Archive for the ‘lifehack’ Category

How To Get Rid Of Those Nasty Odours

Monday, March 26th, 2007

I’ve noticed of late that I’ve been posting relatively few student-y posts, and since I always meant this to be a student-y weblog, I thought this little post at frugal for life (found via Lifehacker) might be relevant.

Now, I guess you could argue that stinky student flats are par for the course, or at least part of the stereotype, but it’s understandable when you consider that most of us are living out of the home for the first time so we’re not familiar with all of these little lifehack-y tips. So this is definitely worth a look, and might make people want to, I don’t know, stay in your house for a little longer.

Want to open lots of images in Preview? Here’s a faster way…

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

So at the moment it’s a bit of a hassle to open large numbers of images in preview. Lifehacker have posted a handy little app called Xee which takes a lot of the kerfuffle of browsing through folders out, but I thought it might be worth noting that Preview can actually open whole folders at a time, though it can be a tad reticent.

Whywontitopen

Normally if you drag a folder onto Preview’s dock icon, it shakes it’s head at you and refuses to highlight. In order to open the folder, you have to force it by pressing Alt-Apple. Then you’ll see the magical highlights.

Itsactuallyopeningomg

One thing that can speed this up is my earlier comments on Quicksilver as a kind of pusedo-dock, quick interface for droplets. Observe:

Qs

Yes, I’ve started using Fumo. I must say I rather like it – expect to see a review soooooon…

4 stages of productivity

Monday, March 19th, 2007

OrganizeIT have posted a nice little meta-review of Your Best Year Yet by Jinny Ditzler, looking at concepts expounded in the book and expanding them into general GTD practice.

It’s interesting stuff – although it seems obvious on the surface it’s worthwhile to note that ‘Do’ and ‘Complete’ are different stages, as are ‘Complete and ‘Reward’. Personally I often tend to gloss over that last step, although I’m working on it – it all comes back to taking care of yourself.

[OrganizeIt via Lifehack.org]

Tomfoolery: copying text out of password protected PDFs

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I’ve lately found myself having to copy text out of a range of password-protected PDFs for Entirely Legal Reasons. Under Windows there’s a nice set of tools for engaging in such tomfoolery: see this lifehacker article for more info – but I’ve found a stupidly simple way to do this under Mac OS X, provided you’re allowed printing privileges.

Open the PDF up in preview, bring up the print dialog, and on the handy-dandy ‘PDF’ button-menu-thing (doesn’t that thing break, like, a gazillion bits of the human-computer interface guidelines?), choose to Fax the PDF. When the fax dialog opens select ‘preview’, and after a brief pause it’ll bring up a new PDF, out of which you can copy the text without having to worry about passwords.

Ain’t that wunnerful? Obviously this depends on the PDF allowing you to print, but it does the trick for me.

Update:
Thanks to Dimension in the comments who pointed out that Colorsync can do the same thing – just open the file in there and save it out as a PDF and it’ll no longer be password protected.

Taking Notes

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Taking useful notes is really, really important across all fields – not just in an academic context. I use the cornell index card system for note taking, writing my notes on index cards and later ‘tagging’ the notes in the left-hand column.

## The Proper Cornell System ##

Wikipedia details the Cornell system in great detail here – there are a bunch of places online where you can print out paper, and if you’re working in a field where you need to take detailed notes on the same subject, you may well find it handy in it’s virgin state.

## My Cornell System ##

Personally, though, I find smaller chunks of text easier to handle, which is why I use a modified cornell system on index cards – with a space for tags on the left and a space for followup tasks at the bottom. Generally I can get one or two subjects on each card, which works well for me.

I’ve made a little pdf template with the rather awesome D*I*Y Planner widget kit and OpenOffice.org draw. Give it a try if you’re into the whole index card thang – otherwise, this is a good PDF generator to roll-your-own notepaper.

