Internet and kids

But instead of protecting them from the evil Internet, teach them to read, write, draw, paint, ask and think. Teach them researching, blogging, FTP. The challenge when you are in is to not become passive. To change from consumer to maker, following to self-thinking, quoter to commentator, liker to publisher, but mostly, from getting angry about headlines of articles you haven’t read to reading precisely, asking questions, researching, fact-checking, thinking clearly and writing carefully.

Take the Power Back – iA

 

Limit your digital life

Why, you may ask, is it so important to limit our digital lives? “Without open spaces and downtime, the nervous system never shuts down — it’s in constant fight-or-flight mode,” Ms. Colier said in an interview. “We’re wired and tired all the time. Even computers reboot, but we’re not doing it.”

Hooked on Our Smartphones

 

A losing game

There’s an infinite selection of activities in the world that might bring some value. If you insist on labeling every activity avoided as value lost, then no matter how frantically you fill your time, it’s unavoidable that the final tally of your daily experience will be infinitely negative.

On Digital Minimalism – Study Hacks – Cal Newport

Don’t pay catchup with the internet play by your own rules.

Linux journey started

Few days ago I started a journey into world of Linux with installation of Ubuntu.

Switching operating system in a laptop isn’t a regular thing to do unless one has some really good reasons.
While I’ve upgraded to Windows 10 I was never comfortable with their new approach to privacy and data sharing. Linux seems to be the only system that remains an actual desktop system not some sort of cloud connected, big data crunching machine.

Changing environment also forces me to learn new things, understand how this system works, what are the main principles and commands.

I also like the ethos of Linux in general, open source, voluntary contribution, sharing of knowledge, tinkering away. All this seems refreshing in the world dominated by control, restritions and limitations.

The past number of times when I attempted a switch I ended up going back to Windows but this time I took a different approach. I turned this into a project. It may sound over the top but it’s perfect match to my reignited interest in GTD methodology.
Since this is a project, I have set out the main vision for it, defined parameters and set couple milestones to check in how things are going.
So instead random “move to Ubuntu” it’s “establish Ubuntu as primary OS” with a number of specific expectations listed.

Will it work? Will it last?

I don’t know I’ve tried before but always ended up back in the world of Windows

So far it’s been good and everything I needed to do worked fine. In fairness while it may seem very challenging to change operating system and move to completly new environment the change isn’t as dramatic.
The initial installation was quick, everything runs smoothly, I’m learning news things.

Once I reach 30 and 90 day milestones I will know for sure if this is for me and whether I will stick to it.

Cory Doctorow at Webstock

A really fascinating and bit scary talk about impact of technology and the battle to controll it.
Full video stream of the talk is on Vimeo

Below I’ve listed couple of my own takeaways.

  • area of technology is an arena for biggest power and control struggle in current time
  • with little man power one can assert a lot of control over large numbers of people purely because of use of technology and large scale survailance. East German Stasi had 60k people per inteligence agent now US has 10k per agent and they can spy on 7bn people
  • DRM and lockin turn us from owners of content to mere renters. We no longer have same type of rights over what we bought.
    (personally I wonder if stores should rename their button from “buy” to “rent” to ensure it’s really clear what are your rights. Refering someone to T&C is pointless and serves as way of tricking people)

  • exposing poor constuction and design of products gets more difficult since you are no longer able to look under the hood. If you do you may be breaking laws. Hence inherently DRM and copyright laws tend to promote and defend bad design.

Personally I find that ideas behind open source communities and software are more and more appealing. It’s more chaotic but ultimately it’s clearer.
It may not be easy to move to Linux that quickly and without some effort but it is definately doable (I’m writing this in a laptop running Ubuntu into a plain text file.)

As it’s is the case with many things it’s up to people to vote with their feet and if enough will go for the open and transparent models of technology that what’s going to pervail.

