Category Archives: Personal Development

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!

Time for a Social Media Scrub

By Informartica8vo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsIn my initial post about Project Reboot I listed social media as one are that I was going to focus on and I figured I should dig into it sooner rather than later as it is an area that has gotten out of control.

(A word of warning, I’m going to use one set of terms for things here for simplicity. Please feel free to substitute the appropriate term for any given social media platform.)

When starting out I went through periods where I followed everyone, followed no one, unfollowed some, followed others, toyed with lists, alerts – you begin to get the idea I think. My social media engagement is far from optimized and I often find myself questioning the value of it.

Social media is a very interesting beast, there is no right or wrong way to do it – there’s the way you want to use it. Keeping that in mind I’ve decided to create a guidelines that I’m going to use going forward.

1. No more platforms (for now)

It’s easy to get sucked into the latest and greatest, that new shiny object, the killer platform that will the be death of facebook. For the foreseeable future I will not join any new platforms, nor will I evaluate them. I know that this is a rather drastic standpoint to take but if I don’t, I’ll continue to look at and join other networks which I may not be able to maintain going forward – best to cut to the quick and be done with it.

2. Focus on my core four

This is a follow on to item #1. I belong to a number of social media platforms and while I don’t intend to cancel my accounts with them I won’t be focusing on them. I’m not going to be looking to build networks there (at least for now) but will continue to use them in a reduced manner. The focus going forward will be my core four – Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and facebook.

3. Be more selective in who I “follow”

On some networks this is an easy thing to do as I was selective when I started using them, others, not so much. One I hit the reboot switch on this area (more on that in a moment), I’m going to force myself to ask the question, “what value is this person going to add to my life?” If I can’t answer that question in my own head I won’t follow them. That’s not to say the individual won’t go on a ‘watch and see’ type list, or a list centered around one of my areas of focus, I’m just not going to commit to the relationship right now.

4. Engage more

It’s a simple statement, and a bit vague to be honest, so what do I mean by it. I’m going to work on sharing a bit more, as Guy Kawasaki says, “act like NPR.” So expect to see a bit more from me concerning items of interest to me which I hope that you’ll also find interesting. Will there be personal updates sent out? I’m sure there will be, it is a social platform after all.

I’m also going to work on being better at responding to those that choose to reply or comment to what I post regardless of platform. In the past I haven’t been as responsive so I’m going to be working on that.

So, with those guidelines in place it’s time to get things under control. Since I’m focusing on four different platforms each will have it’s own ‘reboot instructions.’

facebook – I’ll start with this one as it’s my smallest network. When I began using facebook I made the commitment I would use it to connect with those I went to school with along with family and friends. So far I’ve been doing a pretty good job at keeping it that way. So for the reboot I’m going to review my list of friends and create a list for each distinct group so I can share things more appropriatly if need be.

LinkedIn – I’ve been on this network longer than any other (joined in 2005) and like my facebook account I’ve always been a bit more critical about who I connect with. The number of connections here is quite a bit larger than facebook but I’m going to take the same approach here – review and trim. I’m not expecting to remove connections but you never know, I’m also going to review my group memberships and the email settings (getting a bit too many from the system lately).

Google+ – This is the last network I joined and unlike the twitter and facebook I had a tendency to circle folks without necessarily looking at what they posted – good to build up what’s in your stream, bad if you’re looking to get value out of it. The nice thing about this network is that I did try to organize circles so sorting through things is a bit easier. So for this network I’m going to be uncircling a number of folks – not because I don’t like you but you might not fit in with what I want to focus on right now or you might not be using the service and you’re in a circle because you are in my regular contact list. I’m also going to look at the communities I’m in to determine if I should stay or go as well as look for ones that fit where I’m going.

Twitter – I saved this one for last because I tend to share the most on this network (at least lately) and it is also my largest network where I’m following about 3700 folks. At one point I was in that mode of “it’s all about the numbers” and worked the system to build a larger following (about 4700 folks right now). As both numbers grew the amount of just plain junk in my twitter stream has grown to where I sometimes can’t see any real content and feel I’m missing out on things. In this one case I’m going to simply wipe the slate. I’m going to unfollow everyone and then slowly determine who to follow. The nice thing about twitter is their list function, you might be in a list and I’m seeing your tweets but I may just not follow you.