Candy Tasks

Friday, March 9th, 2007

There’s a lot of talk in our little realm of productivity about handling and managing tasks, but relatively little on prioritizing them – what to do when and why. The Good Book itself talks about prioritizing based on energy and importance of the task, but I like to do something else.

There are some tasks that I really, really don’t want to do. Not many, and if anyone finds they have a lot of these tasks I recommend they find a different job, but if I do find myself needing to do something, like write a dull essay that I just can’t get excited about, or clean the bathroom, or just Leave The Comforting Cocoon That Is My Bed, I find it’s best to couch it between ‘candy’ tasks – things that are productive, that get me where I need to go, but that I really enjoy doing.

So I’ve got some reading to do on Neolithic death and burial for one of my courses – a subject that in and of itself I find interesting, but much of the writing is dull. I really like writing flash fiction though, as you can tell from my other blog, so I like to couch things – I set a target of, say, ten pages, and in between reading these pages I write some flash or go for a walk or exercise or something else fun.

This does entail a degree of scheduling, which I know The Good Book strongly advises against (calendars are for hard landscapes only), but I find that laying out the day ahead in advance really helps quite a bit.

School Productivity: Five Ways To Work Well On Your Mac

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

So MacApper has posted five neat little tools for enhancing productivity on your mac. I can personally vouch for the awesomeness of iFlash, particularly if you’re interested in languages. Sidenote not so much though – it’s a nice program, but I’m more comfortable with Quicksilver’s append to text file function. But, different strokes for different blokes – we all have to find the best ways to be productive.

Productivity & Geekiness II: first week reflections

Monday, February 19th, 2007

So I’ve been using my personal productivity scoring system (outlined here) for a week now, and I have some Reflections and Tweaks as a consequence.

It’s Actually Not That Hard

My first and most important point is that it’s surprisingly not as hard as I expected to keep the system running – reflecting on the day’s events in the evening is something I try to do anyway through journalling, and this scoring system has the added consequence of keeping me positive – there’s no point dwelling on the bad things as I don’t get any points for them.

Points!

Another thing I had difficulty with at first was the attribution of scores: it may seem at first glance like my blueprinting for last week was not as effective as my thinking or relaxation, but that was before I came to a realization:

This is not a grading system – it’s a scoring system. I only score 40 points in Blueprinting most days, because that’s all the points I need to score – or for that matter should score.

Granularity!

Another positive impact I noticed is that the exponential scoring for Actions has encouraged me to enforce more granularity in my action descriptions – I break each task down to it’s lowest sensible denominator and don’t have any tasks that are actually projects anymore, because in breaking up my tasks properly I get more points.

Having said that, as a consequence of the new Massive Point Values I can reach on productive days I’ve ended up multiplying every other point value by ten. This way I’m reaching Mad Points every day, averaging 500 points every day. Proving, therefore, that I am a Productivity Ninja.

The Now Naked Issues

The process has also shown up some weaknesses in my current days: I consistently score under fifty for ‘Thinking’. This may be due to the way the system is at the moment, of course (minutes/12 may be too litte, methinks), but just the end-of-the-day thinking that I do is plainly not cutting it.

The Future

Next, I want to do some more tweaking, and then produce a paper form not unlike Dave’s Printable CEO. This may be a bit of a silly form as well (I’m thinking of showing just how much of a geek I am by making a character sheet with terms like ‘Wisdom’ standing in for ‘Blueprints’, ‘constitution” rather than ‘Action’, etc. Oh, and there’ll be a section on the right for each ‘monster’, or action completed. Yes, you may now point and laugh).

Productivity & Geekiness II: first week reflections

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

So I’ve been using my personal productivity scoring system (outlined here) for a week now, and I have some Reflections and Tweaks as a consequence.

It’s Actually Not That Hard

My first and most important point is that it’s surprisingly not as hard as I expected to keep the system running – reflecting on the day’s events in the evening is something I try to do anyway through journalling, and this scoring system has the added consequence of keeping me positive – there’s no point dwelling on the bad things as I don’t get any points for them.

