Category Archives: Lifestyle

The Unplanned Hiatus

beach-394503_1280For those that follow me here and on the various social media platforms I use I’m sure you’ve noticed the drastic drop-off of interaction and posting – it was unplanned.

I’ve often said that this is my personal blog and while I don’t typically share much about the family directly I decided to break that rule (ok, it’s more of a guideline) and break my silence with a peek inside that world.

Some weeks back, shortly after my the post about picking up a Chromebook, my family’s world was tipped upside down and shaken (definitely not stirred) with the news that my wife of nearly 22 years had breast cancer. There’s the initial shock that overcomes you when news like this is delivered, followed by the “why me?” question. My wife took the news pretty hard and as you can probably guess I went into support mode.

I not only shifted my thought process to cover what she needed but I needed to take on all the roles she filled with my three teenage kids and continue to fill the requirements of my day job. It’s been and continues to be a struggle to keep all of that in balance but it is getting easier (at least until school gets out!)

She’s been through the needed surgery and we received a bit of good news there as the cancer was contained and we got to it early enough that she’s dodging the radiation and chemotherapy bullets (at least for now). We are still dealing with the emotional issues of not only the cancer but also the initial surgery and the work we are now doing with the plastic surgeon.

All I can say about my wife is that she has a heart of gold and the inner strength that many of us would die to have. She calls me her rock but I have to admit that seeing her handle this with the grace and sense of humor she has shown is inspiring – so we’ll both take something away from this experience that will make us better individually, as a couple, and I believe as a family.

So what does this all mean for my blogs and social media? Just that while there’s been a hiatus and a general lack of focus on them, they aren’t going anywhere. In fact the time off has also given me a chance to think about what I’m doing here and elsewhere.

So going forward the focal point of everything I do online is right here, at this blog. It’s one of the things that I’ve found in dealing with everything going with my wife and the family, it’s better to have focus than be scattershot. This doesn’t mean I’m abandoning my social media presence, it just means that rather than spending my time trying to build an audience everywhere else I’m going to focus that time here.

Everything I share here will be pushed out through my various social media accounts and I will respond to questions, comments and general pings that come in through those avenues but I’m not going to spend time actively seeking followers out there.

There’s also going to be a shift around here too. During my hiatus I came across a blog post, Stop Listening to Blogging Advice and Do This Instead, and as so often in life you hear a piece of advice over and over and until you’re ready to hear it, it just doesn’t sink in.

For some reason this time it did.

I’ve spent a great deal of time reading about blogging, blog design, developing a following, how to promote things on social media, the list goes on and on but there was something missing from all of that . . .

I wasn’t actually blogging.

So I’m going to try really hard going forward to stop trying to find the “magic bullet” that will take this blog to the level I would like and just write. As I said above, this is a personal blog so the topics will likely cross many things as I have many interests and let’s face it, if you want read about one particular topic I’m sure there’s a place you can read about it. I will also be honest, over time a focus may develop for the blog and the topics may dwindle, but that will be because that’s where this journey has taken me, not something I arbitrarily decided and forced myself to write about.

You’ll also start to see some changes to the design and advertising as I figure out what I want and not necessarily what the “experts” are saying we should do. I do understand that on some level I need to be concerned about my personal brand but should be about who I am and what I feel I can give back to the community as a whole, not some pigeon hole I’ve picked for myself.

I’m also going to be looking at the organization of things, so don’t be surprised if things get placed in new categories or if categories and tags vanish or new ones get added.

Finally, I’ve decided that I’m going to post when I want and when I have something I want to share. So many of the “experts” out there have an answer for when you should post along with how often and quite frankly I’m not totally sold on that line of thought. Yes, I may start to favor a particular day or time frame but that will just because I’ve found a natural rhythm and not because I’m conforming to some formula.

They say that when your family is hit by cancer it is a life changing event and I can definitely agree with that statement. My offline world has already started showing those changes, not just in the way that my wife and I are dealing with it but also in the ways that everyone is interacting and working to beat it. My online world has benefited as it’s finally caused me to really give it some thought as to what I should be doing and get off my backside and start actually doing something instead of just reading about it.

I appreciate all of you that are reading the blog and are following me on the various social media platforms, it is because of you that I do this. I could write a daily journal on my home machine if I just wanted to write, but I feel it’s important to give back and I honestly enjoy the conversations.

