September 27, 2007

Weekly Schedule Uploaded (stub)

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:57 am by a11en

The previous post has been edited to include the file for my weekly schedule.  Short new thread to update anyone using an RSS reader.  Any and all comments appreciated.

Cheers!

Earworm: “One Two Three Four” performed by Feist from the album Bonnaroo 2007, Manchester, Tn

September 25, 2007

GTD, Now Habit, 7-Habits Update: The Weekly Schedule

Posted in 7 Habits, GTD, Procrastination, Productivity, Work at 12:55 pm by a11en

It has been some time since I’ve talked about productivity, so I thought it might be time for a new post. Since my work has been heating up, and I’m trying to finish up a serious breadth (and depth) of work in my research, I’ve also updated my productivity tools. What I’m going to tell you about here, is only one new aspect of my tools, one that I’ve been meaning to re-try for a very long time.

Remembering Covey’s 7-Habits (my first reading)…

The first time I read Covey’s 7-Habits book, I was struggling with my work and direction. Even though I was a bit brain-numb after the incessant use of “paradigm”, the book touched me deeply. The advantage of my first reading, is that I read it on my own time, and on my own prodding. In my opinion, this is the way all productivity books should be read. If you are not self-driven to read them, it will only be painful. One of the important aspects that hit home was Covey’s discussion of the weekly schedule. The weekly schedule as Covey describes it has the advantage of David Allen’s GTD Weekly Review. Focusing on your Roles and Goals for each role, Covey has you set up your weekly priorities and ToDo’s in such a manner as to forward your long-term goals on a weekly basis. The idea being that if you are not furthering every aspect of your life that is important to you each week, you will feel stagnant in that area, and therefore, unfulfilled.

Covey also suggests your week should be viewed all at once (say on a single 8.5 x 11″page). The advantage of this is a longer-term view which keeps you moving through the week, but on a tight enough view that you can get your work done. The daily view often hyper-focuses us, and when we hit the 5pm clock hour, we suddenly realize we missed doing something for the morning meetings. So, viewing everything over the whole week allows us to prioritize a bit better. Sure, there are other methods than this, but this is a simple method and I suspect it works well whenever it’s implemented. I found it to be true for me…

A top-down view of my direction at the time I read 7 Habits was very important to me to re-invigorate my focus and drive in my work. Doing so through the weekly Roles and Goals allowed me to see my week’s work together as a whole, and subsequently that week’s work as a part of the longer-term goals I had laid out for myself. The time-period I consider one of my more productive set of months was when I was xerox-copying the blank weekly schedule located in Chapter “Habit 3- First Things First”. This Chapter was so influential to many, that it eventually became a second book by Covey entitled the same. Certainly for me it hammered home some very important ideas. [Like the time-quadrant.] So, with merely a set of xeroxed sheets, I was making good headway in juggling my days. From there, and it’s success, I purchased the Franklin-Covey planners, and moved away from that simple one-page form. A mistake for me. Having the printed out sheets may help some, but for me, not seeing my week all together really hurt my productivity. I just couldn’t get into the planner.

So, for many years I’ve thought about that sheet. In fact, a good friend of mine, who had success with the Franklin-Planner after I described in crude terms the majority of the first half of Covey’s book, was using it as well with good success. Missing it, I finally decided to make another one from scratch (since I couldn’t find my old printouts and xeroxes). I had a few new goals for the sheet, which I’ll describe here, and how they fit together.

If you are interested in a downloadable pdf of what I worked out, please see the very bottom of this blog post. It’s not perfect yet, and so it’s a bit hard to release something that is not perfect, and I haven’t checked out to see if anything is copyrighted etc, adding more difficulty to tacking it up here for download. But, if you request it, I’ll likely do so, unless I hear from someone that it’s illegal for some weird reason.

