Blogging, Morning Pages, Goals, Habits, and Accounting [en]

[fr] Petite réflexion sur ma difficulté à bloguer régulièrement, une prise de conscience sur le type d'activité que j'arrive à faire régulièrement (comparé aux projets long-terme devant lesquels je me décourage), et peut-être une clé pour exploiter l'un afin de me réconcilier avec l'autre. Ayant avec succès fait de bonnes avancées dans ma compta (en souffrance permanente) après avoir décidé de bloquer trois heures par semaine pour ça, je vais tenter de faire ça avec le blog. C'est trop de temps, me direz-vous, et vous avez raison: mais j'ai d'autres occupations "B" pour remplir la plage de temps si je n'en ai pas besoin en entier.

I am not blogging as much as I would like. This has been a constant over the last years and you’re probably tired of hearing me say it. Trust me, I’m even more tired of living it.

I have tons of things to write about. But I’m also stressed about “more important” things I feel I have to do before I blog (like work; or accounting). And then my post ideas turn into Big Ideas and I don’t dare start writing because I fear I’ll end up writing for hours. And then time passes, and I haven’t blogged, and the more time passes, the more I pressure myself to produce something, and the less I start writing — because blogging for me is about responding to an impulse to share.

So, this is an ongoing struggle.

Boats

Why bother? Blogging is important to me because it holds meaning. For my life, I mean. I guess it’s a bit tacky or commonplace in the era of social media (or are we post-social-media yet?) but writing in public is one of the main ways I try to contribute to the world.

Here are two ideas. I can directly link their existence to the fact I started doing Morning Pages.

The first is that I should give myself a rule. It would like something like this: “If I haven’t posted an article in the last 10 days, I will write an article about anything, just to get an article out.”

A few comments about this.

  • This is what I’m doing now. For weeks, “write blog post” has been scurrying around in my task lists. But I never get around to it. I have a list of things to write about, which means I can’t decide which one to start with, adding another reason not to write. Tonight, I just thought “OMG, I just need to write something to reset the clock and remove the pressure”.
  • I don’t like the idea of “filler” blogging. You see it on high-volume blogs, mainly: fluffy articles that are obviously there so that something could be published today. I’m making the bet that because my non-writing is not related to “not enough to say”, I will not fall into that trap. Another difference, I think, is that I’m “producing content” (ack) for me (to help myself blog) rather than to reach some kind of objective, or for others.
  • Morning Pages have shown me that I can write about anything for three pages. I don’t suffer from writer’s block much (though… maybe this thing I’m struggling with is blogger’s block), but even so, it gives me the confidence that if I open a new blog post I will have things to write about.

Vidy automne

The second idea is more something that I have understood about myself, while doing Morning Pages. You see, I’ve often wondered why although I see myself as somebody who has trouble working on things long-term (writing a book, fear) I am usually very good at sticking with something once I decide to do it. In that way, I am disciplined. I have been doing judo for over twenty years. Blogging for sixteen. On a smaller scale, when I start doing something I very often stick with it for quite some time. I’m not the person who signs up at the gym and goes twice.

Morning Pages is another example: I took up the exercise to see if it worked for me, but it was pretty clear I was going to be sticking with it for at least weeks (more like months) to try it out.

I realised that there is a common denominator to these activities that I stick with: they are repetitive. Small chunks of activity that I repeat again and again and again. Writing a book feels like one big activity that you need to slice up to get through it. Writing morning pages or blogging is a collection of little activities that end up coming together to become a big one.

This gave me a key: turn long-term activities or projects into a small-scale form that I can repeat regularly and stick to.

This probably sounds trivial to you. Of course the way to approach a big project is to slice it up into manageable chunks. I knew that too. But I think the missing piece is the idea to turn the objective into a habit, not just into a series of sub-objectives.

