Thursday, 14 July 2011 11:53 pm
I spent 20 minutes earlier this week filling out an online MBTI, and today I went to Career Services on campus to review it with their resident expert, Liz K. (Free for staff; and mah boss has told me it's job-related and I shouldn't count it as personal time. ...But wait till she hears I'm going back.)

It was an entertaining hour, and I took a few notes on things that tickled me. To be read with various grains of salt.

* One area the Myers-Briggs has no predictive power is in the workplace. People with widely different types can both be happy in the same positions.
* However, it is useful for identifying preferences that people might not realize, based on cultural assumptions against those preferences- and, to some extent, strengths and weaknesses for personal interactions.

* ESTJ is what employers almost universally want from their front-line staff. Though many of these companies seem to brand themselves as looking for ENFP. And Introverts get no respect in the workplace. (Which is why we get to impersonate the E/S/T/J types at the office).
* N's are stereotyped as creative, but S's are creative as well- one such area is toward efficiency, parsimony.
* S's prefer to work a project from bottom-up and use language for accuracy; N's prefer to design from top-down and use language to play.
* N's might buy a fast car as a status symbol; S's might buy the car because they like the sensation of driving fast.

* NT's might be energized developing strategies; NF's energized by nurturing people.
* NT's may be known for their sarcastic humour.
* NF's may be known for enjoying taking the MBTI and learning the psychology of others; whereas FP's hate how the MBTI questions try and box you in without any subtlety or context.

* A bad combination in meetings: EN's tossing out half-baked ideas one after another, and after everyone else is in agreement, the IS might come up with his/her best answer, which s/he has taken the time to hone and finish in his/her head; coming across as passive-aggressive.

* A meeting of all J's may make a quick decision that's wrong; a meeting of all P's make the same decision over and over and over.

* Couples usually pair a P and a J. If both are P's, one will probably "fake it" as a J in order to keep the household running and bills paid.

* For J's the T/F dichotomy becomes crucial for how they deal with the outside world (setting their structure/organization via logic/objectivity or values/subjectivity).
* For P's the S/N dichotomy becomes crucial (via present/concrete or future/abstract).


I've tested myself online every once in a few years, and I consistently turn out IN__ - neutral between T/F and J/P. Sure enough, this time I rated "T" but just one point away from being rated "F"; and I was rated a "mild J".

But that didn't satisfy Liz; she said this didn't make sense with what I told her. And if I was J, I would be dominant for Feeling/Thinking- I certainly wouldn't be ambiguous on that measure. So, yay! I'm an aberration! She said perhaps I operated as a "J" both at work and home, but they aren't my preference? This seemed likely. So, she had me read some summary descriptions, until we zeroed in on INTP or INFP.

And when I read the long-form descriptions, I identified most with INFP, the same type as I self-identified 4 years ago.

She said if I come back, she can print out the appropriate pages out of their guide for me, but as it was, my custom printout wasn't at all accurate.

A cynical person might conclude that I've been told to vote early and often. Or, roll my character stats but change them around until they look right.

We were supposed to talk about strengths/blindspots I might want to know about, but we ran out of time. Fortunately, the second hit is free as well.

One thread of thought I found interesting is that I will make to-do lists, and refer back to them, which is a "J" type activity. However, the system for lists that I have settled on, GTD, allows maximal flexibility for choosing on-the-fly what tasks you're up for doing next. Which is the embodiment of "Perceiving" type.

So: yeah. INFP inna ESTJ wrld.

this and that

Friday, 29 October 2010 09:51 pm
This morning I headed in to the office a bit early, so I saw kids collecting and walking to school. Some were dressed for Halloween; the only one that stood out was a remarkably accurate Peewee Herman, possibly 8 years old, being photographed on his front lawn by a parental unit. I considered, and didn't, make a Peewee Herman laugh as I biked past.

The last few work weeks have been intense. I had the realization this morning that I was on top of all of the projects I'm working on. 8 projects worked on this week. Deadlines in 4-6 weeks for many of them, and none of these are filling me with stress. So, yay!

...That said, I've had a few too many mornings when I wake up thinking about database design and user interfaces. Probably zero mornings is a healthy number. Probably I'd have just as good ideas if I waited until I got to the office.
I want 43things.com crossed with a project-management tool. Crossed with delicious.com social-tagging. A crowd-sourced life coach.

