“Getting Things Done” review

November 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting Things Done

Here’s a book I really, really liked. I read it three times, even. Called “Getting Things Done” by David Allen and it’s basically a workflow management book that bills itself as “stress free productivity”. One of the basic premises of the book is that giant to-do lists are ineffective and ends up being counter-productive over time. This is because the list gets unwieldy and intimidating with time and there is no easy way to harness the information in it. The book argues that one of the reasons people get stressed out so much is that really don’t have a good mental grasp on what is being worked on and, more importantly, what is knowingly NOT being worked on.

To sum it up, GTD is basically a collection/implementation system that organizes your to-do’s, events, and objects in your life in such a way where you can can have a better grasp on what is going on. This is done by having a good collection process, breaking up todo items into their own contexts (“at work”, “phone calls”, “out in the field”) and thinking in terms of the “next action level”, not the project level. The “next action” is basically defined as “the next little step to move this project forward”. While this may seems obvious to most, “next actions” are actually (and surprisingly) not done by most people in the real world. People tend to have no concrete notion of what the next step is, they tend to think in larger chunks. “Get oil change in car” is too amorphous. “Calling around and ask what the best deal” is something more concrete. Humans need to get into this habit.

GTD is a bottom-up system, rather than a top-down one. The results of your next action steps determine how you handle the enclosed project. And the results of your projects allow you to re-evaluate your “one level up” areas of responsibility. This creates a system that is adaptive to changing conditions so you can better go with the flow. It eschews formal “big design up-front” planning in favor of informal planning and adaptability.

A bird’s eye view of the process is as follows:

Workflow chart

This workflow system helps you understand a) what you have to do, b) what you NOT have to do at this point in time, and 3) how to view the system in a way where prioritizing is obvious. A regular review of the system is one of the key points in the system, and should be done on a weekly basis.

Personally, I use the emacs org-mode to manage and take care of the system. org-mode is excellent for viewing/managing lists in different context (check out org-mode and org-mode agenda!)

Finally, the thing I like about the book was written from a practitioner’s point-of-view, not an academic. It’s a real world system that has been refined over decades. The book is easy to read and avoids academic jargon with lots of insightful tidbits and practical advice. To an entrepreneur who has to wear many hats during the course of his workday, this book is a blessing.

Atlas Shrugged

May 3, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A dumb person’s idea of what a smart book is

 

Image

Bright Star

January 17, 2014 at 11:06 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

One of my favorite movies:

Which is unusual because i usually hate romance movies. I liked this one though. It’s intelligent people talking about intelligent things.

Occupy LA

November 30, 2011 at 11:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I went to Occupy LA on sunday, here’s a picture:
Occupy LA

I’d estimate there were 1500 people there or so (possibly more). It’s gotten a lot bigger since I first started going there a few weeks ago. They actually have sections now – a kids section, a medical section, a food section, etc. NoFX played a benefit concert today (which I annoyingly missed), but it’s cool, it’s still a great place to hang out and meet people.

It also turns out the police just evicted everyone yesterday (tuesday night). About 1400 cops made about 200 arrests or so. People stayed anyway. I’m also a bit irked that the lapd got to decide which media outlets got to cover the eviction. What is this, communist china? hhhhhh. I got most of my news from twitter, it ends up being a more accurate source than Big Media anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens. My guess the occupiers ultimately won’t leave. At most, it will reconvene at pershing square or something, no big deal.

That’s it, I’m bringing my tent there next weekend and sleep there. I need to catch up on some reading on some hacker shit and it’ll be best to do it there.

Kelly Bartlett poems

April 19, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I came across a few poems from a young girl (age 11) a few years back on about.com. “Kelly Barlett” was her nom de plume. I’m putting this out on the internet in the hopes someone knows of her whereabouts. She’s 24 now and I assume she has a blog or something out there. Perhaps she’s even published. If anyone knows who she is, please reply. Her output at such a young age is amazing.

Summer Sprite
by Kelly Bartlett
age last edited: 11

See the delicate hummingbird,
As tiny as a baby’s thumb.
Zooming through the flower garden,
Sipping sweet elixir from each mum.

His exquisite plumage sparkling,
In the summer’s radiant sunlight.
Like wee precious diamonds,
Iridescent colors seem to ignite.

Flitting from flower to flower,
As rapid as the eye can blink.
To each blossom he will zoom,
Delicious nectar he will drink.

A diminutive flying wizard,
Darting sideways and upside down!
Hovering almost stationary,
From morning’s first light to sundown.

What a wonderful acrobatic aviator,
Performing truly Amazing stunts!
To each bouquet he skillfully zips,
Imbibing the sweet juice more than once.

Secret Love
by Kelly Bartlett
Age last edited: 11
Georgia, USA

Why can’t I tell you how I feel?
How much I love and adore you,
This affection I have for you is real.
I know you have these feelings too.

You must be as bashful as I’m.
In class I can feel you staring each day,
But when your eyes meet mine
You become embarrassed and look away.

We talk for hours on the phone,
And time goes by so fast,
When we hang up I feel empty and alone.
I wish our talks could last and last.

When I look in your brown eyes,
I get a funny feeling inside.
You are different from the other guys.
I blush and get all starry-eyed.

At lunch you always sit near by,
But we just make small talk and smile.
Why are we both so painfully shy?
Why do we both live in denial?

Alan Kay on presentations

August 12, 2009 at 12:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I have always been an admirer of Alan Kay. In case you don’t know who he is, he’s one of the fathers of object oriented programming. He was also heavily involved in the creation of the graphical user interface back in the 1970’s. Anyway, I wrote to the receptionist of his company asking a question about his presentations and, shock of all shocks, he actually wrote back!

This is what he had to say:

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your kind words. I didn’t use any books to learn how to give presentations (but I most certainly did have to learn!). I was inspired by Seymour Papert who, when I asked him how he was able to be such a great presenter, told me that he had spent two years learning to “write and present to teachers”. This got me going trying to find my own solutions.

I forget what is in that reading list, but there could be a few books about the nature of theater. “The Magic Mirror” by Robert Nathan is a good one. Theater (like most arts, especially the visual ones) is all about trying to answer the question “What do we have to show the audience to get them to ‘remember’ deep things about the subject matter?” It is not about conveying information (and, the pace and short time duration are wrong for trying to teach anything but the most incremental notions).

What we are trying to help them do is get a glimpse of ways of looking at things that have not occured to them, and would be powerful if they were willing to put further effort into doing real learning.

I think the other key (which people do not like to hear) is the amount of prep it actually takes. For a 1 hour talk I never spend less than about 4 hours preparing, and often spend many 10s of hours preparing.

Part of the reason is that I need to do what it takes to reengage me in what the talk is about — what is really important, what is really cool about all this — so when I do the talk what you are hearing is just exactly how excited I feel about the ideas and the ways of looking at them. I never try to fake this.

This reengagement is the key to performing for an audience, and it is something that is familiar to every actor and musician, etc. Otherwise what one is doing is repeating rather than recreating, and it’s the recreation that produces the shared excitement.

Another thing I do which most people don’t is to give my talks in our own dynamic media. Using something like powerpoint is silly when the subject is computing (even those rare occasions when someone actually understands how to use something like powerpoint).

Bottom line: quite a bit of success in giving a talk is directly related to just how much the speaker cares about the audience and how they are trying to help the audience. From this, the learning and prep that the speaker actually needs to do follows pretty straightforwardly.

Cheers,

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