Wednesday, September 26, 2007

5 Ways to make use of between-class time

I've heard students (grad and undergrad) say the following more often than I expect: I just have this awkward 30 minute break between classes, which is not really enough time to get anything done.

I beg your pardon?

Here are five ideas for making use of between-class time:

  1. Read. Always bring backup reading. People are late, classes start late, classes end early, you're waiting for office hours, etc. Chances are, if you're a student of any kind there is something that you need to read that hasn't been read. If it's a big book you don't want to lug around, photocopy a few pages, the trees will forgive you. This can be useful for breaks from 5 minutes up to 45 minutes.
  2. Brainstorm. On a piece of paper or your computer, brainstorm solutions or strategies for one problem that is on your plate write now. Often, the tasks that sit on our lists the longest are there not because of any incompetency on our part or our system's but simply because they are hard, and thus are psychologically avoided. Take advantage of this short time to just list as many ideas regarding strategies to overcoming a problem as possible. If your brainstorm produces next actions, all the better, but they don't have to. I find that the definitive end to the brainstorming session makes dealing with ugly projects a lot easier.
  3. Start on one homework assignment. For science-y types that have problem sets. Start on one 1 problem. Start is the key. If you get stuck, start on another. Don't worry about finishing. For humanities or social scientists with papers due, start on an outline. I've found that even if I haven't finished doing the background research, guessing what the outline could look like really helps form ideas.
  4. Nap. College students have no problem sleeping through classes. But try sleeping in between classes. This is a 2 in 1 productivity secret because it 1) Refreshes you for the rest of the day and 2) Lets you stay awake during class so you don't have to spend extra time re-learning concepts that were explained in class in the first place. Class is not a convenient place to sleep anyways, the library is much quieter. In addition, sleeping during class surely doesn't give you bonus points with the prof that you might need to cash in later.
  5. Do your Weekly Review. Obviously if you're not GTDing, you should start, and if you're GTDing but not weekly reviewing you should start (see here and here). The key to the weekly review is doing it at the same time consistently, every week, which makes a class schedule the perfect structure for fitting in a 30 minute to 1 hour weekly review; just write it into the hard landscape of your calendar every week like another class. Money.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New Template

I didn't like the old design and thought it was a bit hard to read so I changed it. Hope this is better!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm starting to Jott and I kind of like it.

...and by kind of, I mean a lot. I'm a declared fan of GTD simplicity, so I normally don't try and overpolish the GTD system, but I ran into this Lifehacker post about capture, which mentioned Jott as a possible capture tool. A while back I bought a tiny pen that I keep in my wallet (yes, it fits in my wallet!) to capture thoughts on the go, so at first I was hesitant, but Jott was just too cool. There is literally nothing easier than dialing a speed dial number saying "myself" and then "Waste time and be a hypocrite by posting on blogger instead of getting things done."

I found the transcription rate pretty good if you speak clearly. Also if you need to say a complicated or unusual word, you can spell it out, which is surprisingly not that much of a hassle. The Lifehacker post also mentioned "a lot of email solicitations" after signing in. Now, either my Gmail spam filter is just that good, or they've stopped, or the writer got something mixed up because I've received zero so far.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Todoist Slickrun Integration

So I saw the Launchy Todoist plugin, that lets you quickly add an item to your Todoist lists with just a few keystrokes, and it made me jealous because I don't use Launchy, I use SlickRun. I wanted the same Todoist capture method for SlickRun. Capturing distracting thoughts while you're doing a task quickly and efficiently is essential to the GTD process. I couldn't find anything on the web so I tried doing it myself. I'm generally pretty incompetent when it comes to this level of geekyness but somehow I stumbled upon a solution.

First I just scrolled through the Todoist API page and found the add items url and created a magicword with Filename: Firefox and and Parameters: that url. With, of course, a $W$ for the content of the item, and a particular project id I wanted the task to go in. This worked, but it opened up a Firefox window every time and that defeats the whole purpose of instant, undistracting, capture.

I then did some searching through the Bayden message board and found a discussion where someone asked how to make Twitter posts through SlickRun and Eric posted a solution. It involved creating a vbscript and having SlickRun open that script and pass whatever you want to say to the script which then does the website updating. So I should say now that I have no Windows scripting experience and in general am not much of a programmer, but I figured adding an item to Todoist should be basically the same. So I took his script and modified things until it worked.

I can now type "td this is so cool" into SlickRun and the item "this is so cool" will appear in a given project in my Todoist account. That is cool.

Some Comments

  • I'm sure someone could modify this to allow you to type in the project as well, but I don't have the patience or know-how to do this. Some project names are too long and too hard to get exactly right for that to be quick and convenient(e.g. "Finalize ticket and hotel for Denver"). But if you want to, feel free to post that modification.
    • I have a project in Todoist called "New" and make all instantly captured items go there (I was doing this with Launchy, which I downloaded just for this capture, for a few hours until this SlickRun diddly worked). I then just put those items wherever they need to go the next time I've actually opened Todoist. Works well.
    • For some reason I couldn't add the context label to my item descriptions in Launchy; it would give me a syntax error message. I think this is because that @ sign is used to denote time for that plugin. In this slickrun method you can label items with @context at the end of the description and it works as a context.
Finally, here is the script:

Set objHTTP = CreateObject("Microsoft.XMLHTTP") "POST", "" & WScript.Arguments.item(0) & "&project_id=projectidhere&priority=4&token=yourtokenhere", False
Set objHTTP = Nothing
What's a token? Your token is basically the golden key into your account and can be found in Preferences -> Account.

How do I know the project id number? To get a list of the project id's for your projects, enter this url into your browser:

For those of you like me, who have no idea how this scripting business works, don't be intimidated, just copy the above text and paste it into notepad and save the notepad file as scriptname.vbs, and put it in whatever directory you want.

Then create your magicword in SlickRun with:
Filename or Url: the above script's filename.
Parameters: $W$

I believe that's it. Let me know if I missed anything, this doesn't work, or there is a better method out there that I didn't run into. Happy GTDing!