Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I originally meant to post a look back at 2008 (similar to what I did last year) before 2009 started but I’ve simply been too busy to finalize it so far…

So for now, all I can say is that 2008 has been an outstanding year for me and I’m really looking forward to 2009.

Happy New Year everyone! :-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Personal productivity – Follow Ups

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly interested in personal productivity. I can’t pinpoint it exactly but I guess it must have been at some point during my second year at university that I realized that even with very little sleep I only had so much time to get things done in-between getting up and hanging out at the bar in our student residence in the evenings…

Previously - during my last two years at schools – I started heavily relying on all sorts of lists, both on paper and my computer, to keep an overview of the things I had to do. Later I started using my mobile phone to write down all kinds of thoughts, ideas, to-do’s and other information while on the road.

I now have a pretty confusing (for outsiders) system of post-its (I count about 20 on my desk at this very moment), notes/tasks on my mobile phone (sync’ed to my computer) and e-mail tagging rules to to organize my to-do’s.

However lately I’ve been hitting a road block as I’m realizing that doing things is one thing, but following up and following through with something you’ve started doing is something entirely different.

For example for olpcnews we often get contacted by guest authors who want to submit an article. I read through the submission, write up some feedback and send it back to the author. My to-do list for the day then says read Ubuntu-for-XO submission.

Now the problem here is that I’ve only done part of what is really a multi-step task. And it’s all too easy to forget about the other steps in case I don’t get a reply from the original author which automatically triggers me to setup a new to-do task.

Dealing with this kind of scenario has become increasingly error-prone and time consuming. For some time I kept a second list on my desk with the names of people I had to follow up with on something. I also set myself reminders on my phone to follow up whether something has been done x days after I completed my initial task. Needless to say all of that only works so well and creates quite a lot of overhead…

One thing that would tremendously help me is an extension for  Thunderbird (my e-mail client of choice) which would allow me to set an automatic follow-up reminder before sending an e-mail. (Potentially even customizable depending on what kind of e-mail I send, e.g. replies to messages sent to editors [ AT] olpcnews [DOT] com come with a default 3-day reminder.)

The same kind of functionality should also be available for my mobile phone (which runs Symbian S60 3rd edition), allowing me to mark a task as done, setting up an automatic reminder and then pushing it off my regular tasks list and onto a separate follow-up list.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen any efforts heading into that direction so I guess for the moment being I’m stuck with my current system…

Blog: Personal Productivity – thoughts on follow-ups

Toying around with Windows Live Writer

Some of you might remember the issues I had when trying to install Windows Live Writer back in November 2007. Now I saw that a new version had been released so I’m giving this thing another shot.

This time ‘round installation worked smoothly and so I’ll be using Live Writer for the next couple of weeks to see how it goes.

The first impressions are certainly good: the UI is as clean as you get with Windows, the preview function is nice and quick, the tagging mechanism is quite quick too and while 37MB of memory usage seems quite a lot it’s still acceptable for this kind of tool. Plus in general I’m just excited to try out a stand-alone application instead of having to log into Blogger’s not-so-great backend…

Stay tuned for my thoughts on Live Writer and (hopefully) more blog posts in general over the coming days and weeks.