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Productivity Late 2014

Richard Anderson wrote about his task management in the post Another Task Management Journey.

Part of his conclusion:

There’s a lesson I’m opting to take away from this experience. It’s never a bad idea to audit yourself. Thinking about the tools I use, and how I use them, gave me insight into where I was falling down, and helped me put together something better suited for what I do and how I think.

I recently did the same thing. I have been using OmniFocus since the beta process and in the past have migrated to TaskPaper, but generally come back, but recently, at work, my tasks have become incredibly fragmented. I had 4 or 5 different task management systems and it was driving me crazy.

A little much, right?

Shawn Blanc hit part of my OmniFocus issues with his post Dueing it wrong:

By living in the Forecast View, I’ve slowly developed the habit of setting the items which I want to get done as being due today. Or, if I know I can’t get to it today then I’ll set it to be due tomorrow or the next day. Seems natural and logical when your in the middle of it, but it’s actually not the best way to go about things.

In OmniFocus, I did the “due date dance,” taking everything that was due that I didn’t finish yesterday, and making it due today. A horrible Sisyphean task, that lead me to being burnt out on OmniFocus in somewhat regular cycles. Like Richard, I needed to consolidate where my tasks lived and how I interacted with them and in the same vein, I was influenced by Nick Wynja’s post on using Trello.

I started to evaluate each system and how I used them, and how I enjoyed using them.

Wunderlist was easy to cut, while it is a fine list manager, I didn’t really need to row the boat of my attention out to the island of Wunderlist to check those tasks. A quick discussion with my colleague, and I was done with it.

OmniFocus is a great task management system, and has kept me on track for many years, but recently, I am finding myself fiddling with perspectives, AppleScripts, and doing the “due date dance”. Most of the tasks that lived in there were things that had become fallow, or were contingent on future tasks that I don’t when they would really start. Of course, I can have my future car registration renewal in there and it can work, but when it shows up in many perspectives, it jacks up my flow by adding it back to my cognitive load. I love OmniFocus and I’m sure that I’ll eventually go back to it at some point in the future.

Reminders is relatively easy, a quick chat with my wife and we decided to pare down our shared lists to a single Grocery list. I love being able to use Siri to add items to the Grocery list, sometimes it is just a matter of checking the list when we get to the store.

This leaves three system: Trello, Evernote and good ol’ Paper.

Trello has become my primary collaborative tool. I use the snot out of commenting, to keep my co-workers up to date. I also like the fluid nature of the app, and the Kanban-style setup that allows projects to sit in the states that they are in until things change. I am using Trello to keep track of shared projects and big personal project. I use the comments and attachments liberally and feel no guilt when the project starts to go fallow. With all of the comments, I can pick it up again without much hesitation.

Evernote is now my everything drawer, particularly with the addition of the iOS 8 extension. I put almost every or link of interest in my “.Inbox” notebook. I also have a hierarchy of tags that I use to keep things organized. I use a many-to-one scheme, preferring tags over notebooks, because it allow a single piece of information in Evernote to be associated across unrelated domains of my life. My tag hierarchy looks like this:

Task related tags include:

When I have done what needs to be done with the task related tags, I simply remove them from item and add the appropriate tags if I plan on storing it for a while.

I also have started to do a review of the material created in the last year, last 6 months, last 3 months and last month, using the saved searches:

created:month-12

Lastly, I use the to-do check box to keep track of tasks buried in note content. I can search using todo:false and the tag bundles for work or personal projects. If the task grows out of a simple reminder, I will add it to Trello as a project to be tracked. I will add the link to the Trello card, so I can “close the loop” if the note surfaces again.

Paper is the last, best hold out for tasks. While I work primarily in the digital realm, my main way of capturing tasks and making progress on projects is by recording them on paper. I use a Pilot fountain pen and a Moleskine Cahier to quickly capture tasks and meeting notes in the Bullet Journal style. Sometimes those notes get translated back into Evernote, but not always. Depends partly on the significance of the meeting and how likely I am to have to search for it in the future. In the short time I have been using this system, I haven’t been wrong yet, and as a bonus, if I did take paper notes, I can always capture them into Evernote or thumb through my notebook.

Is my as tightly integrated as it was when I was an OmniFocus poster boy? No, but the looseness of the system allows me to both feel in control of my work and not overwhelmed by my work. I’m sure all of my issues can be resolved with more regular GTD-style reviews and getting everyone I know on OmniFocus, but in reality, I can only control half of that equation. For now, the collaborative nature of Trello works great for me and my co-workers, Evernote captures everything I need and old-fashioned paper is enough of a juxtaposition with the digital nature of my work makes me seriously consider what I want to get done each day, as opposed to dumping everything into a box and then feeling bad when I don’t finish everything, every day.