Weekly Links for 6th of June

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

  1. What You Said: How Do You Keep Notes?
  2. 3 Labs graduations, 1 retirement | Gmail Blog
  3. Managing Content w/ a Dashboard Pt. 3 – Clients | The Mindjet Blog
  4. Video: "Broken Meetings (and how you’ll fix them)" | 43 Folders
  5. Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

Weekly Links for 30th of May

A weekly collection of posts and articles about productivity, time management, tools and technology.

 

  1. Druckversion – SPIEGEL Interview with Umberto Eco: ‘We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die’
  2. Top 10 Characteristics of GREAT Project Managers :: Tips :: The 99 Percent
  3. How To Encrypt Evernote Notes/Files | Password Protect Evernote Notes
  4. Death, taxes, and now, lack of privacy
  5. Daniel H Pink: employees are faster and more creative when solving other people’s problems
  6. Techno Life Skills

If you have any interesting articles please share them in the comments section.

How to improve productivity if you are not a geek

IMG_2739

Lots of productivity advise is geared toward geeks and people willing to play with software. You can hear about using macros, scripts, auto text solutions which automate a lot of your work. But those solutions require at least some computer knowledge and willingness to explore.

At the same time if you work for a big corporation, use of non-approved software is not permitted. It’s more than likely that use of applications like textExpander or PhraseExpress will not be allowed for security reasons or simply because it’s easier for local IT team. You could push the limit and try to install something on your own but it’s risky and there may be consequences.

So how to improve your productivity where you can’t use latest software, your are not a geek and can’t create macros? Start with exploring three options: keyboard shortcuts, templates, checklists.

Use keyboard

Easiest way to increase speed on your computer is to learn keyboard shortcuts. Rather than patiently navigate through different menus and options use key combinations to get your stuff done.
Most certainly you’ve heard about ctrl+C, ctrl+B combinations. There are hundreds more,  almost every application has them. You don’t need to learn all of them at once start small and build up as you go. Here is how to do  it:

  • Define your key applications. Figure out which programs you use the most, there is no point in spending time on learning a tool you use once in a while.
  • Check the list of shortcuts and print those you think will be most useful. Any time you do something check if there is a keyboard shortcut for it.
  • Keep the list in front. Pin in on the wall or tape to your monitor.
  • Refer to it as much as possible and try to memorise them.

Once you’ve learned the shortcuts and used them for couple weeks observe how smoother and faster your are at computer.

Use templates

Do you write standard letters or email communication? Do you have to print the same form everyday?
If you find yourself creating the same type of documents time and time again. Rather than re-type the same content each time and think what to put in it try creating a template for each type.
Create a folder with all your templates and put a link on your desktop for quick access. Then each time you need to send an email or some other document refer to that folder and use the template. Fill the blank with client specific information and your done.

Use checklists

Another way to deal with standardised and repeating tasks is to create a checklist to describe the stages of the process. They can save you a lot of time and reduce chances for mistakes. Couple ways in which checklists can help you increase productivity:

  • Don’t have to re-write sub tasks every time.  Being able to see all the sub-tasks makes it easy to complete the work 
  • Don’t have to think what needs to be done. Some tasks are complex and lengthy with lots of moving parts. Having to re-think every step of the process would be time consuming and very risky.  Think of plane mechanics, there are thousands of parts in engine so if each mechanic would have to remember what to do when servicing it would make it easier to forget about this or that element.
  • Easily deal with distractions. It’s not uncommon that someone interrupts our work. Having a checklist at hand makes it easy to know where you were and what to do next to complete the process.

Are you a non-geek? How do you improve your productivity?

Hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful. I would appreciate your comments and opinions.

How mind mapping can improve you business

I’m finding that mind maps are becoming one of the pillars in my personal productivity system. I use them very, very often. I have a shortcut on my task bar to launch Freeplane – my current mind mapping program of choice. I even set up a special key combinations  in ActiveWords application to launch  my most important mind maps. I’m literally just two clicks away from almost any mind map on my computer. In addition on the go if I want to draw a quick map I can do this on the Android phone thanks to ThinkingSpace application.

