Keeping a ToDo list

Aug 24, 2011

For about a year now I’ve been keeping a ToDo list. It’s the first thing I reach for when I have a block of time to spend, I find it saves me a lot of spin up time, and makes me think about what’s important. It’s not a particularly new idea; heaps of productivity authors have written their take on it, but I thought I’d share some of the details of my own system.

I like to keep the list items in order of priority and really concise; usually three words and nothing over twenty words.

I keep my lists on Evernote so I can access them either on my phone or via the web interface. In meetings or at times where thoughts are being brainstormed I use paper and a pen. This is good because you can focus on the meeting and fiddle with a gadget less. It also gives me time after the meeting to help filter and prioritise what goes into the list I work from.

I actually keep a few lists, one for each context of my life that I switch between.

For some of the lists I keep a corresponding Done list. I find the Done list useful for self reflection or those funny old performance reviews.

These are some of my lists I switch between.

  • Work ToDo/Done
  • Ideas
  • Blog Post
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Other Shopping
  • Household Maintenance
  • Holiday Plans

Software Webinars

Aug 11, 2011

A former colleague of mine recently published a post about Software Webinars that got me thinking. At my work we write software that is priced too low to pay a slick sales guy to jet around bending ears, unless a big new prospect is involved. So instead we use video conferencing tools to run webinars. After attending a few of these webinars I have dreamed up a strategy to maximise efficiency.

If the webinar is going to have five or fewer audience members and it doesn’t have to be repeated, then make it less formal and more interactive by using a question and answer type format. This way the audience members control the direction of the presentation.

If the conference has to be repeated or there are six or more audience members, then just pre-record the presentation part and press play when everyone has joined. At the end of the pre-recorded video, allow for questions and answers.

Pre-recording will take a bit of time upfront, but it will be reusable and you will be able to edit out any problems.

I think that five is the magic number of audience members, not three. With more than five people, the mood in the room is that of a broadcast, probably because it is difficult to find the opportune moment to interrupt. Also, the number of side conversations increases as the audience grows. A group of five can only diverge into two side conversations. Larger groups are also bolder, rowdier and it can be harder to get your message across.

Computing is Cheap

Apr 25, 2011

Over a decade ago I used to run a Linux server (Redhat at first and later Gentoo) that did some routing, stored files and hosted my website and a squid proxy. The Internet link was a terrible upload capped cable connection with a dynamic domain name service to update the host name when the IP address changed.

The server was a bit of a beast with 4 hard drives in it so I imagine it would have used some electricity. Using the current electricity rates (0.19c per kwh * 24hrs * 31 days * 0.250kw) I estimate running the server would cost around $35. And that does not factor in the cost of the connection.

This long weekend I got myself a Virtual Private Server for around $7 a month (with the current good AUS exchange rate).

Here is the comparison:

  • The upload connection is 2mbps rather than 128kbps.
  • The disk space is a modest 5GB rather than 160GB.
  • Software these days seems to be pretty memory intensive and needed tweaking to run on 128MB efficiently; on the older server I think I had 512MB.
  • The CPU is 2.4GHz compared to a 350MHz but I am sharing it with other virtual machines.

Computing power is cheap and virtualisation is making it cheaper.