Earlier this year, Jean-Christophe Aubry gave a workshop on goal setting at eclau. I am not exaggerating by saying it was life-changing for me. I am still digesting some of the things I learned and will write about it in the future. (I actually followed the workshop a second time as Elisabeth and I invited Jean-Christophe to hold it during our career development workshop series for musicians.)

One of my first take-aways was the distinction between mastery and performance/results goals. Mastery goals are much more motivating and tend to be those that end up working. So the trick is to transform your initial goal (often performance or result) into a mastery goal. James Clear has written about similar stuff. A very rough summary would be to focus on building habits rather than setting goals.

Anyway, all this coalesced for me a few months ago. My ongoing yearly pain as a solopreneur is my accounting. Each year, I find myself with piles of unsorted receipts and expenses and a rather tight stressful deadline to get everything done for my accountant so I can avoid getting in trouble with our tax service. Each year, I vow to do things differently next year, and keep my accounting up-to-date. Each year, I fail.

I had a brainwave one morning whilst doing my Morning Pages: what if I firewalled time to work on my accounting, a little each week? I had too much stuff going on to drop everything and do my accounting for three days straight, but I could afford to set aside three hours a week to chip at the block.

But what would happen once I had caught up with the backlog? Three hours a week is way too much for accounting (even if you add on invoicing and paying bills). I’d wanted to build a habit around accounting previously, but weekly seemed too often and monthly… well, monthly is just too abstract. The rhythm in my life is weeks and seasons. Months only exist in the calendar.

I decided that I would use any leftover time in those three hours (once I was up-to-date) to work on a creative project – something I never feel like I can allow myself to do. I’m not there yet (2016 backlog now) but the idea is extremely motivating.

Grue vidy

After this digression, about Morning Pages, habits, sticking to stuff, accounting, let’s get back to blogging. My success with accounting is encouraging me to try to convert other things to a “weekly habit”. Things like blogging. I’d like to make it daily, of course, but let’s be real. If I were writing one or two posts a week regularly I’d be a very happy blogger. And I’m pretty sure that writing more often would encourage me to write shorter posts. (Sorry. And thanks if you’re still reading me.)

So that is my second idea. I don’t have the solution yet, but I’ve been tossing ideas around (during my Morning Pages mainly). Should I blog in the morning or at the end of the workday? End seems more logical, but by the end of the day I am generally spent. Plus I often have stuff in the evenings (judo, workshops, conferences, board meetings, you name it).

I have thought of stopping work at 5pm and blogging then on the days I don’t have to leave. But today, right now, writing this blog post, I think I should follow the lead of my accounting success and firewall a 9-12 for my blog. I have a backlog of things to do like import my old Open Ears posts, cross-post my newsletters, etc. – more than enough to keep me busy for whatever time is left once I’ve finished writing. It’ll also give me a slot to catch up with my week-end newsletters if I’m running late, as I often am.

See, this is one of the reasons I blog. Like so many other long-running bloggers, I do it because it helps me think. And if in the process it can help somebody else or simply be of interest, all the better!

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Cockerel, Anybody? [en]

[fr] Plein de nouvelles!

So, what’s up?

I’m in the UK. I’m helping Aleika find a new home for one of her cockerels, Hercule Poirot. He’s a super-good-looking guy, and he takes his job with the hens very seriously.

Hercule Poirot Head Shots 4

Do you know anybody in the UK who has chickens (hens!) and would like a stunning rooster to look over them? Do let me know.

I have had a week of holiday planned here for months, and in between Safran’s death and Somak’s appointment as Professor of Physics at Presidency University, Kolkata (so… back to India for the three of them!), we decided I would be taking Quintus back with me.

Quintus in Birmingham 6

Do you know any good people in Calcutta/Kolkata? I’m particularly interested in getting in touch with

  • people who are into organic farming/gardening in the area
  • expats who have done the move from the UK sometime during the last three years or so (moving companies! shipping! organisation!)

