2009 February

How I do… stuff

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Sorting it outWe are, I’m not shy of saying, in the golden age of the geek. The world is getting more and more integrated every day, the internet is getting more useful, the information we see gets greater and greater – and the amount of work I have to plough through getting ever larger.

The other day, while I was doing my day job, then going home and designing 3 websites, catching up on the day’s news and working out some final wedding plans, a friend asked how I manage to keep up with all the things I do. My answer? I use free, online services that integrate with each other, and do everything automatically. That way, a lot of the work is done for you, and as long as you’re near a computer they’ll be instantly available. Sure, you can do things with pen and paper too – but I’m a geek. Where’s the fun in ink and dead trees? (Actually, there is some hope at the end of this piece…)

So, here’s what I do. Maybe it will help you to get through the mountains of *stuff* too…

*General Philosophy*
David Allen
once quit his job to sell a new way of working to the world. His system, Getting Things Done (GTD), has been adopted the world over, and while a lot of it is a bit deep, I use quite a few of the ideas to get stuff done. Three main points – never put things off if you can do them now; divide tasks into sections and smaller tasks; and if you can, have one hub for all the information. Read up on GTD here.

*Catch-all hub of awesomeness*
Netvibes is a personal start page, can do everything I need it to. Use it for your most-used bookmarks, have separate tabs per section and integrate it with almost everything below. Seriously, it’ll save a heap of time.

*Day-to-day tasks*
Got single or recurring things that you need to be reminded of? Todoist will allow you to set up your tasks and projects in a simple, great way (you can add reminders to it for $3 a month). Alternatively, Google Calendar will do the same in a calendar interface, with free SMS reminders too. And view it through Netvibes, and you’re back to one hub of information.

*Internet Browsing*
People still use Internet Explorer 7 either because they have to or they never knew there was a choice. Firefox is my choice, and the plugins it has make it indispensible. If you want to save links for later, try Delicious. Simple, and the best.

*Catch-all Email*
Gmail is everything you could need for your email, and more. Once you try it, with all it’s wizardy filters, you won’t go back. If you use Firefox, sprinkle Gmail with the GTDInbox plugin and it becomes your personal task manager.


Again, Google comes up trumps. Google Calendar allows you to easily record everything, divide your events into different categories, and automatically send out emails and SMS texts as reminders.

Meebo Icon*Instant Messenging*
allows you to connect to any of the major Instant Messenging services, including Facebook and Jabber. And, because t’s just on a website, you can access it from anywhere. It’ll even keep your chat logs.

*Connect your Work and Personal Calendars*
If you have a calendar for work (usually Outlook) and one for home  (Google Calendar for me), you can synchronise them with SyncMyCal or Google Calendar Sync.

*Keep track of your favourite sites*
Are they blogs or sites that have an RSS feed (what is an RSS feed)? Track them with Google Reader and catch up with them whenever you have time. If you’d prefer email updates of the blogs instead, try FeedMyInbox, which will send you an email every day with the updates. Alternatively, you can have any RSS feed shown and synced in Netvibes, that diggy mofo I mentioned earlier.

If they’re not blogs or not constantly updated, you can still track any changes with ChangeDetection.

Get all this sorted, and you’ll never have to visit a site “just to check” again.

*Keep track of your friends*
Facebook is the obvious contender here, and for the more geeky amongst you, Twitter is the place to be. Integrate your Facebook status with twitter using Twitterfeed to save you having to update twice. If you contribute to a blog you can automatically announce your blog posts using Twitterfeed too.

*Keep track of your favourite things*
I want to keep updated on any mentions of my home town, the company, my unique surname, the list goes on. Google Alerts will send you updates on relevant things that pop up on Google searches and Google News. SocialMentions will search a whole lot of social sites and email you mentions. Tweetbeep or TweetLater will do this in greater detail just for Twitter.

Coffee Shop Study*And finally*
I tend to wake up every morning at 6am and immediately think of things to do, or ideas to investigate. Sometimes an idea strikes when I’m not at a computer (I’m not tied to it, promise). So, a good old pen and pad does the trick when I’m out and about.

Let me know if you have any other websites or ideas that will help – I’m all ears…

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The Wrong Room

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(cropped for new group)“Well, it looks like you’ve got a disabled room, sir.” The man behind the hotel reception desk in Nottingham gave a weak smile, and I could only imagine the internal jokes that were racing through his mind. “You don’t look disabled…”

Strangely, I was busy taking this as a compliment when, suddenly, his face brightened. ” Ah ha! Looks like we’ve had a cancellation on the top floor. That’s good news for you, sir, the disabled rooms aren’t good for normal users, and you would have had the worst one of the lot too, just by the main road and the reception area. Rubbish rooms, really. So, I’ll put you on the top floor. Hold on a sec.”
I held on. I was pleased at my room upgrade – they way he was talking about it, I had avoided an awful stay in a rubbish room.
And then… and then. The receptionist’s face slowly changed from pleasure to marked pain.
“Ummm…,” he uttered.
“Hmmm…,” he continued, looking increasingly red. “I may have made a mistake. The hotel’s fully booked. Other than, of course, that disabled room…”

And so it was that I started my stay in the very same room the receptionist had slagged off only seconds before. It turns out its not so bad at all – sure, the switches are low enough for leprechuans to have to stoop down for, and doors that you could fit a large fridge-freezer through. However, the bright side is that I have special pulleys at the side of the bed AND bath that can yank whenever I need anything.

Hmmm, I *am* feeling a bit peckish…

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Snow Joke

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THAT's a snowball

THAT's a snowball

Jac sent me a picture last night of his London snow;  i told him we had none. Within 30 minutes, we had a white glistening reminder of what winter used to be like in sunny England (here are my photos of it all).

So here we are, enveloped in a snow blanket that I can only remember once before, back when I was 12.  Michelle had the unfortunate dilemma of getting to the centre of town by 7am, as without her the Next store couldn’t open. After vainly hoping that a bus might turn up, and ever dedicated, she walked the 2 miles to work. I worked from home (only 3 people made it to my office in the end), occasionally staring out the window at the contrasting responses – children and teenagers having the mother of all snowfights; and frowning, wrapped up huddles of people trying to get out of the biting cold.

Sky News and BBC News have done sterling work keeping me informed – the giant snowball being rolled down a large hill live on BBC News was a particular highlight.and the local radio Station The Eagle was

Michelle braving it!

Michelle braving it!

brilliant at giving us the local lowdown, despite their website going down with all the travellers eager for information. My garden is covered in 18 inches of the stuff. The usual miseries are popping up everywhere, wondering why the trains, buses, taxis, planes and cars in general aren’t moving today and how we haven’t prepared for it  (how can we prepare for something that only happens every 18 years?!)

So most of the country is in hibernation; tomorrow is meant to be worse. The rest of the developed world is used to this kind of thing – but we’re making the most of it while we can!

Linkblog – January 31st to February 1st

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These are my links for January 31st through February 1st:

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