My new goals- The Now Habit, and PCEO…

The Now Habit’s Unschedule

Another influential book I’ve discussed here, is the Now Habit. One important aspect of the book is an understanding of the time you have during your day. [Many procrastinators believe they have all the time in the world- that they can do something “later.” Consequently, most procrastinators appear to have very poor conceptualization of time; at least in the way they fit in to the whole “time” thing. Surely, that is true of me.] Fiore’s concept of “The Unschedule” is an attempt (and a great one) to help procrastinators see where their time is going, and how much time they have to accomplish things. In particular, everything *other than* work is scheduled. So, you can look forward to this or that time off, etc., and you can see your blocks of time available for work (if you so choose to work). The start of this process is to track your time during your day, and attempt to see how you spend your time (say for 2 weeks before starting the unschedule). Then, you plan your week with time-blocks, for the items that you would like to do (having fun, eating dinner with your hottie, sleeping, breakfast, etc.). So, in this respect, Neil Fiore’s work also has a week-view focus. Similar to Covey, he suggests not putting everything in your schedule. [Both allow for set-time appointments etc., but not for work-tasks that can be done at anytime.]

So, automatically, when I do this one-page form, I’m going to be using the unschedule with it. The form needs, therefore, a 24 hour view of the day. So I can see all the available time. I’m often using extremely late hours as well (for various reasons, one being that I’m unfortunately a night-owl). (24 hours in the day, check) [The full sheet is show below. The left hand column is for Weekly Priorities, Roles and Goals, and Sharpen The Saw tasks. The upper half of the rest is for daily tasks that require focused time, and daily tasks that only require a check-mark. The lower half is a 24 hour schedule, colored for the UnSchedule.]

The Printable CEO…

David Seah‘s Printable CEO forms have been intriguing me for a very long time. They’re a bit like the DIYPlanner.com pages, although their focus is more on tracking projects and time spent on projects. I’ve played around with a number of Seah’s forms, never finding one that I really liked the bestest (probably my fault). But a number of things about Seah’s forms have hit home for me. One, those darn time-bubbles. What a wonderful idea. Bubbles. You see, for long projects that require me to do tons of work on one subject, I never get to cross these off. But, give me 15 minute bubbles, and couple that with a work-dash of focused 15 minutes of work, and all of a sudden, I can sit there and focus for 15 minutes, and scribble in a bubble. Something just feels good about filling those bubbles in. Very non-test-like. More like- “Yea! I filled in a bubble!”. Positive reinforcement and focus- ah… very very nice. The form I used the most for this was his Task Order Up (3×5) forms. I would set up the 4 major tasks that required over 15 minutes of time each and attempt to work through those during my day. Usually that was with a work-dash, and with a hyper-focus attitude towards the work. So, I wasn’t really using Seah’s forms properly, but the killer-app was working really well for me.

The rest of Seah’s forms look fantastic, but that one idea really was the “killer-app”. So, bubbles are required… not to mention a task-area. (check) [Covey’s schedule has a task area above the schedule, so we’re already seeing synchronicity- now we just need to add bubbles.]

I decided to take a few tips from the Task Tracker, and add bubbles to the day’s view below the schedule. This means the very last thing on the page is a row of subdivided bubbles, larger than the 15 minute bubbles, signifying hours. I’ve noticed a wonderful benefit to this. At a single glance, I can see how many hours in the day was spent on a focused task, and if I look above, in the task area for that day, I can see which task can be associated with that time. [Attached is the task-section of each day show. One bubble corresponds to 15 minutes. Once a row is filled (or equivalent), a 1 hour bubble at the bottom of the sheet can be filled.]

