What I read in July 2019

What I read in July 2019
  1. Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols: A woman astronaut temporarily lost in space during a mission comes back to Earth 10 years later and weird things happen. It’s loose on sci-fi, NASA makes unlikely decisions and I’m not sure I bought into the reason why the astronaut was having these mysterious experiences.
  2. Saga, Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist): I’m hooked! Will read the entire series.
  3. Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist): Best quote from this one: โ€œTogether, my parents had learned to be much more than “the sum of their parts”, whatever that means. Separately, they were kind of just a mess.โ€ I already got Vols. 6 and 7 lined up!
  4. Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells: The bot that hacked it’s governor module becomes more independent and becomes more human-like, without even wanting to, I’d say. It’s so familiar to know that all that Murderbot wants in life is to watch more media. But at the same time, Murderbot can’t stay away from its ex-owner problems and goes into a complicated rescue mission.
  5. BrainChains: Discover your brain, to unleash its full potential in a hyperconnected, multitasking world by Theo Compernolle: It’s full of scientific research reference and it can get repetitive. It talks a lot about the disadvantages of using e-mail, stress, multitasking, texting while driving and the importance of rest. Good message but I think the book could be shorter.
  6. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari: Made me wonder about tomorrow but question if I really want to be transformed into a stream of data to live forever.

#readinglist #books #reading

Rediscovering GTD: the journey

Rediscovering GTD: the journey

My GTD organization has been a moving target for years.
GTD – Getting Things Done is a productivity method created by David Allen and I’ve been more or less applying its principles to my life for almost 6 years now.

7 months ago I wrote about sticking with one productivity system. At that point I had just started using Trello as my main app, applying Kanban principles and leaving Todoist behind.

But why?

Well, about a year ago my lists were overwhelming, I was trying to create filters in Todoist and apply the Eisenhower Matrix and it was a complete mess!

I started reading about Kanban and thought that that would be a good change for my organization system. Kanban is all about process and visualizing the work. It was created by Toyota as a scheduling system for cars lean manufacturing. Over the years it became a project management tool designed to help visualize work, limit work-in-progress, and maximize efficiency. Trello is a popular app that applies the Kanban board principles and it’s extremely user friendly.

I started using Trello and I liked it for a while. But I felt it lacked agility. See, I use GTD as a productivity method (which is list based) and Kanban is based on boards with focus of process flow. Using Kanban made me understand my process but adding next actions and processing them in Trello was too cumbersome. I spent more time organizing and making the system look beautiful than actually doing stuff. Trello is an amazing visual tool!

But after a few months with Trello I decided to go minimal. I understood the Kanban’s basic concepts of “backlog”, “doing” and “done” and I wanted a simple straightforward system but that still had some GTD structure.

I remembered testing an app called Nirvana HQ that was strictly based on GTD. So I started using Nirvana HQ again, which is a lovely app! It’s perfect for GTD and it’s the best digital implementation of GTD I’ve ever seen. Elegant, simple, to the point.
But there is not much customization you can make on the app and it’s lots of whites and light greys. Not too exciting. And there is almost none integration to other apps. It’s extremely bare bones.

Nirvana H

So after using Nirvana HQ in a minimal style I understood once more what GTD is all about. I had one of those Ah-Ha! moments just looking at Nirvana’s left menu. This menu is basically:

  • Inbox
  • Next
  • Waiting
  • Scheduled
  • Someday

And that’s GTD in a nutshell. Inbox collects any incoming information, Next is whatever needs to be done as soon as possible, Waiting are for things we are waiting for, Scheduled are things incubated that we will take a look in future date and Someday is for everything not current or not active in our defined time frame.

That’s the basics for GTD and on top of that we can create more granular lists with contexts, like: @home, @work, @errands, @calls, etc.

I discovered I don’t need too many contexts (@home, @work, @errands, @calls is all I need) and that a simple Next Actions list differentiating between Personal and Work areas of focus are enough for me.

Enter Todoist + Evernote (again)

I’ve decided to (ironically) go back to using Evernote and Todoist.

I’ve been an Evernote member since July 31st, 2010!
That’s a lot of time!
And when I decided this year to move to Onenote I exported the most important notes but basically left everything else in Evernote. I told myself I would reorganize, review and gradually move everything to Onenote (which never happened, all the old notes are still there).

The only reason I moved to Onenote was that at my new workplace I couldn’t install Evernote for desktop and Evernote’s web version was horrible. Now, a year later, Evernote Web has become quite similar to the desktop experience and I discovered last month that I could (finally) install Evernote on my work desktop. I don’t know what happened, but I got to the Windows Store and I could install and launch Evernote without any trouble.

