August 15, 2006

Thunderbird gets GTD’d…

Posted in GTD, Mac Software at 1:08 am by a11en

A few things came together for me this past weekend, and I thought I’d share a bit. First, was MerlinMann’s discussion of the usefulness (or lack thereof) of e-mail folders. I agree completely with Merlin on this one- and I feel a hint of a running thread here- focus on The Work and not on Organization. After all it is “Getting Things Done” not “Organizing Things Nicely”. Second was a post regarding subject line editing I saw a while back on lifehacker.com that stuck in my grey-matter. Third, and finally, was my frustration with effective e-mail “getting things done”.

What I’m about to show you can be done on most platforms I believe, and it’s super silly simple, I think. I hope that it might help some of you increase the effectiveness of your e-mail software. (For me, that’s Thunderbird. So, if you’re not using Thunderbird, take this as a rough outline, and dig a bit to see if there are similar tools available to you for this type of implementation if you like it!- Oh, and let me know if you do this sort of thing so others can find it easily as well! TIA!)

One of the ways I was able to get my “Inbox to Zero” was to implement an action folder. Essentially, anything that I can’t deal with at that very moment, or will take longer than 2 minutes, needs to be placed in a folder where it can be easily accessible and not be gumming up the works of the inbox. Of course items which don’t need to be acted upon can go in their respective folders (i.e., Family, Friends…). Also, if you finally get your inbox to zero messages- you can start implementing folders and auto-sorting for any list-serve messages (Zoss list) you have coming in on a regular basis- no more gumming up the works for those fellows either: create a filter so that it gets shoved out of your local folder. (Don’t worry, it’ll still highlight in blue when a new e-mail gets auto-sorted there!) This helped quite a bit when I was first implementing the clean-inbox idea. But, recently, I’ve found that I just don’t get into my action folders properly, and they’ve become a sort of catch-all for various items, somewhat poorly organized, and definitely difficult to be found when needed. A revamp was seriously needed.

I remembered reading a long time ago on lifehacker.com about editing subject headers to allow for organizing messages. A great idea I thought, but wasn’t sure how it’d help when messages were stuck in various places. Then, I found Thunderbird’s saved-search folders. [Simply run a search and hit “save as folder” in the bottom-middle of the search pane.] Now, that’s something useful! So, after installing HeaderTools- first link in the message (to allow editing of the subject lines), I have a way to meta-tag my messages. Mix in a little contextualization, and you’ve got yourself a GTD method for your e-mail.

My first foray into images on here… here’s an example of what I mean:

gtdthunderbird

So, I still use my work/nonwork classification (or any other folder sorting you want), but I also now can meta-tag my e-mails before placing them somewhere so that when I am in the mood to write e-mail replies, I can click on “email” and get all the list of e-mails needed to be replied to. Same with online website work and work-based science research that I need to dig harder for. This could easily be adapted in other ways (the addition of extra headers may be possible- I’m dorking with this now as well). Just be warned- tagging all your messages, may increase the size of your mailboxes- HeaderTools makes a copy of the e-mail so that it is not altered. I believe that the copy gets removed when the headers are returned to their original state.

I now have a way of better searching for items that need to be acted upon in my email, I’ll check back every once in a while and let you know how this is going.

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August 14, 2006

Confessions of St. A11entine…

Posted in Procrastination, Work at 1:21 am by a11en

Hey! A quick one here guys… I have a confession to make- for some reason, procrastination has me in its vice-like grip. It’s so frustrating. I just can’t bring myself to get my work done on Sat./Sun. even though I know it needs to be done for Monday. As well, completely disregarding the Now Habit, I pretend-schedule long sessions of work that I know will be hard to start… even when I know it needs to be done, and it’s itching under my skin… I keep doing stupid stuff, like reading my bloglines feeds. UGH. This is going to be a long process… the long hard process of productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. I guess all I can do is get back on my horse and keep trying. Grr… So, sorry that the blog is not with it this week, it’s been a rough one. I hope to have more for you guys very soon. I should have remembered my 20 minute dashes, my 10+2×5 hack, and my “just start it!” rules! I wish you guys a fun and productive week! Don’t forget to schedule your unschedule events- the things that you do outside of work, so you can see your free time better… and actually plan real breaks that you can look forward to. I seem to constantly be stealing time away from myself… having half-a$$ed breaks that I feel bad about- that doesn’t help me relax, or get work done, now does it?

