Month: August 2015

Becoming organised.

I am still letting David Allen and Trello tell me what to do. I still have a huge pile of projects and tasks but I am more productive than before. Some things are getting done.

Allen’s Getting Things Done programme is about managing your whole life, not just work. This is what I need. it is 7pm and I am taking a break to eat dinner. I did not have to think about what to have for dinner because Trello knows what food I have in the fridge and when it expires. It informed me that cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, ham and tomato soup were all on the point of expiry and therefore that’s what I’m having for dinner this evening. Tomorrow morning, Trello will tell me which fruit to eat with breakfast.

Right, I’d better get back to work. This evening I hope to write a proposal that’s been hanging around in my in tray for ages and then if there’s any time after that I urgently need to read a bunch of insurance documents and add some FAQs to a different proposal that is due in tomorrow. Of course, I will be unavailable tomorrow because I will be showing up at my new job.

Onwards and upwards. Time for a heavy, heavy tune to help us on the way. Look out for mi bredren Andrew, he’s got quite a voice.

Dub Files All Stars: Dance Inna Babylon

Paolo Baldini with Mellow Mood Official, Sr. Wilson, Forelock and Andrew I Official

I like big books.

Hey everybody, how are you doing. Sorry to have been away for a while. Things are proceeding apace here. My brand new career starts on Tuesday, after the bank holiday weekend. I am very excited, also nervous.

I am trying hard to get my affairs in order during these last few days of relative freedom, so that’s what’s been keeping me away from the blog. I am happy to report that I am using Trello every day and it is working out amazingly. I really am getting more done and thinking about tasks and projects more clearly, which is a relief. I still have piles of admin to do and proposals to write but at least I can see what it is I am supposed to be doing and when it is due.

Right, well, I don’t know exactly when my next post will be. It is now Saturday night. New career starts on Tuesday, and I have plenty to do between now and then. So it’s quite possible that by the time I make my next post here, I will have made the big move at work and have started a new life. TLYW.

Let’s have a tune to celebrate my upcoming new adventure. I am gonna get paid to read books and shit, enit. It is the shiznit.

big books

Sir Mixalot: Baby Got Back

It’s my birthday.

It’s 1am, I’m at my desk working. It’s my birthday! I am one more working week away from the start of my new career.

Yay! Considering how things were spiralling horribly out of control back in April, this is bloody amazing. I am happy. I could stand to be a lot slimmer but I am really excited about the future and especially the next 12 months. It is a good place to be on one’s birthday, looking forward to the coming year.

I am having a glass of Prosecco, despite my waistline, *and* I had cake earlier.

I feel we should have a tune. Then I will get back to work because I have work in progress here that I want to deliver tomorrow. Let’s take a moment and do The New Continental. Get up and dance. Actually, you are going to have a hard time not dancing.

The Dovells: Do The New Continental (1961)

Desperate Botox Junkie

Hair is done, teeth are done. Botox is so desperately needed before my whole face slides off my skull and ends up in my bra.

My normal doctor is rly rly expensive but she is shit hot and does celebrities and is a surgeon.

Because I am too broke for this right now and also because her receptionist won’t give me an appointment before 1 September, I tried to go to someone else.

I looked up a Botox doctor’s practice in the West End and took hours out of my impossible work day to rush down there with a pocket full of cash. He is a real doctor but he only charges about 60% of what my celebrity doctor charges, so it was a no brainer. Then this happened:

Doctor: So what can I do for you?

Me: Botox, pls. Urgently needed. Mainly in the eyebrow area, as you can see, my upper eyelids are collapsing on to my face, some Botox around here is urgently needed to hitch them up.

Doctor: But Botox will not do that.

Me: !! I don’t know what you mean. I’ve been having it for months. Why else would I be here?

Doctor: That is not what Botox is for. I cannot promise this to you. I have seen this happen in maybe 1 in 1,000 patients.

Me: But I have seen the evidence on my own face. Am I imagining it?

Doctor: All Botox will do is smooth out wrinkles. But you don’t have any wrinkles.

Me: Right. Because I have Botox. Please, just get the stapler out and do my eyebrows. Please.

Doctor: It won’t work. You will be wasting your money.

Me: Well can you talk to me about what will work? We’ve got to be able to do something. I don’t understand the problem. Come on, just poison my face around the eyebrow area. I’m trying to give you money.

Doctor: Botox cannot do what you want. You need surgery for that. An upper eye lift.

Me: Shit.

*leaves doctor’s office*

*bursts into tears outside office*

*calls original doctor and leaves tearful and desperate voicemail message about getting me in before 1 September.*

FML. That was my birthday present. I was excited. And I don’t want to look old.

I am categorising this post under Art because that is what my face means to me.

On the way to the dentist, reggae.

I am getting (some) things done. I am monstrously busy. Everything takes so much time. Getting my iPad sorted required two trips to the Apple store – that’s the equivalent of a whole working day used up, meanwhile I have over 5,000 unread emails.