Points!

Another thing I had difficulty with at first was the attribution of scores: it may seem at first glance like my blueprinting for last week was not as effective as my thinking or relaxation, but that was before I came to a realization:

This is not a grading system – it’s a scoring system. I only score 40 points in Blueprinting most days, because that’s all the points I need to score – or for that matter should score.

Granularity!

Another positive impact I noticed is that the exponential scoring for Actions has encouraged me to enforce more granularity in my action descriptions – I break each task down to it’s lowest sensible denominator and don’t have any tasks that are actually projects anymore, because in breaking up my tasks properly I get more points.

Having said that, as a consequence of the new Massive Point Values I can reach on productive days I’ve ended up multiplying every other point value by ten. This way I’m reaching Mad Points every day, averaging 500 points every day. Proving, therefore, that I am a Productivity Ninja.

The Now Naked Issues

The process has also shown up some weaknesses in my current days: I consistently score under fifty for ‘Thinking’. This may be due to the way the system is at the moment, of course (minutes/12 may be too litte, methinks), but just the end-of-the-day thinking that I do is plainly not cutting it.

The Future

Next, I want to do some more tweaking, and then produce a paper form not unlike Dave’s Printable CEO. This may be a bit of a silly form as well (I’m thinking of showing just how much of a geek I am by making a character sheet with terms like ‘Wisdom’ standing in for ‘Blueprints’, ‘constitution” rather than ‘Action’, etc. Oh, and there’ll be a section on the right for each ‘monster’, or action completed. Yes, you may now point and laugh).

Personal productivity & geekiness

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

So I was reading Dave Seah’s blog the other day, and came upon his Printable CEO paper forms, and I love them – partly due to the design, but also because the point-based rewards on the main printable ceo really got my brain firing. There’s something about checking off boxes and filling things in that appeals to the geek in me – Dave compares it to standardized testing, but it always reminded me of character sheets.

Pretty much every pen & paper RPG has or had them at some stage or another. They’re sheets of paper preprinted with boxes for filling in attributes, equipment, notes, saving throws, armour class and all that jazz. There’s something about them that appeals to me, not just the thrill of checking off a box, but of putting a number in it, changing things around, and always having that imposed structure for my notes. I guess that’s why I love the Cornell system so much.

Back to Dave’s Printable CEO – the sheet gives you different amounts of points for different things, based on how well it improves your business – 10 points for billable work versus 2 points for blog articles or self promotion, for example. This reminded me a lot of the experience points used in most RPGs – they gauge a character’s progress by awarding points for different actions, and the more experience points you gfet the better and more accomplished you are.

Surfing through Dave’s blog also took me to Phil Newtons notes on his own paper based tracking system, with bits based on the b-Alert system. I liked the b-Alert system immediately, and soon lots of different things came together in my mind.

What about a points system rewarding progress in the six different areas of the system?

So here’s where I am so far, but what do you guys think? Anything you’d add or take away?

b (Blueprints)

+1 point for each blueprint made
+3 points if it is secure

A (Action)

Number of individual major tasks completed, squared (e.g. 1 point if one task completed, 4 if 2, 9 if 3, etc).
Risky action: +3
Action made you feel a little uncomfortable: +2
1 action failed: +2
2 actions failed: +1
3 actions failed: 0
4 actions failed: -1
etc
(adding points to failures in the hope that they would function as a learning experience: I’m also thinking this will encourage me to go on with something even if I’m not sure if I can do it, since I’ll get the XP bonus anyway 😉 )

l (Learning)

Books: #Pages / 10
Blogs: #Articles / 10
Classes or other learning activities: #hours x 2

e (Exercise)

#Minutes spent / 6

r (Relaxation)

#minutes spent /6
#times laughed x2

t (Thinking)

#minutes spent /12

Man, I am SUCH a geek…