3baid's Thoughts

Putting into words what occupies my mind

Frou Frou – Let Go

11 Ways to Make Your Living Space Look Bigger

Do the right things and ignore the rest

Scott Hanselman explains how to dig yourself out of the guilt-ridden cycles of distraction and interruptions

Furoshiki

 

Another beautiful Japanese concept of using cloth as wrapping material which can then be reused for other purposes.

Organization Tools

Our lives are filled with all kinds of information; information about ourselves, about other people, about things that we are interested in, and things that we may be concerned about. Our minds however, can only cope with so much, so we tend to forget the less important matters. What did you have for lunch last week? I certainly can’t remember because it doesn’t matter to me anymore.

Moreover, information is dynamic; it may change so frequently that we cannot keep track of it. For example, you may have memorized your friend’s telephone number only to find that they’ve changed their operator a few months later. Or perhaps you’ve purchased a new printer and now can’t recall the new model number to buy ink cartridges while you’re at the supplies store, and so on…

If we are to be able to organize our life effectively, we will need a system that can help us consistently manage this abundant information so that we can take advantage of it rather than feel overwhelmed by it.

Notes to the Rescue!

To put our minds at ease, people have devised notes. When we find ourselves faced with facts that are relevant but difficult to remember, we ought to write them down so that we can retrieve them later as needed. In order for our notes to be reliable, we must ensure that they are with us at all times, therefore in my opinion, the best means of note-taking is our very own mobile phone; it’s with you everywhere you go.

I’ve tried many note-taking applications for iPhone, but found SimpleNote to be one of the best. It’s free, syncs with the web, supports tags, and lets you search offline. The Apple Notes app is good, but syncs one-way to iCloud and Mail. Evernote doesn’t let you search offline unless you pay monthly premium.

Not All Notes are Created Equal

If we note someone’s telephone number or email address it is said to be a  contact. Similarly, if we note a list of items, such as a shopping list, we call it a task list or to-do list. A note that is relevant to a specific point in time or location is called a  reminder. A regular fact can be written as a text note. A note about an event taking place for some duration is a calendar event.

Conceptually, all these types of notes do the same thing: they store a large amount of information so that we don’t have to memorize it all. The difference being is that each type of note lives in a different app:

  • People’s contact and addresses live in the Address Book app
  • Task lists and alerts live in the Reminders app (or iCal)
  • Text notes live in Notes app (or SimpleNote)
  • Time events live in Calendar

But I Already Know All This, So What?

As I mentioned earlier, in order for all your notes to be effective, they must be with you at all times. Now suppose you are working at your desk, and you wanted to send an email. You could use your phone to retrieve your contact’s email address. This is okay if you only had to fetch one or two contacts, but if you had to do it regularly, it would be too cumbersome. (For those of you who use Google Tasks on Gmail or GCal, you’ll find that there are no free native iPhone apps that also work offline).

Therefore, it is not enough to be able to access your notes on one device (in our case, the phone), you need to be able have your information synced with the rest of your work environment (your desktop, iPad, tablet, etc..).

Too Many Things to Check

Except for calendar items, the rest of your notes should be passive; you shouldn’t be constantly checking them, they are there to be fetched when you need them. If you have a to-do list, schedule time to do it. If you want to call someone later, add a reminder to call them. Don’t get into the habit of memorizing things or checking your phone multiple times because it may be unreliable and time consuming.

Your Email Inbox is not for Notes!

A lot of people use their email inbox as a note-taking app (send email to themselves or keep as “draft”) because mail is a standard that works well across all devices, but unlike notes, email cannot be edited once it is sent, it cannot effectively alert you of an event at a specific time or location, or let you retrieve contact information (unless contacts sync via LDAP or similar). Strictly speaking, e-mail should be a communication tool, not a note-taking app for the same reasons why SMS shouldn’t be a note-taking app. Although, information that you gain from emails should be noted separately. This is probably why Apple included the notes feature within Apple Mail.

Example Scenario

To end this post, I’d like to share a example of how I may use my notes. Suppose a friend calls and asks to have lunch:

  1. Use Calendar to find free time and set it
  2. Use text notes to find restaurant information (or do web search)
  3. Use Address Book to note restaurant telephone number and make reservations
  4. Use Reminders to set an alarm for reservation time
  5. Use To-Do list if you need to prepare something before lunch or perhaps after lunch (and set another reminder for that)

I hope you found this all enlightening.

What You Know

Markdown

Markdown Example Title
======================

This is an example of a markdown page. It includes the basic
syntax which you'll be using most often. Text can extend or break at any point, 
like so,
but it's better to keep the width of documents constrained to a
fixed number of characters (usually 60 or 65) so that content can
still look good in plain text.