Soโ€ฆ I’m moving back to Evernote and Todoist!

I think I’ve been a Todoist user since 2016. It has been evolving since I saw it the first time and I was surprised to find out now that it only got better during all this time.
It’s sleek, simple and works well on all platforms. I did move my tasks from Nirvana to Todoist quite quickly because it provides a frictionless way of adding anything to its Inbox.

Todoist in July 2019

And this the list setup I’m now using on Todoist:

What about Nirvana HQ? (which is still awesome!)

So why I left Nirvana HQ?

I still think some Calendar reminders, specially for milestones, are useful to my workflow. The secret to not be overwhelmed using GTD is not going crazy scheduling all the tasks we see and adding them to a Calendar or adding dates in to-do list app. That will make the system extremely cluttered and you’ll discover that you underestimated the amount of tasks you accomplish in a single day. We are not good at estimating how much time a task will take.

So, only things that are taking place in space and time should go to the Calendar. Hard due dates can go to the Calendar or can be added a date in a To-Do. And that’s about it!
All the remaining tasks are simply: Next Actions. No hard due dates.

So Nirvana HQ made me understand this. Made me believe I don’t need to add a date to everything. If you’ve ever used Todoist or any other To-Do list app you know they are basically built on dates. They encourage you to put a date on every single task.

So Nirvana HQ is great if you just want neatly well organized GTD lists.
But if you’re like me who likes to have an integrated system with options to go to the Calendar, set reminders, link projects to notesโ€ฆ well, then Nirvana HQ might be a little bit disappointing. Also, I need this whole system to work in sync on at least 2 computers and my phone.

It’s all about being comfortable with the tools

Going back and forth using all these tools made me understand a little bit more about myself. It’s a process and whatever organization system is being used, some trial and error will always happen.

Some people will live happily without any need to organize ideas and actions in a board or to-do list. I’m not one of them. Lists and writing down ideas is essential to my well being.

One of the positive aspects of GTD is that it can be applied in any tool, it can be paper based and it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You just have to understand the principles.

#productivity #GTD #trello #kanban #Todoist #NirvanaHQ

What I read in June 2019

What I read in June 2019
  1. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig: a great audio book! A call to a quieter lifestyle and how to avoid the things that makes us nervous (without even realizing it). More thoughts here.
  2. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay: beautiful writing, epic world building. Maybe a little bit too slow for my taste. More thoughts here.
  3. Goodbye, Things: On Minimalist Living by Fumio Sasaki: A Japanese view on minimalism. Inspiring reasons to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, even if you don’t want to be as extreme as the author.
  4. Saga, Vol. 3 (Saga (Collected Editions) #3) by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist): the Saga continues and I am on the wait list for Volume 4 at my library ๐Ÿ™‚
  5. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made by Jason Schreier: This book gave me a new perspective on gaming and how passionate people dedicate endless hours on creating a game. Fascinating, specially if you play video games.

On my to-read pile for July:

  1. Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols
  2. Infomocracy (Centenal Cycle #1) by Malka Ann Older
  3. Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #4) by Martha Wells
  4. Conscious by Annaka Harris
  5. Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

#readinglist #books #reading

No more Facebook ๐Ÿ‘Ž

Yesterday I deactivated my Facebook account. Yes, I didn’t delete it yet, but I deleted my photo albums. I decided to be away from Twitter and Facebook this month inspired by Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism.

The thing is: there is so much information available on the internet and I don’t want to let an algorithm show me what to see. That’s why I always love [moderated] discussion forums. It’s theme focused and generally people there are looking for information and trying to help each other. Social media has some of it too, but 99% of it is just showing off.

I remember it was not used to be that way. It really was a more personal approach where we could connect and share ideas with close friends. Now it’s an ad driven world where quantity matters more than quality. I used to love social media. I joined the first “connect to friends” websites back when “social media” was not even a noun. I used to have an account at SixDegrees.com. It was launched 22 years ago. It was shut down in 2001. Then I used MySpace (not my favorite), Orkut (2007, I remember there were hundreds of useless groups and hate speech started to build there) and then, Facebook (2009).

At the beginning I used Facebook to connect to a group of international colleagues from a course I’ve taken abroad. Facebook was not about news or companies profiles. There were only people. There were ads, yes, but they were less obnoxious. At some point all these companies started to show up on Facebook and ads started to overflow our timelines. And then viral videos. And then the non-chronological timeline. That annoyed me a lot. A timeline where you had no control of. Then I started to realize something was wrong with Facebook and with what my contacts were publishing there. It was all fake. It was all just for show. And I include myself in this madness.
It’s time to stop the madness.

