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Preparing for easier life

I’m slowly preparing myself for what feels like a transition. But is it really?

My consumption of content is increasing; I’m reading more and more RSS feeds and listening to more podcasts. A lot of that is cross pollination, for example:

  1. I listen to a bunch of 5by5.tv podcasts
  2. Those podcast hosts talk about Web sites…
  3. and apps
  4. I like what I hear and want to use said apps, whether I have a real need for them or not
  5. I learn about apps, for example the nvALT and Simplenote marriage, OmniFocus or Pinboard

So I go through those phases, learning a little about each app and not enough for them to be useful. So this next fortnight I

  • really will get through Kourosh Dini’s OmniFocus book.
  • I will learn how to use nvALT and Simplenote for synchronised note-taking.
  • Finish Deadly Harvest
  • Figure out where to put ‘marked’ things to read (Instapaper? nvALT/Simplenote? Evernote? Pinboard?)
  • Tell my wife I love her every day

So it’s all rather overwhelming to be honest. Where does work and family fit in? It’s a tough thing to figure out. Imagine where I’d be if I were drinking though? Then I guess I’d be having different problems.

And how about achievements?

  • I’ve learned the basics of Markdown
  • I’ve tagged and consolidated my music library
  • I’ve consolidated my photo library and am watching it go into the cloud before I get the syncing figured out
  • I’ve moved the blog and have made progress on moving the CGT Web site as well;
  • I’ve redesigned Sunbane and am now pleased to visit it; I’m also enjoying very much the use of MarsEdit for posting

I think getting into the OmniFocus routine as I have with the banking-every-day routine will help me to get a bunch of stuff out of my head and into the system. I so understand where all this is meant to get me, but I can’t help feeling that most of my productive time is being spent learning how to be more productive, rather than actually being productive. You see?

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.
Where it gets good and serious though is in much of his content. Merlin is a productivity guru and he talks a lot about getting things done (and Getting Things Done). The episode entitled It’s Just a Cup struck home, as did the one entitled The Richard Scarry Book of the Future, but the real ring-a-ding-dinger was The Perfect Apostrophe. These are about work practices and it was interesting to hear him describe my working method as if he had been sitting in the room watching me. By that, I mean the ridiculous amount of time I can spend preparing to work, rather than actually working. In The Perfect Apostrophe, he talks about how he spent three days preparing to start writing a book, ending up on a quest to find the exact typeface for the apostrophe used in the font for the O’Reilly logo.

 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!