If you seen some examples of mind mapping but you’re still not sure if it will do the job. Perhaps you’re looking for other ways to leverage the power of mind mapping. If that’s the case you might be interested in below blog post by Chuck Frey of Mindmappingblog.com.

 

As a result, a savvy businesspeople are utilizing this type of productivity software for an amazing number of applications, including these:

1. Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.

2. Plan and manage a project.

3. Plan a meeting – including outlining the agenda, meeting room requirements and invitees.

4. Capture ideas from a group brainstorming meeting.

5. Maintain an idea database.

Does this sound interesting? Head over to Mindmappingblog.com for the full article on  45 ways to use mind mapping software for business.

New GTD toolkit. Android, cloud and paper.

In in the post from late last year I went through a description of my setup. At that time I was using Onenote and Filofax to manage main pillars of Getting Things Done. Since then things have changed quite drastically.    
The biggest game changer for me was purchase of an android smart-phone. As this is one of the few things that we carry everywhere with us. It was no brainer that I would use it as one of the key elements of my GTD setup.

Tasks.

I’ve looked at number of applications for task management that are available on the PC and Android platform and decided to settle on Rememeber the Milk (RTM).    
The setup I’m using is very simple. I decided to stick with basics and use just a handful of lists. At this moment I have following lists: Next Actons, Projects, Errands, Inbox, Somday, Blog.    
I’ve experimented with various scenarios of using combinations of tags, lists and location. Although having these features can be useful it was not necessary for me. Using those caused my system to become too complex.    
Also I deliberately don’t use contexts because I  try to limit no of things on my lists. The main idea is to put only those actions that I really want to complete in coming week or two.    
It would be great if RTM would allow to better link actions with the projects. It’s not a deal breaker for me as most of my projects are simple and I can easy think of any actions. However If a project is more complex I would create a note in Evernote and list all the actions milestones etc.

Project support, Reference, Storage.

In previous setup the main repository of reference material was Onenote now I’ve replaced it with Evernote.    
Why I’ve chosen Evernote over Onenote? Mainly because of the syncing with Android phone and ability to use it anywhere. For me it’s perfect capture tool. I can get any type of information there text, images, audio, even files. It’s always in sync  once. I’ve captured something on my phone it’s available on my computer in seconds. I don’t need transfer any data, make sure I connect computer etc. All the syncing happens over the air. 
Android client makes capture anytime and anywhere a breeze. It may not be as advanced as the iPhone version but it does the job of capturing very well. I hope that over time new functionality will arrive and match the capabilities existing on other clients. In addition to that I really like the overall integration with Android system. Basically any item that can be shared can also be send to Evernote. This way I can capture tweets, links to pages, emails directly form the smartphone and send them straight to Evernote. Not fiddling with copy paste etc.    
The main purpose of Evernote is to be a single point of reference for all my information needs. At the moment I’m using just 4 notebooks.

Inbox – As I mentioned above I use Evernote on my smartphone but I also on my desktop and in Firefox so any time anything pops into  my head it gets captured and send to this notebook. Then every 2-3 days I review the content of this notebook and make a decision about each of the items. I stick with three choices: save it for later, do it, delete it.

GTD –  This folder has dual purpose. First it serves as place to go to for all my current work. It will contain things like project plans, outlines, drafts etc. Second main purpose is to support my GTD implementation. I will store there my someday/maybe, checklists, agendas etc.

Blogging – This notebook is dedicated to blogging. All the post ideas, ideas for changes on the blog, tips, design changes, cool templates, articles related to blogging and writing all end up here.

Reference – this is catch all notebook. Everything that I want to keep record of end in there, online receipts, productivity tips, business ideas, various thoughts, observations, lessons learned, logs etc.

