My Jotter Notebook Hack

When I first wrote about Getting Things Done, I mentioned that I carry a small Cross jotter around to “capture” any ideas/thoughts/notes on the fly.

Just thought I’d share how I “hacked” mine so now I use better, and cheaper, notepad refills. I hope to soon be welcomed into geekhood now that I used the word hack for something.

First here is a snapshot of it closed. It fits into my pocket pretty easily. It has a holder for a small pen on the side.

The pad it came with stinks because the pages easily tear off and it made for writing on both sides difficult. It took me a while to find, but a standard Mead notepad with the spiral on top fits perfectly if you cut about 1/4 inch off both sides of the back. It doesn’t make it too cumbersome.


Here it is in action. Yes, I have the handwriting of a 3 year old.

There you have it.

Google Chrome, thanks but no thanks

I posted this in their suggestion forum as well.

So Google announced today that Chrome is out of beta. And it includes better bookmark management. Um, nope. I don’t think so. Nor do a ton of others commenting on forums about Chrome’s lack of integration of either Google Bookmarks or Google Toolbar.

I use Google Bookmarks to capture and bookmark sites (duh!), which I access from multiple computers throughout the day. It seems Google is dead-set and convinced their users use one computer all day. Otherwise this is a no brainer.

So I, and many others, don’t need to import bookmarks from Firefox, IE and other browers into Chrome. Especially since we use Google Bookmarks on those browsers anyway. We need Chrome to work with Bookmarks!

Sorry Chrome. I’m not using you.

Favorite G1 Apps

I get a kick out of ratings and comments in the Android Market. It’s funny how people’s perceptions differ when ranking apps. For me, I rank it based on how well it does what it says. I don’t rank on the wow factor. Quite frankly, none of the apps have really wowed me. But some come in handy. Now I’m talking about apps in the Android Market, not the ones that come preprogrammed on the G1–they are:

The Weather Channel – Quickly gives me the weather in my location (programmed in home Zip code or with GPS setting) with right now, hourly, 36 hour, and 10 day forecasts. Nice clean display.
Toggle Settings – Lets me quickly see and toggle on and off setting I’m not using (gps, wifi, silent mode, etc). Good for preserving battery charge and for changing ring tone mode for work, movies, etc. Also good for not having to navigate through the phone setting to make these changes.
QSearch – Turns the screen into a touchpad to run google searches without having to type on the keypad. It also changes to landscape when you rotate the phone. I’d rather not have to flip open the keypad to do quick Google searches.
Quickpedia – Basically wikipedia reformatted for the screensize.
BistroMath – Nice tip calculator. Great when splitting a check.
imeem – Streaming music based on favorites. I like it so far, I just need to play with it more and add more favorites.
Pictorial – Nice integration with Picasa, where I have a lot of my pics.
Pro Football Live – Gives updated football scores and stats. This would be more useful if I was away from the games on Sundays.
Yellowbook – Search listings based on GPS location, then one touch to call or plot on map. This comes in handy when looking for services in the area.

I give the following a “meh:”
AK Notepad – A simple notepad.
Voice Recorder – A voice recorder, which can then be saved and/or e-mailed.

These have potential:
Gmote – Lets me access and play media files on my PC through the G1 through my wireless connection at home. Essentially turning the G1 into a remote control for the media on the PC. The UI stinks, but I see potential here.
StreamFurious – Can play streaming media from content providers. It’s great, but the station selection is very limited.

I see these have rave reviews. I’ve installed them, but haven’t kicked the tires yet:
ShopSavvy – Lets you scan a barcode of a product, then gives you comparitive pricing in the area.
Shazam – Identifies music playing, then lets you tag it, buy it, and look up artist.

Stay tuned. For my next post, I’m putting together a wishlist.

G1 Review Redux – Month 1 Review

Last I wrote on the G1, I was a week in. Now I’m over a month in, so some of my first opinions have changed.

As I mentioned in my first post, the G1 was my first venture into any sort of smart phone / pda, so I don’t know how other devices compare.

I still love the device. It’s incredibly easy to use and navigate. I have a strong pet peeve with usability issues, and so far I haven’t been agitated by the G1.

I haven’t reversed my opinion on anything other than the camera. I last said it was ok. Well it’s flat out terrible. I’ve yet to take a non-blurry picture. And the autofocus makes taking a quick shot up to 5-6 seconds to take. I’m no photo-taking expert, but something’s wrong here. Judging by complaints on the web, I’m not alone. I have a digital camera, and I know how to snap a pic. I’m not looking for great pics, just fast and non blurry ones will do.

Also, I’ve found some bugs. I’ve tried to post them here and there. Google and/or T-Mobile should really have a central spot to submit bugs. Anyway here are some:

  • The gmail app has a tendency to open up the last conversation (even deleted e-mails) rather than going straight to the inbox. When this happens, sometimes the new e-mail notification does not pop up. It kind of stinks to keep having to open up the gmail app instead of trusting the notification.
  • The google calendar app crashes if you try to make changes to a recurring event.

