Monday, January 28, 2008

Getting Things Done

I used to be pretty good at getting things done. Sort of. At the very least, I was getting done what I needed to get done. I don't actually recall doing homework in high school (outside of trying to get my girlfriend at the time to teach me how to comprehend calculus). That whole "not doing work" thing, as a lot of people realize freshman year in what I call "undergrad" now but called "college" then, went right the hell out the window when I failed the first exam I ever had (again, in calculus, as instructed by Professor Barry). So I figured out how to do things. That's worked for me pretty well to this point, but lately, I've been noticing that I'm just sort of grooving along in this nice little rut I have. I think part of it is that my schedule is not what it probably should be, but I get the sense that I should also bulk up my organizational issues, which have always been terrible. As a result, I'm going to be trying a series of things, and while this might not make a very interesting blog post, it's something and it's not video.

So. Here's what I'll be going at.

I've downloaded DarkRoom (which I'm using to type this post) and which is one of the so called "zenware" applications that are detailed by Slate's Jeffrey MacIntyre in an article examining the concept of returning to a clean desktop and the possible effects on organization. The upshot is the same as if you adjusted the margins on a Word document, made it full screen with a black background and green courier text, which I did to write my comp in undergrad, but all packed nicely into a shortcut. Oh, and there aren't big grey margins. So there's that.

Just a side thought, I think it's weird that "MacIntyre" is a name that doesn't seem hard to spell. It's, subjectively at least, a kind of strange word. I don't mean any disrespect to any MacIntyres out there. Just seems like an odd thing to be ingrained enough for a sort of unthinking spelling. Send any theories on this to either my email (on the right there) or your local congressman. And while you're at it, try to do something about these damned potholes.

I think I'm going to try to develop a deep love of and dependence on Post-It notes. In sort of the same vein as making a list and checking things off, but in a format that I can stick to things I'll be taking with me when I enter screw-around mode. If the book I'm reading is reminding me that I've got to look up a paper or every time I look up from a dryly written .pdf on the rheological properties of cheese*, I see something telling me to stop with the looking up, I might actually get something done. I had a friend in undergrad who did this and seemed to be ok about it, though they tended to accumulate in his planner and he never slept. Ever.

So we'll see.

It's also probably influenced by the fact that since Netflix has removed the hour restriction on Instant Viewing (source), I've been watching a few TV shows, including Dead Like Me, which is good times. Unfortunately, not all of the episodes are on Netflix, so I may need to make the ice-laden trek to somewhere that sells the box set for a reasonable price. Actually, now that I think of it, there was a weird side story about the pathetic manager of the office that George Lass worked in having a website ("Getting Things Done with Dolores") for which she set up a bunch of webcams and people paid to, ostensibly, watch her accomplish menial tasks in her studio apartment.

This post is completely different and not like that at all.

This is a one-bedroom.

I know everyone and their mother has already done it, but the idea of 43things intrigues me. I don't know if I'll set up an account, but the idea of not only setting goals but making them public appeals to me on a "you'll start doing this or suffer the shame of humiliation" way.

A lot of the things I do operate on a way to avoid humiliation, so that actually works out really well for me. Not so well in the arena of being terribly outgoing, but pretty well.

There are actually two corollaries to this that gathered my interest in the past week. The first was this segment on Talk of the Nation, in which a man convinces himself to lose fifteen pounds by wagering on it. I should probably look into losing fifteen pounds myself, but the idea of setting negative incentives (financial or, since I'm a broke-ass grad student, pride-based) sounds like a way to force myself into getting things done. Maybe I'll set something up where I make some donation to a cause that I hate any time I go a week without posting something here on murphspot.

The other thing, which was pointed out to me in an email, runs on exactly those lines with another problem I have: waking up on time. Thinkgeek (which sells a lot of things that you, the reader, should buy me) has this as a new product. A Wi-Fi alarm clock that deducts money from your bank account and sends it to a charity or group of your choosing if you hit the snooze button. The idea being that you pick causes and charities you despise so that you force yourself out of bed in order to stop, say, Hippies with Unicycles United from getting any of your money.

I don't think this would work for me. Sure, the incentive's there, but I'd do something like forget to turn it off when I leave town for a few days and end up giving a bunch of money to some society for the prevention of Ryan-Fun, or something.

And it'd be sad times.

Good thing I kept this short and didn't ramble at all.

*I did my REU (Research Experience for Undergrads) at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, studying the rheological properties of certain hydrogels. A bunch of the literature I looked at that was trying to provide reasons for that particular branch of physical chemistry to exist seemed to mention the importance of determining the properties of cheeses.


Kriss said...

I am engaged in a love match that dare not speak its name with pretty much any surface that I can write on, which is why there are recipes written on the back of bills and phone numbers on the wall. My thesis folder is exploding with post-its. Use moderation.

Rory said...

I had the idea a couple years ago for a desktop application that you could write digital post-it notes that would stick to your computer desktop.

The idea being that there would a quick launch icon (that actual had use) you'd click it, type in the text then position an automatically dated, realistic looking post-it somewhere on the screen.

It could be highly configurable. The post-its could sit below icons so they would just become part of the background, or they would sit on top of it, actually inhibiting your ability to accomplish work until you took care of things. You would actually have to move them around to get to areas of your desktop, forcing you to be mindful of your notes. One could also add details like wear and tear, or collecting dust over time.

I found programs that did some similar things, but couldn't find one that didn't put static block (Blockenstachen!) icons in courier font on my computer, and didn't use roughly 80% of my computer resources to use.