When I was much younger I became familiar with Getting Things Done via the then popular Lifehacking movement. Getting Things Done is a system for taking control of your projects and life by getting all the stuff you need to do into a single system. While I am not a perfect adherent, the general principles have proven durable and useful since I started using it in my law school years.
As far as software goes I have settled on keeping everything in an app called OmniFocus. The advantage of OmniFocus besides the fact that it follows the metaphors from the book is that it is easily accessible. It has been written in a way that I can easily add and edit stuff on my Mac, iPhone, or iPad. For email, using Gmail plus its keyboard shortcuts have shown themselves to be important to staying near Inbox Zero.
Ultimately the three principles that are most useful to managing all my projects are: breaking things down into smaller pieces, keeping the information needed to do tasks in as few disparate places as possible, and being comfortable with a backlog. By organizing the things to be done and minimizing the work needed to do them, I am able to do more things when free time makes itself available. By prioritizing the things I am able to do more of the useful stuff. Ultimately these strategies are a tool for feeling more in control, and that is what makes the difference.
One of the biggest challenges in diagnosing technology problems is reproducibility. If a screen breaks then it is easy to see and fix. However if you have an intermittent software problem then it can be hard to show the engineers its occurrence when you complain. The same thing happened to me yesterday with my oven. It has been overshooting its temperature after a while but the technician could not reproduce the issue. I am still stuck with a broken oven.
The trick to exposing intermittent problems is to have a device that instruments the environment and records the problem when it occurs. In the case of a computer you dump logs. In the case of an oven you can have a thermometer that records its temperature as the oven is set to a single setting. Once you have something that sees the problem and the environment under which it occurs, you can then start to dissect what is unique about the environment to debug your problem.
A fun article from Mel Magazine:
GoldenEye 007 was originally planned to be a 2D, single-player side-scrolling game, much like Donkey Kong, another game that British developers Rare were producing at the time for the SNES. However, lead developer Martin Hollis suggested it be a 3D first-person shooter for the Nintendo 64, a system and technology that didn’t even fully exist yet. He got his way, and assembled a ragtag team of new-to-gaming developers to begin working on what was expected to be “just another film license” game — games that typically rode the movie’s fame, but didn’t prove to be smash hits, critically or commercially.
I remember playing Goldeneye on my brother’s Nintendo 64 when I was younger. We did not own it but it was a favorite rental.
I recently came to discover that my iPad can tether to my iPhone Internet connection. This means that while I am on the red line to work I can use my iPad on the Internet to be productive. Suddenly work that I have been needing to do at home can be accomplished while I am in transit. I found a new block of useful time.
The trick to getting iPad and iPhone tethering to work well is to first have a mobile plan that supports it. The second is to go into your iPad settings where you will see your iPhone. You can click your iPhone and it will connect. Less than a minute later you should be online. The only downside to this is it will go through your iPhone battery quickly.
Processing my email and todo list are chores that keep things organized in my world. While not everyone puts in the time and effort to do this, it makes a big difference for me. So I usually spend time on the train doing that. It also gives me an opportunity to write or read. Now I can spend my time at my apartment doing more important or fun things.
The other day I wrote a post about going to the dentist and it apparently was reverted from its finished state before I mindlessly committed the post to GitHub. As a result everyone was left with a bit of a cliffhanger, which I have now removed. Unfortunately the result is a post that barely had a story or useful thought.
Rather than trying to re-complete the blog post I am leaving it there as a shrine to the idea that when you go up to bat so often you’re sometimes going to hit a few foul balls. I have some exciting future posts in the hopper about my work at Code for Boston that should hopefully make up for it.