Incidentally, all of the above is addressed in Fiore’s book- so, I’m not doing a good job of implementation this weekend it seems.  It’s amazing how dead on Fiore is on this stuff.  (The Now Habit by Neil Fiore)

At least I can look forward to a good shave tomorrow morning! Oh, and I finally did some work on the motorcycle- so that’ll soon be up and running again. That’s been on my action list for a very long time!

Ok, off to do 20 minute dash on my work! Earphones, check, Beethoven Symphony number 8, check… pen and paper, check… I’m off to the races!

Relevant links:

August 8, 2006

Update on FP’s, Wet-Shave, Now Habit, future posts…

Posted in FountainPens, Mac Software, Pipes, Procrastination, shaving at 7:37 pm by a11en

Well, a post has been long over due. I try to ensure that I don’t post nonsense here, so that those who visit will visit often, and get something out of reading my insane ramblings. 🙂 Maybe I’m hoping for too much. I’ve been incommunicado, as I’ve been concentrating on work, as well as somewhat unsure how to tackle my little hack. I’ll call that my “Book Underline Liberation Hack” or BULH… uh… well, you get the idea.

About my “BULH” (pronounced as Bull-@#$@?) hack: My biggest problem in posting a how-to on this, really, is that it utilizes a number of programs that you guys/gals might not be too familiar with. Some surely are, but some may not be. So, I think I’m going to start it as a series. I’ll talk about each program separately, point you to appropriate interesting links that may be of use to you, and then bring everything together in the end. Since it’s a bit of a crazy hack, and I haven’t made any scripts to help you in the hack, a lot of you guys may choose not to use it. But, hopefully the series will help some of you (who may not have decided to install some of the programs before). My ultimate goal is to give you a way to liberate and utilize all those great underlined sections in your books. I find they’re useful when I do re-reads, but often I don’t re-read, and would love to have those sitting where they’re visible to motivate my work. I think the first program up on the block will be Growl. Before this, let me brain-dump a few items of interest. I’ll work on my post on Growl over the next few days.

Fountain Pens

My strong suggestion for anyone who wishes not to get trapped on a slippery slope- is don’t ever try a nice fountainpen. I recently stopped by a local antique store. After looking around a bit, I ask the proprietor if she has any fountain-pens. She says: “Yes, but they’re not out and ready for sale yet…” She digs a bit… out pop some interesting older pens, nothing too exciting… as I look over them and tell her about my limited experience with FP’s, she digs some more, and out pop some big-dogs. We talk for around an hour, and all of a sudden, she says: “Would you be willing to help me?”… “If you help me figure out what these are worth, I’ll give you your pick.” I’m floored… I think on it for a day, and decide to help. So, in front of me sits the following after a stint of hand-polishing (there are more of lesser value as well):

  • Parker “51” Vacumatic, Third-quarter, 1947 (T47), gold-filled cap, straight line pattern, blue-diamond GF clip, black body
  • Parker Vacumatic Junior, Maxima size, Brown Pearl laminate, 1947
  • Shaeffer’s Snorkel Saratoga, green body
  • Conklin with nice green striated celluloid body, sac-filler
  • Cartridge Shaeffer’s yet to be determined
  • Epenco little sac-filler with wonderful marble celluloid body

Just those three pens on top of the list there were a joy to come by in the wild. There of course a lot of questions- one of the more important for the owner of these, is: Is it better to spend the money on repairing/refurbishing, or is it better to sell them as-is. Being a FP-fellow now, of course I’d love to take a crack at them, or send them away- they’re much easier to buy without being repaired. 😉 Any and all comments regarding this, please chime in!

