How I Got Through 2009

If there’s any consistent feedback I received all year long from different parts of my PLN, it’s that I always had so much going on — not chaos or “busyness” — but a lot of things going at one time. It’s not entirely an accident. I’ve really tried this last year to wring out as much life as I can. Here are some things that help me. Not by any stretch a complete list, but enough to start you asking questions. Ask me for details; if I can share them, I will.

1. Capture (almost) everything.

It looks incredibly nerdy, but I always have a Moleskine cahier pocket-sized notebook in my front left pocket. If I’m wearing a shirt that doesn’t have a pocket, I put it in my front jeans pocket with the iPhone. I almost always have a nice Cross ballpoint pen with me, too. Once a list goes past two items, or anytime the lightning of insight strikes — I write it down. Capturing it, even if I don’t do anything with it, keeps me from spending energy and time trying to remember what it was that got me thinking earlier.

I usually have a larger Moleskine with me for meetings and I use that to write things down when a laptop isn’t possible. When a laptop is avalable, I use OmniOutliner, Twitter or Google Wave to annotate things even while I facilitate online events. I use a Moleskine of some kind just about everyday, multiple times a day.

I started using Amazon’s Kindle app on the iPhone this year, and as they’ve released features like highlighting and annotation, I’ve been using it. I’ve also transferred my reading notes (started to, anyway) to Readernaut — that way I have a way of sharing what I find interesting in the published literature I’m looking at. My hope has been (and still is) that if it encourages even one other person to read what I’m reading and start sharing what they find interesting, the value I get from the practice and exchange is worth far more than the little bit of effort it takes me to actually enter my notes. I generally use Redernaut about once a month. Generally.

When permissible and appropriate, I use the voice memo feature on the iPhone or use Audio Hijack Pro (or ScreenFlow or Jing) to capture phone calls and web meetings. Audio Hijack Pro is my tool of choice for SkypeCasting, and I have a dial-in number for my Skype account to make sure I can record a call when necessary (helps for call forwarding from my cell phone, home phone or even Google Voice). I’ve used Google Voice to record a call once, but it’s kinda hinky — I hope it gets better over time (or a dedicated app to make using it easier).

I can also record a Skype call with ScreenFlow, but it’s pretty heavy powered for a phone call by itself; that said, if you’re recording a web meeting or webinar, ScreenFlow is awesome for capturing your video, your mic, all the system sounds and your screen capture. I like Jing for static screenshots and for really quick and dirty how-to’s. Screenr is my next alternative, but I’ve had mixed results on my work computer with Screenr (Java issues) whereas Jing’s been just wonderful. I use some kind of audio/screen capture mechanism several times a week (usually Jing).

When you start getting into the digital recording of audio and/or video, care must be taken to make sure everyone is aware of what you’re doing (I’m not the best at asking at the onset, but I’ve improved greatly with practice and self-coaching), but these recordings can be very very useful when you tie things together — a point I’ll explore next.

2. Organize your resources often

Above, I mentioned I use Readernaut to share my annotations of the books I’m reading.

I use Evernote as my general capture mechanism now — it replaced Delicious which I used to use for bookmarks all the time. Frankly, the ability to upload documents and PDFs directly to Evernote, tag them and have them available on my phone or any computer I’m on, while being able to control with whom I share a notebook — it’s invaluable to me now.

I tag everything. I tag my blog posts in WordPress. I tag everything I put into Evernote — anywhere from 2-5 tags as a rule.

I’m in Evernote just about everyday, and add to it 2-3 times a week.

To quickly access applications on my Mac, I use Quicksilver. I’m also heavily reliant on Spotlight on the Mac; not so much on the iPhone.