For those who may not know, Bagha was also initially Aleika’s cat, and I adopted him when they moved from India to the UK, coming back home from India with him in my luggage. So, a little sense of déjà vu here 😉

On the work front, the OrangeCinema Official Bloggers project is underway. I spent a few days grading final reports for the course on social media and online communities I co-direct in Lausanne (some excellent, I have to say) and we’re preparing to welcome students for the third year of the course in September. I am looking for more writers for the ebookers.ch travel blog, and eclau is looking forward to everyone in Lausanne hearing more about coworking through the opening of a second space there, La Muse (which started out in Geneva). I will by the way be attending the Coworking Europe Conference 2012 in Paris (and probably speaking, will confirm in a couple of weeks). I have rekindled my enthusiasm for organising Bloggy Friday meetups (please do come to the next one, July 6th!) There’s more to say, but this is becoming a long paragraph 😉

What else should I tell you? I’m reading Drive, by Dan Pink, a fascinating book on motivation — and you should too, whether you’re interested in how your own motivation works, or in how to keep other people motivated (I’m thinking of taking a Sagmeister). I’ve started a group on Facebook for people in and around my area (and a bit further out) who like growing stuff on their balcony and elsewhere. I’m in the process of figuring out how to continue juggling judo, sailing, and singing (answer: be super organized). On the way to Birmingham, I stopped by for a day to stay with Steph and meet Emile The Cat.

Emile The Cat 1

I might not have told you, but Steph is my organisation inspiration (amongst many other things, which include being a very good friend!) and so I seized the occasion to face my calendar head-on and get a few holiday/travel dates sorted out. Short version: I don’t have a week-end available until June 2013 (don’t panic for me: it includes week-ends I have blocked out as “must stay at home and relax”).

I’ve also been realizing what a long way I’ve come regarding my organisational and time-management skills. Oh, I still fall in the pit every now and again, but a few discussions lately with people who seem to share the same core issues I have (had?) with time management, procrastination, perfectionism made me realize how far I have traveled.

I’m sure there was other stuff I wanted to say/blog about, but that’s the lovely thing about a blog, right? I can just write about it tomorrow, or the day after, or when I think of it. “Just.”

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Trucs en vrac [fr]

[en] A bunch of tips: kitty litter in the bathtub and how to clean the litter box properly and easily, deactivate 3G for better phone call quality, kill all your iPhone app "history" to improve battery life, think about your motivating end objective to find the courage to tackle the unexciting task at hand, keep ginger/garlic paste and other fresh spices in the freezer for Indian cooking, and use the Google Calendar web interface to add tasks to your days - with checkboxes!

Je pourrais faire un article pour chacun, mais non, allez, en vrac.

  • désactiver le 3G sur son smartphone pour que ses appels passent par le 2G, bien moins chargé (données!) — meilleure qualité sonore et moins d’appels coupés
  • pour se motiver, ne pas penser à la tâche à faire mais à l’objectif plus large vers lequel il nous amène (réserver les billets d’avion pour l’Inde… bleh… par contre, je me réjouis d’aller en Inde, et pour ça il faut des billets d’avion!)
  • la caisse des chats dans la baignoire pour diminuer la quantité de litière qui se balade dans la salle de bains (et dans l’appart); bonus, on nettoie sa baignoire chaque jour avant la douche (c’est vite fait)
  • pour vider la caisse, ma technique, inspirée par la vidéo en bas de cette page (super informative) sur tout ce qui touche à la litière pour chats:
    1. utiliser de la litière “clumping” (vous aimeriez gratter dans un bac de sable imbibé de pipi, vous?)
    2. soulever la caisse et l’agiter de droite à gauche comme un tamis: les divers “blocs” remontent à la surface
    3. mettre avec la pellette tout ce qui est visible dans un petit sachet plastique que vous nouerez une fois l’opération terminée et stockerez “quelque part” en attendant la prochaine sortie poubelles (balcon/rebord de fenêtre en hiver, ou boîte hermétique)
    4. taper une ou deux fois la boîte au sol (attention les voisins de dessous!) pour décoller ce qui serait resté coller, agiter, ramasser…
    5. faire un dernier “tour de bac” systématique, en raclant le sable d’un côté à l’autre, pour être sûr qu’on a rien oublié et ramasser les petits bouts qui trainent!