The Wet-Shave Update

Finally got an amazing shaving brush. I purchased a Vulfix Super-Badger brush with a nice knot-size. Price was reasonable- larger than I’d ever spent on shaving accoutrements, but, reasonable. While walking through Marshal-Fields this weekend, I came across a small “The Art of the Shave” shop on the first floor. Talked shaving equipment with the salesman there for a bit. Turns out their smallest super-badger (silvertip) was double the price of the Vulfix brush I purchased a week ago. The brush was at least half as large as mine, to boot. Amazing price difference.

I have to admit that the brush is awesome. I didn’t need much soap on the bristle tips to get a fantastic lather on the face. Incidentally, I’m using that Lavendar soap by Taylor of Old Bond Street mentioned previously. Great soap. Now, I just need to find an after-shave moisturizer that fits nicely with the lavender. The brush hopefully will last me for many many years. I finally actually look forward to my shaves, instead of wishing I didn’t have to do it before heading to work. I’m starting to realize that money spent on things of luxury are often worth it, if they can be enjoyed for many years to come, and you aren’t neglecting an important expenditure. Oh, and that 12-hour 5’O-clock shadow procrastination I mentioned earlier- it’s true. I’m getting a closer shave just by changing to the badger brush and soap. Amazing. Highly recommend a good brush, and a good soap. [Incidentally, the soap looks like it’s gonna last me for a couple years as well!]

Now Habit Update

I need to spend more time on this in the near future. Some wonderful things found since I last discussed Fiore’s book. Unfortunately, keeping them in mind often is difficult. I’ve experienced a truth too often: No matter how late I stay up, there’s no way to add more time to my day. Important items often will slip by if I am not more conscious to choose to do them first. Fiore’s book explains the idea of the “unschedule”. It’s quite simple really- schedule your time for everything *but* your work. Sleeping, eating, playing time- showering, tooth-paste time, etc.- when this is accomplished, you see all too clearly how much time there is for work. Often there’s not much time to do your work, so realizing this helps you to make proper decisions about that unscheduled time you have. As well, you should commit to yourself to only do 30 minutes of work. That’s right… 20 hours total a week tops. 30 minutes of focused time. The reason is that if you attempt to do all the time you wish to accomplish in your head (say 18 hours a day, is what I’d love to be doing)- there’s no way you’re going to actually do it. In fact, because you know you should do 18 hours a day, you’ll find it *very* hard to start. Instead, 30 minutes of extreme focus without distractions often gets more done. It’s all a matter of starting. All projects get done just by starting, and starting and starting… over and over again, until the project is finished. Little starts of focused time.

Oh, a bit of a tip, as well- it appears that the infinity journal (both the normal and the mini) from Levenger will fit the Miquelrius journals that I find at Pendemonium and Barnes and Noble. So, if you’re looking for a real leather cover, and a ribbon book-mark for it, the cover will likely fit. Nice to know incase the one that comes with it, runs out. 🙂

Tobacco And The Sea

After a trip to Levengers at Fields, I walked over to the oldest family owned business in Illinois- Iwanries & Co. Paid for a pipe I had money down on, and perused their tobacco. Lo and behold- I find tins of Murray blended Dunhill blends!! I couldn’t believe it! So, I snagged a number of London Mixture tins. Happy with my surprise find, I walked down to the warf to pay a call on an old friend- The Abegweit. She’s now the Columbia Yacht Club club-house. A number of very kind club members talked with me about the old ferry, and invited me and the family back at a future date. I was floored at their kind offer. As a kid, I leaned over the Abegweit’s bow watching the ocean race by on my way to my grandmother’s house in Prince Edward Island. It was great to see the boat being well-loved.

As I walked, with my pipe in mouth, enjoying the tall-ships that came that weekend to Chicago, I was reminded of how the sea and tobacco were often the two things that most stirred man’s imagination in the days gone by. The days of shaving-brushes, and lavender soaps, wooden ships, and pipes…