I’ve long deleted my timeline on Facebook, meaning: I don’t see anything on my timeline. I was occasionally logging to Facebook to check out some groups. And that’s all I did there.
I deleted my photo albums. And I’m still trying to delete my comments and likes but there’s no way to automate that. I have to go to every single post and delete it manually. I’m still searching for a better solution.

I wonder if I delete my account, all my data will be deleted or Facebook will still have that data in their servers. I wanted to do a full delete from their servers. I don’t know if that’s possible yet.

For now, I deactivated my account. I’ll be away from Facebook for 30 days.

#socialmedia #facebook #digitalminimalism #personal

Decluttering my Notes on Evernote

Decluttering my Notes on Evernote

I’ve been using Evernote for almost 10 years now!
And because of a job change I was unable to use the desktop version on my computer so I started looking for alternatives. I tried Evernote Web at the time (this was last year) but the web version was full of bugs and many Evernote’s functionalities weren’t available yet. It was frustrating to try to use the web version.

So I started using Microsoft’s Onenote and I kinda liked it at the beginning. I enjoyed the notebooks structure without tags. And that actually made me realize that my Evernote tagging/notebook system was over complicated!

Recently, with the new web version and the ability that I have now to use the Evernote desktop version on my work computer, I decided to get back to the green elephant.

So a great decluttering began and it’s still ongoingโ€ฆ

My idea is to have a few generic tags and use notebooks for the major structure (just like Onenote). I think it’s easier to just file a note in a dedicated notebook than processing it and choosing tags. Tags can become very messy and out of control! And that’s exactly how my system is now! Totally out of control. So many random tags!

I’ll not use so many tags for references anymore. The search function on Evernote is so good that I don’t need perfectly organized tags.

I have notes that were automatically generated (using IFTTT) of every post I published on Instagram. I’ve deleted my Instagram a while ago already (and I have a backup of the pictures I posted). So I’ll delete a notebook called “Timeline” with 292 notes generated from Instagram in it.

This cleaning process will take a while. I’l handle the big ticket items first (like the Timeline notebook).

Deep inside I think I want a brand new Evernote account. Clean slate. Start again. So, that’s it! Purging mode on! I’ll make Evernote as clean as I can.

I also have some old notes from the time I used Evernote as my GTD system (including To-do lists), and I have notes for each action I had to do and now it’s completely useless. I’ll delete them all.

#evernote #organization #notes

Tigana: What is a name?

Tigana: What is a name?

Tigana was written by the Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay in 1990. It was the first time I read one of his books. Kay is known for his fantasy fiction that resembles real historic places and even historical events, but transformed into fantasy. It seems like alternate history with fantasy elements in it. Tigana has lots of fantasy elements but I read that Kay’s earlier books gravitate more towards alternate history.

Tigana is a stand alone fantasy novel which is extremely rare these days. It tells the tale of a people that lost their identity since their kingdom was conquered by two powerful tyrant Wizards. It’s a story about lost names and culture and how a group of brave rebels prepared themselves over years to overthrow the tyrants and reclaim their homeland. The two tyrants split the kingdom into two and one of the provinces was put under a spell to basically transform it into another place and make its past forgotten.

It’s a slow burn story that develops leisurely and in an almost dream like state. The writing is poetic, almost to the point where it is too flowery, but then it isn’t. Some chapters are a deep dive into the characters memories and emotions that later helps us understand their motivations and their actions. The characters are not good nor bad. There is ambiguity in their actions. Even the tyrant wizard Brandin is portrayed as a conflicted villain and at times he seems unsure about his decisions. But for me, he is evil.

There is a lot of world building and it almost feels like the world he created could exist on its own and many other tales could be told about it. The newest editions of the book have a foreword in which the author explains his Italian inspiration for the Peninsula of the Palm. The author was inspired by the Italian Renaissance history. The powerful wizard Brandin of Ygrath was inspired by a proud and arrogant Borgia or Medici of the 1500’s.

Best and worst characters:

  • Best character: I loved Catriana, the red head woman who is brave and basically makes the story less boring.
  • Second best character: Devin, the bard/singer.
  • Worst character: Dianora, who lived in the saishan (kind of a harem) with the wizard Brandon. She wanted to defeat him but Stockholm’s Syndrome got her and she just couldn’t do anything against him.

My thoughts

I enjoyed it but it’s not on my “best books of the year list”. I thought the pace was too slow. Until 40% of the book we just get background story and not much action. Not really my cup of tea. But the writing is beautiful. Not sure if I’m going to read another book from this author.

The book

#books #bookreview #reading