    Répéter 2-3 fois par jour (suivant le nombre de chats et de caisses), et dès qu’il y a des petits îlots dans la caisse :-). En passant, le nombre de caisses idéal c’est “nombre de chats +1” (cf. détention convenable du chat d’appartement)

  • pour la cuisine indienne, garder au congél dans des sachets ziploc feuilles de curry, blocs de pâte au gingembre et à l’ail, feuilles de coriandre, piments…
  • utiliser l’interface web de Google Calendar qui permet d’ajouter facilement des tâches à un jour donné (avec la petite case à cocher, s’il vous plaît!); on peut les glisser-déplacer d’un jour à l’autre, les créer directement sur la bonne journée (cliquer le lien “Task” quand on crée un événement), ne pas leur attribuer de date au départ et en attribuer une en faisant “monter” la tâche dans la liste classée chronologiquement. Reste à synchroniser avec iCal (si ça peut), mais c’est pour plus tard. (voir mon calendrier idéal)
  • [Edit 09.05.12: attention, il semblerait que ceci soit de l’intox! cf. commentaires] tuer tout “l’historique” des tâches sur votre iPhone pour récupérer une autonomie de batterie respectable (je crois que c’est ça qui m’a fait passer de “bon sang, 20% restants à 14h” à “bon sang, 76% restants à 21h!”): double-clic sur le bouton pour faire apparaître la liste, appuyer longuement sur une des applications pour faire afficher les petits boutons “kill” en haut à gauche de chaque icône, puis s’en donner à coeur joie; confirmez-moi si ça marche!

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Reminders With Future Triggers: Building an Intelligent Calendar [en]

[fr] L'idée que j'ai pitchée au StartupWeekend Lausanne, plus en détail et mieux expliquée: un système de rappels ("rappelle-moi") qui pourrait rappeler des choses comme "la prochaine fois que tu vois Sophie, ramène-lui son pull" -- même si on ne sait pas quand ni où on verra Sophie pour la prochaine fois.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could set a reminder somewhere so that you don’t forget to take your grandmother for a day in the mountains next time she comes to visit — even though you don’t know when that’s going to be?

Or if you had a way to remember to bring back Sophie’s sweater that she forgot at her place, next time you have a meeting in Geneva — but you have no trips planned to the city so far?

How about reminding you to wear woolly socks every time you take the plane, because it gets freezing cold once you’re up there? And your ear plugs, in case your seat neighbour is a heavy snorer?

We usually keep track of this kind of stuff in our heads. Or we have manual GTD-style lists — ever forgot to check them before meeting somebody, only to realize afterwards there was something written under their name?

There are existing systems that provide an inch or two of the solution, but nothing exists at this stage which actually does what I’m thinking of. Let’s go around some of these services, then I’ll share my ideas on how I think this can be done.

ifttt

This is, to be honest, the service that gave me my main inspiration. It has a trigger => action architecture, but so far triggers are limited to social media events. Some exceptions: the weather, for example. Possible task: “send me an SMS if it’s going to be cold tomorrow”.

But that weather example is pretty much an exception: ifttt triggers are present events. E-mail received. Post published. Tweet with #somehashtag found. Calendar event starts.

We would need triggers like “trip to Geneva planned in 24 hours” or “Grandma coming to Lausanne in 2 weeks” or even, if we pushed it further, “on the phone with James” or “checked in with Tania”. (More on the different types of trigger I’m thinking about later.)

My idea could be an extension of ifttt, but it might also be a separate service altogether. I’m not sure at this stage.