Ok, not many bugs uncovered on my end. Still love it overall. Still hate that you can’t write to google notes, docs, or speadsheets.

Dick Jauron, Bills Futility, Rebuilding, and NFL Parity

This is just a mind spew. Being a Bills fan is torture.

It’s funny. A neighbor asked if my 6 month old son has any Bills gear yet. I jokingly told him that I didn’t want to put the poor kid through the torture. In reality, it wasn’t much of a joke. The truth is I hope he roots for dad’s team, but I’ll leave it entirely up to him. Well not quite entirely–he can’t pick the Jets (or Dolphins or Patriots).

Lets look at Dick Jauron’s career head coaching record:
Bears 1999: 6-10
Bears 2000: 5-11
Bears 2001: 13-3
Bears 2002: 4-12
Bears 2003: 7-9
Lions 2005: 1-4
Bills 2006: 7-9
Bills 2007: 7-9
Bills 2008: 6-7
Total: 55-72 (.433)

Jauron coached only one winning season, which he was bounced out of the playoffs the first game. I call it a fluke season.

The Bills this decade:
2000: 8-8
2001: 3-13
2002: 8-8
2003: 6-10
2004: 9-7
2005: 5-11
2006: 7-9
2007: 7-9
2008: 6-7
Total: 59-82 (.418)

Only one winning season this decade, where they sniffed the playoffs, but were beaten by the Stealers’ third teamers in a “win and in” game in 2004.

– The Bills have been “rebuilding” for 8 years.
– Why is it that the Dolphins can go from 1-15 to playoff contention in one year?
– While the Bills wallow in futility?
– NFL salary cap/parity evens the playing field, but clearly separates mismanaged teams from well run teams.
– Coaching is THAT much more important, so…
– Even the Cardinals got it together.
– How much longer for the Bills?
– Why are there teams that are always good?
– And teams that are always bad?

I tell you there will be a revolt if Jauron is kept. There were rumors earlier in the season that he was extended, but it was never confirmed. If he was, I hope there was a clause. Because he isn’t the answer. There never seems to be any gameplan. They are continually out-coached. There is no such thing as clock management.

I hope the next coach is not another retread or another unproven.

End spew.

Google, please fix iCal fetching

I alluded to this in my Getting Things Done post. I’m a productivity nut and I like simple easy solutions.

I was on the hunt for a long time for a task / to do list system that fits the following criteria:

  • it’s incredibly easy to use
  • can be accessed from anywhere at anytime (well anywhere with a web connection)
  • is multi platform
  • is always in sync

Well I finally uncovered the ultimate system for me. It combines Google Calendar, Remember The Milk, and my G1 phone. Quite simply, I can add tasks in Remember the Milk from the web or through e-mail. Then using the iCal link to RTM, the tasks then are posted on Google Calendar, and show up on Google Calendar’s daily/weekly/monthly agenda. The G1 daily agenda view is killer. RTM also has a iGoogle widget. So I can:

  • Add tasks through e-mail, on RTM’s web interface (either on my pc or on G1’s browser), or through iGoogle.
  • The to do list can be viewed on my Google Calendar on the Google Calendar’s web interface, on the iGoogle widget, and on the G1 app.

Simply amazing. I know, I know, it won’t save the world, but it can make my life easier.

One HUGE problem though!!! For some reason Google Calendar isn’t fetching the latest iCal feed on any sort of a regular basis. Damn, damn, damn. It had been about an hour out of sync, which I can kinda sorta deal with, but now it’s been almost 2 days. Without reliable and frequent syncing, all of my excitement is now flushed down the crapper.

I see I’m not alone. Google’s help groups have a lot of threads posted about this issue, including 2 from me.

Come on Google, FIX THIS PLEASE!

Killer app idea for the G1

I was playing around with some of the apps in Android market. I downloaded a pretty sweet one called GMote, which turns your G1 phone into a remote control for the media on your computer. It's pretty slick to shuffle through music on the computer when you're across the house. Although it's super cool, the novelty wears out pretty quickly. At least for me anyway. Then it hit me. How nice would it be if there were an app that worked like gotomypc for the G1. I'd love to access my computer from anywhere through my phone. Someone please, get this done. That is all.

Getting Things Done

Pretty strong statement, no? In an effort to develop my blog more, I decided to post some of my favorite things.

What’s this have to do with Getting Things Done? Well it’s a book, as well as an entire productivity principle, by David Allen. I’m a fan and have made GTD a part of my life.

There is a TON of articles and blog posts on GTD. I don’t want to reinvent them, just explain how GTD works for me.

GTD’s main principle is to get things off your mind, and into a reliable system. Doing so will free up your mind and allow it to focus on accomplishing tasks effectively and efficiently.

Allen has a follow-up book, Ready for Anything, which I’ve read (actually listened to) as well. It’s whole premise is once you’re productive and firing on all cylinders, you’ll have the time and energy to deal with anything unexpected. Whether it’s a disaster or an urgent project plopped on your desk at 4:45 on a Friday. Since your mind won’t be preoccupied with clutter, you’ll be more creative, you’ll be able to anticipate more, in other words, you’ll be ready for anything.

