The Dave Report / January 2013

SUMMARY: What happened to the ETP iOS App? What’s going on with those Index Card Blocks? Answers to those burning questions, and more!

I’ve been busy! Since January 8th, I’ve been waking up every day at 700AM and starting a 15-minute work chunk at 715AM to get started. This seems utterly implausible to me, a night owl by nature, but it’s working. The surge in productivity is due to the new habit of meeting my friend Brad in our private Campfire chat room at 715AM during the week. It also helps that we both want to get our creative output working for ourselves. For me, the goal is to design and write interesting things, and somehow derive a primary income from it. For him, it’s much the same, except with cartoon art and vector illustration. Throughout the day, we leave notes in the chat room (it keeps a transcript, and allows file uploads) on the progress, and share solutions as we solve certain problems. It’s pretty cool. In some ways, it’s the co-working that I’ve been looking for.

The downside is that I’ve become a hermit. I haven’t left the house in the past 10 days, except to get groceries a few days ago. The funny thing is that it doesn’t feel really bad. I’m saving money, and the extra time at home has shaped the workspace into something more comfortable. I’m quite content dealing with people through the Internet, and not having to deal with the icy cold outside. Brr.

I’m in a mood today to make a status report on projects from 2012.

The State of the Emergent Task Planner iOS Application – My developer friend Al has been whacked by a triumvirate of big life events: job changes, building a house, and preparing for new offspring, and so this has put us off our schedule. The plan is for me to learn some rudiments of iOS programming so we can continue to make progress. I’ve wanted to learn how to do this for some time, and I have a fairly good programming background. With Al to show me the ropes, himself an experienced iOS developer and Macintosh user, this may go pretty well. Figuring out when to do it is probably the more difficult problem.

The Backlog of New Form Designs – I have a long list of form requests and updates that I’ve collected over the years. They trickle out every once in a while. There have been a few blocks. The major one has been my pre-occupation with figuring out the “income side” of the Dave equation, and I didn’t think creating custom forms would contribute to that. There was also the “do I want to be ‘that form guy’ on the Internet” part of the equation. My personal answer has been been NO for a long time, but I’m starting to see that this won’t be crippling. The discovery that perhaps there is a ‘Dave Seah Way’ that can serve as my umbrella identity has put my mind at ease here. The beginnings of this are already up in the new ‘About Page’. I’m writing a new blog post that picks up from part IV of the “Quiet Reflection on Failure” series from last year. Reflection time is over, and now it’s time to start laying down the principles for moving forward.

The Index Card Blocks – I’d put these aside for a while, having solved most of the small-scale production problems, with the exception of deep staining and getting that antiqued finish. Next is branding them (wood burning, perhaps) and then packaging them for sale on Etsy. There’s also the pesky fulfillment challenge, including international shipping. As my desire is for the process to be as easy as possible without being tied down by the shipping chain, I’m looking for an automated solution. One, in particular, that doesn’t include PayPal, because PayPal bugs me. Anyway, I’ve given quite a few of the prototypes away to people who have come to visit, and people generally like them. I’ve also recently rediscovered the glory of the Lee Valley / Veritas Tool Catalog, which is amazing. I’m buying all my woodworking stuff from here now.

Money Money Money – E-commerce is on my brain! I have been working with the Gumroad service, which is dead-simple and wonderful to use. I’m slowly getting used to the idea that selling my work doesn’t mean I’m selling out. I’m also starting to see the value of splitting the personal work from what is purely commercial. For example, the various Printable CEO forms are somewhat personal to me because I want people to benefit from the ideas, which makes it hard to charge for them. The Amazon products are added-value versions; you’re paying for the delightful paper they’re printed on. I’m starting to see how I can create related products for a different audience: the ones who are just looking for a nice-looking pad of paper at a good price while surfing Amazon. The separation of Art from Craft! I’m also encouraged by the approach taken by the bloggers at Pinch of Yum—thanks, Robin, for the link! They’re not only food bloggers first, but they are open about how they are making their food blog as well. They post resources and their income, which is hugely generous and cool. On a similar note, my buddy Brad sent me a link to freelance writer Tom Ewer’s Leaving Work Behind blog, where he talks very openly about his approach to combining freelance work with blogging as a platform to create a desirable lifestyle. While I am usually turned-off by “how to be successful” blogs, on a deeper read I can see that Tom is providing useful, insightful information. Like Pinch of Yum, he provides income reports so you can see how he does it.

Sales Sales Sales – since launching the 365 page PDF almanac, I’ve been seeing an average or 4 or so sales a day over the past 7 days. This is very encouraging, and makes me want to make more things. In response to a recent comment, I added a donation button to the site. The minimum donation is $1, and you get a PDF of me holding a sign for the fast-approaching Groundhog Day Resolutions. It’s designed to print at 4×6 inches, and borrowing an idea from the art world it will be a limited time download. After March 1st, I’ll change the download to something else. I like the idea of a “collectable card” version of me…pika pika!

Podcasting – I used to have a podcast with my friend Sid, but we haven’t done one for over a year. I think we’re going to get back into it this week.

Those are the major things on my mind at the moment.