ZMS

ZMS has part of the solution: “next time I’m in Geneva station, remind me to get a croissant at the little coffee shop”. But that won’t be much help for remembering to take Sophie’s sweater with me next time I leave my house for Geneva.

Calendar reminders

Reminders are pretty standard in calendars. But you need to set them when you enter an event in your calendar. But the basic idea here is that an event in the future, as recorded by your calendar, triggers a reminder in the present. “One month before any trip to India, remind me to ask people what they want me to bring back.”

Evernote

For some reason I spoke about this idea when I stopped by the Evernote booth at LeWeb. After discussion, it didn’t really seem to be their space, but one thing they do well is capture information from all sorts of different sources and in all shapes and sizes and help you organize it. Text on photos is parsed, everything is tagged and geolocated, and available whether you’re on your phone, your tablet, your own computer or somebody else’s. It has this “central nervous system” touch to it that my reminder service would need.

Also, somebody suggested storing my rules/reminders in Evernote, using tags for triggers. #gotoGeneva, for example. Or #Grandma. But that won’t work, because I’m not going to be actively checking for triggers each time I go somewhere or meet somebody or do something. This is clearly a service which needs to work with push, and not pull. The whole point of it is that it will do the pushing for us.

Dopplr

Based on your calendar of future trips and your connections, Dopplr lets you know if you’re going to bump into people you know when you travel.

TripIt

One thing that TripIt has been doing for a long time and which I think is really cool is that you can forward your flight booking confirmation e-mails to it, and it will automatically parse them and enter the corresponding trip in your itinerary. Some people might find this creepy, but it’s a great way to painlessly transition information from one bucket (inbox) to another (calendar).

Path

Path monitors where you are, and when you change cities, makes a note in your Path. I feel there is more intelligence coming our way from Path, but let’s wait and see. What’s interesting is that as it’s limited to (reasonably) close friends, a service like this can learn a lot about the dynamics with the people you interact with the most. This could come in handy…

Siri

Speech recognition. “Remind me to buy flowers tomorrow.” One step further: “Next time I go to Geneva, remind me to take Sophie’s sweater with me.”

How would this be done?

The service would have two main layers:

  1. gathering data to build an “implicit calendar” of your future activities
  2. rule storage and triggering

I think the second layer is pretty “straightforward”. Store rules in an “if then” format like ifttt does very well, with the extra twist that the triggers will probably look something like “N days/hours/minutes before X”. We can also get fancy about how the rule is input (from code-like to Siri-like) and how the reminder (action) takes shape.

The part that sounds a bit like SF is “how will the system know my Grandma is coming to visit?” What are the sources to generate this intelligent calendar of my future activities? Here’s what I can imagine:

  • your normal calendar (it has attendee and location fields already, that’s a pretty good start)
  • your e-mails: either explicitly (you forward e-mails with relevant parsable information to the engine) or implicitly (the engine monitors your e-mail for things like travel reservations, conversations about future activities that it might recognize — yes, people will find this creepy)
  • geolocation: where you are, where your contacts are
  • and a step further: who you’re on the phone with, who you are exchanging text messages with, parsing content of your chats and text messages (people will find it even more creepy, but aren’t organisations already monitoring this kind of thing, without us benefitting from it?)

If I were doing this thing, I would start tame and simple, by gathering information from the calendar. I would focus on one type of reminder to start with. Here are the types of reminders that I can think of, off the top of my head:

  • meeting somebody
  • going somewhere
  • doing a certain activity
  • combinations: meeting somebody somewhere (e.g. Grandma in Lausanne)

Two obvious ones are the two first ones: I could set rules for when I’ve planned to see somebody, and when I’ve planned to go somewhere. Then, once that is working, widen the trigger set, the rule set, and the scope of the input engine.