I stick to the main GTD principle and steps. Right or wrong, I personalized and simplified the system. There is plenty of debate out there on the effectiveness of the system “out of the box.” My opinion is any system has to be tailored to your specific needs in order for it to be effective. If there is any bit of resistance to a system, it’ll fail in my opinion. I honed GTD for my needs, so if you read this, and you think it ain’t GTD, then so be it.

Allen’s high level process has 5 steps:
1. Collect
2. Process
3. Organize
4. Review
5. Do

So here is how I’ve interpreted those steps and what I’ve instituted in my work and personal life.

1. Collect. I struggled with this big time.

  • I carry a small notepad. It took me a long time to find one that fits in my pocket. This is what I carry:
  • Whenever I think of anything I need or want to do. I write it right down. I get it off my mind.
  • What do I write down? Anything. Like if someone mentions a good book to read or a good movie to see or restaurant to go to. Or any idea that pops into my mind that I want to remember.
  • From the notepad, I go to step 2.

2. Process. This was not a weakness of mine. So it came naturally. But getting things put into the process was the payoff.

  • What to do with all the stuff that’s flowing in? Figure out what to do next, if it’s worth doing, or if it can wait.
  • Can I do this now, or should it be put on a to do list, or should it wait on an idea list?

3. Organize. Before GTD, I was what I describe as “so organized, that I can’t find anything.”

  • A single to do list.
    • Well actually 2. One for work, and one personal.
    • The lists have 2 sections. One is “to do”, and one is “waiting for”
    • The to do includes a next action to complete a task. A complex project is broken out into its steps.
    • The waiting for list is for outstanding items that are on others’ plates and are owed to me.
    • I keep work and personal separate since there is no overlap. I helps to reduce distractions.
    • For work I use a pen and paper–one side of one page only. For personal I use Remember The Milk.
  • Idea lists.
    • Again one personal and one for work.
    • These are stored in Google Docs. Can access from anywhere, but doesn’t need to be there on demand.
    • This is what Allen calls “someday maybe” lists.

The lists are the backbone of my personalized GTD system. Groundbreaking, no. But this simple discipline alone freed up a lot of wasted mental energy. Now I:

  • Remember what I need to do. What I’ve promised, etc.
  • Remember what I’m waiting for—which helps me follow up when things are late. Nothing slides.
  • Speak in terms of an action, instead of vague references.
  • Have a consolidated list instead of a bunch of unorganized notes, post its, reminders, etc.

4. Review. My system is far less formal than Allen’s.

  • Since my lists are always “live” and active, the review is constant instead of weekly.
  • The key for me is to have only 4 lists. I once had lists squirreled everywhere. This made for a lot of duplication, contradiction, and of course frustration.
  • The paper list is redone when I run out of room on one page.
  • I regularly scan the idea lists. Note regularly. When something jumps out, I know it’s time to take action. For work, often times I refer back to them and fire them off when asked my ideas on X or Y. They’ve been captured. No need to waste brainpower trying to recall them all from memory.

5. Do

  • Quite simply, set the wheels in motion on the items on the list.
  • Like I said earlier, I mark what I’m waiting for so the process is a closed loop.
  • Momentum will pick up. Procrastination will lessen.

6. Other – Mostly recurring tasks

  • I threw in an “other” because; well because I feel like it. And because they are more ancillary to the process outlined above.
  • I use Google calendar to remember birthdays and to remember personal appointments and other reminders, etc.
  • Outlook calendar is used for work appointments and recurring work tasks.

Other than “knowledge items”, the same principles apply to physical items, like mail. The quicker you process the better. So you get mail… Is it garbage, reference, or something to do? Throw it in the garbage. File things you may need later. Put the to do on an action list.

Expressing things next actions has been effective outside of personal productivity as well. Defining actions often is what helps ideas get from fluff to execution. For example, instead of bake cake, you should write, buy eggs, buy milk, buy flour, etc. Before you bake, you need what goes into it. That’s just a basic example. The effectiveness is clear once you start thinking of tasks in terms of actions.

Often things fall in the middle of the process, so not everything goes from 1-5 if it doesn’t have to. I don’t write in the small notepad if I’m by the relevant to do list. There are a million examples, I hope you get the point. I also don’t need to get EVERYTHING into a system. This is where I roll my eyes at some of the GTD blogs and message boards. If I have a cold, I don’t need to put “blow my nose” on my to do list.

The high level and being disciplined are what makes it pay off for me. The high level makes sense so it was easy for me to commit and become disciplined. I get frustrated when a system is too complex and when it creates more work. The idea of productivity is to be productive, right? Since doing this I’ve become far more productive, far less forgetful, and since it gives me peace of mind, far less stressed. I’ve never run around like a chicken with my head cut off.

There are other productivity tools I use, but as far as a system, I stick with my version of GTD. I will post about other productivity tools later.

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