Foggy Monday (Day 1)

It’s 9:30AM on Tuesday, and I’m reviewing how I dealt with the fog of getting things done on Monday. I think yesterday was a pretty good day. Let me check the time log I kept (which was the draft version of this very post), timestamped as I went.

End of Day

The Morning

I had set three tasks:

  • Get my business credit card ready to leave on-file with my commercial printer. I’ve been using them now for five years, and I trust them. There are several advantages, including lowering that credit card balance by funneling Amazon payments to the card and earning points on Southwest Airlines.
  • Record the (semi) weekly podcast
  • Get a jump on a new client project

The first task ran from 9:45AM to 1030AM, and required an expansion of the task. I needed to make sure there was enough usable balance on the card, which meant I had to transfer some of the Amazon money into it. But that begged the question of how to keep track of in a more timely manner, and where to keep that tracking information? In the spirit of keeping one place for as many processes as possible, I added it to my Excel Time Tracking spreadsheet as a new worksheet. Then, satisfied I was tracking the flow of money to the right accounts, I moved the money in my online bill payer and set a reminder in Trello that I needed to visit the printer and give them the information once it cleared. Booyah! It also occurred to me with this option set up with the printer, I could now use them for drop shipping, and they can just bill me directly…DOUBLE BOOYAH!

Next task was recording the podcast. I allocated 2.5 hours for this, because though the podcast itself takes only 30 minutes to record, it takes about 30 minutes to prep our notes. We also have lunch afterwards at a nearby restaurant that is filled with nice people. The podcast went swimmingly, very smooth. I ate a delicious sandwich. I even stopped by the Asian Supermarket nearby and found some “Taiwan Flour Cakes”, which I hadn’t had in a long time. They are sugary doughy noodles crunched up into a square block, kind of like a Rice Krispy marshmallow treat.

The Afternoon

I got home around 2:00PM. I had a cookie and some milk while checking mail, Twitter, thinking random thoughts, updating Trello, catching up on web comics…whoa, it’s 2:30PM! I have run out of peppermint tea, which is my go-to habit for relaxation in the afternoon right now. I’m really thinking, “I DON’T WANT TO WORK.”

The last planned project for the afternoon is starting something new for a client, and this is the first opportunity to test creative support approaches to help get me started. Before, I had assumed that it was a matter of being in a productive state of mind with the right tools telling me what to do. Those really don’t help get started, though, which is why I’m doing this week of experimentation in the first place.

So…how do I start? What creative support can I muster? In an ideal world, the problem at-hand would be right in front of me, and I could start working. What I need to do first is just gather the stuff I need, which means remembering where that was…

It takes a few sluggish seconds to remember that there’s a diagram somewhere in my email, so I first set up the jobcode folder (“0225 Bill Cava REDACTED“) in my Dropbox/@Projects/ folder so I have a place to copy the diagram. Whoops, I had already done this! Score one for me! Next, I want to create that a multimedia journal for the project, so I can swish everything around in one place as I think. Adobe InDesign, which allows me to place text blocks and images with ease, is the tool I’m using during this experiment, so I create a new file (using a large Tabloid page in landscape mode) and save it in the job coded folder. I drag the diagram into the page layout, and then stare at it for several minutes to remember what we talked about. As I stare, I type into a text box I’ve created and come up with a course of action. Then I email Bill to see if he has generated any sample data to consider, otherwise I would just start making stuff up that seemed plausible to me, and if I’ve forgotten anything in the couple of weeks since we met.

So far, so good.

It occurs to me that what I’d like is some kind of workspace launcher, which automatically opens the jobcode folder, loads the right documents and reference materials in their applications. I had once made some batch files that did this, but they were laborious to set-up and edit as my document needs changed. They had made a difference, though, in making it easy to “get into the workspace” I needed. Shockingly so.