When I pitched this idea at Lausanne StartupWeekend, I was surprised by some of the feedback I got: either people misunderstood and assumed it was already possible (“but such-and-such service already does geolocalized alerts! you can do this with Evernote or RememberTheMilk“), or understood but wrote it off as science fiction. This made me realize that this idea isn’t as easy to get across as I assumed it was, but that when people do understand it, they go “oh that would be useful”.

So, this is my attempt at explaining this idea correctly, maybe in more detail. I’d like to thank all the people I’ve talked about this idea with up to now (including ZMS and Evernote with whom I had brief chats) for helping me refine the way I present it. (Somebody in particular said “oh, a kind of intelligent calendar” — but I can’t remember who… sorry.)

Do you have questions or comments? Does this explanation sound clear to you? Would you explain it differently? I’d love to hear back from you if you’ve read this article to the end.

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Trying to Get Organized (Again) [en]

[fr] Je m'organise: pas de nouveaux mandats de formation ou de conférences avant mi-mars 2012 (priorité à mes engagements existants, l'agenda est plein!), utiliser la Technique Pomodoro sur la semaine pour mieux évaluer la charge de travail que représente les affaires courantes et mes mandats existants, et travaillers sur des conférences et formations "standard" plutôt que de tout faire à partir de zéro à chaque fois!

I’m trying to figure out how to get organized over the next six months to do everything I need/want to do without working myself into the ground. Or behind the sofa, cowering.

This is part of the ongoing “how to improve the way I run my business” thinking.

One thing I have clearly pinpointed is the following:

  • almost all the work I do (including training and talks) is bespoke
  • when the financial means of my clients are limited (e.g. many schools and small companies) I need to find a more rational way of using my time

This means I need to get to work on the dirty little secret of successful businesses and freelancers: reduce, recycle, reuse (thanks for that one, Suw). I need to work on preparing a certain number of “standard” talks and training sessions, rather than doing everything from scratch each time.

Until the end of the year, I already have a significant amount of commitments (or commitments-in-the-making, because we’re still hashing out details or agreeing on a formal proposal). The good news around this is that I’m not too worried about paying my bills (I still have a way to go before I can relax completely about finances, though… but who can?). The bad news is that looking at my calendar for September/October/November is already making me feel stressed. (That’s the calendar including future and probable gigs, though, it’s not that bad.)

The other thing is that (probably overcompensating for too many years with almost no holidays) I am actually taking a large number of weeks off this year. I’ve counted, and I will not release the number, because it is somewhat indecent. It makes me feel a little better about being overworked when I’m here, though. And it does bring to my attention the fact I probably need to seek a little more balance between my “working time” and “holiday time”.

Holidays play two roles for me:

  1. allow me time off from work to recuperate
  2. allow me to see people I love and who don’t live in Lausanne or nearby

The first type of holiday clearly requires no working while I’m away. The second doesn’t. There’s no reason I can’t go and spend a week in London with Suw and Steph, work while I’m there and hang out with them. This would also have the advantage of giving me a week clear of meetings and phone calls and visits, where I can concentrate on “office work”. So, I’m going to plan some of those for 2012.

So, all that considered, if I look at my calendar now it’s pretty clear to me I don’t really have space for new speaking/training engagements until mid-March 2012 (except if they’re paid well enough to make me happy to sacrifice my week-ends — never say never).

That’s the wide-angle view for the year ahead.

On a more micro level, I’ve mentioned elsewhere (and in another language) that I’ve been using the Pomodoro Technique recently and it’s really helping me. Here’s how it helps:

  • it gives me a clear amount of time to put my head down (like my “dashes” do)
  • it makes me take breaks
  • as I write down my Pomodoros, it helps me plan what I’m going to get done in the day/morning and adjust my expectations

The last bit is crucial. Specially when I have lots to do that is not deadly urgent, I have trouble setting priorities and get frustrated at how slowly I make progress. Now, if I know that during a 9-12 morning session I can do 5 pomodoros (= 5 times 25 minutes of actual work), it allows me to plan what I’m going to use them for. I might use one to make progress in my accounting backlog, one to make progress in a report I really don’t want to write, two to write a blog post, and one to deal with some e-mail, get back to people, and plan the next day.