One final word about this part of my project – it’s already underway. I know others that have done these types of things and given their followers warnings, not me. I’m going to just dig in, putting out warnings, asking for folks to contact you to stay connected are in my mind just ways of stalling. This post is enough of a stall for me.

So there it is, in not so small of a nutshell, my guidelines and reboot instructions for my social media setup – how do you keep your social media life in check?

Image by Informartica8vo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Evernote for Task Management

evernote_logo_center_4c-lrgOn Friday I mentioned my latest endeavor, Project Reboot, and how I was going to start digging into starting today.

To be honest I started a bit early – one can’t complete a project unless you know what needs to be done to do that I needed a tool to track it all.

Up until now I’ve been using the todo.txt setup that Gina Trapani first mentioned on Lifehacker. The tool has evolved a bit since then and now has both Android and iPhone clients and is being actively developed. It is a great tool and I can say nothing but good things about it.

Unfortunately for me, I started to notice a bit of friction with using the tool. This is nothing against the tool, just the way my workflow has begun to develop and change, and if the tool causes friction you won’t use it so I started to look for a replacement.

Enter Evernote.

I’ve been singing the praises of Evernote for quite a while now and I use it for a number of things but never really looked to it to handle my to do or task list. So when I took a few minutes and looked at it I saw it definitely had the potential.

  • It’s available on my desktop and mobile platforms and I can access it from the web if I’m on a machine that it isn’t installed on.
  • It’s got check boxes to I can easily mark things done.
  • I have the ability to group all the tasks for a project in a single note

Looks like a winner to me.

So I’ve begun to track things in my Evernote system. I have a master note that contains a list of all stand alone tasks and project that need to be completed. For those items that are projects the task item is a note link to the note that contains information about the project (which could include links to other notes) and the list of tasks that needs to be completed.

For those that are followers of the Getting Things Done (GTD) system this does allow for an easy weekly review of outstanding projects. A global search for notes that have unfinished tasks in them give a listing of all the projects and the master task list all on one screen.

I’ve only begun to work with this system but so far it seems to be fitting my style of work and as it’s a tool I already have open most of the day and am familiar with so it makes it that much easier to use.

That’s one small step for Project Reboot, next up my social media networks.

What do you use for task management?

Building your own knowledge base

How many times have you been in a position and said to yourself, “where did I see that article?” Given the great expanse of the Internet more than once I’d wager. Of course that’s only the online world, what about all those books and magazines (you do remember paper right?) you have piled up? How about the all the interesting sites and sounds you’ve come across when you’re out and about?

We’re exposed to thousands of data points everyday and the question becomes how to take that information again when we need it. To do that you need a personal knowledge base.

I’m not talking about just a collection of information, nearly everyone has the ability to do that. With the advent of the modern browser we can bookmark articles, save emails forever (or just about), review articles from hundred of websites if we choose. With the phone you have you can take snapshots of anything you wish, short videos, record your voice and even send a text message or make of phone call.

Then you have all the social media you’re reading and creating.

So you have all that information but that’s not a knowledge base.

A knowledge base is that collection of data overlaid with your own comments, observations and what you learned from the experience. When you read a book or an article you take something away from it – make a note of it. You took a snapshot of your kids playing in the snow, you’ll get the time, date, and place recorded automatically if you took it with a smartphone but not the why – add it to your notes.

Of course the other part of the challenge is finding a way to make it all available to you when you what it – no matter where you are. A place that you can continue to add items as well as pull from that stock of knowledge.

For me that tool is Evernote. Every device I own and use as it loaded on it. It’s become an integral part of what I do and who I am. It’s not just receipes and receipt photos – it’s also where I’ve stored photos of my kids, articles I wanted to read and any observations I had about them. I keep meeting minutes, newsletters, even voice mails – it’s a treasure trove of data.

As I’ve used Evernote I’ve come to learn more about how these pieces of data are connected – I even connect them using note links so I can move easily between them. I tag things, use keywords in titles and date code them (date codes is an upcoming post) all so I can find things easier and draw conclusions from that information.

I’ll be coming back to this topic often but my question for now is, do you have a personal knowledge base?

Also, be sure to check out the Wikipedia article bout Personal Knowledge Management.