Merlin Mann & Getting Things Done

Merlin Mann of 43 Folders often participates in the various podcasts that I listen to (basically the twit.tv suite of “TWiTcasts”). I decided on Friday that I would check out Merlin’s own podcast, so I downloaded them all and listened to the first 18 episodes on my iPod as I did the weekly shopping on Saturday morning. And man, what a great bunch of podcasts!

First of all, you should know that Merlin has a wicked sense of humour, so there was no shortage of chuckling as I pushed my trolley around the supermarket.

It was gratifying to hear that I’m not completely messed up though. I’m a translator by profession and the episode entitled First-time Sex & the Beauty of 1.0 also explained my working method, but this time from a positive perspective. This is about the idea of getting something out there, producing something, even though it might be utter rubbish and eventually be completely discarded. That’s the 1.0. That is how I deal with translation. I start by translating literally using what I call Russian English (basically English words and Russian word order). So when I get to the end, I’ve read the whole thing, thought about it some, done some research and am much better equipped to start from the beginning again with the experience I’ve gained. It’s a whole lot quicker than deliberating long and hard to get the perfect translation of each sentence.

In his later episodes, Merlin conducts a series of interviews with David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. I think I first hear about this book on a TWiTcast a while back; I’m not quite sure, but in any event I bought it on iTunes and tried to listen to it on a car journey one day. I found the style too dry and couldn’t really follow it. After listening to Merlin’s interviews (I’ve still got two to go), I tried again to listen to the book, but again found it too hard to get into. This might very well be down to the fact that I’d just spent the last hour or so listening to Merlin talking to David and was all tired out.

After spending some time today clearing my bills and what I refer to as my ‘admin’, I realised that, in my own way, I too am a GTD guy. I have a system that works and I only really get overwhelmed with my translation work when the deadline starts to loom (as it is now).


Translation wise, some of the technology that’s available now has made the process easy to breakdown. I use Wordfast, which is translation memory software that breaks the translation down into chunks. That helps to remove the scariness of having thousands and thousands of words still to go, eliminates any chance of missing bits out and, of course, gives you the power of memory and glossaries. I also have a spreadsheet into which I enter the daily work quota and it automatically updates to show me how much is left in percentage terms and how much I’ve done (which can be both encouraging and discouraging).

I do plan to listen again to the Getting Things Done book and see if I can get more involved with it. I do need to watch out that I don’t spend so much time learning about GTD and participating in discussions about it that I don’t actually get things done!

So, back to my translation. I’ve not done today’s quota yet!

My first blog entry… EVER!

So I’m a blogger now I guess. Although I suppose that having a blog does not make one a blogger. It is the act of blogging on a blog that makes one a blogger.

I’ve never done a blog before and, to be honest, am not sure about how it all works. I found my way to Vox after seeing Anil Dash of Six Apart on episode 36 of Cranky Geeks. It seems to have a nice interface with a similar feel to Backpack (a now defunct product that was run by 37 Signals, now Basecamp), which I love and is the only Web 2.0 service to which I have a paid subscription. (I do pay the $2 donation to Leo Laporte each month).

On the subject of Leo Laporte, I discovered podcasting about a year ago and it’s annoying that I don’t recall exactly how it came to my attention. I think that the first podcast I listened to was Steve Gibson’s Security Now podcast, co-hosted by Leo. It wasn’t long until I discovered TWiT and all the other TWiTcasts. The first TWiT I listened to was episode 24 (26 September 2005).

I guess I really discovered Vox on Inside the Net when Mena Trott of Six Apart was on there (episode 28), but I’m a bit slow to catch up with blogs and things.

Podcast Cover Art

I actually have my own podcast, called Wood & Steel and hosted at Big in Japan (which I also learned about on Inside the Net). I’ve only done three podcasts thus far, but plans are in the works. It’s going to be interviews of acoustic guitar players and builders. It’s available for subscription through iTunes and it should get off the ground in the new year when I finish translating the book I’m working on on Russian archaeology (currently 80% done of the first draft with 15000 words left to do by 15 December – yikes!)

I think it will be a lot of fun to keep this blog going and it will be useful for me to refer back to things. I’ll see how it goes.