Used this way, the Pomodoro Technique is a very simple planning tool that takes a lot of stress away from me and allows me to put my energy in actually working.

There is less overhead than Getting Things Done, too: even if you want to do things well, reading the free ebook that explains the Pomodoro Technique takes about an hour. And you can dive right in: just get a timer, set it on 25 minutes, work non-stop on something, then take a five-minute break, and start again. It’s deadly simple and is designed to be implemented in progressive steps (instead of degrading gracefully it upgrades gracefully). Check out the cheat sheet if you’re impatient.

I should be able to fit 12 Pomodoros in a full day of work, but to play it safe, I’m counting on 10 right now. That means I have 50 Pomodoros available on a five-day week. The Pomodoro is a unit of time that my brain can work with, specially after a few days of working in Pomodoro-length bursts. It’s much simpler than the hour, which is (a) longer and (b) divisible. (There is a rule that says “The Pomodoro is indivisible.”)

This is helping me see what I can get done in a day, and therefore, a week. For example, I might estimate that I need on average one Pomodoro a day to get organized, do my accounting/invoicing, pay bills, sort through e-mails. Not the same mix every day, but roughly one a day. Right, five a week.

Then, I estimate that on one of the projects I’m working on, I need 3 Pomodoros a week. On another, two. Another might take up a day of my time each week, which means my weeks actually have closer to 40 Pomodoros than 50.

If you do project planning, you’re familiar with this. It’s nothing new. But in my case, the ability to think “in Pomodoros” has been the key to allowing my brain to do this kind of exercise. As I write down my Pomodoros in advance and check them off as they’re done, within a few weeks I’ll be easily able to see if my estimates are off and adjust them.

One thing I’ve been terribly bad at this last year is protecting a sufficient number of “office days” where I’m not interrupted by errands and meetings.

So, in summary, what’s the plan?

  • plan “working abroad” visits for 2012 to reduce the number of non-working holidays while still seeing non-local friends and family
  • moratorium on new speaking/training engagements until mid-March 2012
  • continue working in Pomodoros and gain a better sense of how much time I need for my regular “ongoing” tasks and projects so that I have a “weekly framework of Pomodoros” to get organized from
  • work on standard talks and training offers (which will in the long run allow me to be more proactive and less reactive about finding clients)
  • block an “office day” per week (monthly average)

Off I go!

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OS 10.6, iCal, gCal, and my iPhone [en]

[fr] Après ma mise à jour de OSX, petit problème avec iCal qui refusait de synchroniser avec mon iPhone les calendriers Google "délégués". La solution: ajouter chaque calendrier CalDAV individuellement. J'ai aussi trouvé la source des alarmes énervantes qui ont fait récemment leur apparition pour chaque nouvel événement que j'ajoutais: l'onglet "Notifications" dans Google Calendar.

I upgraded to OSX.6 (Snow Leopard) a week or so ago and discovered that iCal supported built-in sync with Google Calendar. I’d been using Spanning Sync until now (and was happy with it) but thought that if iCal did this out of the box, I might as well try it.

So, I set up delegation to add my multiple gCal calendars to iCal, but was disappointed that only my main calendar seemed to sync with my iPhone.

I found the solution to the problem here: how to make multiple Google Calendars in iCal sync with iPhone. In short, you turn off delegation, and add each gCal manually as a CalDAV account. Five minutes of work, but it works!

Since my upgrade I also had annoying notifications for each new event I created, even though I had turned off alarms in iCal. After hunting high and low, I spotted the “Notifications” tab in gCal calendar details, and discovered I had a series of default alarms set there for my main calendar. I turned them off, and while I was at it, linked my mobile phone to my account so I can get SMS alerts when I want them. (For once that this kind of stuff works with Switzerland too!)

