Refreshed and roaring to go

Just following up with my annual goals. It’s as if publicly sharing them makes me more likely to stick with them. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

An annual review of last year’s goals revealed that 2 goals were 100% completed, 4 were partly accomplished, and 3 were not achieved at all. Worse average than in previous years, but hey, that is life.

Well, let’s roll some of those goals over and make another, intentional, serious stab at them for 2015!
goals(Trying out Wunderlist for project and list management this year.)

Look forward to checking things off as the year progresses. Allons-y!

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Writing things down

moleskine goals resolutions

Some people say that making goals at the start of every year is a futile exercise, that everyone knows the burst of energy that compels us towards fresh intentions and plans will peter off in a month or two, only to leave us disheartened and glum at our own inabilities.

Bah to the naysayers, I say. And I’m apparently in good company, because many of the bloggers and writers whose words have inspired over the years seem to put great stock in the exercise of making new year goals. Putting things down on paper or to the screen, in a file, in a notebook, with deliberate intention and the discipline to conduct regular review of those jotted-down plans HELPS, I think.

I have a list for family goals, work goals, and a notebook full of personal goals. I’ll be revisiting and taking stock of them from time to time during the upcoming year. I look forward to it!

Sucking

Today I sucked big time.

Like, really.

I had a job interview. It wasn’t a hard or convoluted new position: it was one I’d prepped for, for a department I’d read a lot about and had become familiar with over the Christmas break and throughout January, and more importantly, with a director whom I respect and would really like to work for. I was gonna nail this thing.

But I choked. I. Choked. Did not see that coming.

The awesome answers to “what do you see in 5 years…” kind of question were in my head, written on my brain, I’d gone over them so many times. But for some dang reason, during the 20 minute Skype session (my first ever Skype interview, I should add, though I’ve attended and run many a Skype conference), I did not recall those answers. They were gone into the ether, only to reappear with a VENGEANCE the instant we clicked the little red phone symbol on the screen.

It was 3 minutes of my life that I really really really would love to do over again but I couldn’t. They’re gone forever.

Yes, there were other questions, but this was the main one. The panel had NO idea of the ideas that buzzed in my head, ready to wow and convince them that I was the person for the job, that I could make a meaningful contribution to the institution.

I was so disheartened. I’m usually terrific at interviews. Mind you, it’s been 4 years since I had one. That’s not that long, so what the hec was my problem? It was the. worst. interview. in. my. life.

Maybe I wanted it too much. I definitely could have used the practice at interviewing.

Anyways, the rest of the day was a haze of semi-despair and pity because the FIRST time I’m called to perform and demonstrate my knowledge and personality in a new capacity, I failed. It sucked.

HOWEVER, (and I am always looking on the bright side….), I know that in the big picture of life, this is one little blip, a micro dot, a speck that I will hardly remember though it loomed huge today.

Also, I walked in the door to my home tonight, feeling pretty blue tonight, and went straight to bed and lay on it, wanting to give in to the tears that were somewhere in my stomach all day, when suddenly my four-year-old launched himself at me and to smother me with a kiss and announce, “I love you mommy.” I kid you not, this is what actually happened.

It was like this perfect little moment that instantly made all the gloom go away.

Perspectives, you know.

Work is important and vital and the people I work with are worthy of my respect and admiration. Work will always define me, in some ways, too. But when there is failure or disappointment at work, it’s a chance to learn from what was lacking or missed or simply swept aside (mistakenly or purposefully), and to do better next time, to NOT fail or disappointment in the same area in future.

So, in the end, the bright side is that sucking only gives one the opportunity to suck less the next time.

The hunt for the perfect productivity app is making me unproductive

In an effort to marshall all the activities of my life hats – employee, mom, grad student, homebody (not really, but I wish), community volunteer, wife, friend, and on and on, you see? – I decided to amp up my chores/tasks/to-dos, noting them down properly and actually ACTING on them.

Easily said.

For the past couple of years, I’ve fiddled around with quite a few applications/systems. I really did start with pen and paper – I LOVE notebooks and agendas and have tons of lists, even a notebook JUST for lists. But during the past four years, coinciding, really, with the birth of le Petit, I’ve tended towards a digital lifestyle: digital writing, journalling, bills storage, document management, and it only made sense that my tasks system should be digital, and any associated task reminders be in digital format, since my iPhone and laptop are daily, essentials tools that are always on hand.

So over the past three years, as I came across task apps, I took note and tried them out. I was looking for one that fit for my, and later, for our life.

