Getting Organized: Dealing with Curveballs (part 2/4)

I used GTD methodology to guide me in processing and actioning the to-do pile. The method recommends processing tasks according to the actions required to complete them and then doing them, rather than doing and processing simultaneously.  I followed Tip #1: Preparation is Key, except this time I prepared materials necessary for processing and doing tasks, such as filing supplies and bags for trash and recycling..  I also designated time to work on the project.

David Allen recommends creating different lists to keep everything organized, but I modified this into an Excel spreadsheet that works for me.

Sample of my GTD spreadsheet.  Note the tabs on the bottom.

Sample of my GTD spreadsheet. Note the tabs on the bottom.

Initially I was rapidly processing the pile either by doing the action or capturing it on the spreadsheet for later and then I hit…the dreaded curveball. Curveballs are those exceptional items, or objects, you need to keep but just don’t seem to “fit” anywhere.  The first one seemed innocuous but stopped me in my tracks.

Handmade lace coasters aka "curveball".

Handmade lace coasters aka “curveball”.

It seems silly, but I couldn’t think of a place to store these lovely, handmade lace coasters. They didn’t “fit” in with the stuff already in my drawers and cupboards.  I was worried that I would put them someplace and then forget where they had gone. Eventually I stashed them in a kitchen drawer.

The other major challenge I faced was projects embedded within other projects that made it perplexing to find starting points or resolution.  It was definitely a “chicken-and-egg” conundrum.  For example, I had filing to do, but I didn’t want to do the filing until I reorganized my filing system, which I couldn’t do until I figured out where to put it for my new home office configuration.  It got ugly at one point.

Projects led to other projects.  Note the copy of GTD in the bottom left hand corner of the picture near the couch.

Projects led to other projects. Note the copy of GTD in the bottom left hand corner of the picture near the couch.

Resolving curveballs and the projects-within-projects challenge led me to Tip #2: Keep Moving Forward.  Similar to starting the whole project, continually moving forward maintained my momentum and productivity.  With the filing-project challenge mentioned earlier I kept moving forward by:

  1. Identifying the documents and organzing them into piles, even though I didn’t have a place for them yet.
  2. Recording the projects in my spreadsheet (1 – Relocate filing system, 2 – Reorganize system, 3 – File).
  3. Breaking down the first project into small, manageable steps.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment Getting Organized: Seeing Results.

Visit Smart Info Management’s product page to download your own Projects and Actions Template.

Getting Organized: Getting Started (part 1/4)

Last summer I transitioned from a full-time 9-5 worker to being my own boss.  I was super excited, but also overwhelmed at how many things I needed to accomplish in a short period of time.  I also needed to make space for a home office, which meant purging or consolidating what I had to fit more stuff in a smaller space.

Even though I am naturally organized, and in fact make a living helping others declutter and organize their information, I’m always eager to learn about new methods and styles.  Many people had recommended David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and I was curious to learn more about this system that has helped so many people. I decided to be the guinea pig, read the book and try the Getting Things Done (GTD) method.

From my work experience I know that finding a starting point is difficult.  When it comes to decluttering and organizing, I think many of us procrastinate because it feels overwhelming.  Sometimes each task seems like it’s actually part of a larger chain of never-ending projects that must be accomplished in a specific sequence.  This often gives us an excuse to avoid doing something that perpetuates a cycle.

Visual representation of procrastination cycle.

Visual representation of procrastination cycle.

In order to break the cycle it’s imperative to JUST START somewhere, anywhere.  I started, as the book suggested, by writing anything cluttering up my brain on its own sheet of paper and placing it in an “in-box”.  Basically I wanted to capture anything that would be on a “to-do” list such as tasks, errands, projects or communications that I needed to accomplish.  I allowed myself to be free with this exercise and wrote things as they occurred to me regardless of how large or small the task seemed, or even if I thought I had already put it in the box.

TIP #1: Preparation is Key, this includes your time.  I assembled an empty box, pens, pads and post-its so that I could record something the instant I thought of it.  Sometimes I would place physical items in the box that needed action, like filing.  I used a note app on my smartphone to record thoughts on the go.

The starting point- writing everything down and assembling it in one place.

The starting point- writing everything down and assembling it in one place.

About a week later I had a formidable pile of stuff to be processed.

A more accurate picture of the "to-do" pile.  As you can see my pile of stuff expanded well beyond the borders of my in-box.

A more accurate picture of the “to-do” pile. As you can see my pile of stuff expanded well beyond the borders of my in-box.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment Getting Organized: Dealing with Curveballs.

Patagonia: Tierra del Fuego – Glaciers

The second day of the cruise was reserved for glacial sightseeing.  In the morning we hiked around Pia Glacier, which our guides referred to as “The Prom Queen” because it’s so good looking.  Once again we boarded the zodiacs and zipped over to the shore for hiking and viewing.  Here’s a shot from the lookout point.

A view of Pia Glacier from the lookout point.

A view of Pia Glacier from the lookout point.

If you look closely on the right of the glacier you might notice the snow looks cleaner and fresher. The glacier calved before we hiked up to the lookout. Calving is a term used to describe the large chunks of ice that break off of glaciers.

At the lookout point I was once again reminded that it was summer and snapped this pic of some primrose heath berries and a dog orchid.

A few bright berries and a hidden dog orchid stood out in contrast to the greens and grays surrounding them.

A few bright berries and a hidden dog orchid stood out in contrast to the greens and grays surrounding them.

In the afternoon the boat cruised through the legendary Beagle Channel in what is called “Glacier Alley” because it offers so many close-up views of the glaciers. The boat glided under this rainbow as we approached.

