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Welcome to Orcmid's Lair, the playground for family connections, pastimes, and scholarly vocation -- the collected professional and recreational work of Dennis E. Hamilton

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Productivity: This Is Not a Kanban

Since I cleaned up my work space somewhat last March, my attention to productivity techniques and management of my commitments has spiraled into nothingness.  My open loops are more prevalent and more open than ever.  I stopped working through the startup for Totally Relaxed Organization and I haven’t opened my TROG Bar in months.  My only Getting Things Done practice is to empty my in box (except there are 56 orphan items there right now).  It’s been so long, I completely forgot that I was ever participating in a Zen Habits Monthly Challenge.

Here Comes the New Methodology, Just Like the Old Methodology

I’m going through self-help productivity techniques the way others go through weight-loss programs.  And with no better results.

This Is Not a Kanban: My Degraded Existence for Commitments My devolutions is so complete that my entire structure for managing commitments has degenerated into pages in a notebook (#63 in the current series) and an accumulation of Post-It notes of random incomplete tasks.

The small white note with the checkmarks was created on a hotel-room notepad in London last May.  I’m still carrying it around along with  my morass of open loops.

There are other places where I keep commitments tucked away on my computer.  They are also shuffled around and ignored. 

I Will Be Fooled Again

I rarely examine any of these items with critical concern for how the tasks are actually to be accomplished.  I’d have to face up to their not being done while I am busily not doing them instead.

And now there’s Personal Kanban.  I’m a fan of David Anderson, although I have no opportunity to apply any of the agile management methodologies.  Although I appreciate that kanban methodology has been a powerful instrument in the work of teams, I mostly just glance at the various accounts.  The lingo is mysterious and the application seems even more out of reach in my personal situation.

That changed when I saw twitter updates from David Anderson and then Jim Benson on the possibilities of a Personal Kanban.  I began to follow along and browse through Benson’s series of blog posts on the topic.  My buddy Bill Anderson and I created weekly (weakly) checkpoints on taking steps to understanding the kanban methodology from a personal perspective.

The Essential Reality Check

I see appealing features after an initial look at Personal Kanban.  I want those features in raising the bar (now so low) on my personal productivity and effectiveness. 

I also realize that my application of Personal Kanban is doomed to the dustbin of forgotten methodologies.  The common factor in the recurring result of my experience is me.  Not the methodologies.

To have a different result, I must work differently. 

Where I Stop

After a few hours and days of mixed success, I stop looking at the structure that holds my current commitments.  I just don’t look there to true myself up.  I indulge distractions and eventually the new methodology has disappeared.  Lately, I seem to end up in worse shape than before I began.

But before that point, I stop in another way.   All of the recent methodologies I have examined start with housecleaning followed by housekeeping.  I take out some trash, but never all of it.  I cling to it and don’t let it go.  Or, I don’t want it but cleaning it out is overwhelming and I never create an occasion for accomplishing that.  Or I clean up piece-meal, insisting to myself that when I get things organized, I can then be organized.  Mostly, I get distracted from all of this and eventually forget to clean up the mess, which remains in its piles around my office and elsewhere in the house.

Being Slimy

I was in a conversation on how I am the poster-child for methodology failure.  Here are my other indulgences:

  • I’m lazy and fearful
  • My ambitions are greater than my capacities and my stamina, but I hold onto too much anyhow; I take on more faster than I complete what I already have on my plate.
  • I procrastinate and lie to myself and others about it.
  • I make commitments and create no structure whatsoever for fulfilling on them.

OK, Where From Here?

It was suggested that someone needs to take a kanban board down and hit me over the head with it.  I need to be the one to do that.  Plus empower others to be ruthless with me when I go off the track.

I am going to apply Personal Kanban in my life.  It will be fun to deal with the details of the techniques.  But the real accomplishment will not be in messing around in the technical and conceptual nuts and bolts.  It will be my stepping beyond my automatic approach and having Personal Kanban win for me.

If I fall down, I will get up and keep dancing.

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Productivity: Cleaning Up the Workspace

At Seattle MindCamp 5.0 at the end of November, 2008, I resolved to finally upgrade my productivity support and take some ground cleaning up my workspace.  To fit with my work practices and record-keeping approaches, I started the Total Relaxed Organization on-line training, along with installation of the TROG Bar Outlook-integrating productivity tool.

One problem with a major productivity overhaul is the need to clear out all the junk and reconstitute an inviting workspace.  My workspace was in terrible shape, and I had no way to clear it all out and rebuild it.  Instead, I am involved in a steady shuffle of reorganization.   I have been slacking off about that, in the midst of other commitments, but I have made considerable progress in the heart of my office work area.