Bringing it all together…

So, the basic basis was the productive tool of the Weekly Schedule of Covey’s. The idea of Roles/Goals which to me tend to focus the multiple higher-level views of David Allen (5,000ft +, etc.) are available on the left of the schedule. Right now, there isn’t a direct link to context or to project views. I’m assuming that on this sheet you’ve chosen some Quadrant 2 type tasks that are not specific in time, other than you’d like to get them done that week. Ostensibly, you’ll choose these items from your Context list or Project list of GTD’s (I like to use OmniFocus for this), but this is a quick way to see your focus for the week/day in a quick glance. For getting more done, I’m hoping to use 3×5’s of printouts of OmniFocus tasks or OmniFocus directly as a normal GTD system would. So, see this form as an advanced calendar (that you fill in yourself), not as a whole system replacement.

With this schedule, I can look at my UnSchedule (colored pencil outlining in my week’s schedule area to see my blocks of time), I can track my progress on each task for the day, and see a final tally of the important task’s work at a day’s and week’s glance. I’m also using it to overlay what I *actually* do during my week, and see how I’ve been bad at my unscheduling. So, if I say I should sleep from noon-8am, and I actually sleep from 2am-8am, I can see that immediately throughout the week.

The bubbles are also becoming a bit like Sienfeld’s Chain Of X’s approach in some senses. If I see that I’ve been good the past few days, I’m more likely to want to see more filled bubbles across the bottom for the current day. Nice little side-advantage. [Sorry no bubbles are filled in this form- I scanned it last week before I started filling it.]

I’m still tweaking space etc., as a one-page week view is always very difficult to fit everything in. But, for now, it’s going fairly decently. I’m finding my old success again, renewed by these new concepts, and finding that creating the new week’s page helps me to review my weekly goals and tasks (ala GTD).

One final note- this sheet gets punched into my Circa notebook at the very back. I’ve been editing a number of short journal-article like papers which I try and complete with every major item started in my Thesis work. So, this becomes a very rough overview of my work. It’s worked so well, that I often refer to it while talking with microscope technicians and others interested in my work. So, I’ve found I frequently am carrying this Circa around with me everywhere, hence making it a natural place to keep this schedule. [Not to mention I can print out the schedule on paper that my fountain-pens love.]

(Just between you and I, I don’t have many bubbles on my form for today… ach. So, I better do some good tomorrow and the next day to make up for it.)

Earworm: “Brandy Alexander” performed by Feist from Bonnaroo 2007, Manchester, Tn

Edit, Thursday; September 27, 2007, Here’s the first version for your perusal (pdf, 160 kB): WeeklySchedule ver.1

September 7, 2007

iPod Touch: update- Hacking and Searches

Posted in iPod, Mac, Mac Software at 5:51 pm by a11en

Well, a bit of an update on the “Hacker-Killer” release of the iPod Touch. Gizmodo is reporting:

The iPod runs Mac OS X like the iPhone does and we have got unofficial word from inside Apple that it runs exactly the same applications. The exact quote: “they use the same damn binaries.”

They also discuss that the same internals are likely there, with some modest interface differences.  In fact, they are reporting that Apple likely didn’t install the usual iPhone software (Mail.app, Stocks, etc.) due to differentiation in the product line.  I completely concur, and suggested this in my last post.

Then there are some questions as to whether or not the microphone within the iPhone’s headset is available (hiding within the headphone jack of the iPod Touch) for use.  Some mentioned that the headphone jack is *not* recessed in the iPod Touch, and therefore your kick-ass Shure noise-isolation ear-buds will work… but this may mean that the headphone jack was changed out in the iPod Touch (will have to do a bit more digging to confirm this).  But, I think we can expect to see the iPod taken apart in the first few weeks of it’s life, as well as  someone trying out the iPhone headset with it.  The only problem will be, are there any apps for it, if it does use the microphone?

As Gizmodo suggests, we are all now learning about the applications which are available to hackers of the iPhone.  In a new post, I’ll update and add links to the apps which are being added by the savvy to their iPhone, and see what that might mean for iPod Touch users.