I hope that you’ll continue to follow along and let me know your thoughts on what you like and what you’d like to see more of – be sure to share those in the comments below (don’t worry, I won’t bite).

The latest weapon in my arsenal – the Acer Chromebook

Acer Chromebook

Acer Chromebook

In my last post I mentioned that I had lost my battle with Google, and last week I took the next step in my walk down Google Way and purchased the Acer Chromebook 11 CB3-111-C670 (11.6-inch HD, 2GB, 16GB) through Amazon.

While I could go on and write a review for it I’m not going to as there are plenty of others that have reviewed it and they were a factor in my decision to go ahead and purchase it.

I will say this, know what you are buying. I frequently saw this chromebook called a laptop and while that may be an accurate statement for some it forms a certain expectation for the buyer if they take it at face value. I saw a number of negative comments out there but when I read things like, “doesn’t run windows,” or, “can’t run Office,” to things like, “there was no DVD drive,” I ignored them. I wasn’t buying this to replace a Windows laptop, I was buying it because I’m moving more and more into the arms of the cloud (ok, mostly Google, but not entirely).

For me the transition to using the chromebook has been pretty easy, but then again I knew why and for what tasks I was buying it. I’m using is as a supplement for my other tools and while it has mostly replaced my laptop for nightly tasks it isn’t the best tool for everything. For example my day-time employer is a Microsoft shop and I’m expected to use those products and the provided hardware so I do.

Having the chromebook is making it that much easier to separate my day job from the rest of my life – mobile wise I have a Moto X for my use and carry an iPhone 5s for work.

I will say I have hit a few bumps with offline access, but I feel that’s more from a lack of experience than a flaw with the system. Once I figured out how to make sure things were synced up when I went offline everything smoothed itself out. I have my offline Gmail chrome app and I’ve managed to create some longer form documents without much of a hit to my normal productivity and I suspect things will only get better as I become more accustom to working this way.

Will I go back into the arms of my Windows 8.1 laptop? For some things I’m sure I will, at least in the short term, but as I find the needed tools and resource that I can leverage with my new weapon I’m sure my reliance on it will dwindle down to nearly nothing (there will always be something).

So I wonder, how many out there are using a chromebook as their primary computing device? Are you thinking about getting one? Do you think I’m nuts for picking one up? Let me know in the comments.

Just don’t sit there, Spartan Up!

Spartan-Up-Book_300x250This past week I was given the opportunity to take a look at the soon to be released book written by Joe De Sena, Spartan Up!

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front, I’ve never run in a Spartan race but I have great respect for those that do. If you’re not familiar with them you should definitely look them up.

So why would a desk jockey like myself read a book like this? I asked myself the same question as I started reading and to be honest I’m glad I did.

This isn’t a book about tips and tricks, how to write a better “to do” list, or even how to set up your email account so you can get to “inbox zero.” This book is about driving forward, facing the obstacles that are ahead of you and driving through them.

In writing this book, Joe takes the approach of sharing experiences from his own life as well as from the races themselves and it makes the book that much more interesting to read. He takes those examples and uses them as lessons to help you question your comfort zone, to get you to pick action over sitting still, to get you to see the Spartan way and adopt it.

I know the above sounds a lot like a sales pitch, and to be honest I will be receiving a copy of the book when it’s released in May, but I honestly feel this book would have been on my reading list anyway. I’ve grown tired of seeing the same ideas and thoughts recast so that another book can be written and sold. Spartan Up! is different and I think is worth your time.

Don’t just take my word for it though, here’s Joe telling you why you should Spartan UP!

Project Reboot – September Check-in

It’s been about 6 weeks since I started Project Reboot and I thought I would check in and let folks know how things are going.

Task Management

I’m still rocking the Evernote solution I decided on. I’m still not using it as consistently as I would like but I do find it easier to use it than some of the other solutions I’ve used in the past. I did sign up for another solution a couple of weeks back to check it out but caught myself before going to far down that rabbit hole. It’s the common problem of “productivity porn” and I’m still working on not falling into that trap.

Social Media

So far I’ve managed to keep this from ruling my life, I’m still trying to iron out all the wrinkles though. I’m not living in it like I use to and I’m not constantly trying to keep up with it either. I spend very little time with Google+, facebook is limited to just family and friends (and then only once, maybe twice a day max). LinkedIn and Twitter are seeing more emphasis but between the two I’m only dropping about an hour or so.