The number of apps I’ve actually tried is somewhat ridiculous:

  • Remember the milk
  • Todoist
  • Toodledo
  • Ta-da list by 37 Signals
  • Google calendar
  • Yahoo calendar
  • iCal
  • Producteev
  • Cheddar
  • Asana
  • Coolendar
  • Orchestra
  • Astrid
  • Doit.im
  • HitList
  • Google tasks
  • Wunderlist
  • Any.do
  • Things

(And this isn’t even all of them. There are so many one-offs in the Android Play Store and iOS App Store!)

One would think that with all these choices, there would be something that would work. But nooooooo, maybe I’m just that exacting (not really), or that anal (I don’t think so); I’m still on the hunt for a perfect system. (I’ve listened to enough podcasts to know that ha! I am not the only one with this disorder. There are many many folks out there looking for an app/system that really fits their bill).

So, no, I haven’t found ONE that totally works, but I know now that there are elements that are necessary for me, for my system (which very well may be different for what you need for your system):

  • sync between desktop and mobile device, preferable multi-platform (Android & iOS)
  • time-specific reminders
  • natural language entry (once you start, you can’t go back. That’s entering “2d 1pm” or “next week” or “tomorrow noon” and having the app add the right date/time without having to type in or scroll through a calendar to get it just right)
  • entry shortcut keycombo
  • various views (by due date, by project)
  • really really preferable with Google Calendar sync (since mon mari and I put all our home events into one shared Google calendar, I detest having to enter something twice, once in my task management app, once on the calendar)
  • preferably with Contacts integration (i.e “call Esther” will auto-populate Esther’s phone number)
  • easy edit of tasks, including moving to different project or list
  • hide completed tasks but keep them for reference
  • allow image insert

I have some beefs with apps that I have tried out, some of them for over six months:

Astrid: what’s with “social sharing of lists”? I just want to share my list with maybe mon mari but not see the world’s “featured” lists on my homepage.  Wunderlist: why is it essential to show ALL completed tasks on a tasklist? The length of the completed to-do’s  (much longer than the current tasks)  totally clutters the page and strips away my delight at the brevity of my efficient, manageable to-do list.  Appigo’s To-Do: I totally don’t get the free/pro models since the free app requires an annual subscription to work, and the free model requires one to pay $14 for the app.  Omnifocus: I’m halfway convinced to jump on board but really, would it be worth $110 for the ecosystem of apps for me? iCal: why is syncing with Google so. dang. complicated on the iPhone? There is an exchange way of syncing, an iCal way of syncing, which might/might not be ideal for Google Contacts, but syncing one way won’t get your Google tasks to show up, and another way makes calendars appear twice.

So I’ve just installed Things for Mac. I am a sucker for a gorgeous UI and this one is lovely in spades, but I am daunted at how much there is to learn about how it works. It’s definitely the most complicated to-do management app I’ve ever tried. But I want to give it a go, having read that so many of my hacker/developer superstar idols just love it. (Although I was DISMAYED three days ago to discover that there is no calendar sync with the tasks. But then, it syncs with Reminders on the iPhone, WHICH I DON’T USE. And I’m watching video tutorials on managing tasks and projects in this app. That just seems wrong.)

The short of it all is that I’ve seemingly wasted a LOT of time trying to get a system of managing work tasks, and by implication, my TIME, better.

However, there is some secret pleasure in the fiddly-ness of it all, a weird, somewhat twisted pleasure that’s ok until it cuts into my ability to actually get things done.  I’ve heard people swear by their systems, and ultimately, there is some effort/learning curve in getting up to speed with a system that will ultimately help one become a task ninja. That’s what I’m aiming for: becoming a task ninja and mastering my life projects.

 

What are we doing?

Both mon Mari and I have had our moments of “what are we doing” and “what really is our passion” this year. It’s hard to be completely content when there is that niggling feeling that we are just NOT doing what we are meant to be.

It’s hard when people don’t know their passions. But it’s another when you KNOW your passions but can’t think of a way to connect them to meaningful work that still allows you to make a living in this world.

I really really respect people who have “gone after” their passions at great cost and sacrifice and have seen that brave act turn into something fruitful. (Michael Schechter of Better Mess comes to mind, Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, as does the lady behind the Spanx product line.)

This is something we can both work on in the year to come.

Your calling

hopeful drive

“To find your calling is a gift. A purpose provides the drive to pursue excellence along with an unwavering belief that your work is of value. When you can take this resolve and turn it into a vocation you achieve a rare and extraordinary feat.”

by Susan Carr, The Art & Business of Photography

I was really glad to come across this on the web this week. It was a good reminder to think about work and other stuff of life that is “of value”.

We spend so much time doing so many things: how much of them are of real value, the kind that will matter next week, next year, the next decade?

It was both a wake-up call and a spur.