BTW, it seems we are all of the same mind.  Recent search hits from the blog show that people are arriving here looking for:

  1. PDF abilities on the iPod Touch-  Most likely this will be the same as the PDF abilities on the iPhone within the browser.  There are some reports that the browser requires the full PDF to be available in the phone before showing the first page (as most browsers do these days).  This might not be too important to people who wish to download their pdfs to the iPod Touch.  But- will there be a reader capable of surfing the file-system on the iPod?
  2. Skype on iPod Touch- we’ve talked about this in the past… I think it will come down to a USB microphone product… I can’t see Apple allowing a microphone input on this device.  In fact, I think we’ll see the device was crippled once it gets into the hacker/cracker’s hands.
  3. Bluetooth on the iPod Touch-  Gizmodo readers commented on this as well.  Unfortunately, this appears to be another no-go.  If the internals of the iPod Touch really are the same as the iPhone, I think we will have some serious confirmation that Apple *doesn’t* want this device to be much more than a reader.  They’re thinking consumer visual reader hardware, not useful communication device.  Truly it could be the latter, Apple just needs to get out of this mode of thinking.  [Again, re iPod’s lack of high-def record abilities.]
  4. iPod Touch SSH- seems I’m not the only one.  The good news, is that if the terminal is working, most likely we can install the simple ssh libraries and binaries needed in the underpinning.  I suspect we’ll see SSH pretty quickly.  Likely we won’t be able to pass through VPN’s, however.  But, time will tell.

One possible solution to the difficulties in low-on-board memory may be streaming content via your own webpage.  I suspect we’ll see an amped up version of .mac for users of the iPod Touch.  Apple will probably attempt to link the home iTunes materials (video and audio) through streaming content and secure connections to the iPod Touch via wifi.  This obviously isn’t the best option for these things, but it may alleviate some of the lack of memory.  This may be the only solution we have to do PDF’s if we can’t figure out how to get the pdf’s from the core system file area.

Will be updating this weekend with what I find out for applications on the iPhone.

September 6, 2007

iPod Touch: Released due to hacking of iPhone?

Posted in iPod, Mac, Mac Software, Rants at 11:00 am by a11en

So, in talking on the phone (regular cell phone, which I hate, btw), with my brother about all the wonderful possibilities for the iPod Touch, we touched on a number of aspects regarding future devices. We also talked about how Apple set this release up with panache to fit within their tier of products. An earlier commenter, Shawn, brought me a bit back down to earth, chastising me for not seeing the iPod Touch for what it is. True, Shawn, the iPod Touch is just that- an iPod that you can touch the screen of. With the added bonus of Wifi. [Interesting]

And on that note, my brother made an observation that I must share with you. Kudos goes to the guy for a moment of sheer genius. The question we were trying to answer was: “Why not a microphone? Why not bluetooth for keyboard attachment?… etc.” In a flash of brilliance, My Bro, hereafter called “D” (to protect the innocence of little D… yeah right).. said the following: “Dude. They released the iPod Touch because people were hacking the iPhone.” I sat in silence for a few moments… I think D is onto something serious here. It fits. It fits good. It fits really really good. What was everyone and their doggies with webpages screaming for when the iPhone came out? “No Phone.. we just want an iPod.” It was a nice enough device (touch technology getting major kudos here, as well as the sweet flip-screen ability), that people started hacking it. They made it work in Europe, they made it work as an iPod without any darned phone ability. They were taking the device and hacking it in a big big way. Big enough that there were startups thinking about offering their services to hack these devices for everyone.

ATT must have been pissed. I know I would have been. Hell, they probably had the European release scheduled, and then the Asian release… everything planned out. Then, within 2 months of it being in the wild, a crack that allowed other network useage, as well as new applications and bricking the phone for use as a Wifi Browser (albeit a seriously expensive wifi browser)?