My Workspace: 2008-12-26

Workspace Improvements: 2009-01-29 Drafting Table

Lap-Top Server.  This 1998-vintage Dell Inspiron 7000 just keeps on ticking.  It is too decrepit for lap-top usage, with a failing screen hinge and broken keys and mouse buttons. 

The machine works just fine as a local web server and Visual Source Safe repository that are used together for web site development and back-up of software projects. 

Once the table surface was cleaned up, I also upgraded the laptop from Windows XP SP1 (!) to Windows XP SP3, with all junk cleared off and regular clean backups. 

I only operate the machine directly when I need to FTP updates from the development server to the hosted web sites and when I need to backup the hosted blogs and comments onto the development server.   I am now poised to retire this machine, once I have successfully migrated the server and source-code-control functions to my Windows Home Server.



My Workspace: 2008-12-26

Workspace Improvements: 2009-01-29 Desktop Computer

Desktop Media Center PC and Development System.  My main desktop system was on a crowded and cluttered desk.  I have reduced the clutter by having just the one in-box and a separate set of working files (not shown). 

On the left, I moved the audio control surface and my audio dock to an easily-accessible position.  My audio receiver is now a platform for the turntable I use for rescuing old vinyl records.

Although this does not provide much more open work surface, that will improve when the docked Tablet PC can be moved to the location of the Laptop Server.



My Workspace: 2008-12-26

Workspace Improvements: 2009-01-29 Media and Network

Media Table and Network Center.  By parking the turntable atop the audio receiver, I was able to bring the scanner over beside the desk.

That freed the rest of the media table to hold my H-P MediaSmart Server (a Windows Home Server) and all of my network units: hub, wireless access point, household router, and DSL modem (on the shelf below the scanner).

This allows the network center to be all in one place and supported by a separate battery-battery backup unit connected to a properly-protected outlet. 

My Workspace: 2008-12-26The job is not done.  Although I moved the network units and confirmed operation in the new location.  Now there is much left to do with the wiring behind all of these units and along the floor.

What I have accomplished is having a smoother setup and more comfortable operation in that area where I spend most of my working days.

I have extensive electronic materials that I am now reorganizing, including a gigantic collection of incomplete Outlook tasks that I am pruning down a little at a time.  The recommended approach for any Getting Things Done or TRO cleanup is to simply trash that material.  Those are also records and research materials for me and I am going to retire them cleanly, as painful as that can be.

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GoldenGeek: Chasing those Open Loops

I’ve been lying awake since some time after 4 a.m.  I think part of it was the aching little toe that I banged against some furniture last night (nice purple bruise there now).  I thought a couple of Ibuprofen would help me get back to sleep, but I’m wide awake.  It could be the five cups of coffee I had yesterday, breaking my current 2-cups-daily regimen.  Although after donating whole blood yesterday, resting should be easy.

No, it’s those darned open loops.  I started a new attack on raising my personal productivity (and trustworthiness to go with it) yesterday, and now I’m lying awake running open loops through my head about getting rid of my open loops.  So I drag myself out of bed at 05:50, make coffee, fire up the computer, and look at what I can do to get those loops out of my head:

First I’m thinking about the questions I have about some key proposals for ODF 1.2 at the OASIS TC: digital signatures and what’s the profile for how XML DSig is applied?  How is the RDF metadata supposed to work and who is it for?  What does it mean to have two ways to lock a table cell?  Then there’s wanting to do a belated Friday Cat Picture, upload the photographs of my office as part of my Total Relaxed Organization (TRO) online lesson, capturing some notes on how real-time community journals are inverting the entire news-publishing pyramid, more notes on Seattle weather, organize photos from Mindcamp 5.0 that are relevant to topics I want to blog about, and finally being able to start something on the connection between confirmable experience and system incoherence.  Oh, and now some other commitments come to mind, including putting Vicki’s new Kiln Sitter’s Digest blog into shape, prepare backups, and continue customizing the blog for her. 

I need to do something more pro-active about those loops than blogging about it.  I’ve been noodling around checking mail, updating my RSS feeds (for review someday soon), and scanning my twhirl Twitter and FriendFeed streams for items of interest.

Well, now it’s 7:30 am and the cats don’t understand why having the lights on in our shared space doesn’t mean breakfast is ready.  All right, I don’t need an open loop for that.  The cats are seeing to it.  Time to feed them now. 

Then I’ll sit down and get organized.  A little.  More.

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