Does anything like this exist already? Is the idea insane?

[The following won't make much sense if you haven't looked at 43things. Check 'm out; I'll wait here.]

What I'm picturing:

You're prompted for a goal you're working toward. (Such as "Learn Japanese.")

Then you're prompted to supply a list of things (sub-projects) you need to do before you can complete the goal. You can type in a list, and there is a pre-populated list aggregated from other people working toward the same goal; which you can tick "Need to do this" or "Already did this" (or, "what? this has nothing to do with my goal. Bury it.")

Then you go into each of the sub-projects, and fill in what you need to do to complete that goal. Also pre-populated with other peoples' suggestions. And so on, until you've mapped out a tree of the concrete details between where you are and your goal. Ideally, the terminal nodes are either already done, or "Next Actions" you could take right now (in the right environment; more on that in a bit).

Alternatively, you can start at the beginning, making a numbered list of steps. The site can present your project in either direction- detail-first or big-picture first. The problem with a numbered list of steps is it can artificially limit the order you do some tasks- so this site has to make it easy to rearrange tasks and look at your goal in many different ways. (Some folks do this with mind maps; I'd hope this system could switch from entirely text to a visual mind map as well).

A task might also need to specify a context in which it makes sense to do it; necessary conditions that are environmental, not items you do. ("At the office", "After September 1st".) With that addition, we've built something based on "Getting Things Done". But there's the social aspect, which is lacking from GTD, and a big part of my motivation for describing this.

Projects and sub-projects could have "testimonials" from people who successfully finished them,
as 43things.com currently has - such as "I did this and it was easier than I thought. The key thing was..." "achieving this made me feel ... " and "people who are doing this are also doing ..."

I like this idea, though it doesn't go far enough. Psychology tells us if you want to achieve something difficult, you will need to break it down. And the further you go into detail, the more likely you are to succeed. I saw this when I was making phone-calls for Obama: they had us ask "do you know when you're going to vote tomorrow? Do you have a plan for how you'll get there?" and the claim was that asking these questions would improve turnout by 25%. So, yeah. Motivating a task by breaking it down into little pieces is powerful.

But I want more. Once you have a recipe for achieving a big goal, not only could it build you a map to get you there; it could also aggregate for many people. As I said previously, it could suggest sub-projects from others. Things you hadn't fully thought out yet; an intervening step you missed; or different options for doing the same thing.

With aggregation, you can browse. Find out what other goals are made possible by your goal. This is a choose-your-own-adventure for REAL LIFE things people have done. And where that eventually got them. This is a powerful motivator, I think: in addition to breaking down your project into sub-projects, it's a step-by-step story of other peoples' successes.

So. Finding patterns. One example: if you spent a bit of time checking off things you've done, it could list you some easy "new projects" characterized by few additional steps. Sure, lots of them won't appeal; but I imagine some could be inspiring surprises. And building the list of accomplishments could make you feel pretty good about things you've done and forgotten, or mentally discounted as unimportant.

Some large amount of 43things seems to involve doing something repetitive, like "go to the gym three times a week." For that, the social motivator could be a little calendar where you tick off the days you met your goal, and show a little public "43 weeks successful at goal" progress-marker. There are certainly lots of tasks that just involve bearing down and doing it; perhaps all those websites to track peoples' progress at exercise or whatever are relevant here.

A bit about how realistic this is. It's possible the aggregation would be impossible. At least there are these gotchas: how to accurately match up the same goal with slightly different text; and whether all goals with the same text are actually the same goal. Perhaps the matching is made on both the text of the goal, and what kinds of sub-goals it has- it can track and differentiate multiple goals with the same text, depending on whether aggregates of people pick certain sub-goals. (I'm thinking of "Proposal to Partner." Either you toss the sub-tasks "get on one knee" and "buy a ring" or you toss "determine full spec" and "book conference-room." Maybe that works?... At least it gives the user an amusing moment when they see the suggestions.)

[Edit to add: I forgot something important. Many steps aren't binary "did this" or "have to do this." There has to be a state of "working on this." So you can see a view of "what am I currently working on?" This isn't exactly the same as "this is a sub-project with sub-items and some are done." Maybe it's close, though. Perhaps if you ticked "I started this" and there aren't any sub-items, it could warn you after some period of time with no change, "are you sure there aren't any sub-items you need to identify?"