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Google Identity Dilemma [en]

[fr] Depuis des années, j'utilise une identité "fantaisiste" pour tous mes services Google. C'est mon identité principale (vous voyez de laquelle je parle si on est en contact). J'aimerais passer à prénom.nom comme identité principale (je la possède aussi) mais tous les services Google sont rattachés à la première, et je ne vois pas vraiment comment m'en sortir. Idées bienvenues!

When I created a Gmail address all these years ago, I chose a “funny-cute” name that was easy to remember for most of the people I knew. I was on IRC all day back then, and my nickname was bunny(wabbit_), and people knew I was Swiss.

I didn’t really think my Gmail address would become so central to my online identity, you see.

Of course, I also registered firstname.lastname and redirected it onto my main e-mail address and identity.

As years went by, Google added all sorts of services that got tied onto this identity (not to mention the 2.5Gb of archived e-mails and chats). Google Talk, Google Profiles, and recently, Google Sidewiki and Google Wave.

These last weeks, I’ve been wondering if I shouldn’t “make the switch” and use my more serious “firstname.lastname” e-mail address as my main identity. Actually, to be honest, I’d like to. But there are obstacles — oh, so many.

First, all my contacts are linked to my current account. All my e-mail is stuck in it. My Feedburner and Google Reader settings are linked to it. My blogger blog is. My calendar. Everywhere I use my Google identity for a third-party service, here we go.

And Google does not allow you to link one Google account to another (sure, you can redirect mail, but that doesn’t solve anything).

So, do you see my problem? If you have any bright ideas, I’m listening. I would really like a solution.

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Maker Days and Manager Days [en]

A few months ago I wrote an article called Office vs. Errand Days, where I explained that I had started grouping my errands on certain days and making sure that I had meeting-free office days on others.

I’ve just finished reading Paul Graham’s excellent essay Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, and realized that what I have been doing is separating my days into “manager’s schedule days” and “maker’s schedule days”.

As a freelancer, I am both: I’m the manager who meets people, has speculative meetings, receives new clients or gets interviewed by journalists. But I’m also the maker: a whole bunch of what I get paid for has to be done quietly in the office. And a whole bunch of what I need to do to get paid work also happens in the office.

So, if I’m not careful, I let the manager’s schedule take over my week, I’m super-busy but I don’t really get any paid work done, or proper prospecting.

So, here’s to grabbing my calendar again and making sure I put enough “maker days” into each of my weeks. And here’s to saying “no” firmly but gently when asked to interrupt one of my “maker days”. Even if I’m the person I need to say no to.

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Office vs. Errand Days [en]

[fr] Ma solution pour rester un peu en contrôle de mon agenda: bloquer des journées entières de travail au bureau sans rendez-vous, et concentrer tout ce qui implique sorties, courses, cours, meetings, rencontres sur d'autres journées. Etre ferme, avec soi-même tout d'abord.

These last weeks have been pretty hectic. Large amounts of stress (work and personal), slipping deadlines, contemplation of possible big changes ahead… I had the feeling that I was spending each of my days running around and not having the time to do any of all the hyper-urgent things I needed to deal with.

Now things are much calmer. I caught up with my deadlines (boy, were they running away fast!) and am much more relaxed. So, of course, it’s easy to figure out solutions that make things better and talk about them when things are better but… who knows, maybe these solutions did actually help me 😉

Actually, “this solution”: concentrate meetings and errands on given days. Book whole days in the office. Be firm with yourself. I actually put huge “booked!” meetings in my calendar. And I don’t make exceptions. Because when you start making exceptions, even with very good reasons, it’s the beginning of the end — and before long your whole week is just riddled with appointments and meetings, like a piece of old Emmental cheese.

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Google Calendar Down in Flock? [en]

[fr] Google calendar ne semble plus marcher pour moi depuis un jour ou deux. Flock/Firefox. Et vous?