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Monday, December 14, 2009

Some minor changes, please update your RSS reader!

I'm beginning the process of "rebranding" myself across all web presences, losing the FlintZA moniker and using my real name. As part of this process, I'm also shifting to posterous as my primary blogging platform. It's been set up to forward posts to blogger, so this blog will still get all new blog post content, but I've switched my feedburner feed to use the posterous feed instead, which may include additional stuff such as image posts.
For anyone reading this on RSS this means that if you're using one of the or feeds, things should stay pretty much the same. If you're using the more recent feed, you'll likely end up seeing some additional content (image posts, etc). If you're not using the feedburner feed, please switch to that as it let's me indulge the bean-counter in me and track subscriber stats :)

An(other) Evernote "Getting Things Done" System

There are loads of great guides to setting up a GTD system in Evernote, but I found none quite suited my needs. In particular, I wanted something that would stand out within Evernote and have all my actions and items easily searchable, but still allow me to use the note-taking tool for the millions of other things it's great at without getting in the way. Here is the solution that I'm finding works well for me, it's a mashup of other solutions with modifications to suit me better.

Folders and tags
My solution hinges on five main notebooks and three (possibly four) tags that have subtags under them. Each of these is prefixed with "." to ensure they stay at the top of their respective lists (and stand out from non-GTD stuff), and kept to a single word for composing searches more easily
.Actions notebook - Where next actions are kept.
.Projects notebook - Where project actions that aren't immediately applcable are kept.
.Maybe notebook - Anything you're note sure you want or need to do (eg. cool project ideas) goes in here.
.Reference notebook - Where items that are for reference rather than actionable.
.Archive notebook (optional) - Not strictly a GTD container, I use this to still have past actions searchable, in case I want to look them up for timesheets, etc.
.Projects tag - While this may seem redundant with the .Projects notebook, it just serves to group all  GTD project tags in one place, so they don't clutter the tag view. These individual project tags can optionally also be prefixed with "." to group them in (for example) the tag editor.
.Contexts tag - Again the purpose here is to keep things uncluttered. All context tags (prefixed with "@") are subtags of this one.
.Waiting tag - Another grouping tag, contains subtags for each entity that is responsible for an action you're waiting on.
.Tickler tag (optional) - This is for those GTD practitioners that like to use ticklers, I did give it a try myself, but found that just setting reminders as events on Google Calendar (which I have everywhere thanks to syncing) suited me better. This is also a grouping tag, with 43 subtags, one for each month (Jan..Dec) and one for each day of the month (1..31).

Collection happens in whatever form suits you. Whatever you prefer, chances are Evernote has a tool to import your captures. For PC based captures, use one of the clipping plugins or the global "Add to evernote" keyboard shortcut. For paper captures, a scanner combined with Evernote's "File Import" settings does the trick nicely. Most other cases should be covered by whichever mobile client is appropriate to your cellphone.

Process & Organize
When processing inboxes or "buckets", consider each item in sequence:
  1. If the item can just be discarded, do so.
  2. If the item can be delegated, do so. If it is part of a broader project and will need to be followed up on, add it to the .Projects notebook and tag it with a relevant project tag (from .Projects) and a tag indicating the person responsible (from .Waiting). Optionally add tickler tags (from .Tickler) corresponding to when the item needs to be followed up on.
  3. If the item can and should be done and will take a very short time (GTD guideline is two minutes) do it immediately.
  4. If the item can and should be done and has no preceding actions or dependancies, add it to the .Actions notebook, tagged with a context (from .Contexts) such as @home or @work and optionally tagged with a relevant project tag (from the .Projects tags).
  5. If the item can and should be done, but has prerequisite actions or dependancies, add it to the .Projects notebook, tagged with relevant project and context tags. Optionally also add waiting and tickler tags.
  6. If the item is just for reference add it to .Reference, possibly tagged with project tags.
  7. If it's unclear whether the item can be or has to be acted on, add it to the .Maybe notebook, optionally tagging it with appropriate project, context and tickler tags.
Weekly review is straightforward. Just select the .Projects notebook and work through the items in it. Selecting one of the project tags will limit the view to items for that project, and if any of the items in the current view have been delegated, one or more waiting tags will be highlighted in the list.
If you're using the tickler tags, daily review is very similar, just select the .Projects notebook and both the appropriate month and day tags and all items you deferred to this day are displayed.

