Oh, hi Mark

As we venture into the third month of the year, it was time for A NU START.

After phoning it in for the past several years on this site and simply posting my Instagram photos via IFTTT, I’m trying this novel idea where I actually try to write things.

In trying to be a better parent/spouse and get my life organized, this is something like step 4. To outline the hippy-dippy things that I’m trying to do better, let me lay down the things that I’m trying to do to further this process:

  • Keep personal lists of TODOs, that I will actually use

    Last year I started using Todoist fulltime. I experimented with apps like Bear and using Standard Notes to jot things down, but just couldn’t keep up with maintaining the volume of things that I needed to quickly jot down. With my workflow, I found that quick key commands to add a todo item or view my list worked better for me. I’ve since moved over various lists, subscriptions, bill reminders and other things that I need to get done to Todoist. I’m sure that I’m not using it to it’s full potential, but it’s working so far and I still use it daily. It doesn’t hurt that it syncs between my devices really quickly, so adding things isn’t some click and pray adventure like other apps that I tried out previously.

    I also started physically writing things down in a bullet journal. As much of a cultlike following bullet journaling has (or BUJO if you’re one of those people), I’ve tried to keep it simple and not bog myself down with all of the “artsy” things that seem to plague a typical setup. In fact, I don’t use a normal Moleskine or 5x8.25” notebook at all, mostly because I didn’t want to be pinned down to a certain size and format. So far, using a dot-graph Field Notes notebook made the most sense for my uses. I can throw it in my bag or pocket if I want and instead of throwing it all into one big notebook, I’m using individual notebooks for each month. I’m settling in with what works for me, despite the size challenges.

  • Organize my workload

    I’m still actively working on this one. Our team at BaM uses both Slack and Trello quite a bit. I’ve fallen out of practice more than I’d like with keeping up on tasks and tracking projects in Trello since most of what I’ve been working on in the past year has been mostly organized in Basecamp, Drive and through Slack conversations.

    One thing that makes it easier for me to record my time and to add daily todos to our daily Trello board is setting up quick shortcuts using Alfred. I’ve been a Powerpack user for a long time, and it’s one of the single most useful applications that I use daily. I wish that it were available on other platforms, but since I spend the majority of my time in OS X, it does the job just fine there. I have a few workflows that I’ve made that use a simple keyword, either on or status, to post updates to the correct board. That way I can quickly post up what I’m currently working on or post up to our daily status board with a few key commands.

    I’m still trying to organize the way that we collaborate on projects for a more seamless process, but that’s still in the initial conception phase at this point. I’ll keep plugging away at better ways to get things done.

  • Keep my area(s) tidy

    I work in a small office (most days), so things tend to accumulate rather quickly. I’ve managed to make my workspace pretty optimized for the small space that it occupies, but if I don’t pick up often, it tends to get cluttered FAST. Right now, I have 9 shoe boxes filled with various computer parts, cords, networking items and other various things piled up behind me. I’ve been slowly chipping away at getting them sorted and moving the non-frequently used items to other containers for storage, but it takes awhile. I moved some shelving out of my former lounge area (now turned bedroom), so my surprisingly large collection of vinyl was moved onto the shelves in my already cramped office. That process did force me to pick up, clean behind and organized things that haven’t been moved in years, so it wasn’t all bad. I have yet to find homes for the displaced items though, thus the 9 shoe boxes. Trying to pair down frequently used items to fit on two small shelves is surprisingly hard.

    As a matter of fact, KonMari helps quite well with being tidy. I’m sure that everyone is no stranger to Marie Kondo’s books/show/ideas at this point, but not taking it literal and using the parts that work for you personally have been extremely helpful for me. In clothing, personal things or even digital storage, the idea behind it makes sense. I’ve used the konmari basics recently for cleaning up services/servers at work with satisfactory results. I’ll definitely keep using it on other things.

  • Web presence, documentation and writing

    As a developer, I make a lot of things for other people. Some devs are terrible at making/keeping up on their own sites, myself included. I just never had the drive to write posts or make cool things for myself - That energy was usually channeled into various hobbies or DIY projects. It just didn’t take a priority at all. The same thing goes for documentation. You pour all of your time and energy into late nights to perfect a project and what’s the last thing you want to do? Write about the how, because documentation is a stupid, thankless time-sink. Or so I used to think.

    If you find yourself in this industry for any decent amount of time, you’ll work on big projects. Once those big projects launch and all of the launch-time bugs are squashed, the site goes on to fulfill its duty, working for the client. Occasionally, they’ll come back with quick edits to a button or moving around some UI elements, which can be knocked out fairly quickly and pushed live without much issue. What about a project that lives on a provider that you don’t use often, has a lot of moving pieces, is in a backend language that you’re not entirely fluent in, previews/deploys via a container service that you have no idea how to use, and requires you to maintain and eventually fix/update/enhance down the line? Well, that’s when you need documentation that actually works.

    Instead of flying blindly into a project, now you’ve got a little buddy doc that you can reference when you get stuck. Don’t know how to run a specific rake task? Check the docs. Don’t know how to pull in the project dependencies for a build? Check the docs. This shouldn’t be a revelation to me, but here we are.

    After going through a big project and painstakingly poking around and figuring out how to do all of the things that I needed to be able to do in order to run/deploy it, I wrote my findings down into the README. Now, several months later, I reference that README almost every time I have to do anything with that project. It’s helpful, it’s thorough, and if there’s anything that I’m missing, I can add it in and push the new changes up to the repo to reference the next time. After doing this on a few projects, I’ve gotten a lot better about documenting things as I go. Granted, yes… things have and will change down the line, as we make codebase edits and updates. Documentation is an ever-evolving living thing that needs to be tweaked every so often.

    So, with this philosophy, I’m trying to take my fairly new habit of being decent at documentation to writing things down. Whether it be writing quick todos, making notes in a journal, filling out an activity tracker or timesheet or writing a blog post, I’m just trying to get it out there. If I dwell on things too long, I give myself the chance to overthink things, overly edit entries or delete things completely. I’m hoping to curb some of those bad habits by replacing them with better ones.

  • Self-care

    One thing that I’m notoriously bad at is self-care. One would think that after 42 years on this earth that I would be better at taking care of myself, but it’s easy to let things slide and make bad habits. Everything from my diet to my sleep schedule needs an overhaul. So far, this one is last on the list because it’s the one thats going to take the longest to implement. Changing habits is not something that I’m good at. I’m sure that I’m not alone. Working out? Yeah, I just don’t make time for that anymore, which really needs to change.

So yeah, it should be obvious that I’ve set myself up for some big life changes. And that’s likely just the beginning of a HUGE list like the previous five items above. Some things may stick and some might not. If my ongoing drive is there to continue to help me make changes, I (hopefully) can keep the momentum going to follow through. My number one problem with any project that I have ever started is actually finishing. And while there might not be a “finish” to this project, I can get it as close to complete as I feel necessary.

Either way, I’ll write down what happens, so I have documentation of something.