So, what does Apple do? They have this device in the works… they were planning to do this. What did people really ask for? An iPod that let’s them surf the internet. Pretty sweet device. I suspect Apple was (is) gearing up to give us more. How do they stop the incessant hacking? They release a device that gives us exactly what we were screaming for. That would cause either (1) the iPhone hacking to take a serious hit in interest, and (2) start a whole new type of hacking on the more popular iPod Touch. All to the benefit of the cellular networks (ATT) that were frustrated they were losing money and customers.

Let’s see if perhaps there isn’t a bit more to support this… let’s actually try and purchase one of these iPod Touches… oh, wait… I see I can order the new Widescreen Nanos… yes, they ship in 1-3 business days… I see that I can do the same with the shuffles and the iPod Classics… yup, ships in 1-3 business days. Hmm… iPod touch? No love… ships on the 28th of this month. That’s 22 days away. Hmm… interesting!! Vary vary interesting….

Looking closer at the iPod Touch… we see that it has practically the same *everything* as the iPhone. Sure, it’s a bit smaller around the edges, the top-plastic seems to be a bit shorter on top… perhaps the button divot is a bit smaller. The screen appears to be the same. My prediction? The first person to crack this cover off and look at the internals is going to find some missing chips inside and a bunch of connectivity not used. This, my friends, is an iPhone without a bunch of stuff inside. Slightly repackaged. I personally think it’s not a new product… I think it’s actually the iPhone. :) That’s my take on this. They pushed this sucker out the door as fast as they could. They didn’t care they burnt some of the iPhone early adopters (oh sure, they paid lipservice to them by not including Mail.app and a chat feature and removed blue-tooth as well as the microphone port). Nope, this was a “hacker-killer.” They want to divert your attention. And, you know what? I think it’s going to work. I personally want to know much much more about the iPod Touch and want hackers to hack it as fast as they can! Give me a terminal and a few other apps, and I’m so there.

:) So, Kudos goes to my brother the infamous “D” (yes, he used to do some children’s TV shows back in the day along with the other letters.. “A”, “B”, etc.). I suspect that “D” is onto something here. I suspect this release solved a bit of trouble in Apple… and I suspect this was the device, albeit a bit more cut-down, that was supposed to be released next year.

Will I buy it? I’m counting my pennies. I most likely will. It’s going to be very hard not to buy it before the next Apple hardware release. So, for releasing practically what everyone wanted… serious Kudos go to Apple.

[small whisper says it’d be damned nice to have open development for this platform!]

September 5, 2007

iPod Touch: Apple almost gets it right…

Posted in iPod, Mac, Mac Software, Rants at 4:25 pm by a11en

Well, I’m kicking myself more and more for not buying APPL back in ’94. Today is one of those days. Apple listened or realized what they had here… a wifi enabled iPod with touch-screen ala iPhone. Fantastic. The price-point is not that bad either. However, there are a few things blatantly *wrong* with the new iPod Touch… and here’s my take on them…

No microphone and speaker.

As far as I can tell based on the specifications, there is currently no microphone or speaker included into the iPodTouch. As well, there is no blue-tooth connectivity. Connections can only be made via the wifi connection or via the USB port. So, this means, at least for now, absolutely no Skype abilities. Wow. Apple really missed the boat on this one. If this thing had Skype they would sell about 10x the number of units the very first month. Perhaps 100x the number of units. As it is, this thing is big.. but let’s be honest here. Useable skype in a hand-held Wifi device would be HUGE. Apple would literally change the face of telecommunication if they did this. Instead, I believe they decided to play a bit of product tier marketing. They felt- well, let’s not confuse people with a Skype enabled iPod… let’s make them buy the overpriced (due to service contracts etc.) iPhone. Apple is saving it’s own butt on this one. They won’t lose as many users from the iPhone with the new iPod, and they won’t piss off Cingular at the same time.

No GPS chip on board.