The entryway to Glacier Alley in the famed Beagle Channel.

The entryway to Glacier Alley in the famed Beagle Channel.

In Glacier Alley, each glacier is named after a different European country. Just to make it fun, the boat crew played music while serving snacks and drinks themed to each country as we passed by. Sadly, most of the glaciers no longer reach the channel, but this one still does. I don’t remember the names of all the glaciers we saw in the alley, but I’m pretty sure this one is the Italia Glacier.

The only glacier in the alley to still reach the water.

The only glacier in the alley to still reach the water.

Next stop Cape Horn at the bottom of the world!

The Basics of Reading a Book

I was initially resistant to using e-readers but once I made the switch in 2012 I was hooked.  The decision to purchase an e-reader instead of another device that would allow me e-reading capabilities was determined based on the following reasons:

  1. I prefer the e-ink technology used for the screen. It’s easier on my eyes than backlit screens.
  2. I’m a bit old-fashioned and I like it that my e-reader is just a book.  It doesn’t do anything else so I’m not distracted by notifications and beeping, nor am I tempted to leave my ebook to surf the web or check messages.
  3. The battery lasts for about 3 weeks on a single charge.

My first e-reader was from Sony and I loved it.  It was easy to use and had buttons or screen swiping for navigating.  Best of all I only needed one library account to borrow ebooks.  After moving about a dozen times I started borrowing books from the library instead of buying them.  I refused to change my reading habits and still borrowed ebooks even though I knew that “moving” ebooks wouldn’t involve packing and backbreaking labor.

I recently switched to a KoboGlo and was dismayed to learn that borrowing library ebooks was not nearly as easy.  I had to to create an account with Kobo just to use the e-reader.  Then I discovered the e-reader couldn’t link directly to my local library as the Sony e-reader had.

To borrow ebooks from my library I performed the following:

  1. Create login/password account to use Adobe Digital Editions (required)
  2. Download Adobe Digital Editions to access the ebook format
  3. Install Adobe Digital Editions on my computer
  4. Access my library overdrive account to borrow ebooks
  5. Download ebook into Adobe Digital Editions
  6. Connect KoboGlo to computer
  7. Add ebooks from Adobe Digital Editions to KoboGlo

I now have 2 additional accounts to manage, plus all the steps involved to get ebooks onto the e-reader (steps 4-7).  However, if I had purchased books, I could have been reading on the KoboGlo within minutes of setting up the account.

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies.  When I switched to digital I wanted the process of borrowing and reading to be just as easy as it was in print. Although I do love the e-reader for many reasons, I sometimes find myself getting frustrated with all the setup and accounts required to something as basic as reading a book.

Delight & Summer Toes

Summer toes are not like winter toes.  Summer toes are slightly browned from sun exposure.  Who ever remembers to put sunscreen on their toes every day?

Summer toes have weird tan lines from different sandals.  They are happy and relaxed, free from the constraints of a hard-worn shoe encasing them every day in sweaty, sock-filled dungeons.

Winter toes are pale and shriveled looking.  Etiolated stumps deprived of vitamin D, devoid of color.  They are hidden away, nestled in layers of thick socks and boxy shoes.  There they remain with uncut toenails and patches of dry, calloused skin.  Waiting, biding their time to emerge in the nice weather.

That’s why in the summer I love having my toenails painted.  It’s like walking around with tiny jewels on my feet.  Something colorful and sparkly to put a smile on my face.  A shiny row of glittering gems.  It makes my toes happy to feel pretty and pampered with their glistening row of freshly painted nails.  And the joy they feel to be in the sun, naked and free of shoes with a gentle breeze flowing on them.

It is truly one of life’s small delights.

Jewel-toned toes and weird suntan lines.  Summer delight!

Jewel-toned toes and weird tan lines. Summer delight!

*Originally written at a writing retreat on Bowen Island sponsored by Callanish on June 26, 2009.

Yo – too loquacious or just right?

Last month a new app called “Yo” hit the market.  I haven’t tried it yet so my knowledge is only from reading about it.  Apparently the app is popular because of its ease and simplicity.  With only two taps on your device a simple “Yo” can be sent to someone which can then be interpreted in a variety of ways such as thinking about someone, to get someone’s attention, to notify someone of something, etc.

In a recent article, “This App Lets You Say ‘Yo’ to Your Contacts. That’s It. (Wait, Is It?)“, the CEO of the company who created it was quoted saying “… We like to call it context-based messaging.”  I think he was referring to potential future uses of the application where it could be linked to specific events or services such as a sports game that sends a “Yo” to a subscriber everytime a point is earned or a news publication sending a “Yo” to a subscriber when a new article is published.  And if that wasn’t his reference then I’m not sure where the “context” is being derived from.

While it is true these intended uses of the application may be developed, I’m still baffled how a one-word message will prove itself to be contextually useful.  I already have enough problems deciphering meaning from other forms of digital communications that lack tone, gestures, facial expression and even proper grammar to guide me in interpreting the message.  I can see a lot of confusion arising out of something like “Yo”.  For example, if I received a “Yo” from one of my friends that could mean s/he was thinking about me, wanted to get my attention or perhaps wanted to remind me of something.  How would I ever be able to understand the meaning when the only contextual clue I have is the name of the sender?

Stay tuned.  Only time and continued usage will determine the lifespan of “Yo” as a new enhanced form of communication or a complete disintegration of it.  In its short existence, it’s already raised over $1 million from investors, been hacked and given rise to new questions regarding proper “Yotocol.”*


*Term used from Mashable’s infographic Yotocol Flowchart, which can be accessed by clicking here.