Speaking of the Mac, I have spent a great deal of effort in the last year trying to keep my calendar and contacts synced with Google. For a while, I was rocking with the Google Sync using their Exchange services to push everything to the iPhone (and thus the Mac). Once I got hooked into my work’s Exchange account, I had to switch back to IMAP for Google. I was, for a very long time, using SpanningSync — but that predicated that I would keep my iPhone synchronized solely by docking it and doing a tethered sync. Sticking solely with Google’s direct services, I’m pretty squarely lined up now between iPhone, laptop and Google. I haven’t used SpanningSync in months.

I switched this year from Remember The Milk to Toodledo for a cloud task service. In the end, it doesn’t make much difference, but Toodledo just seems so much more robust in terms of project planning. I still use Appigo’s ToDo; despite some very pretty Task Managers on the iPhone, none seem to really have the power and simplicity that Appigo still has going for it. It actually upsets me that it’s easier for me to manage my tasks with Moleskines or Appigo than it is on the desktop. Why won’t any of the desktop task managment programs synch with an online service? Forget the Mac tasks (i’ve given up on those) but Things? The Hit List? The big guns in the space don’t sync with anybody. That’s a shame.

3. Stop doing what isn’t working.

I quit using Delicious because Evernote did what Delicious did for me, but more.

I quit Flickr because paying another $59 to Yahoo to get through their blackmail of my older pictures was insane to me.

I quit Aviary, Twine, Boingo, MyBlogLog and a bunch of other services I guess I had accounts for because, quite frankly, I wasn’t using them at all.

I cut back my Basecamp account because no one on my project teams but me was actively using it. I love Jason Fried, but there’s no sense in spending $49 a month on something no one’s using.

I unsubscribed to junk mail instead of just flagging it as junk.

I couldn’t stand spending 10.5% sales tax in Chicago/Cook County, so we started making a lot more purchases (even dry goods) from Amazon, which is tax free. With Amazon Prime, the $50 a year gets us two-day shipping automatically, and other deals, too. On a Friday night, I needed a Zi-8 for Saturday afternoon — $6.99 got it to my door by 10:30am.

4. Periodically re-evaluate what is working and seek out opportunities to improve

I’ve gone through Twittellator Pro, Twitteriffic, Tweetie, Tweetie 2 and TweetDeck on the iPhone. I use Tweetie 2 now. Did I waste all that money on the other apps? No. With the amont that I’m using Twitter both to scan/read and to share/post, until Tweetie 2 so dominated the iPhone apps, others had various stengths for certain types of activity.

Tweetie 2 just happens to be so good that I don’t need the other apps now.

I switched at the end of last year from QuickBooks Online to Freshbooks to a desktop app called Billings to handle my invoicing of clients for my consulting practice — it fit into my workflow with much better results.

Goals for 2010?

  • Shrinking: While some people would think 210 pounds is overweight, I’m still 40 pounds above that number.  With my oldest readying for kindergarten, a full roster of projects, presentations and opportunities ready to hit as soon as January — I really can’t stress enough (to myself) how vital it is that I get in shape.  Can I shed 40 pounds in a year? Frankly, I’d be pleased to be able to run without feeling like my lungs hold no air.  This will be painfully difficult, but I’m running out of opportunities to put this off.
  • Growing: I’ve been part of too many conversations in the last three months where author after author is cited and I don’t know the literature.  I’m a bright guy and I’ve made it incredibly far on a broad understanding of multiple domains combined with a talent for identifying patterns and synthesizing ideas… but I feel kinda like a savant in conversations when it gets deeper than the pop-psychology/sociology authors (Gladwell, Pink, etc).  Hence I’ve started reading Wegner, Maslow, Hall and the dissertations of people I know (and their references).  I will never know everything, but I want to be able to talk more than tech, even though I’m beginning to accept that the tech is truly my domain.
  • Expanding: I’ve spent the last six months doing a very concentrated dive into the mobile and AR space.  I need to get seriously comfortable with Virtual Worlds.   I also need to get comfortable with conversations happening outside of learning and training — I want to dip my toes more into other parts of an organization.  The borders around “training” and “peformance” are eroding and I’m very interested in how we bridge knowledge work with other types of work.

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