2013 – Life on the blog

Apparently I’m averaging 15 visitors a day to the blog at the moment. While that doesn’t sound like a lot when you think of how many people use the internet, I’m pretty happy with that. 15 of you out there think it’s worth spending some time reading what I’ve posted. Overall, this works out at between 5000 and 6000 hits. According to my Analytics dashboard, I’m picking up new readers at a decent rate, roughly 2/3 of all visitors to my blog are new ones!

As for how people are finding my blog, there’s the obvious – search for “files and records”, the food…

  • turkey pork curry – 17
  • monkfish for kids – 8
  • minty chocolate fridge cake – 8

the geeky…

  • chromedeck sheets – 9
  • gtd pdf templates – 13
  • the data retrieval service encountered an error during connection to the data source – 2 (but both useful!

and the downright strange…

  • Is Tree-Fu Tom Satanic? – 12!!!!!
  • up helly aa smurf suit anderson high school – 1
  • beard wizard – 1

Okay, so the words “Tree-Fu Tom” and “Satan” appear in the same paragraph, but that’s only because I was praising Tree-Fu Tom and Peppa Pig, and Andy Hamilton voices Mr Elephant in Peppa Pig. In case the connection’s not obvious, Andy Hamilton writes “Old Harry’s Game” and provides the voice for Old Harry himself. I’m not helping, am I? That’s now 2 pages on the blog that’ll provide hits for “Is Tree-Fu Tom Satanic?”.

And as for the top posts of the year…

A close 6th place comes What a difference a week makes!, the turning point in our recent move from Shetland to Lincolnshire.

I’d like to thank each and every one of you who spends time reading my ramblings. If I could change one thing, it’d be getting a bit more feedback! Did my recipes help? Do you agree with what I’m saying? Disagree? My most commented-on post this year was this: Silent Sunday – 17th March 2013, and it’s a single photograph.

Have a very happy new year, and see you in 2014!

Application of the Week – DIYPlanner Templates (#GTD)

This week’s application, http://www.diyplanner.com/templates/official, is a bit of a cheat.  It’s actually a collection of PDF templates that you use either with a Filofax (other personal organisers are available) or the fantastically retro “Hipster PDA”.  Y’see, I’ve never been able to wholly embrace IT as a means of making notes about stuff.  There’s something much more personal about getting a fountain pen out of your pocket and writing something by hand.  Lifehacker ran an article recently about business cards – and specifically why you should carry blank ones and write the information you need to give someone there and then (http://uk.lifehacker.com/5792300/why-you-should-carry-blank-business-cards).  I always have at least one Moleskine notebook about my person.

The templates tie in nicely with the GTD (Getting Things Done) method for organising yourself (one I’m a fan of, as previous posts may have revealed) and come with a flowchart for the GTD method you can print out and include in your organiser.

The Big Idea here is that you print out what you need, either on normal paper and then cut down, or onto index cards if your printer is up to the job – any printer that’s good at doing photos should do this with ease.  You’ve then got instant note-taking templates for a whole load of different things – projetcs, to-do lists, character ideas for stories, notes on scenes…  There are some 70-odd different templates in the basic templates, covering everything from your shopping list to SWOT analyses (if you have to ask, you don’t need to know).

I use the Hipster PDA size printed on 5×3 index cards in a standard Filofax (I’ve printed templates onto Filofax paper in the past, it works very well but I don’t have a regular supply up here.  Index cards are easy!), other sizes are available – right up to A4/letter.

For authors, there are templates for character notes, scene notes, storyboarding and other useful bits and bobs.  Yes, there’s stuff in there I hope I never need, but there’s stuff in there that I can’t leave home without.

My setup includes:

  • Notes cards.  Double-sided, same template on each side.
  • Project cards.  Double-sided again, project template on one side, notes template on the other.
  • Scene cards.  Double-sided, notes on the reverse.  In fact most of my cards end up with a notes page on the back.
  • To-Do lists.  Same template on each side.

As with all of these “print yourself” things, if I find I don’t have enough of a particular page, or I find a need for something I hadn’t used before, then I can just print it out.  If there isn’t a template that does what you want, all the widgets are there to use as an OpenOffice/LibreOffice template for you to create your own in their style.

