2014 Changes

 05 Jan 2014

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I don’t normally do resolutions. I think I like the idea that I could change things at any time, not just at the new year. Regardless the change of a year is a good time to make changes especially in regards to productivity. I had a nice winter break in order to look into new systems to try both at work and at home in the coming months.

As normal when I look into things, I go full hog and try to change too many things at once. This first initial blog post in my new blog will go over everything that I’d like to try and do. I’ll probably post more things in details as I actually try them.

Scrum for my life

One of the things I’d like to do is to start using some scrum techniques to help organize my time and life. I’m going to be using Pivotal Tracker for this. I’m going to make it public and it will live here. I don’t want to go completely scrum which is why I think Tracker will do a good job. Pivotal has been noted as saying that they believe their product is 75% of the way towards Kanban on the spectrum of Scrum to Kanban which I think is a good place for this project to live.

The main features that I want to start doing with this project:

  • Looking at this project page every day. I will be doing this at night before going to bed. This will be my “stand up” meeting.
  • Anytime there is something I need to do I will write it down immediately and then add it to this project plan during my stand up.
  • I can prioritize things I need to do and then have the software tell me what I should do next. I’m sure I’ll add more as I go, but for now those are the features/ideas that I want to accomplish with this.

Bullet Journal

I’m also going to start using Bullet Journal as a system for note taking. I will try to keep a moleskin journal with me at all times (with some pen backups) and will use it to jot down … anything. This will come in VERY handy with the next section. I’m pretty confident that I won’t use the calendar page much so I probably won’t start with that. I’m doing this for organization and priorities, NOT for scheduling. I will continue to use Google calendar as a main scheduling tool. What I WILL do is make a note about something in my journal and add it to Google calendar that NIGHT during my stand up.

To reemphasize: the journal is for jotting down notes all during the day whether or not I’m at a computer. There will be specifics times when I go over the journal and transfer items to software or other parts in the journal depending on what they are. I never want someone to tell me to do something and have me forget ever again!

I will go into how I’m going to use the journal more in the next section on Pomodoro.

Journal and Pen Selection

Cause I’m a geek I spent a lot of time researching journals and pens to use for this. I opted for a Moleskin Large Squared Hardcover journal and Uni-ball Jetstream pens.

The pick of the journal was pretty easy. Some of the other choices on the market were MORE expensive than Moleskin without many extra features that I wanted. I also wanted something that looked good on a shelf when I was done with it… and I’m pretty confident that the moleskin design won’t change. I also love the look of them…

As far as the journal options I wanted squared to handle todo lists very easily. I like the feel of the hardcover. The size was a simple choice. The extra-large is too big to fit easily into a bag and to hold easily and the smalls are too small to do anything with.

For the pen I did a bunch of research before I found the holy grail of cheap pen review articles: The Best Pen. This article does a huge roundup of OTHER pen reviews (many of which I had already read) and basically shows how EVERY good pen blogger picks Jetstream as the pen to get… pretty simple right?

I will make another post later today with photos of the stuff I bought :)

Pomodoro

This applies more to work. I want to start trying to use this technique. I have a habbit with being distracted by … anything at work. Someone comes by with a new task and I’ll talk to them about it for hours or just do it immediately breaking whatever I was doing. I also have the habbit of being distracted by IM’s, email and facebook as well. The fact that I do a good job of getting things done at work sometimes amazes me. I don’t know how I do it.

Over this break (in some of my research on Bullet Journal) I kept seeing this word brought up so I googled it myself. The main Pomodoro Website has a good overview video and access to resources. This sounded AMAZING to me. Basically it reads as if it’s applying scrum techniques to your day to day routine! Exactly what I would like to do!

In order to learn a bit more I did buy a kindle edition of Pomodoro Technique Illustrated. Very simple and short book but did give good info on the different parts of the technique as well as info on why it works and what changes I can make to help fit my life. I also ordered the original book that will be here soon! I will probably make another post once I learn more and once I try it out myself.

One of the main (and only things) you need to start practicing Pomodoro is a pen, paper and a timer. I already have the pen and paper for Journaling (which will work out PERFECT) so I just need a timer. Since I’ll be doing this at work I wanted something that won’t annoy others. This means I don’t want to use a timer that ticks and that has a loud ring. If coworkers had to hear a buzzer every 25 minutes they might get annoyed. I’m a little worried about this breaking some of the features that are good about the technique… but we’ll just have to see! Due to these requirements I settled on trying to use an hourglass. Might take a while to receive it and I will be using a iphone app that allows me to turn off the sound and only use vibrate until then.

So my process will basically be something like:

  • At the beginning of the day look at my todo list for work in my journal and pick what I want to do today and write those down.
  • Prioritize and pick the most important one and start a pomodoro for it if I have time before my next meeting.I actually think the 25 minute default time will be perfect!
  • If any interruptions come in… IGNORE THEM. No looking at emails or facebook during this and if people call or stop by or IM I will tell them that I will get back to them and write them down in the journal. This will help me track interuptions AND allow me to remember to get back to them right when the pomodoro is done! This is the MAIN reason I want to try this system.
  • At the end of the day I want to look at what I’ve done, how many pomodoros I was able to complete and how many interruptions I had.

I’m hoping this helps me divide my time better and allows me to look at facebook during breaks while focusing the rest of the time. It also allows me to track and remember who I need to talk to after the work is done… fantastic!

Overview

So in the end I’m basically trying to apply scrum to both my life AND my work schedule. I want to use a journal to keep notes. For YEARS I kept trying different software and it never works… so I’m thinking I finally need to try a real live journal.

I will have 3 rituals that I do during the day:

  • At the beginning of the work day I plan my day and figure out what I want to get done.
  • At the end of the work day I look at what I got done. Transfer things from my day-to-day journal into my larger work todo list.
  • At the end of the full day I go over my journal and put stuff into Google calendar or my pivotal tracker project and go over what I want to do tomorrow outside of work. This should be able to be done at the computer, or with my ipad in bed.

I also want to start using some new software to help organize myself.

  • I’m moving my blog to posthaven. I will have another blog post about this in the future.
  • I’m going to FINALLY replace Google reader with Feedly. With Pomodoro I will have a set break that I use to check it. I’ll make another blog post talking about how I like it once I use it for a bit. If I don’t end up liking it I will probably check out Newsblur next.
  • I’m going to use Pivotal Tracker to track my life as a scrum board.
  • I’m going to use Pinboard to track links and bookmarks. I will use tags to help me remember things that I want to blog about. I will also use this to mark things as “read later” to avoid interruptions during Pomodoros.
  • I’m going to use bit.ly more often when sharing links to help have records :smile:

I will also make another post soon with my overall goals of all of this. There are some things I want to be better at and I’m hoping some of this will help!