[A Seinfeld Calendar](http://vertonghen.wordpress.com/2007/07/26/seinfeld-calendar/) gives you a year-at-a-glance picture of how much you have done of what you wanted to do. Okay, that’s a terrible explanation. Read the real one [here](http://lifehacker.com/281626/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret).
[Jack Cheng is onto something](http://jackcheng.com/30-minutes-a-day), I think, when he suggests that there are three ways to approach learning: cramming, interval training, and graduated intervals. His point? It’s better to do something a little bit each day than to put off doing it all at once. So what’s your excuse? Get writing.
According to Greg Joswiak of Apple, who is part of the product marketing team behind the iPod, the iPhone and the iOS, the four keys to Apple’s success are:
> **Focus**: “It means saying no, not saying yes. We do very few things at Apple. We are $100bn in revenue with very few products. There are only so many grade A players. If you spread yourself out over too many things, none of them will be great.”
> **Simplicity**: “Make complex things simple. A lot of people think it means take something simple and leave it at its core essence. But it isn’t that. When you start to build something, it quickly becomes really complex. But that is when a lot of people stop. If you really know your product and the problems, then you can take something that is complex and then make it simple.”
> **Courage**: “Courage drives a lot of decisions in business. Don’t hang on to ideas from the past even if they have been successful for you. You don’t build a product just because everyone else has one.”
> **Best**: “If you can’t enter the market and try and be the best in it, don’t enter it. You need that differentiation. At Apple if we can’t be the best then we are not interested in it.”
There’s a lovely post by Whitney Carpenter up at The Bygone Bureau, wherein she describes her own misfortunate investment in “just the right” notebook and other writing paraphernalia as a way to imagine herself as a writer. It’s both a kind of perfectionism and a kind of procrastination. (And I think it’s currently the consensus that the two are often intertwined.)
Carpenter does a marvelous job of chronicling the various notebooks she bought as she builds toward a nice realization — understood here both as visualization and as epiphany — that the notebooks are just weighing her down. (An idea she reinforces by, quite literally, toting an antique typewriter in the trunk of her car.)
I confess I have been down the path myself. For me, it ended when I realized that the larger Moleskine notebooks were good enough for me. In short, they worked. Writing instruments? I almost entirely rely upon a handful of mechanical pencils. My preference for them is simple:
* I make mistakes and I like being able to erase those mistakes instead of lining through them. (I like to be neat when I can.)
* Graphite does not run when wet. I am around a lot of open water in my field research, and I have been known to drop things. Even if there is no water in the ground, it’s also the case that I am often in extremely hot environments and, well, I sweat.
When I am working at a desk, I use a stiff-backed yellow notepad. I tear out pages as I fill them and they can easily get filed where they need to go. (This also makes it easy to find notes, since the yellow pages contrast easily with the various sheets of white paper that are photocopies or printouts.)
My entire writing life is nothing more complicated than that. *Oh, you didn’t imagine that note-taking at meetings would be part of my writing life?* That particular decision was not one I made but one that got made for me once I realized the difficulty of keeping the various notes from various parts of my life in diverse notebooks. It’s just easier, I finally realized, if everything goes into one notebook. Some people call this approach by naming the item a “day book” or an “everyday book.” I just call the thing my notebook. The only thing not in it is my fieldwork. (Well, that an truly personal information which I keep elsewhere.)
Having everything in one place requires that I perform some regular checking back over the past few pages/days to see what needs to get carried forward, but that’s a fairly pleasant task and that kind of review is built into various organization strategies, like GTD, anyway. I get it for free. (How nice is that?)
Because MLA came in January this year, our household is a week or so behind its usual schedule for getting Christmas put away. Typically we do this earlier in January, trying to get our Christmas tree on the curb in time for it to be recycled for coastal restoration. Unfortunately, that recycling program is not happening this year: none of the parishes — Louisiana has parishes instead of counties — involved has any money for it. (If you are keeping track of the casualty count for the economic downturn in Louisiana, it’s: public health, higher education, the coast.) And so our clean up got put off until the MLK weekend.
And so out came the plastic bins to put away the Christmas decorations. But, what’s that? Aren’t you a little tired of that closet threatening your life every time you open it? Well, then, let’s take out all the bins, sort through them, throw some things away, give some things away, repack some things and begin to get a little order in here.
*Hey, here’s a whole box of APS film canisters.*
I have a lot of negatives lying around. Much of it is probably not worth spending too much money to preserve, but if it can be digitized in bulk for a reasonable price, then I am open to the idea. I don’t have that many APS canisters. Most of my film photography was done with a 35mm camera, but a lot of that is on slides, which are all neatly tucked into binders … and I don’t know when I will work up the energy to get that digitized. (My colleague Barry Jean Ancelet was fortunate enough to have a few semesters of graduate students to do the digitizing for him. Perhaps, one day, when I have a similar status, I can enjoy something similar. *Gotta get that book done.* — yes, Craig Gill, I *am* working on it. I promise.)
