A vague Notion of a more productive system

Notebooks, and task lists

I spent a little time in my Pocket recommendations, and found this great post by Marie Poulin titled “One Tool To Rule Them All” and her, and her partner’s search for a more effective, more complete productivity solution. Along the way, she considered Bullet Journals.

I wanted to get on the bullet journal bandwagon, but the sheer inefficiency of hand-drawing the same lines, shapes, numbers, and tasks week after week, and month after month made me twitchy.

Looking at some of those bullet journal masterpieces made me wonder, how much of bullet journaling is just…productivity porn? Are people creating entirely separate accounts for their bullet journaling as a creative outlet, or to distract themselves from actually getting shit done?

Marie Poulin

I’ve been curious about bullet journals, too, but I found myself having similar doubts about how effective the method would be for me. I much prefer digital productivity tools, largely because I’m really apprehensive about having a productivity solution without a backup and sync option.

Also, I really have to watch out for my tendency to go down a complete “productivity tool testing” rabbit hole, and literally lose days testing solutions without actually getting anything done.

Poulin and her partner settled on tool called Notion, that looks pretty promising. I like how flexible the service seems to be. I like how Evernote uses a notebook metaphor with fairly free form notes as a way to capture information. That said, I don’t seem to use Evernote all that much lately (for a couple reasons).

If you do think that Bullet Journal is the option for you, definitely read Jamie Rubin’s post titled “Bullet Journal: One Book to Rule Them All“:

I recently began using a Bullet Journal. Longtime readers who recall my going paperless days might find this odd. My going paperless experiment was just that–an experiment to see how far I could go without paper. Eventually, I decided that there were good reasons (for me) to continue to use paper. I’ve been carrying around Field Notes notebooks for years. I use notebooks for work, and large Moleskine notebooks for my journal/commonplace book. So why a Bullet Journal, and why now…?

Jamie Rubin

For the time being, I’m clinging to a semblance of productivity with Remember the Milk as my main task list. Now and then, I’ll use Evernote to add a task to RTM by syncing between the two services.

The benefit of this approach is that it enables me to associate a task with a note containing relevant materials. Like most things in my life, it’s very much a work in progress that’s hampered by my erratic discipline.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Matt Ragland

A desperate plea to MS Office lovers everywhere

Man working in an office with the sun over his shoulder

Dear MS Office lover

Although I don’t see the appeal*, I understand that you love using Microsoft Office for your daily tasks. It seems like pretty good software, and if it helps you become more efficient, then that’s terrific.

Anyhoo, I’ve noticed that many of you have a tendency to do some interesting things with MS Office in order to share things with the rest of us. For example, to –

  • share images by adding them to your Word documents;
  • paste bits of text into other Word documents, and then emailing them;
  • create PowerPoint slides for newsletters; and
  • take notes in Excel spreadsheets*.

Another Pro tip is not to send Word documents by email, unless you want to collaborate with someone, and intend for them to edit the document and send it back. If you’d like to share a letter by email (consider just sending the text as the email), save the Word document as a PDF instead. It will look the same on every device that can read it. Unlike Word documents*.

I’m a big fan of using your tools to do cool, interesting things. I’m also a fan of using a tool appropriately. Striking a balance between these two isn’t always easy, and erring on the side of innovation is a good thing, too.

That said, it’s also important to think outside the box here. MS Office isn’t the sum total of what’s available to you.

If you need to share a snippet of text in an email, paste it into the email. If you need to share an image, please don’t add it to a Word document first. Just attach the image, like you were planning to do with the Word document containing the image to your email.

Email is cool like that, it can handle so many types of content.

Oh, if you prefer writing your blog posts in Word, remember that copying and pasting into your blog editor of choice can carry across Word’s silly formatting too. If you happen to be using the Classic editor in WordPress, read this guide to stripping out that formatting cruft so your posts look the way they’re meant to.

If you’re using the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg), you should be able to just paste your text, and the editor will remove that extra stuff automatically.

So please, please, rethink how you use use your MS Office tools for the sake of our continued sanity. It’s the productivity equivalent of “Be kind, rewind”.

*On the few occasions I use conventional office productivity software, I prefer using LibreOffice or Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, but that’s just my choice.

*Why not just use Word for this?

*But, seriously, just add the text to an email and send it directly. It works far better.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Bethany Legg

Watch this if you’re still on the fence about the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg)

If you’re still unsure about the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg), it’s worth watching Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word keynote at the recent WordCamp US 2018 event in Nashville.