Now let's take a look at a numbered list:

   1. Titles
   2. Subtitles
   3. Lists
   4. Links


Subtitle
--------

Subtitles are just like titles, except they use the dash
character instead of the equals sign. It's also a good idea to 
add an extra return above it to make it more distinguishable from
the rest of the content.

Here's another list:

   * Lists can also be bullet points
   * I use 3 spaces before the bullet for readability

     You can also have multiple paragraphs under one point.
     But make sure you indent correctly.

   * Nesting lists is a slightly harder

      * because you need to indent twice as much
      * in order to make it work


Links
-----
Links are shown by placing them between parenthesis. If you'd 
like to read more about Markdown visit: 
[The Markdown page](http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/)

That is all!

The result:

Markdown Example Title

This is an example of a markdown page. It includes the basic syntax which you’ll be using most often. Text can extend or break at any point, like so, but it’s better to keep the width of documents constrained to a fixed number of characters (usually 60 or 65) so that content can still look good in plain text.

Now let’s take a look at a numbered list:

  1. Titles
  2. Subtitles
  3. Lists
  4. Links

Subtitle

Subtitles are just like titles, except they use the dash character instead of the equals sign. It’s also a good idea to add an extra return above it to make it more distinguishable from the rest of the content.

Here’s another list:

  • Lists can also be bullet points
  • I use 3 spaces before the bullet for readability

    You can also have multiple paragraphs under one point. But make sure you indent correctly.

  • Nesting lists is a slightly harder

    • because you need to indent twice as much
    • in order to make it work

Links

Links are shown by placing them between parenthesis. If you’d like to read more about Markdown visit: The Markdown page

That is all!

Critical Thinking

  • Clarity
  • Precision
  • Accuracy
  • Relevance
  • Depth

Notification-Driven Life

Somebody That I Used to Know – Walk off the Earth

Impossible vocal control at 1:44

Indestructable Paper

Have you heard of Tyvek? It is material that made from plastic woven fibers that feels like regular paper, but is “nearly indestructible”.

Happy New January!

How could we wish somebody a happy new year when it is only about to start? I wished for a happy 2011 and we all know how terrible it was. Who’s to say that 2012 will be any better?

For such a small statement, “Happy New Year!” is a huge forecast of the next 365 days of our lives. I propose we chop it up into shorter bite-sized “Happy Month!” statements so that if it the first month goes well, we can say, “Happy February!” and so on. Then when we know things are about to go bad, we stop saying it. At least that way, the happy-31-day guarantee becomes slightly more reliable up until its expiration.

Happy new January everyone!

Extra Air! Extra Bland! New Similar Package! No Familiar Taste!

What in the world is going on? I just tried the “new extra-crunchy, extra-cremey” KitKat and it tastes like cheap biscuit dipped in carnation (condensed) milk. Now that I think about it, Carnation is a Nestle brand, so this is starting to make sense. What happened to the good ol’ main ingredient: chocolate? I could hardly taste any.

But Nestle’s isn’t the only company doing this. I’ve noticed others taking similar strategies lately: cheating consumers by slightly changing the packaging to imply “new” or “improved” product, then slightly changing the volume to imply a more feasible price point (although the cost per volume is higher and you tend to repurchase more often), and finally changing the formula or flavor slightly. “It cleans more effectively”. “It’s crunchier!”. No it’s not, it tastes more like cardboard now!

We’ve all seen the new Panadol packaging right? “IT’S SUPER EFFECTIVE!”. Sure. They’re either selling you the same thing or they’ve figured out a cheaper way of producing it. The smokescreens are just there for you to not notice the difference: it’s worse than before.

This is the song that doesn’t end

This is the song that doesn’t end…
Yes it goes on and on my friend…
Some people started singing it not knowing what it was…
And they’ll continue singing it forever just because…

How many emails do you get?

Log into your Gmail account and type this in the search field: “after:2011/11/1 before:2011/12/1 -(subject:chat with)”, then navigate to the oldest page to find out how many email threads you’ve received for the month of November of this year.

I got 358 email threads. That’s roughly an average of 12 a day.

As for my trash, it contained 129 threads, and it would probably contain more had Gmail not automatically deleted the messages that are older than 30 days.

That’s an approximate total of 488 email threads a month.

Google should create a Trends and Statistics page for Gmail. I think it would be interesting to see the number of messages sent, read, or processed throughout the year. Which months/weeks/days are the busiest? Who are the top senders? Most deleted/ignored mail? People who send the largest attachments? Then from that, suggest filters or solutions to optimize your email experience.

The more messages we have to deal with, the less time we spend focusing on doing actual work. As Merlin Mann explained on his website inboxzero.com: our attention is finite and we wear it thin every time we manage emails.

 

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