Category Archives: productivity

43Folders: Snapshots of a Dream Productivity App

Hooks and more hooks – As I’ve repeated until I’m hoarse, apps like Quicksilver change the way you use
your Mac. Drastically. Ditto for any app that’s open to interaction via (the vastly underutilized) OS X
Services. There are smart ways to provide some kind of access to most any program without switching from
the foreground app and the task at hand. I want ways to append information, create new items, and do any
“capturing” from wherever I am. At the very least, I want a universal “drop box” to which I can
periodically return to process, file, and enrich any kind of productivity app data (reminders, phone
numbers, notes, etc.).

See, Planner’s onto something here.

We’re not very good at ad hoc collections, though.

43 Folders: I Want a Pony: Snapshots of a Dream Productivity App

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Planner poetry

I’m up to here with things to do
  And buried under data
The notes I keep all filed away,
  The tasks—I’ll do them later.

>

+1 to put things off a day,
  Tomorrow: work ’til all is done,
Today I can relax—but then
  Tomorrow’ll never come.

>

My webpage looks impressive, sure,
  But check a few days later.
The same tasks appear. I know,
  I’m such a procrastinator.

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Managing my mail

I use Gnus, one of the many mail/news clients available for Emacs.
The following features help me manage the volume of mail I get each day.

Mail splitting

Yes, yes, the Gmail way is to keep everything in one folder and then
use searches to filter your messages. Still, I like being able to
glance at my screen and see 2 personal messages and 3 planner-related
messages.

Topics and group hiding

I use Gnus topics to divide my mail into folders and subfolders.
Mail groups are hidden unless they have mail. Some groups like
mail.misc and mail.planner are generally useful, so I keep them visible
even if they don’t have unread mail.

Scoring

Gnus allows you to automatically score threads and messages up and
down based on various criteria. You can set it to completely hide
boring messages, show them in a different color, show interesting
messages in a different color, etc.

On most mailing lists and newsgroups, I don’t bother reading message
bodies. I just scan through subjects, hitting k to kill entire threads
I don’t find interesting. Gnus remembers what threads I’ve killed,
marks them as read, and scores them down automatically. It also scores
up messages containing certain keywords, replies to my posts, and
threads I found interesting.

Integration with my contacts

I put interesting people in my BBDB contact database. Gnus indicates
messages from them with a little + beside their name in the message
summary. If someone I know is interested in a thread, I might find it
interesting as well.

Hiding and article washing

I’ve set Gnus up to hide quoted text. This makes browsing through
threads much easier because I can concentrate only on the the new
parts. I can hit a few keys to expose sections of the quoted text if
the replies aren’t immediately obvious from the context.

I can also set it up to remove ads at the bottom of messages,
particularly long signatures, To: lines with more than N recipients,
that sort of thing. I can tell it to strip out HTML, too.

Displaying parent article

Sometimes I’ll jump into the middle of a thread. I can use ^ to get to
the parent message.

Searching

I use swish++ to index and search through my personal and
planner-related mail.

Planner hyperlinks

Most of my tasks come in through e-mail. Planner lets me keep track of
my TODOs easily by automatically hyperlinking to the mail message I’m
looking at when I create a task. Dealing with a few items on my TODO
list is much easier than going through a large inbox! =)

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About procrastination

From http://www.dictionary.com :

pro-cras-ti-nate

(v. intr.) To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.

(v. tr.) To postpone or delay needlessly.

Procrastination might not be the best word to advertise so
prominently on the wikiblog of personal information management
software maintainer, what with all its negative connotations. After
all, don’t we want software to help us be more productive, not less?

So what’s with planned procrastination, anyway? I renamed my
blog from the informative-but-boring “sacha chua – wiki” to the
huh?-and-slightly-less-boring “planned procrastination” on a whim. I
wanted to mention some kind of planning, but I didn’t want to project
myself as some kind of productivity guru. At least, not yet.

Besides, what’s wrong with the word “procrastination”? I joke about
PlannerMode
being the best procrastination tool I’ve ever used. When I think about
it, though, that’s why I like it so much. Planner doesn’t force
a particular way of thinking on me. It doesn’t bury me under a list of
urgent TODOs that must! be! done! today! Planner simply lets me get
things out of my head so that I can rest assured knowing that things I
plan to do someday won’t slip through the cracks of my memory.

Sure, a lot of self-help books tell you to stop procrastinating and
do things now.
I might be one of the rare people not
bothered by the idea that I procrastinate. I keep ideas simmering on
the backburner, ready for lazy afternoons or moments of inspiration in
the bath. My procrastination is a gleeful exercise of power over my
life, making space for other unplanned things. I don’t mind putting
things off until tomorrow if there are unexpectedly wonderful things
going on today. =)

Note that this doesn’t mean I’ll put off doing things until the
absolute last minute. In fact, I enjoy doing things with time limits
as soon as I can, and I often submitted programming assignments soon
after they were given. I once majorly freaked out when one of my group
projects was delayed not because of my part (which I had finished
weeks before) but because the other group members hadn’t even started
on their documentation until the day before (or something like
that)…

For me, procrastination is simply the ability to choose what I’d like
to work on today, knowing that I can work on other things tomorrow or
the next day or the day after that. It’s not perfect, but it does give
me a happy feeling about how much I accomplish each day and excitement
about what I’m going to do tomorrow.

I’m looking for a stronger title. “productively procrastinating”?
“structured procrastination”? Something that doesn’t mention
procrastinating but still manages to express this idea? =) Any
suggestions?

この猫はネズミを追いかけない。 This cat doesn’t chase rats.

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PIM love

I am completely in love with my latest indispensable personal
information management tool:

A 3×5 deck of plain (unruled) index cards.

Seriously. A 3×5 deck of plain index cards and a writing implement
like a black gel pen, a black 0.5 Pilot Hi-Techpoint (which just gives
me a great feeling) or a Mongol #2 pencil is my geek survival kit.

Why?

I can write temporary notes on index cards. It’s random-access, so I
can flip through things. The plastic neatly holds business cards and
folded pieces of paper. If I need to give people information, I can
write on new 3×5 cards and give the cards to them—they’re tougher
than paper, so they won’t get lost or crumpled as easily.

I lurv my index cards.

E-Mail to plug’s chit-chat list

その猫はもう少しでトラックにひかれそうになった。 The cat came near being run over by a truck.

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Keeping it Personal

Update 2013-04-28: Fixed Japanese encoding error by re-copying from examples.

http://www.douglasjohnston.net/weblog/archives/2005/04/09/keeping-personal/
is an insightful blog post on personalizing a planner. It inspires me
to do something similar with my Planner. =)

彼は猫のように四つんばいにはった. He crept on all fours like a cat.

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