But let’s focus on the APS to digital for the time being, and see what we can learn:
* [ScanMyPhotos.com](http://scanmyphotos.com) will do 2000 dpi scanning for $10 a roll or 4000 dpi scanning for $20 a roll. All scans are output as JPGs. (This makes no sense to me.) They will also scan slides and prints.
* [FotoBridge](http://www.fotobridge.com/) also does scanning, but it doesn’t have anything on APS scanning. Their price for scanning up to 250 slides at 2000 dpi is $90. 3000 dpi costs $102, and 4000 dpi $115. The [prices drop](http://www.fotobridge.com/pricing_slides.php) as you increase the amount you have scanned.
There are a lot of ways to “get things done,” but if you get things done with David Allen’s Getting Things Done and you use a Mac, then one of the applications built around that paradigm is OmniFocus. I use OmniFocus somewhat regularly, and I find when I do use it, it’s a marvelous thing, if for one and only one reason: one of Allen’s founding principles in GTD is “emptying the mind.”
Now, before that phrase makes you think he’s a touchy-feely type and you’re entering the land of squishy. Nope. Not at all. “Emptying the mind” is simply a catch-phrase for getting all those niggling todos and ideas out of your head. Of course, the idea is that you put them some place else you trust will hold them and that you can then view them and sort them and rank them and all that. You know, get an objective view instead of having that seemingly random swirl thing happening in your head every morning when you wake up.
So you need a place, and OmniFocus is that kind of place. It was built for it. And it does a pretty good job of it. But you have to use it regularly, and that’s where I am still learning. Regular use means regular dumping and regular reviewing.
The review part is where I fail. In part because I fail to remember to do it and in part because it depresses me whenever I look at all the things I still need to do and all the ideas I have that I have done nothing about. No doubt what I really need is to learn to “let things go.”
Hey! Maybe that’s the book I get to write and a few years from now all the geekerati will be talking about LTG! Okay, I better go dump that into OmniFocus…
For everyone else, check out this post on the OmniGroup’s blog where one user offers up his own story and usage of OmniFocus.
**What I’m giving up**: sweets. This includes cookies, candies, cakes, and pies. The only sugar I’m allowing myself is the sugar in my coffee — and any sugar that might be in a cough drop, should I need one.
**What I’m adding**: an hour a week for non-scholastic professional development — this is time to be focused on working through tutorials on various kinds of media production — and one hour a week for reviews (*a la* GTD).[^1]
[^1]: I recognize that additions are not part of the Lenten tradition, at least as I grew up, but since I see Lent as partly about reflecting on one’s own habits (of mind, of practice, of views), I thought it might be a good time also to develop a few desirable habits.
The analysis of the Project Bamboo scholarly narratives is done and uploaded to the IEEE Conference website — it’s really nice (the website; the paper I leave to others to judge). I’ll post more about the paper in a moment. In the mean time, the poster and the explanation tell you all you need to know about the **The Cult of Done**.
1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.
### What to throw out and when:
1. Airline tickets and boarding passes: after appear on frequent-flier account, unless you need them for tax purposes.
2. ATM cash receipts: after appear on bank statement.
3. Credit card statements and receipts: Toss receipts after appear on statement, except big-ticket items or tax deductible expenses. Keep statements for three years (in case IRS asks).
4. Paycheck stubs: toss after receive W2 and check for errors.
### What to keep and for how long:
1. Tax stuff: keep copies of completed tax forms and W2 forms for at least six years (I have heard even longer). After three years you can get rid of supporting documents (receipts, canceled checks, etc)
2. IRA contribution slips: never throw out receipts for deductible and nondeductible IRA contributions. (you’ll need them to figure out taxes when you retire)
3. Bank statements: in general, keep for three years. Toss canceled checks unless back up deductions. Go through your checks each ear and keep those related to your taxes, business expenses, home improvements, and mortgage payments. Shred those that have no long-term importance.
4. Receipts for big-ticket items: as long as you own the item — for warranty, resale, or insurance purposes. (Go through your bills once a year.
In most cases, when the canceled check from a paid bill has been returned, you can shred the bill.) Keep the important receipts in special file.
5. Home-improvement records: as long as you own the house
6. Investment information: as long as you own the investment, and for six years after you sell it. You need purchase/sales slips from your brokerage or mutual fund to prove whether you have capital gains or losses at tax time.
7. Keep the quarterly statements from your 401(k) or other plans until you receive the annual summary; if everything matches up, then shred the quarterlies. Keep the annual summaries until you retire or close the account.