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More stuff: B2W #18

This was such a good episode of Back to Work. Listen to this one and the one before it. It’s all about priorities. I love this show so much.

“There’s always gonna be people who want you to do stuff for free; there’s always gonna be more stuff; there’s always gonna be somebody who’s gonna keep giving you stuff until you say: ‘hang on a second’…”

#17: Brick Building Full of Lies

#18: Forking the Question

New document scanner

I’m in the process of digitising my life. This scanner seemed like the perfect thing for getting through all my old essays, notes, letters, financial stuff, etc. etc. Merlin Mann (of 43folders) mentioned this particular model (the Mac version) on MacBreak Weekly (episodes 49 and 50 I think) and seemed suitably impressed with it. That got me into research mode and, from the reviews I read, it seemed that Merlin was not alone. This was one nifty sounding machine.

I placed an order last week and it arrived today.

First impressions. It’s small. It doesn’t take up much room at all and is definitely portable. It’s well packaged and even comes with a USB cable and a plug for both the UK and continental Euro sockets. I like when that happens.

It was easy to set up and get the software installed. Once that was done, I gave it a spin and watched in amazement as the pages were sucked through really quickly. It claims to do 18 ppm and that seems about right.

I scanned a couple of old essays, printed on A4 and double-sided. It converted them to text-searchable PDFs in a matter of minutes. If only I’d had this when I was scanning my old A4 calendars on my flatbed scanner one page at a time. It took me two days!

I’ve tried both colour and black-and-white docs. The OCR seems to work well and will be very useful. The tutor’s handwritten notes on one particular essay were difficult to read, so I increased the scan quality and scanned it again, but the results were the same. Then I changed the auto colour detection from auto to colour and this time it gave really good results.

It will also scan business cards and, allegedly, make it easy to add their details to your address book. I haven’t tried that yet, but it will be very useful if it works as well as the doc scanning does.

It would be useful if it allowed USB thumb drives or external hard drives to be connected. Then it would be really useful as a portable scanner. It’s not a feature that I would use often, but I probably would use it from time to time.

I plan to take the scanner into the office and demo it as part of a presentation on increasing efficiency and storage space by getting rid of reams and reams of paper.

So, next up in my life digitisation, a 35mm and photo scanner. The Epson V700 looks really tasty!

De-cluttering

Decluttering

One of the most basic concepts Peter Walsh talks about in It’s All Too Much brought a total breakthrough for me. If the stuff that you accumulate doesn’t help get you closer to the life you want to have, it’s simply not worth keeping. Period.

We need to do this. I was reading about the new Vox This feature in Vox and rushed over to 43folders [Merlin Mann’s productivity blog] to try the feature. Little did I know I would find such a gem of a post right at the top of the page! I strongly dislike clutter but find myself becoming desensitised to it since we had kids. Getting rid of my CD jewel cases helped a bit and we should do the same with books and DVDs.

The article linked from 43folders is rather good.

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!