Modest Change 2: Keeping time

I was, for some reason, totally taken by Thomas Limoncelli’s book Time Management for System Administrators. (TM4SA, for short).

I read the sample chapter he had online here, and bought the book to see what the rest was about.

I’ve picked up and put down many a time management system over the years, starting with Day-Timers and finishing most successfully with David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. Limoncelli’s system doesn’t quite displace GTD, but he has for the first time really helped me gain some traction on my task management.

I won’t detail here what his system is, as the link above describes the main system pretty well. The book is written for someone who’s really never used a time management system before and probably can’t understand office life or office politics all that well.

I bought an At-a-Glance 2006 Daily Planning diary to implement the scheme and this has worked pretty well so far. I find myself not really noting much in the Notes or To-Dos sections; I have other home and office systems to log those things. But I do note in the planner book what I hope to accomplish each day or night of the week, and when I review my lists of Active Projects, I make sure each one has a next action written down for a specific day. (It was all to easy for tasks to stay on my GTD context lists and never move; by physically writing them down, I’m forced to confront them and make them move.)

One of TM4SA’s key recommendations is that you write down what you want to accomplish each day and transfer undone tasks to the next day or some day in the future. This rankles lots of GTD purists and I understand it. On a bad day, you’ll have to transfer most everything forward. But on a good day, you’ll get most everything done and there’s relatively few tasks to move forward.

TM4SA also recommends estimating about how long each task will take. This has really helped me figure out what I can realistically get to in an evening and so not overbook myself with ridiculously fabuloso projects or commitments when really all I have time to do is write my 1000 words and read. I’ve found that I really can’t do all that I want when I have an evening free–instead, I have to prioritize and choose and do. Which is what time and task management is all about.

Modest Change 1: Early to Rise

Earlier this year, Merlin suggested that, instead of resolutions and big efforts, people implement fresh starts and modest changes. Here’s the first of three posts about some modest changes I’ve made that have yielded some good benefits.

I’ve long known that about 70% of my problems would disappear if I just got up a little earlier. I went through a period last month where I was waking earlier than I wanted. Someone in the office suggested I just come in early like a few others of my officemates do and start logging my time. The very next day, I awoke at about 4 a.m. So I got up and made it into the office by 6:30.

My God, the quiet. I sat and focused on my project and got a good chunk done before lunchtime. And I got another good chunk done before I left for the day. I was quietly shocked at how well this weird new behavior worked.

Because we’re cursed to work 9-hour days, I previously was getting in at 9 a.m. and leaving about 6 or 6:30 p.m., thus beating the rush-hour traffic both ways. Now, getting in at 7:30 a.m., there’s still some rush-rush on the highways, but there’s enough time at the end of the day to do my workout and have an evening of relative leisure, instead of cramming a gallon of stuff into a pint pot.

Accepting this behavior means letting go of treasured descriptions of myself as a night owl, as someone who’d rather stay up late than go to bed early. Well, that’s still the case. I still prefer staying up late. But the reality of my working life dictates that early-rising more than repays the effort.

I’ve been able to stick with this schedule rather easily and will continue to do so. If I need to work late, it’s fairly painless to stay another hour or two and log some extra time. And, I should note, I’ve not been troubled by early rising since sticking to my new schedule.

Links: Clipmarks, screensaver, quantum computing, & personality tests

Clipmarks | What Is Clipmarks?
“Manage the stuff you find on the web
With the Clipmarks toolbar you can clip, tag and save snippets of content from the web, without having to bookmark whole pages. Then sign in to clipmarks.com from any computer to organize your collection.”
(the clips stay on the clipmarks server, so you don’t have to store them locally. a busy ui, potentially useful)

Download Free Screensaver - Holding Pattern
“Holding Pattern turns your idle computer screen into an airplane window, complete with a moving aerial view. Each time the screensaver plays a unique sequence.”

New Scientist: Quantum computer works best switched off - News

Interactive Johari Window - Mapping Personality Visibility
“The Johari Window was invented by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in the 1950s as a model for mapping personality awareness. By describing yourself from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of overlap and difference can be built up.

and on the flip side…

The Nohari Window - Personality Flaw Map
“The Nohari Window is a challenging inversion of the Johari Window, using antonyms of the original words. By describing your failings from a fixed list of adjectives, then asking your friends and colleagues to describe you from the same list, a grid of perceived and unrecognised weaknesses can be explored.”

Wikipedia:Unusual articles

This page has been making the rounds of the blogosphere. I like the made-up Simpsons words and many of the other links.

But one of my favorite entries not listed here is on Florence Foster Jenkins, which features a sound sample of the woman “who became famous for her complete lack of singing ability.” If you have the Rhapsody music service, you can hear the entire album of this very painful warbling. (Like rain slurping down a rusty gutter, as I remembering reading somewhere.)

But one of the fun things about traversing Wikipedia and the web is finding that Jenkins’ page links to a bigger page on Outsider Music, which links to this fabulous collection of 365 MP3 files of “outsider music.”

Best Desktop Pictures Ever

In my humble opinion, of course. These are from Zeldman’s old site, courtesy the Wayback Machine.

His new ones are great, too, and are certainly more uniform in size and polished in quality. But that demonic clown and the electric blue trapeze artists just send me.

Addendum
The Beauteous Liz reminded me of another set of desktop pictures that appeals to my sensibilities: the Daze of Our Lives archives of Victorian etchings wallpaper. Note that there are archives for different years and there are varied sizes. My personal favorites are the Fornasetti Girl (2002), the Snowy Trees (2002), the Cowboy Band (2001), and Hand Kisser (2001),

What do you know now?

This is a page I ran across years ago when Mistress Krista’s site was in an earlier stage of development. At the time, I was into lifting weights and trying to find the “right” way to do it. Krista’s advice is pragmatic, funny, and no nonsense; she’s a great teacher.

Here’s how she describes the page of pithy quotes and hard-won experience:

“Recently, the folks on misc.fitness.weights were asked the following question: What do you know now that you wished you’d known five or ten years ago? Here are their responses and ruminations about training and life in general.”

I always hated the term “knowledgebase.” Semantically, it meant nothing to me. When you have a “wisdombase,” I’d say, then come and talk to me. Until then, pages like this (much like The Commonplace Book of earlier centuries) will be the places that capture our personal wisdom and experience for others both to benefit from and laugh at.