Moving along…

historical red bridge Kamloops

For the time left during which we are living in this city, I want to make an effort to reach some of my goals. Tick off the items on the bucket list. Whittle down the to-do’s. Do life-logging. Those kind of things.

To start?

DO. 

For the love of pen and paper

A neat irony has recently sprung up in my life. It is that just as my commitment to blogging more on hopefully one (of 3) internet blogging platforms has been revitalized, so has an obsession in analog tools been stirred up anew. (What I’ve written below is taken word-for-word from another post of mine.)

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in the “going back to school” mindset (it’s only been, what, 11 years…) but lately I’ve been fascinated by old-fashioned pen-and-paper notetaking. I was in Invermere, BC last week and stumbled into a store that had Rhodia notebooks, and Chapters recently restocked the Moleskine line of 18-month calendar agendas with their classic hardbound, gorgeous black covers and elastic – just the feel of these quality notebooks in my hands has revived an old feeling in me.

Although most of my journalling and notetaking over the past 2 years has been electronic (MacJournal, Evernote, and prior to that on a PC, in MS OneNote), a recent search for old university papers uncovered boxes, literally 3 boxes, of my collected journals/writings/scribbles/doodles.

I had forgotten how colourful journalling could be. The freedom of lined/unlined/graph paper, to doodle here or sketch something there, the power of freehand writing and a thousand other things I was able to do by hand that I haven’t really done on my laptop – these things I’ve missed over the past few years.

So I was pleased to stumble upon this post in the Telegraph from last year about a mini-revival of “analog” note-taking that has emerged recently. Angela Webb of the National Handwriting Association is quoted:

We’ve seen a reverse of the trend in the last two to three years, and people are much more keen to handwrite now. Research is coming though from skilled authors who use handwriting to get ideas flowing and then move to the keyboard to develop them.

This jibes with what readers and writers from a couple of my favorite websites, Lifehacker and GearFire Productivity, have mentioned over and over: brainstorm and jot by hand, shape and finalize by type.

Anyway, it’s been a neglected art in my house, and I think it’s something I look forward to bringing back over the next year.

Now: I’m going to go out and hunt out a fresh, pristine, empty notebook that will be my companion for the next few months.

(Yesterday, I think I found a potential candidate: this Japanese import, Maruman Mnemosyne notebook from Jetpens.com.)

Maruman Mnemosyne Special Memo Notepad - A5 (5.8" X 8.3") - 7 mm Rule + Divisions - 24 Lines X 80 Sheets - MARUMAN N195

Long time no post and blogging platforms

Well, I mean “no post” in that I haven’t posted something seriously, with intent and deliberateness, in a good while.

It’s just that juggling 2 photo blogs, one media studies site, one grad studies journal site, one random tumblog and one random posterous site takes a lot of work. A bit MUCH? Yah, I’d say so.

I’ve decided that come September I will cull, cut and merge these sites. It’s just NUTS and I’ve left off writing HERE on WordPress, to maintain the other ones. Mind you, the other ones are easier, in a way, because it’s one click to post a photo or link or quote and add commentary or write a response on Tumblr and Posterous. I find their ways of managing posting eaiser than the WordPress version of the “press” bookmarklet.

However, I do think WordPress is the more….. “serious” platform, among the three. That is, great writing and content is peppered throughout WordPress blogs, which have been around longer, and I’ve found that sharing something on Tumblr or Posterous takes a lot less creative output except in the curation part, and that doesn’t take THAT much creativity. (That’s not to say there aren’t great tumblogs and posterous sites out there – there are, for example The Political Notebook, an awesome news commentary blog, a new favorite of mine ).

If my goal is to keeping writing and to share WORDS, then is WordPress better for me? It’s a moot point, I think, for anyone: platform doesn’t matter as much as the ACT of writing.

But for me, the clutter and busy-ness of maintaining different sites is distracting me from the simple act and intention to just write more, rather than spending time re-posting and re-blogging.  It’s become an excuse NOT to keep writing. Thus, I want to narrow it down and CHOOSE (another act that is sometimes hard to follow up on).

And I don’t want to become one of the thousands (100s of thousands?) of people who have started a blog that fizzled out because they were not able to make time for it or to because it became one of those projects that fell on the wayside.

I’ve had people encourage me to keep up writing, because I actually do have a voice that can be clear and can share interesting things. I think the appropriate response to that is that then, 1) I need to keep up the practice and 2) I need to read and see and notice better, carefully, so that my voice will have worthwhile things to say.

Exploring Calgary

Waiting for the train to take me to the University of Calgary

I took a couple of days off and went to check out a potential graduate school. One thing I can about the University of Calgary Communications Department: the staff and faculty are welcoming, responsive and very helpful. It’s going to make my trip enjoyable.