RSS

In my last update I mentioned that I was going to tackle my RSS backlog and look at my options for keeping up with it. The first thing I did was look at my feeds and realized that there were a number of them that were either not updating any longer or I wasn’t reading so I decided to drop those. Then I looked at the remaining volume and found I had a couple that were being updated so often everything else was getting lost in the mix. I nixed those as well as I found I was reading only a few articles out of the whole feed – I can go to those websites for that (they are topic specific or series).

The final decision I made was on the reader. After giving it some thought I decided to roll my own with Tiny Tiny RSS. Does it have all the features of Feedly or the now defunct Google Reader? No. Does it give me what I need without the fear of being shut down or the need to pay to use it? Yes. Okay, there is a mobile app that costs $2 but at least it’s not a monthly subscription.

Email

Along with the need to bring my RSS under control I started work on email. I know I’m not as bad as some but I’m averaging about 1200 inbound emails a month to my main account so it needed attention. The first thing I did was switch the bulk of the mailing lists I’m on over to digest mode – instant reduction. I’ve also been going through and unsubscribing to those that I no longer read or no longer want.

One of the changes I’m working on is to move to other forms of communication where I can. Obviously phone calls work along with text messages and I’m using both where I can – going to try and push more folks to using those along with messengers and direct messages through Google or Twitter (check out this post recommended by Greg in my last post).

My Office

I’m not talking about my work office or the office I have as Secretary for the Masonic Lodge I belong to, I’m talking about my home office. The best way to describe it – controlled chaos. Most of the time I have to move something to get to something else or have to go digging for hours to find it. So, while I was on vacation the last couple of weeks I’ve been spending a few minutes here and there to try and eliminate some of the chaos. I know there are those that would say I’m doing it wrong, that I should block a few days, empty the office and then ‘rebuild it.’ Wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to actually enjoy my vacation and, to be honest, emptying my office wasn’t going to work as you need somewhere to put it all. So I’ve been scanning (storage in Evernote), shredding (that whole security/privacy thing), tossing out (yeah!) and rewiring (zip ties anyone?) – it’s a work in progress but as least now I have a bit more open desk space and don’t trip over something every time I get up.

Things are far from complete, some of the things I still need to iron out:

  • My social media policy
  • A clean up and refresh of the blogs I work on
  • Tools – make some decisions and get rid of the rest

I also need to finalize what constitutes the completion of this project (and put a date on it) as if there’s no criteria for completion it’s really a process not a project.

Project Reboot – Two week update and RSS feeds

Newspaper_Feed_add_256x256So two weeks ago I officially kicked off my Project Reboot, a project where I’m looking at the various aspects of my life both on and off line. I know it’s only been a couple of weeks but I thought I quick update would be a good idea.

Task Management – This was my first area of focus and I decided to make the switch and use Evernote for all of my task and project tracking. So far the results have been mixed. To be honest it’s still a bit early to tell as it’s a new setup for me and any new system will take time to iron itself out.

Social Media – A little over a week ago I tackled this part of my life and I think the results have been pretty good so far. As I suspected I ended up doing very little with facebook and LinkedIn as I paid a bit more attention to what I was doing on those two networks.

For Google+ I ended up uncircling about half of those that were in my list. The result was interesting, the number of folks that had be circled really didn’t change, in fact it’s gone up a couple of ticks since then. The posts that I’m looking at seem to be a bit more in line with what I would like to read and there seems to be a bit more interaction now.

Twitter was by far my worst network and while it goes against what many ‘social experts’ would tell you to do I nuked my entire list. That’s right I unfollowed everyone. For the most part it happened very quietly, I had a couple of responses and after pointing back to my blog post things continued on as normal. I’ve have about 20% of those following me leave but again I’m seeing a bit more interaction now and my twitter feed is definitely easier to review.

I will say this about twitter – use lists. While I may have unfollowed a lot of folks I have many of them on a list and check out what’s being posted frequently and I’m slowly starting to follow some of them.

This week’s challenge is RSS (really simple syndication). I don’t follow a lot of feeds but I’m looking at almost 1600 unread items – seems a bit out of control. I have been using feedly but as I’m going to be evaluating things a bit I’m going to test out The Old Reader and see how it goes.

Is there an RSS reader that you prefer?