After getting Bill’s preliminary project work done, it was around 3:15PM. I was getting groggy after the big lunch and (I suspect) the unwarranted cookie break. I had the rest of the day to do a few extra tasks, which I marked as:

  • Process podcast – This is doing the processing to convert the Reason audio file to MP3 format, with the proper iTunes artwork and tagging. After that, I upload it to my server and create a new entry on the podcast blog that refers to it. At that point, Sid is supposed to add additional show notes and publish it by Wednesday morning. It takes about 30 minutes on average, depending on how many of my own show notes I need. Once it took 2.5 hours!
  • Look into “Information Nirvana” Platform – This was me thinking of what software platform (web? desktop?) I could prototype something that might be useful as a launcher or note-keeping utility. I’ve never written anything like this before, so it’s an early stage project. I just wanted to do some thinking about it today, which itself is a huge step forward because in the past I would have gone, “Meh, there’s no way I can get this done today, so I won’t even try.”
  • UCLA Step Review – My working days for the big NSF project are mainly Wednesday through Friday, but I wanted to review the material daily and do something related to the project just to keep it fresh and top-of-mind.

I decide that I can take a 30 minute nap, because my head is REALLY filled with noise and it’s hard to stay awake. I contemplate going to the gym later while getting more peppermint tea afterward.

TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATER

I wake up at 5:45PM. I was really out. I refrain from beating myself up over it, and just head downstairs.

The Evening

I’m still feeling “jittery” despite my long nap. I’m not sure why the jitters are there, or where they’re coming from. Was it the cookies? Or the milk? I remember also I tossed on laundry into the washer, and needed to move it to the dryer.

I figure I have about 4 hours to get some more done, which would take me to 10PM. I eat a bit of leftover duck, and feel some strength return. It occurs to me that I haven’t eaten any vegetables in a LONG time. I need to find some good veggie dish recipes and practice them…all I know is how to cook delicious meat.

Fuzzy-headedness still abounds, and I can’t shake it. I keep clicking on Facebook, Email, and Twitter. I read my daily webcomics. It suddenly occurs to me that this fuzzy-headed state is exactly the time I need to distrust my brain. When the brain can’t be trusted, I know I can pass responsibility onto the body. It has but a single directive: “MOVE TO THE NEAREST OTHER LOCATION THAT IS NOT THE INTERNET OR TELEVISION.” In this case, I chose merely to go to the laundry room, without even thinking about what I should do there. Once I was in the laundry room, my scattered brain was all too glad to move the laundry to the dryer and start another load. It didn’t require thinking. Ah.

I go back upstairs, feeling slightly victorious. The laundry room was another workspace, where the limited options before me helped induce action. Mental note: this is the kind of experience I needed to recreate digitally and when I am out at a coffee shop.

I get the podcast processed and a chunk of the show notes. I put in a load of whites into the washing machine, and also ran my pajama pants (aka the “programming pants” for days I’m 100% at home). This takes me to 7:40PM.

Interruption!

Ben reports that the instructions to install the UCLA STEP codebase, the new one we just built, isn’t installing for him. He sends me the error message, and I confirm that it happens to me on a new install, but not my existing one. It takes two hours to figure out what is going wrong…in a nutshell, the jQuery package has changed its organization four days ago, and Bower is somehow choking on it because it now can’t find a file, which means that the new installation fails to install correctly without manual intervention. I figure out a way to patch around it, and dutifully log the resolution and related bug information in our Github issues database. It is annoying, but necessary. I am learning a lot of stuff on-the-fly with this project. While Javascript Web Application development is much improved these days, there is still a lot of little crap to deal with that isn’t documented.

It’s now 10PM, and I should be going to bed. I still want to look at the “Information Nirvana” software platform candidates. I decide to check out Chrome App development, which are HTML5/Javascript applications that run inside the Chrome browser with elevated powers not normally granted to web applications. Specifically, I want to know if I can access the local filesystem so I can launch programs or open folders. It turns out that this is not allowed due to security restrictions to prevent renegade apps from doing Very Bad Things to you, but it’s still an interesting idea. There’s something called “Native Code” too, which allows a developer to add C/C++ code modules for speed, but this doesn’t grant the kind of access I want either. At least, I don’t think so.

It’s 11PM, and I should be asleep if I want to wake up earlier tomorrow. I remember that I wanted to take a picture of my desk-side shelf, which allows me to keep my desk uncluttered. It’s hard to believe that there was a lot of that crap on my desk before.

