why can’t Apple just materialize the iBook in my lap after they approved my credit card?” “Well son, our transporters just won’t work from Taiwan to South Carolina.”
  • “Boy, Could I Use a…” – Been meaning to buy that new $8 gadget z that you can only find on amazon.com? You can’t do it, can you? By the time it gets here, it’ll be too late because you need it right now. Here’s the thing, Peter: you’ll need it again in a week. It’s gonna take you 90 seconds to buy it (I know you don’t have to find it because it’s on your wishlist) so go do it right now. If you managed to make it back after your amazon.com shopping spree, thanks. You’ll be thanking me next week when your package comes from amazon and you don’t have to slap yourself in the forehead again for not having gadget z right when you need it.
  • Urgent! 911! Help! Help! – Why isn’t Dungeons and Dragons guy responding to my requests for [insert help desk ticket number here] yet? This is the most debilitating example that I can come up with because when I’m frustrated about waiting for something that I think is dire, I’m insufferable and nonproductive. I’m working on it though. For a few weeks, I’ve had a sentence on my whiteboard: “It’s probably not as urgent as you think.” It serves as a reminder that I can cope with waiting.

All of these situations where I long for instant gratification serve as a distraction against by biggest goal – to get things done so I can spend time with my family and at leisure.

Instant gratification syndrome is also very debilitating if you live in my area. About ninety-eight percent of the population just isn’t in a hurry to do anything – which makes it hard if you’re anxious, easily distracted, or just in a hurry. Try keeping your head on straight while driving behind a 1972 Impala going 1/3 of the posted speed limit with its left turn signal on for 14 miles. We have no Fry’s, no Apple store, and a lot of hipster-geek paraphernalia just has to be waited on.

If you notice these same effects, make yourself wait on things on occassion. Take your iPod to work and go home the long way; bring your Moleskine to a restaurant when it’s way overpacked and just jot some ideas down while you patiently wait for a table. Practice for a time when you have to wait, and learn to make the most of it.

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 http://wiki.43folders.com/. 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!).

Don’t be fooled…

Let my first post serve as a disclaimer for anyone tempted to claim that I’d have my home-locale retrofitted to be a mini San Francisco, Seattle, New York, or Tokyo. I love home more than anything and have avoided moving to much larger cities because of that. Let my purpose be the opposite – an encouragement that technical productivity, modern society, and all around geek-life fundom can be had even in the relaxed-pace, pastoral, other-side of the digital divide.

I’m Bryan. I’m an over-enthusiastic software guy with a small family in Irmo, South Carolina – a suburb of Columbia, South Carolina (I know, I know – “Columbia has suburbs?”). I was born and raised in South Carolina, but haven’t lived here my entire life. I notice music, appreciate good design, forage for ideas, and brake for productivity (really). My phone has a camera on it, my computer has a piece of fruit on it, and I write things down to get them done.

Life is good. Knowledge and communication will make it better.