For the moment this Evernote setup seems to be working very well for me  but no information is useful if you don’t use it or can’t find it.  Every piece of information in Evernote can be tagged however I’ve decided to use only a very limited number of tags just to separate some key categories. I would use @someday or PostIdea tag just to make sure that those types of notes can be easily retrieved. As for the rest I rely o search. This way I don’t clog the tag view and there is no problem with  selecting the most appropriate tag.   
I’ve listened workflow episode with Merlin Mann and decided to stick with his advise that only things that are likely to be used in the future deserve tag, if you use consistent names than any search query will find exact what you want. So asking simple question "do I need this information handy?" helps me to decide whether  to use tags or not.

Paper

Despite proliferation off electronic tools paper has still place in my setup. I think aiming to be completely paperless cannot be achieved unless your are willing to sacrifice some of the productivity and creativity that paper can provide.   
Paper works well for me it’s fast, easy to use, readily available. I like to outline on paper, doodle, draw sketches etc. Although I don’t see it as permanent organisation or storage tool it’s great for conveying ideas fast. To put it simply Paper helps with thinking. Any attempts to go completely paperless were not practical. Trying to cut paper out was like cutting the branch you’re sitting on.

This is my current setup. It works really well as the combination of smartphone, desktop and cloud applications provides me with everything I need everywhere I need it.

What’s your setup? Do you rely on online application or prefer software that sits on your computer?

Is computer blocking your productivity?

Chances are that you spend a lot of time at your computer. Chances are that most of the things you produce is through the use of a computer.
Using computer to complete any tasks creates an assumption that it will make you more productive, that you will finish tasks faster and with better quality.

This is possible once you learn how to use computer effectively.

Essentially computer is just a tool that we as users need to learn. It’s no different from hammer or wrench. To make the most out a tool you need to learn the tool, know it’s limitations and strengths.

There are four main barriers that prevent most people from using computers with maximum efficiency. Getting past these four obstacles will impact you in two ways.

  • It will save you time by reducing the amount needed to complete work.
  • It will allow you to increase your output.

And it’s not about learning crazy hacks and secret commands, it’s more about finding ways of smarter use of computer with solutions that are readily available.

  1. Slow typing – as most of the information that is passed through the computer is text a slow typing can be a real problem. Solution to this is to learn touch typing. This way you will increase your output and save time. There are plenty of online tools to learn speed typing. I’ve tried these two.  Also if you want to practice your speed and have some fun with it here is a list of touch typing games.
    And you you look for some tangible effects of learning touch typing check out this calculator. It should give you a rough idea.
  2. Mouse – mouse is a great pointing device and is very useful when you need precision. but doing anything with mouse is in most cases longer as you need to navigate various menu option to find the right command. You can increase speed and don’t break the motions by learning keyboard shortcuts for your mostly used actions and commands. Starting with the obvious for many like ctrl+c to copy etc. Go inline and look for a help of your favourite program see what are the mostly used actions and learning the shortcuts.
    You may think that learning this is a waste of time but consider the fact that computer and software are the work tools and to be a master of your work you need to MASTER the tools.
  3. Repeating text – if you are a writer or a programmer many times you write the same pieces of text time and time again. Even if you are in sales or any other job you find your self repeatedly writing signatures, web addresses, letter openings etc. The solution to this is using so called text expansion software. It allows to generate predefined text by typing single word or specific combination of letters. The widely popular  is TextExpander on Mac and Texter on Windows. I’m using a free version of well known Active Words program. If you wonder how much you can save by using this type of software here is a handy link to Harvard Busines Review blog post by Gina Trappani.
  4. Navigation – All of the  applications and documents are stored in folders and subfolders thus making it time consuming to navigate into right location and the added complication is remembering the location. The simplest solution to this is using a program launcher. The more popular are Launchy and FARR which beyond launching applications and documents can be expanded via additional add-on. This way you can post to twitter, facebook, update calendar add new tasks etc.  If you need something simpler I recommend using the Windows 7 and Vista search bar. It’s very simple to use -hit windows key and type the name of the document or program.

If you know any more tips and strategies which improve productivity and interaction with computer please share them in in the comments section.