Once you’ve got your templates sorted, you can then start getting creative with your Hipster PDA.  Sure, you can use a Filofax or some other organizer but there’s a lot of pleasure in crafting something that fits your purposes exactly.  This one here (http://www.skinyourscreen.com/site/Articles/mrbiotechs-hipsterpda) is a fine example of a leather case, others are out there (check out Flickr for some inspiration: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/hipsterpda/).  I made my first case out of a piece of scrap card and some Gaffer Tape.  It did what it needed to do.

Oi! JFD, mate. JFD. Or, the art of getting things done (#GTD)

JFD, boy. JFD. Or, the Art of Getting Things Done (#GTD)

Getting Things Done, a way of organising your thoughts, your tasks, yourself, is quite a beast to get your head around. It sounded very simple when I came across it on Lifehacker. It sounded like just the thing I needed to organise myself. Oooh and there are apps for my phone, programs for my computer and olivine for my browser! This sounds perfect! Because, you see, if a system is complicated enough it becomes another method for not getting things done whils appearing to be extremely organised.

Five labels sit at the heart of the GTD method: Next, Action, Waiting, Someday and (the golden one) Finished. The flow goes something like this:

1. Item enters your world. It gets put into your Inbox.
2. At a suitable time during the day you examine your Inbox and assign a label to each item in there.
3. Anything labelled “Next” you see if you can do straight away. If you can’t, why not? What’s stopping you? Can you resolve that now or do you have to relabel the item “Waiting” and add what you’re waiting for to the Inbox?
4. Repeat for all the “Action” items
5. Have a look and see if anything in the “Waiting” category can be resolved
6. Have a look at your “Someday” list and see if you can do anything with any of them.
7. Anything you complete gets labelled “Finished” and you give yourself a gold star.
By the time you’ve done all that, your Inbox should be empty and ready to receive the next load of things that are invariable coming your way.

In order that you don’t get swamped under a sea of things labelled as “Next” you can apply Contexts to them – are they things you should be doing at home? At work? When you’re driving? (obviously anything involving detailed use of a computer or phone shouldn’t be attempted while driving!). These are “Contexts” and they’re very useful for making that vast task list more manageable.

Then there are project labels. Each project gets a label so you can work out quickly how you’re doing on a given project. There are also “Type” labels – not everything that comes in is going to be a task, sometimes it’ll be a useful Resource, some background Information, a Contact related to the task,a project or context.

So, essentially, everything that you’ve examined from your Inbod should have 4 labels. That way you can filter all this stuff – organise it, some might say – in order to get things done more efficiently. And this is where the apps come in.

As a task manager, when it comes to one you can access from pretty much anywhere (as long as you have it on your person) you can’t beat pen and paper. You can enhance it with the Pocket PDA planner templates at www.gtdplanner.com, giving you task and action lists, project templates… Lots of lovely stuff. And you get a pack of their widgets so you can design your own templates using OpenOffice.

But I’m a geek, so pen and paper didn’t quite cut it for me. I headed for the Internet and found…

Toodledo. Located at www.Toodledo.com this task manager is a rival to www.rememberthemilk.com. Both are excellent tools, both give you all the labels and contexts you could wish for but Toodledo came out ahead because of sub task support and better notes/comments. It doesn’t have a dedicated Android app, unlike RTM but it does connect to the Pocket Informant app. I’ll add screenshots
later. Both Toodledo and RTM are free, so I’d recommend taking hem both for a spin.

Pocket Informant for Android takes the native calendar functions of the phone and dovetails on task management seamlessly. I use it predominantly to add alarms and alerts to tasks, remind me if I’ve got something important to do.

So that’s my gtd setup. Pen and paper to note stuff down, online task manager to track the tasks themselves, phone app to alert me when stuff really needs doing. By and large, it works. But your mileage may vary. And don’t get me started on tracking and dealing with emails! That’s a subject for another day.

This has been done on an iPad, the first time I’ve had a serious go with one. They’re rather good but I hope the new android tablets coming out are going to be better! I’ll add screenshots to the post when I get back to my pc.