  1. Bill Lee 3 years ago

    Happy New Year Dave. I discovered your emergent task planner in 2012 and love the tool. I printed the planner double sided with the back of the page for daily notes. Then the major breakthrough for 2012. I purchased the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. This device has changed my world. The Android device has a stylus pen, enabling handwriting and the android operating system works fantastically in the business Windows world. Using Acrobat reader app or the pre-installed s Note my world has become paperless. S Note enables you to import pdf documents and with the styles pen you use the device like paper. You can then save the document, email the document, drop it into drop box with a simple swish of the stylus pen. Keep up the great work I am off to bring more of my paper world into the digital world of the Samsung.

  2. Lynn O'Connor 3 years ago

    Hi Dave:

    First: Don’t worry about being tied up forever to only one thing (like the PCEO forms)..My students, who see your forms, may say “Oh that’s Professor O’Connor’s bubble man” but then some of them go to your site, and see you are a whole lot more. So don’t worry about being “typed” or tied to one thing. Doctoral students worry about something similar –say they decide to do their dissertation on a topic dear to their hearts. Then they worry that in the future, that’s the only thing they’ll be associated with, and as clinicians, they’ll only get referrals for clients related to the problems studied in their dissertations. I explain –“that’s not true, you study what is most interesting to you at the moment, and when something else becomes more interesting, you change (post graduation).” They find out they’re not bound by their earlier interest or passion.

    Second, I really could use a few of those blocks to hold index cards. While I’m loving the almanac, wonderfully in my circa “Next Action” book (I got into a Circa habit long before Staples came out with less expensive versions), sometimes I use index cards as well, to remind me of what really HAS to happen that day. I have those index card holders that go in a Circa notebook, and I even got one of those bleachers for index cards years ago –but that holds many cards, it’s really too big except for certain projects. I would buy 2 (or more?) wonderful stained one card blocks in a flash. This is just to let you know there is at least some business there. When I saw them I wanted to write to you and ask you to make one just for me if you weren’t going bigger with them. I might yet do that.

    I continue to use a junior size planner pad as well (check these out if you haven’t yet done so) because it gives me a sense of the whole week, and I can carry it with me when I’m not bringing my computer with Google calendar (and I don’t like using my iphone for adding to my calendar, the screen is too small for me to get a sense of what times I have available for an extra appointment). But mainly, as I told you some years ago, I am utterly lousy at planning the week. If I had someone to do what you are doing with your colleague at 7:15 every morning, I’d imitate you. What I do now is try to get everything in my Omnifocus (with very idiosyncratic contexts) and print it out once a day, put it in the Next Action book so it’s facing (its on the left) the ETP (almanac style) for the day is on the right. Using index cards in the circa page for that doesn’t work, I end up not seeing them.

    Next, like you, I work out of my home office. While people come in and out, some clients, some students, some research collaborators so I’m not “isolated” entirely, I too only leave the house, mainly when I have to teach classes which is one day a week. If I can get myself to exercise I do that from videos. I think it’s not good that I am almost a “shut-in” but basically, you are not alone in being home bound, because you work out of a home office. It’s convenient and we get more done than we would (I think) if we were running around outside all the time. I always admired your morning planning at Starbucks, but I knew if I did that I would end up wasting at least two hours, even though Starbucks is not far from here.

    Finally, again, the “almanac” is really wonderful. If the ETP goes online, can you develop it so it can be used on a mac (laptop) or iphone or ipad? Because I use the MacBook Air as it is so light, I don’t bother to use my ipad much, although I think if I really learned to type at a decent speed on it, I might.


  3. Author
    Dave Seah 3 years ago

    Bill Lee: I’ve heard of people importing the various PDF forms into their tablets and using them that way. I started to make some customized versions of them but didn’t follow through with making them available. I probably should start by just buying a few of those apps and making versions that import cleanly into their layout.

    Lynn: Thanks for the story about your Ph.D. students being worried about being pidgeonholed by their research. Finish the dissertation, then move on. Create a body of work over a lifetime!

    I also like the idea of making some kind of desktop app. I’m reviewing the options, casually, as I dip my toe into programming again to test the waters. There is an amazing number of programming tools out there now, and search engines make it possible to find leads to solve thorny problems in mere seconds. It’s kind of breathtaking! Still need to do the actual work of understanding what the information means, though :)

  4. Dennis Willett 3 years ago

    Please finish the index card blocks. I would buy several. For key “to do” actions that I must remember, I am in the habit of putting that on an index card and folding it over (tent card) so it gets primary visibility on my desk. I would love a few index card blocks to use instead. I’d much prefer a “one card” holder over the multi-card stand tha Levenger sells which is too big and not practically movable.

    Looking forward to these.

    Best of luck.

  5. Lynn O'Connor 3 years ago

    Ditto. So now you have two of us wanting 2 blocks each. Can you make them for us?

  6. Author
    Dave Seah 3 years ago

    LOL, ok! I’ll keep a log of the time it takes to make them too so I can figure out how to price ’em!

A message from Dave:

I really believe we all benefit when we share our own perspectives on common experiences. It would be great if you added your own anecdotes and comments, even if you don't necessarily agree with the premise of the post; that's just good conversation in my book. The house rules are "treat each other with kindness and respect" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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