I also didn't mention "I am not going to do this." Which is a valid and useful thing to acknowledge about projects you changed your mind on.]

So... yeah. Can you build this for me, dearest interwebs? Thanks!

I would consider prototyping this in some web 2.0 language, coming up with a clever name, and seeing what happens, but I have enough experience with my idea-backlog to say that I'm perfectly happy if the idea is just out there for somebody to take if it sounds good to them.

I'm curious what you think, even if it's "why would anybody bother?"

An Invitation

Sunday, 30 November 2008 02:03 pm
This Tuesday, I"m giving a talk on Getting Things Done and the GTD software I use. The talk needs a small amount of tweaking, yet.

[And here's the finished version. Thanks for all your help, folks. It was really useful.]

If you're the kind of person who would attend a (free, 45-minute talk) on GTD...

Wanna look at my slides and notes, and make suggestions about what is unclear?
There are speaker's notes; you have to click the little head icon in the lower-right corner.

Unfortunately, it needs a google login. If you don't want to do that, I stashed a powerpoint here. You can put comments on this post.

Comments before Monday noon are appreciated; especially if you find yourself tuning out after the first few slides. That's helpful to know. :)


Getting things done

Saturday, 22 November 2008 07:00 pm
I knocked 11 things off my to-do list today. Tracks tells me I did 25 in the last 24 hours.

Now I have *only one* that's overdue by more than a week, and it was due back in July.

All of these due-dates are self-imposed. Still, the two stalest items were a huge relief to finally do. (One was start a google group to restart a conversation about FGC and Queer Quakers, which I had promised to do in July; this is a huge relief to get underway again. The other was to remind a local service agency I have a pile of computer equipment I'd like to donate.)

In the last 24 hours I added something like 40 new items, though 1/3 of these were music I want to buy, reminders of things I'm waiting on, and a few "someday" items. And some aren't actionable yet, but I still wanted to note them.

This afternoon I went back through my last four months of daily journal, and turned as many of those into action-items as felt necessary. Before today, I hadn't twigged to the fact that I really should be going through that every week or so, according to the GTD model. And yes, it was freeing, to get them into one master-list.

I think there might be (at least) two kinds of successfully organized people: one sort who is reassured to have everything in their brain, and wouldn't want to trust any sort of external system; and the other who in the end is reassured to have it all down in front of them.

The second variety is the kind I am, and it's one reason why GTD clicks with me.

This feels fairly over-sharing, which is why I'm not actually talking more about what's on the lists (though I'm probably happy to share if you have questions).

I seem to have 23 LJ posts in the queue. I wonder how many of them will ever finish baking.
da: (bit)
I will freely admit this post will be of limited interest, but I'm quite happy with this result, and maybe you will be too, if you're a big 'ol label-making geek. :)

So, part of GTD is the importance of having labeled manila file-folders. I can corroborate that printed-label folders do work better than hand-printed labeled folders. Not only do they look good, there's something viscerally fun about filing something away in a new folder.

The GTD guy recommends buying an electronic label-maker. For a number of reasons (including: the clutter factor, the expensive label-tape they use, and typing on those chiclet keyboards annoys me) I've made do with printing onto a sheet of Avery 3x10 labels in OpenOffice. While this solves those problems, this still felt like "making do" because it takes OpenOffice a full minute to open, the template is a little mis-aligned, yadda yadda.

So I found a little script, and extended it. )

And that's my labeler, which I figure is at least 5 times cheaper than the tape-label machines, going by the price of the refills.

Data can come from a unix pipe or from standard input. Turning a manual task into a unix pipe command is about as good as it gets, productivity-improvement-wise. (assuming it's not a stupid task in the first place).

Oh and also, if we decide to do them this year, I think it will work wonderfully on holiday address labels, even straight from an emacs buffer of addresses, because you pipe data to it.

Web Wanderings

Monday, 10 November 2008 10:22 pm
da: (bit)
A few cool things I've come across recently:


http://labs.ideeinc.com/multicolr/ -- finds you flickr photos matching your colour palette. Very pretty.


For gmail users, there are some useful features available from a new "google labs" tab in gmail preferences. The two I am most happy with do simple things: move the Labels list to a column on the right-hand side; and add a Google Calendar Upcoming Events list to the left-hand side. There are other labs items, such as "canned responses" and "rotating footers".