To determine the next appropriate action in any given context, simply select the .Actions notebook, and the appropriate tag in .Contexts. So as an example, to determine what your first task is when you get to work in the morning, select the .Actions notebook and the @work tag. As tasks are completed, simply archive or delete them.
This can be greatly simplified, especially for access on mobile clients (think @shops) by adding saved searches in Evernote. For the above example just add a saved search with the query  notebook:.Actions tag:"@work". Completed actions should be moved to the .Archive notebook or deleted.

Posted via email from Matt's posterous

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

iPhone vs Nokia: Packaging and contents

This is the first in a series of comparative posts looking at the iPhone and how it compares to a typical Nokia Symbian device, the N96. While I realize that the N97 would probably be a closer match, I firstly don't own one and secondly feel that the N96 is a better example of Nokia's common Symbian devices. The N96 is (or was) also positioned by Nokia as a very similar device to the iPhone with regards to functionality, focusing on media, navigation and gaming.

Steve Jobs and his Cupertino company are known for their love of simplicity (much to the chagrin of two-button mouse users) and this apparently carries through to their packaging choices. The iPhone, despite being some 30% larger than the N95 comes in a box less than half the size. Naturally due to this diminutive size the device and accessories are tightly packed and the amount of additional inner packaging is negligible. Nokia on the other hand have lots of breathing room in their box, and the device even rests in an angled display-like cardboard partition, the partitioned compartments housing accessories liberally packaged. Nokia could really learn a lesson here from Apple in keeping waste to a minimum.

In addition to the actual device, both packages include a number of accessories. The Nokia includes a wall charger, USB adapter cable, car charger (a nice touch) and wired hands free kit. The headphone component of the handsfree kit can be swapped out with any wired headset using a standard jack, which is welcome to anyone that doesn't enjoy the feel of the included set. The inline handsfree control has buttons for volume, stop/resume, fast-forward and fast-back, as well as the main action button used to answer or end a call, or to trigger voice recognition (by holding it down for an extended time). The playback controls take some getting used to, but in general do the job.
The iPhone also comes bundled with a charger of course, but it quite smartly makes use of the included USB adapter cable, eliminating the need for an extra coil of cabling. No car charger is included, which is a bit of a pity since it could easily just have used the USB cable in the same way. The included earplug handsfree kit is exceedingly simple-perhaps too much so for such an expensive device. The plugs are basic, but offer crisp and clear sound quality. The inline controls are not as extensive as the Nokia's, and are barely thicker than the earphone cables. The whole arrangement has a cheap feel, and looks as if it would be easily damaged. This is one area where Nokia really wins hands down.

Bundled Software
Whether it be for backing up essential contacts, notes and calendar data or transferring media to and from the phone, software which allows devices as complex as these to interact with a PC (or Mac) are an essential part of the package. Nokia caters for this need out of the box, including their comprehensive PC Suite software on a CD in the box. For Windows users (i.e. the vast majority of computer users) getting everything set up is as simple as popping in the disk, installing the suite and attaching the phone with the provided USB cable. The suite includes, among others, music management software, backup tools, data sync tools and a messaging interface. Internet connected users will be able to download and install the latest maps and software updates to their phone with relative ease (provided they're not behind a corporate firewall, since Nokia still doesn't support ISA servers). The suite also includes all necessary drivers for the phone to be used as a 3G modem, and setting this up is dead simple.
The iPhone, on the other hand, takes it's simplicity a little too far. There is no PC (or even Mac) software at all in the box. The buyer is expected to download and install iTunes for whatever platform they intend to use the phone with. This is a large download, and for users without internet access or with expensive 3G access (not unlikely at all) this is a bit of a slap in the face. Once iTunes is installed, music and other media is of course easily transferred, and data is easily synchronized with common applications, but the solution is nowhere near as robust as Nokia's. Once again, Nokia comes out on top.

Additional goodies
Nokia have begun bundling some decent extras with their phones, and the N96 is no exception. The South African bundle includes the full Transformers movie, a license for N-Gage Tetris and a year's mapping license (more on that in a future post). iPhone comes with exactly zip in this line. For a phone marketed on it's music, gaming and navigation capabilities this is really disappointing. Nokia wins again.

That's it for this post, next up I'll have a look at the phones' general appearance and construction, as well as ease of use.

Posted via email from Matt's posterous


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