Archive for the ‘organization’ Category

Developing Strengths and Learning Who You Are

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

LifeDev posted this back in February but I forgot to blog about it because I Am But Human and the link kinda got lost in my Google Reader Starred category (seriously, it’s a cool feature, but a number-of-starred-items indicator would be nice).

Anyway, I mostly agree with the opinions put across in the article, and the 70/20/10 model is a useful one. This is an issue I’ve had problems with personally over the years – I’m a little obsessed with becoming a triple threat (I’m aiming at writing and programming at the moment, but haven’t decided on a third talent yet), so perhaps instead of ‘looking for new ways to maximize your abilities’ I’d go for ‘developing ancillary talents’.

Perhaps this is part and parcel of being a student – at its core, being a student isn’t about getting a piece of paper that says you know about something, but rather it’s about learning who you are and what you are.

So don’t specialize too quickly, else you’ll end up doing something you think you want to do, rather than something you actually want to do.

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]

Academic Productivity

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

A nice new academic-centric productivity blog that’s worth a look: Academic Productivity. In particular, I enjoyed this interview with Dave Navarro, in which he talks about how he writes academic papers – a ‘bottom up’ approach, choosing figures and chunks of text and then slowly building up into the big picture. Which is interesting, because that’s the precise opposite of how I write essays. Hmmm…

[Via This Writing Life and PsychSplash]

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.

Hesitation – or The Difficulty With Ch-ch-choices

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

People seem to hesitate on the simplest questions. I always thought it was just me, but apparently not. For example, I was in a coffee shop recently, and heard this little exchange at the counter.

“Cup or mug?”
Long pause
“Um… er.. Cup! Yes, cup, please.”

Choices are difficult and can easily slow you down. In the example above, it didn’t make any difference if the man had a cup or a mug – it’s a matter of preference for some people I suppose, but it’s not something you should overly concern yourself with.

And to stop this from becoming a customer-service-y Creating Passionate Users post, here’s how this is relevant for personal productivity:

Handle your choices up the line. When you’re planning out a project, make as many choices as you can about how to handle the project, what to do when, as early as you can. You can always review them later if you have a better idea, but if you don’t have a better idea, you won’t waste time hesitating and trying to determine what to do.

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…

Handwriting

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

My handwriting is bad. Really bad. It’s been bad for as long as I’ve been able to do cursive, ever since elementary school. Even as an adult my penmanship has frequently been compared with Cuneiform.

Of course, with the advent of computers this shouldn’t be a problem anymore – no-one can tell how atrocious my handwriting is from an email, after all. But the problem is, no matter what situation you’re in, it’ll sometimes be necessary to communicate through pen and ink, and if you’re handwriting is so bad people sometimes think it’s Da Vinci style mirror writing, this can be a problem.

I’ve tried calligraphy and it hasn’t really worked out for me – calligraphy is, as far as I can see, more a practice of drawing letters than practical writing. I can do it reasonably well – here’s some I’ve done on my Flickr feed, but it hasn’t helped my cursive at all.

I’ve been hunting around for resources on improving my handwriting for a while now (and I still am – if anyone knows of any, let me know), but by far the most useful for me has been the article Tips for improving your handwriting by Dyas A. Lawson. Very cool, and advice on how to move from writing with the wrist and fingers to the forearm and shoulder. This never occured to me before, but it makes sense – larger muscles, aside from being more powerful and having greater endurance, are actually easier to control on a fine level.

I think I’m making progress, slowly but surely. Might keep a log up here too.

All About Money

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Ramit over at I will teach you to be rich has posted a fantastic article on ‘conscious spending’. I highly recommend all of you read, as it might help to get rid of the negative associations with finance (i.e. finance is about not spending money, whereas in truth finance is about spending money consciously).

It also reminded me of the fun little mac app Cha-Ching, which I like, but which I’m not entirely certain how to use (there’s no help. The splash screen for the latest beta implied the existence of a screencast, but the button was greyed out). But it’s well worth a look for the financially motivated (I like it already, just because it looks nice and seems reasonably sensible, even if I don’t know how to set a budget and get it to automatically refresh monthly).