I am in the middle of a tidal wave of existing work admin and trying to get organised on the home and finance fronts ready for new kinds of work in September. I have been feeling overwhelmed, it’s not that anything I have to do is difficult but there is just so much of it. Phone calls, emails, things that have to be written and monitored and dispatched etc etc. Most of this was stored in my head, no wonder I felt stressed.

This is how you know I am not just geeking out over productivity software for the fun of it. Trello is saving my life right about now, as is David Allen, the productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done and Ready For Anything. I’ve just read the latter while dumping every single task and responsibility that I can possibly imagine into Trello and the whole thing is making me feel a lot calmer. I am going to read Ready For Anything a second time because I am hanging on his every word right now, there is a reason why a cult has grown up around him.

Hmm, it’s just occurred to me that I can claim 1 Books point for that, plus it counts towards the Business Books brownie badge, plus I get a health point because I went to the dentist.

I showed up in Soho a bit too early to go straight to the dentist’s office. The sounds of some heavy, heavy roots reggae pumped like treacle out of this achingly cool record shop that only sells vinyl. It has a sofa. I went in and sat down.

phonica

phonica interior

Rod Taylor: Promised Land

I also had a long-overdue haircut (see how I am getting things done). Now my hair is free from grey bits and is sharp as a knife. I hadn’t seen my hairdresser in so long that he almost forgot what kind of hair style we have been trying to achieve. You will recall that it took several months for me to get the message through to him, with many unfashionable grandma haircuts along the way.

Him: (looking at very grown-out bob) So what length do you want it? How about jaw length!

Me: No! Earlobe length. Not even a millimetre longer than that. If you think you are cutting it too short, cut it shorter.

Him: What about the back? I will do a nice graduated bob!

Me: NO!!!

Him: (looks frightened) I just want to do what you want!

Me: NO TAPERING. Just a clean line, the same length all the way around.

Him: OK. (cuts hair. looks at hair dubiously)

Him: Maybe I could do some layers here at the top.

Me: No! We are done now. This is what I wanted. Very short. All one length. Buzzed off at the back. Very sharp. Nice. (gels hair into a sleek, shiny helmet)

Him: OK. It does suit you.

Me: (vainly grooming self in mirror) Thank you.

Him: You do have good ideas. Probably should have been a hairdresser.

This picture is as close as I can find to the length and general shape of my hair. I don’t have a fringe. I part my hair at the side and tuck it behind my ears and put things like Brylcreem on it like it’s the 1930s.

very short bob

It is a haircut that will look even better when I am slimmer and more muscular. I am the size of a house right now but I’ve been out walking a few times and am controlling what I eat, so hopefully there will be results soon. Various health points, blah blah, look at the time. See you later.

Project & Task Management Software

I constantly have a huge pile of things to do, mostly relatively small tasks but some longer, more involved ones. I regularly feel like I’m not getting anywhere and generally exist in fire-fighting mode where I’m doing whatever’s most urgent.

Because my life is stuffed full of sheets of paper with urgent to-do lists scrawled on them, for a long time now, at least several months, I’ve been looking for project and task management software that will organise things for me. I tried several packages and until now, nothing has been working for me. Here are my findings.

Remember The Milk

remember-the-milk

RTM is a very popular online task management product that is designed for individuals. It was one of the first ones I tried. I had reasonable success with this but ultimately couldn’t keep it up.

  • This is for task management, not project management, but I need both. I don’t need reminding to spend five minutes buying milk. I do have three separate business interests with associated finance and resource management issues and a full life outside of work. RTM’s shopping-list approach was just not going to cut it. I can’t even imagine what it is like having only 18 tasks relating to work and being able to categorise all of them under ‘work’.
  • I don’t love the user interface, there really isn’t anything about it that motivates me to engage with it.
  • At the time I tried it out, RTM had limited functionality but it seems to have improved now, not that I am going to sign up again.

Microsoft Project

ms project

Right at the other end of the scale of price and functionality, this behemoth is used by very large organisations. It was too much functionality for me. You can use it to manage thousands of employees and allocate budgets worth millions of pounds but it will not tell you to clean the fridge and take the rubbish out. It is all project and no task.

  • For large companies, not individuals.
  • Look at that user interface, I just want to die. It makes me want to stay as far away as possible from my task list. It really screams You Are Not Supposed To Enjoy Yourself At Work. There is no chance I would keep using this even if it were more tailored for individuals. Just looking at it drains me of all motivation.
  • On the plus side, what I really loved about MS Project is the ability to produce Gantt charts. This is so, so useful if you are trying to keep track of a lot of projects and follow all their deadlines, setting progress milestones in the right place and getting things done in the right order. I wish all project and task management software could do this. Also, the reporting function is brilliant and I totally would have used that for work, when you need to send people project updates and timelines.

Smartsheet

smartsheet

I gave this one a good try over about three weeks and didn’t like it, it is basically just an online spreadsheet. Who wants to spend 40+ hours a week looking at that? If anyone knows of anything more soul-destroying in this life than spreadsheets, I would like to know what that is.