Finally: mind maps. I've used them as an organizational tool for quite some time.

They're great for brainstorming- the more I write, the more I think of, and arranging the thoughts spatially can add important structure that makes moving forward easier as well.

Just the other day, I came across a talk and screencast by the author of "Getting Things Done." He uses mind maps often in planning "the bigger picture" - his 20,000-foot view, life-goals and 5-year plans.

Watching his talk encouraged me to go back to a task I'd abandoned a while ago, to find a software mind-mapping tool I liked. (The last time, in '06, I gave up without finding something I'd use).

Jackpot, maybe. This is web-based, and amazingly, it seems to work well in some initial testing. There's a freebie version, which would probably suit me fine, though I might spring for the academic version ($15/yr). Go, check it out, let me know what you think. :)

weekend wrapup

Monday, 27 October 2008 01:55 pm
It was a good weekend.

Not too social, not to solitary.

I did some doing, did some thinking.

Plusses and minuses:

+ getting some human-interface issues thought out.
+ following a long chain of "what-if..." to come up with a good idea for an addition to software I use
+ making steps forward on a few non-work projects, with clear(er) next steps.
    -- ignoring one project for months
+ seeing 12 Angry Men with [livejournal.com profile] chezmax & [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j
    + great show
+ Art Walk- bought stained glass from [livejournal.com profile] quingawaga for the office
+ [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball, just 'cause.
+ good Quaker Meeting. I spent some of the Meeting considering whether I'm still led to keep working on a project. The answer's "yes, but..."
- Public Library is closed until 1pm on Sundays. F, WT?
+ dim sum with [livejournal.com profile] bats22, [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball, [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j & [livejournal.com profile] chezmax. 12 dishes was exactly right. (mmmm turnip-cake.)
+ [livejournal.com profile] bats22 as houseguest
+ afternoon watching [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball & [livejournal.com profile] bats22 in the kitchen
    + apple pie
    + roast veggies and squash soup and excellent company
+ dog walk
    -/+ surprise hail?! Those were big pellets!
- wet hair on cold mornings
- waiting for MEC order to arrive
"It is good," a friend said recently, "to have wings."

This was in response to my suggestion I might wing the talk I was going to give to our work group. I was presenting on Tracks, the GTD workflow/time-management software I've used for the last two years.

I gave the talk today, and I winged a lot of it, because the network didn't work for my live demo.

So I got to give my 10 minutes of spiel about GTD, and then instead of giving a 5-minute walk-through of the nifty-keen software, I waved my hands and answered questions for ten minutes.

Which I feel OK about, but not great. One person who has GTD experience says I did a good job; which I'd like to believe, though I'd like to have had a shiny demo, too.

(I had prepared a backup for the slides, which I didn't need; I had a plan for a backup for the live demo, which turned out to not work on-the-wing.)

Meanwhile, our University has announced a hiring-freeze for the next six months, or until the economic lay of the land becomes clearer. Our group (about 23 people) is currently down two employees due to recent resignations, one which we were just about to begin interviewing for. I expect we'll be doing a bit of winging it. Elsewhere, there are faculty offers that won't go out for a year, because we're missing the spring hiring cycle.

But- this is relatively mild in comparison with being laid off, told to work extra hours for less pay, or discovering one's country has gone bankrupt. I know I've got wings.

Here be dragons

Monday, 5 May 2008 10:32 pm
Is it sad that the thing I most want to remember about this weekend was the rather dramatic dream I had last night, in which I slew a scary dragon with a large spoon? (Thrown like a boomerang).

Hm. And I mostly forgot the dream until mid-afternoon, when I was walking on campus and a squirrel tried to hold its ground when I walked toward it on the path, and I thought to it, "You better watch out, I might have a spoon. Wait, what?..."

I sorted all of the electronics in the other closet in my study. I haven't decided whether I'm actually going to try and sell the small pile of sellables, or donate them to MCC Generations thrift store (dan suggests I could possibly get a hefty tax receipt for them). Selling stuff takes time. I remember when I was all gung-ho about ebay. Now I have a full-time job. And too little energy to work on too many things. Hm. ([livejournal.com profile] jeanne_d_arc, I hope to have something for you by the weekend; and I have to find a means to turn your Microsoft Publisher into a .pdf, since I'm not working on a Windows machine any more. Maybe I can find one at work...)