Desk-side Shelf This completed, I then had to click aimlessly around on things, and play a round of Firefall, a videogame where you fly around on jetpacks and fight mysterious alien invaders. It’s an easy in-and-out, pure twitch and movement, which helps me relax after a long day. Which ends at 12:45AM, well past midnight.

TUESDAY!

It’s now 10:30, and I’ve gotten the following done:

  • Reorganized my Adobe Lightroom image catalog, which was a mess because I have only been trying it out. Now that it’s become an indispensable part of my workflow, it was time to set it up for real.
  • This blog post, with accompanying pictures (thanks, Lightroom!)

I have yet to make my ETP for the day. Repeating yesterday’s exercise:

  • What’s on my mind? Carl’s stuff for his projects is the “theme” of today. I also am probably going to attend the “Women in Technology Hangout” (I was invited) to show off my Sparki Arduino robot. It’s cool! I probably should review some materials for a local non profit organization that I’m part of, since the meeting is Wednesday evening. Then, the usual: UCLA stuff. Maybe as a stretch, I would like to make an improvement to my own web page, or do a reader request for (1) vertical ETT or (2) ETP grid stationery.

  • Next, check Trello and Google Calendar. Confirm haircut…yep. Pay overdue property tax. That’s important too. No events I haven’t mentioned already on the Google Calendar.

  • Next, check email. If today was a straight-out work day, I would skip checking email until after getting something else done, because email just brings additional responsibility and saps creative energy. But I check anyway…I have to get back to Britt later, and there are some comments to look at. I also got an email from an old college roommate I haven’t heard from since we graduated. Exciting! I dutifully enter these into Trello…so easy!

Now, I’m ready to fill out my three tasks. It actually is starting to get to be a longer list:

  • Confirm Haircut
  • Review Event Listing Bugs (unicode related?)
  • Pay Property Taxes
  • Buy Peppermint Tea
  • Client Meeting 2PM (Skype)
  • Review CAN docs
  • Reader Request: ETP Notepaper
  • Reader Request: ETT Vertical
  • WiT Meeting 630PM

It’s just about 11AM…whew.

Current Takeaways

  • When the brain gets fuzzy, have the body move you away from the computer and in front of something else.
  • First hours of the day are when my brain is clearest and most able to keep distractions at bay
  • Email is a source of endless distraction and new responsibilities
  • Having “one place” to keep continuity seems like a good idea still, but it’s just day 1
  • Making it easy to pull up a workspace with all relevant materials at hand still seems like a good idea, too.

7 Comments

  1. Rob Stenzinger 3 years ago

    I really dig your reflections, Dave. Wanted to share a technology to consider that’s a web stack yet you can access local machine resources: node-webkit (https://github.com/rogerwang/node-webkit). I’ve poked around a little and know of game devs (lost decade games) in particular who’ve used it to wrap their HTML+JavaScript canvas based games to run on OS X, Linux, and Windows.

  2. Shannon Garcia 3 years ago

    You use a Mac, right? Concentrate does the sort of “workspace launcher” thing you’re describing. http://www.getconcentrating.com/

    Oh, we have the same keyboard. I have the blue switches that register super loud on conference calls.

  3. Author
    Dave Seah 3 years ago

    Rob, that looks pretty cool! It looks kind of like what a ChromeApp does, without the Chrome dependency? I’ll definitely check it out!

  4. Author
    Dave Seah 3 years ago

    Shannon, I actually use a Windows PC for most of my work, though I also have a Mac laptop for mobile use (and cross-platform shenanigans). GetConcentrating looks interesting, though! I’ll check it out!

    Yay, keyboard twins! Except mine is using MX Green switches, which are EVEN LOUDER than the MX Blues! :D

  5. Shannon Garcia 3 years ago

    I work on a Windows machine too, so I’ll let you know if I come across a Concentrate clone. This whole discussion is getting me re-invigorated.

  6. Shannon Garcia 3 years ago

    Eureka, sort of. Something called StayFocused seems to have most of the same functionality.

    I already use RescueTime for passive tracking, but like everything else it only has site-blocking capacity, not a task-specific full launch sequence.

    http://www.bytesignals.com/stayfocused/index.html

A message from Dave:

I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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