So, you want to find all the local Star-Bucks? Well, forget using an internal GPS chip to help with routing via Google Maps or Google Earth. Just like the iPhone, the iPodTouch has no GPS capabilities. Big mistake on this one guys… there’s a whole slew of things that could have been done if you had added a GPS chip. For instance- “see where my pals are”… or “find nearest bookstore”… now I assume you’ll have to type in your current location (snore… ZZzzzz). Although, for my tin-foil hat wearing friends (I’m a part-timer) this means Google won’t know exactly what you read and exactly where you are every moment of the day (a good thing perhaps). :)

A bit too light on the GB’s.

Ok, so you have a wide-screen iPod capable of all sorts of goodies, you can do web2.0, and likely also streaming video etc. But, what about integration with video via iTunes? What about downloading and installing full length movies for that plane flight? [How big is that movie file again?]… at only 8 GB or 16 GB, the iPodTouch is a bit lacking on ability to store a number of BIG media files. This is a huge mistake. There should be no reason why I can’t have 3 or 4 movies as well as all my music on this thing. I suspect Apple will make a show of streaming via WiFi in an attempt to offset this lacking memory. Obviously the device is flash-ram based (a plus for those who have bricked their iPod’s that have hard-drives), however, at this size, are we sure we’re really in for a serious machine like this with such a small amount of memory?

Lack of BlueTooth – huge mistake.

Ok, to add insult to injury here, we find that the iPod Touch has no bluetooth abilities. Yes, I said “No Bluetooth”. Ok… the reason I harp on this is as follows. (1) Lack of communication ability via Wifi… obviously Apple is seeing this as a “Reader” not a full-fledged Internet communication device (again, Skype killer). If BlueTooth was possible, we could (2) sync via the computer w/o usb, we could even (3) use BlueTooth enabled cameras to download and catalog all our camera files. As well, we could link to other devices, say a (4) GPS even… hell, the whole world practically opens up with bluetooth capability, (5) local iPod to iPod connectivity, (6) wireless stereo headsets… the list goes on and on. Hell, a (7) blue-tooth connection to your fancy schmancy car… Or the ability to take (8) voice notes or (9) class-lecture recordings. Need I go on? Hell, even have a dialer function for your blue-tooth enabled phone, with address-book support!!! (10).

And, now we see how Apple set up it’s product tree, I fear. You see, if they had done these things, it would have become an iPhone killer product. Most people likely *don’t* want to have their iPod coupled with their phone. But, give them semi-reasonable Wifi connectivity and BlueTooth support, and you have a very useful product. I’ll deal with Skype for that one friend of mine who uses it too… but for everyone? I think not. Would I have paid for that limited ability? You betcha. I would have paid an extra 100 easy for bluetooth capability with microphone support. Add a GPS and extra memory, and I may have even paid an extra 200.

OsX and iPodTouch application development?

The true killer for this device will be simple. With its above limitations, it’s a nice internet browser and limited video/audio media device. Lack of high-quality recording function continues to plague all of apple’s products, and likely will continue in the far future due to Apple’s appeasement of the payola scamming record labels. It’s a shame that even though I don’t ever purchase from these guys that I still am feeling the effects of a backwards antiquated record company schema. Fine. Let’s leave that for another day. But, what will the real killer of this device be?

Lack of application development- That will be the real killer. I have yet to see if I can run a cisco vpn, an ssh terminal to my local machine with Mutt and screen via terminal… hell, the ability to directly fix websites on the fly would be wonderful. The ability to get into the os, and produce applications is what will really make this device useful. The question is- will this be? Will we be able to tap into the strength of the FreeBSD underpinnings? Mount webdav servers? Upload/download pdf files for view? There are reams of possibilities and this one item may be the true killer for this device. Will it be a serious device, or merely a candy-of-the-month toy? We’ll have to see…

The future I suspect will be like this:

The products I see in the near future: a USB-Bluetooth connection for Skype users, a USB attached GPS unit for geocachers and others, a Microphone attachment that can handle the first, as well as enable note-taking in class (ala the iTalk).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.