Hey, failing that: does anybody have easy access to Publisher and wouldn't mind turning around one or a few edits of a 20mb or so newsletter document some time in the next few weeks?...


Friday, 21 March 2008 04:57 pm
I was charging my way through sorting a big pile of papers into smaller piles, but at some point, the meaning for the two biggest piles got switched. This is bugging me more than I think it should.

Also, either: my laptop screen's contrast has spontaneously reduced; or I'm having a vision problem; or I mis-remember what the screen should look like. I think I've ruled out vision problems, at least. Leaving the appealing possibilities of hardware failure or tricks of memory. Joy.

Thirdly, I had meant to write about last weekend's music adventures, but it's increasingly likely I won't. Boo.

Also, my body's not being terribly cooperative- neck, shoulder. I should be doing my shoulder exercises, but I'm lazy. Boo.

What's balancing these out is that I'm expecting some good news next week. Also, I'm going to my Grandmother's 100th birthday party next weekend. And, and, and.

Happy Spring, anyway.
Whee that was fun. Another inch of paper onto the recycling stack, easy pickings from magazines I'd stored just for an article.

One step better than sorting paper into neatly labeled folders? Tossing the paper entirely.

Much love to Harpers.org for giving subscribers a complete online library including PDFs, NYTimes.com for opening their archives to searching (and to mac for making it so easy to save a webpage as a PDF), and to The Economist for making the last year of archives entirely free (complete with photos!) So sweet.

No love to globeandmail.com for wanting $4.95 for each article in their archive, but I suppose that's why I bought a scanner, and it was only for one article anyhow. Well, two.

While I'm at it, much love to Canon for making a scanner that does Just the Right Thing. Two button-pushes will turn a page into a OCR'd and indexed PDF which shows up in Spotlight right away. It's fairly dummy-proof too. I haven't gotten ticked off at it yet, even though I've used it for... maybe 20 articles now, and it does great on multi-page documents. (You hit one button to start the scan, the same button again for each subsequent page, and a second button to finish the document.) I suppose it could be slightly faster- it takes 30 seconds to do each colour page, but it certainly doesn't tie up the computer, so that's acceptable. Yay for digital data, yay for reducing physical clutter.

I'm surprised at how much fun I'm deriving from this closet purge.

Office Supplies

Tuesday, 11 March 2008 10:34 am
I just left a backpack full of office supplies in my department's supply closet.

A ream of legal paper, a box of maroon presentation folders, and quite a lot of magic tape.

In 1997, I went on an office-supply rampage when my company won a contract with the US Department of Education. (Enough said? I think so.)

Except to add: my closet is that much emptier, and I am that much happier.

(*) If there's anybody local who needs legal paper, a box of maroon presentation folders, or rolls of magic tape I might be able to hook you up.
Themes: digging out. movies. friends.

Friday night, I shovelled. Thankfully, the physio went very well- my neck wasn't bothering me while I was shovelling, though it was bad enough earlier that we ducked out of dinner plans with [livejournal.com profile] dawn_guy & [livejournal.com profile] catbear.
Saturday morning, I shovelled. It was sort of fun, because it was so light and fluffy.
Saturday evening, I shovelled, so that we might get out to the da Capo concert. Which was cancelled almost exactly when I came in from shovelling.
Sunday morning, I shovelled. Getting it over my head to the top of the pile was a bit of a pain.
Sunday afternoon, I shovelled, after the plow came through. Getting the compacted plow-crap onto the pile was more of a pain- this marks the first time I've ever had to do maintenance digging from the top of a snow-pile to make room for the rest. I took a few photos, but they're not as pretty as Saturday night's from in front of a neighbour's house.

Saturday night dan got us a backup plan, within 10 minutes of the concert being cancelled, which turned out to be good fun: we went to see Karen-M-of-no-LJ, a friend of [livejournal.com profile] persephoneplace who dan has gotten to know as well. It was going to be a 5-minute walk, except we walked through the school yard to save a few hundred feet of walking around it, so of course it was a 15 minute walk. :) Fortunately, my wind-pants double nicely as snow-pants.