Ben Brooks: The New Way to Edit Photos

Ben Brooks:

What finally pushed me over the edge was a long look at how I actually use photos. My primary goal is not to make art, but to capture moments and in that, when I do capture a great moment, I want to share that image quickly and widely. I don’t want to share the unedited image, I want to make the image look great still, but sharing is really what photography is all about.

And so, with that in mind I looked at my Lightroom workflow:

  • Wait a long time to import images from my camera. (Usually weeks after I took the photos.)
  • Never import iPhone shots, where a lot of images reside.
  • Once imported, rate images.
  • After I rate them I edit them by choosing one of 12 “presets” that I have created.
  • Apply cropping to select images.
  • Share on Flickr, Studiobrooks.com, or other means like Dropbox, email, etc.
  • Close my computer.

Even if I am just editing a handful of pictures, I still will take about 30 minutes to do all of this, between Lightroom being slow with RAW files, or me obsessing over minor tweaks.

What I realized in looking at all of that: it is a big pain in the ass.

I don’t like it, I don’t enjoy it at all.

Further, I don’t have the images in the most important place: my iPhone. What kind of bullshit is that? Not my kind of bullshit. This was at the moment I decided I had to figure out how to do this all faster on my iPad.

I am finding that the further we get from the iOS 8 launch the more capable my iPad is becoming. I have replicated almost every function of my work computer on the iPad, with the exception of multiple monitors. Using Ben’s photo method is just one more step in my journey of shifting my work to iPad.

Patrick Rhone’s new book

When Patrick started his newsletter, I subscribed. Now, he has produced a book from some of the great content he has produced.

He was kind enough to send an ebook copy to people who were subscribers, but I’ll be buying a physical copy as well.

Game Theory: The Potluck Dilemma.

The Potluck Dilemma offers various insights on producer behaviors when attending one of Cheryl’s snooty gatherings. The individual determinants of compliance are so complex for each agent from game to game that a Nash Equilibrium is all but impossible. Few constants exist. Except that Drew will drink too much and fire off that unhinged laugh at all his own jokes. That’s a given.

GORUCK Training

I have two GORUCK Tough patches in my collection, one for Class 157, the other for Class 1073. Both were tough in their own ways, but I felt significantly better prepared physically for 1073. I had a good idea of what to expect mentally, so I could focus on being physically prepared.

In Jason McCarthy’s advice for preparing for Selection, he wrote:

Ruck More.

I figured if that is what the mastermind behind the GORUCK Challenge and the even more demanding GORUCK Selection recommended for the more difficult of the two events, that training plan should work.


First, a definition: “a ruck” is a military style backpack, “to ruck” is to march with a ruck, most likely weighted.


I rucked as much as I could. I would walk to work at least three times a week with 6 bricks in my ruck, three miles round trip. In addition to “Ruck More”, Jason recommends rucking heavy. Five weeks before my Challenge, I upped my weight, adding home made five point sandbags, first one, then two, ending up with four sandbags to complement the 6 bricks. The idea was that if I trained heavy, the load wouldn’t be as bad during the event. One day, I added more weight, my Brick Bag filled with my remaining home made sandbags. I stepped on the scale after getting home and I was rucking with over one hundred pounds. No wonder the walk home felt tough.

I would ruck with my ruck buddy around a 5-mile trail every Saturday. The terrain isn’t rough, but uneven, enough to keep it challenging. I always brought my Brick Bag full of home made sandbags. It wasn’t heavy, but it kept my hands occupied and my arms engaged with weight. It also forced me to focus on keeping it balanced and finding places to rest the weight on my ruck.

One Sunday, following on from my Saturday ruck, I did a road march to the trail, around said trail and back, a full 10 miles. It was long, but a good test, not only of my endurance, but also my gear setup. It was a dry run of my clothing and load out. I did this about a month out from my Challenge to make sure I didn’t stress myself too much before the event.

The last part of my training was a more GORUCK specific Crossfit style workouts. Lots of grinder style triplets:

Buy in:
- 800m 20lb weighted vest 60lb sandbag carry

Workout:
All with weighted vest
- 3 rounds:
- 10 pushups
- 10 box step ups
- 40m bear crawl

Cash out:
- 800m 20lb weighted vest 60lb sandbag carry
- Accumulate 150m of bear crawling with 20lb weighted vest

Normally, Crossfit workouts are intense short affairs, but these were long, slow grinders. I worked to get through them. The emphasis on bear crawling was particularly helpful during the GORUCK Challenge.

While there is nothing that can fully prepare someone for their first GORUCK Challenge, being more physically prepared can make the whole experience a better brand of “good livin’”.

Why Isn’t ‘Arkansas’ Pronounced Like ‘Kansas’?

Mental Floss explains the pronunciation difference between Kansas and Arkansas, which was a favorite pronunciation flip flop in my grandfather’s patois.