  • Can’t argue with its functionality, which is in the territory between project and task management that I needed. Apparently it can do Gantt charts, but by that time I didn’t want to use it any more.
  • Affordable but not free. More than I wanted to pay, even if it is a business product and only a small fraction of what Microsoft charges.
  • Looks depressing. Want to quit work. This is why people have pictures of beaches on their desktop.

Todoist

todoist

Another very popular product. Still not working for me, even though it includes gamification elements, which I commend.

  • Affordable.
  • Good enough functionality.
  • Includes gamification (appreciated).
  • Still far too boring and inherently miserable for someone with my ability to resist doing anything useful.

And finally … I think I’ve finally found the Holy Grail.

Trello

trello

OMG, I am in love. This is it, this is what I’ve been searching for. This is something I can look at for 40+ hours a week and not feel like slashing my wrists. I am a very visual thinker, okay. Spreadsheets and tables of tiny text and numbers are not going to do it for me at all. That’s not how my brain works. I need to see things represented graphically and I need a drag and drop interface where I can physically move things around according to their progress.

  • Inherently geared to projects while still letting you manage tasks. What you see there is a Board. A Board functions like a pinboard and it represents one project. As of right now I have 14 boards, and I expect this number to increase as I use Trello more.
  • Each board consists of a set of lists. These are task lists. What you do is click on the board to create a new List and add tasks to it. Lists can be called anything you want, such as Ideas, but the software encourages you to use at least three lists per board which are titled To Do, Doing and Done, which appeals to me and represents how I think and work. At the beginning you have tasks piled up in the left hand column, then they gradually get moved to the right as you make progress on them.
  • Boards can be grouped into Organisations. Remember my big, colourful Life Plan that I drew? Well now it exists in the form of Organisations. There is an organisation called The Yellow Zone which is about health, fitness, diet, housework and family. It includes four boards right now and that will increase as I start to create new boards for things like weekly meal plans. The Red Zone is work and money, currently has 7 boards and will probably end up with loads more. The Blue Zone is things that nourish my soul like writing for the fun of it, doing Chinese, all creative activities.
  • Tasks, OMG, tasks are great. When you click to create a new task, let’s say ‘write a proposal for XYZ Ltd’, a task window pops up and you can upload attachments, add photos, add comments as the task progresses. You can attach coloured labels, creating linked groups of tasks within a single board. Best of all, I can link it to my gmail account. I found out that when a new task arises in my email inbox, which is where most tasks begin, I can simply forward the email to the relevant Trello board and it will automatically create a Task for me with the email subject line as the task header.
  • Looks so pretty. Trello is basically free, if you upgrade to the premium version then you can add your own background wallpaper to each board. This is really worth something to me. Firstly, I can have a piece of nice art instead of soul-destroying deserts of plainness. Secondly, I can have a different background for each board and this is so, so helpful because I can instantly identify which board I’m looking at without having to read the title. If there is a picture in the background of a swimming polar bear, I know I’m looking at the Health board. If there is a Chinese painting then I am on the Chinese board.
  • Downsides – you can’t make Gantt charts with this. It’s not built for long-term time tracking over months or years. That said, you can attach due dates to tasks, and then you can view all of your tasks, across every project, according to when they are due. Brilliant. It will show me what tasks are due today, this week, this month.

I am really enjoying using it. I am systematically going through all the paper based lists on my desk and around the house and putting all these things I’m supposed to do up on Trello. I will soon be able to see the entire picture, and that is what I have been needing.

http://www.trello.com

Simple Pleasures.

As you already know from my last post, there is a whole bunch of things I should be getting on with.

But I am excited about the future work I will be doing. So I am sitting at my desk reading the latest edition of a book about research design and statistics. It is fun! It is also not a very difficult book. I already know more statistics than this book is going to cover, I just haven’t used it for a long time. I have just realised that I can knit while reading if I choose a simple project. This is bliss. This is what my life is supposed to consist of.

Last spring when I experienced Crime and a subsequent bout of depression, I could tell that something was badly wrong with me, because irrespective of how I felt, which was mostly numb, the behavioural indicators of happiness were not there. They are going to be a bit different for everyone, but for me, the key behavioural indicators of happiness are:

– curiosity. Because it implies investment and interest in the future. Curiosity is what drives reading books about experimental design when you don’t strictly have to, also attempting to learn Mandarin.

– dancing. Oh man, I used to dance all the time. Then it abruptly stopped. Now it is finally starting to come back. I was dancing to Stakka Bo yesterday, just a little bit, and that is a relief to me. It means my pre-Crime self is returning after what has been a very difficult 16 months.

– knitting, also see drawing, sewing, writing, any kind of creative activity. These things are also about belief in the future. All knitted items take time to manufacture. You don’t start a project like that today unless you have reasonable hope in tomorrow.

This is so good. I am going to make tea and then I am getting back into this book.

Ooh! Reasons to be excited about August.

– Dre’s new album, Compton: A Soundtrack is expected to be available via iTunes on the 9th of August.

– Straight Outta Compton, a biopic of NWA, is set for release on the 14th.