We watched Volver, which none of us had seen. I loved it. Very much a "strength of sisterhood" movie, with less over-the-top characters than some of Almodóvar's works, and I liked the eventual reversals of back-story that made things even more believable. The theme of blowing winds was quite beautiful- especially with the image of going back and forth from Madrid to the family hometown, through the spinning wind-farms; a bridge between the historic provincial superstitious old people and modern younger city-dwellers who don't seem nearly as grounded, but much more busy.

Friday night, d. and I watched the first episode of Planet Earth, narrated by David Attenborough. It was better than I expected- the other two parts I've seen were on an airplane, and you don't really get the nuanced video in a 6-inch seat-back display. :) I'm looking forward to curling up to see more of them.

And on Sunday [livejournal.com profile] chezmax and I saw Juno, which was charming and funny and perhaps a bit too quirky, but still worth seeing. My only major complaint is the one I've read most frequently about it, that the conversation with her family after she's done a mental 180 on getting an abortion feels like a sitcom decision, which ends up feeling suspiciously moralizing. It didn't sit well with me how the step-mom says, "Aren't you just an Amazon?" and that's it.

On the other hand, every other step in the movie is cavalier, such as the girls finding adoptive parents in the Pennysaver. So perhaps this decision fits; and it fits with the theme of Juno being a strong 16-year-old who made a mistake and is dealing with all of the consequences, including going through with the adoption, as tough as it is. So: yeah, I recommend it. It's very funny; imdb has the longest set of "Memorable Quotes" for this movie than any other I can think of. That's probably because everyone's just so damn quirky.

An enjoyable dinner last night with [livejournal.com profile] chezmax and [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j, with soup that turned out to be stew, orange mint bread, and rubber cherry pie that turned out to be tasty and not at all like rubber.

Finally, to end with some more digging out: Saturday [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball asked me for a bit of joint-financial paperwork from 2000-2001, which I thought I could find, and I couldn't in ten minutes. And he was having heebie-jeebies about how much stuff I keep in my closets, and I had to agree that with a fresh pair of eyes, yes, it is a bit scary.

So I started going through things, including a great big pile of papers from my time at Cornell that I had decided to keep when we moved from Ithaca. Wow. I'm gung-ho about attacking this, because It Is Time. And it will help me on my way toward organizing my stuff according to GTDish guidelines. More to follow. I wish I'd taken a photo before I started.

Thoughts on mementos

Thursday, 3 January 2008 04:00 pm
Yesterday when I was sorting through papers in a Sudafed haze, I took a few moments to re-read some of the letters I sent when I was in school. The most fun one was a pissed-off letter to Chase Bank on the resolution of a credit-report mistake, but it was also fun to find the letter I sent Cornell's library asking forgiveness concerning fees to replace two books which were stolen from my dad's truck on a trip to NYC (the fines were waived).

[livejournal.com profile] dawn_guy pointed me at [livejournal.com profile] unclutterer, which has a recent article, What does it mean to ‘honor’ mementos?

This is an interesting and relevant question for me. I would like to do something with my crate of letters, cards and other paper mementos. I like the idea of browsing them every once in a while; and a crate is not really the most suitable way to browse them without damaging them. Scrapbooking is a scarily-obsessive hobby, or at least it is rather dominated by people who seems obsessively scary. (Also, would I sort theatre and concert tickets into a binder of their own, or mix them in with other ephemera by date?... Such questions to obsess over! I just don't have time!)

Perhaps there's a digital form of preservation that doesn't feel time-wasting or obsessive. I haven't come to any conclusions here, but I'm curious if this is something you've come to peace with.

[livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball is much less sentimental than I am. And I'm sentimental about a wider range of stuff. Neither of us are "right" and I don't think we're incompatibly different about this. But it does seem to come to a head with magazines from *mumble* months ago that I've not gotten around to reading and electronics I might fix.

I just unsubscribed from Linux Journal (for a few reasons- including the fact that they run terrible sexist ads, but also because I haven't really read any of the last six issues). I've tossed the tape-eating VCR that was sitting in the closet. d. was, I think rightfully, a bit miffed that I had kept it around. If you knew his father moved 800 boxes of stuff from Cortland to Long Island, including boxes they hadn't opened in over 20 years, you'd probably see his point. And I do.

And it is quite gratifying to lighten the load, especially if it includes truly accepting my limitations. ("I'll never be good enough at micro-soldering to fix that headphone cable satisfactorily. And that's OK.")