You can find links to parts of the talk, along with slides, and commentary in Matt’s post, here:

I’ve been using the new Editor almost exclusively lately, not because I work for Automattic, but because it’s actually a pretty enjoyable way to write posts.

I still prefer to write longer posts in my text editor, and then add the posts into the editor afterwards (I’ve always been a little twitchy about my only version of long posts being in an online editor, just in case something goes pear shaped and I lose it all).

The new Editor isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good! It does work a little differently in some respects, but that isn’t a bad thing (necessarily). Also, it’s improving (I can add galleries that work the way they’re supposed to! Yay!) all the time.

MarsEdit + WordPress 5.0

MarsEdit is my favourite blog editor for my laptop. I use it daily, mostly for work-related posts that I publish. It makes it so much easier for me to publish to a variety of blogs (we have a lot of internal blogs at Automattic).

The new WordPress Editor has changed how we write blog posts and pages in the WordPress dashboard. I’ve been using the new editor more and more, lately, and I like it a lot for the most part.

At the same time, I don’t see myself giving up MarsEdit anytime soon. It’s a terrific app that I haven’t appreciated nearly enough.

In the short term I am not planning to add much in the way of block-specific functionality to MarsEdit. As I mentioned above, I think that blocks are going to appeal more to web authors who are managing full-fledged sites, and less to bloggers who appreciate the streamlined workflow that MarsEdit emphasizes.

Daniel Jalkut

I don’t see any reason why MarsEdit fans should stop using MarsEdit with WordPress 5.0 out. For one thing, you don’t have to switch to the new block editor. You can install the Classic Editor plugin, and keep blogging the way you’ve been doing it till now.

The new WordPress Editor is great, but it hasn’t reach feature parity with its predecessor in some respects. One area that stands out for me is galleries. It doesn’t seem possible to create galleries that open into slideshows like the current version of the feature in the Classic Editor.

I just published a draft post using MarsEdit, and I noticed that WordPress will add the post as a Classic editor block (at least on WordPress 4.9.8 – my host hasn’t released the 5.0 update yet).

Given the changes to the editor, and how central this has become to the WordPress experience with WordPress 5.0, it can be worrying if your workflow is dependent on an editor that you’re much more familiar with, and comfortable using. I’ve been hesitant to use the new editor, too.

If MarsEdit is central to your blogging workflow, keep doing what you’re doing. I see the new WordPress Editor as adding another option, not precluding you from doing what you’ve been doing till now.

Daniel Jalkut wrote a post about MarsEdit and WordPress 5.0. It’s worth reading.

The tragedy of women’s pockets (or the lack thereof)

Pockets

My wife has frequently explained just how little modern women’s fashion caters for a basic need: decent pockets! It made no sense to me (or women everywhere), at least not until I watched this video:

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Mikaela Shannon

My new Rams Field Notes notebooks

I finally received my latest order from Field Notes: the Rams notebooks with dot graph paper. They also arrived just in time, I’m about to finish one of my Three Missions notebooks, and was debating which one to use next.

The Three Missions notebooks use graph paper, which is fine for what I do, but I think I much prefer the dot graph paper like my Pitch Black notebooks that I received earlier this year.

My plan has been to stick with one notebook at a time, but I find that the larger sized Pitch Black notebook may be a better size for my work notes in some cases. That said, the smaller notebooks are so much easier to slip into a back pocket.

My real challenge is probably more my indecision when it comes to deciding which one to use next!

Building a computer with my daughter and Hello Ruby

I bought the Hello Ruby books for my daughter a couple months ago. She was interested in learning to code, and I had recently watched Linda Liukas’ wonderful TED talk about how she came to write her books.

So I bought both of the Hello Ruby books: one about programming, and the other about computer hardware. I read the stories in both books to my daughter, and then we paused for a time.

I realised that Liukas also made available PDFs of the computers that school kids could download and print to make little cardboard computers. I downloaded the PDFs, and had them printed on 300 gram paper the other day.

Our daughter cut out the various pieces, read about components like RAM, ROM, the CPU, and GPU, and then we sat together this afternoon and built her computer.

Having done this, it may be time to return to the books, and start exploring some of the exercises in the books. It’s a great way to introduce kids to what is otherwise a pretty technical field. Our daughter loves the Hello Ruby approach. I’m a fan too.

The humble hyperlink that changed the world

This is a great video that highlights how the simple hyperlink has revolutionised how we work with information. It made the Web possible!