A few years ago I tossed the crushed pair of black crushed velvet high heel pumps that were given to me by my friend Arlene for my first time to see the live stage show of Rocky Horror at Risley Hall at Cornell. Partly I wish I'd kept the shoes, even though they looked awful. Or, maybe that's really a feeling of regret I'd not treated them better.
Today is going OK; I think I'm less sick than yesterday. But perhaps I should get sick more often- my den is much more organized now.

I came home after lunch yesterday because I was fuzzy-headed and everything I had to do at work required concentration. I tried to nap but the Sudafed made me jittery, so instead I started in on cleaning my desk.

By 5:30, I had:

- gone through all my debit receipts and found the health-insurance reimbursables
- sorted all the stacks of paper on my desk and made new folders for the things that needed it
- printed labels for all the folders that needed them (a la Getting Things Done)
- found room for the folders I had sitting on the desk, under the desk, and on the floor
- tossed a thick stack of paperwork I know I'll never need or want
- sorted through half of the old files and either tossed or refiled the categories I had made over a decade ago that don't make sense any more ("Personal records" is my favourite bad category- it included school grades, medical records, and letters excoriating credit-card companies. Ideally, my new categories will make sense when I'm well, or six months from now.)

By the time I went to bed at 9:30, I had:

- removed the last cable-clutter from my desk, by moving the USB hub off to under the desk.
- tossed more old paperwork
- taken down a few old photos and figured out what I wanted to replace them with (mostly).
- framed my favourite magazine cover to bring into work

I don't know where that burst of clutter-reducing energy came from, but I'll take it. Yay clutter reduction!

Memories and Labels

Saturday, 6 January 2007 08:11 pm
Last night at a birthday party a few folks and I were musing about parents and the memories that kids solely have through the photos and the stories the parents told. Someone had the observation, "Man, I'm glad I didn't grow up when there was Photoshop; they could've totally made up stories and had the photos to back them up." That's creepy, but I bet it's been done. I wonder if there's a commercial company for that yet.

Today's been slow and calm. I took R. for a nice walk in the drizzle, ran errands, and went to Staples. I came home with the two items I went there for, and one of them wasn't a label maker. I still want one, as impractical a purchase as it is. Mmmm. Labels.

One part of the Getting Things Done extravaganza that amuses me is its invitation for people to buy a label maker. So organizing becomes more fun- if you've got a new topic, *bam*, print a new label, stick it on a file folder, and file it away. Viscerally, I like that. But I don't label nearly enough to justify. I wouldn't even label my pets like somebody I know.
It always starts somewhere small. I just wanted a better todo list. That search, around when I started my new job, led me to this book.

Getting Things Done by David Allen, a California business-coach and consultant, is a 250-page quick read (I skimmed it in three days) on improving one's self-organization and work management. It was an enjoyable read: the writing style is clean, there are lots of examples of the methods in action, and I get the clear sense the book is a distillation of thousands of clients' experiences.

It would be appropriate to describe his methods as holistic, minimally intrusive, and... well, Californian. If you start from his premises, I can see how it could lead to a clearer, more stress-free mind, and possibly more efficient work. I know for a fact that it's helped me organize my own work better.

There's nothing revolutionary in the methods- it's a matter of emphasis. A few points:

* get stuff out of your mind, into a system that you trust. "Stuff" is "anything you have allowed into your psychological or physical world that doesn't belong where it is, but for which you haven't yet determined the desired outcome and the next action step."

* "discipline yourself to make front-end decisions about all the 'inputs' you let into your life so that you will always have a plan for the 'next actions' that you can implement or renegotiate at any moment"

Geeks are big on GTD for some self-evident reasons, and it was nice to see a book on this topic that was compatible with my own proclivities of writing about and categorizing things, without learning complicated rules.

My complaints about this book are few: he uses pull-out quotes, about one a page, which are just enough to bug me. (He does have some great quotes, including one from Lily Tomlin: "I always wanted to be someone. I should've been more specific".)

More seriously, there is an assumption, throughout, that his methods are one size fits all. I suppose this lets him keep the book short and clean; but it would be nice if there was a chapter on variations (and perhaps their disadvantages). Maybe there's a wiki for that. But at least he does single out potentially standalone tips, which is good, with a few instances of "if you take one thing from this chapter..."

I'll have more to say later about how this is working for me. But now I have a bus to catch.

August 2013

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