26 August 2009

It's the major entry again! 2.5 years into this blog thang!

Holy cow! 2.5 years since I started this lovely blog!

Well it's come at a good time, seeing as I recently returned to Hong Kong from my 3-week trip for my cousin's wedding in Tenerife. It was a lovely wedding I must say, simple but sweet. I get tired of over-the-top events where most parts of the event are really useless eye-candy that is burning through people's pockets because they have to keep up their status. It's a funny thing when you see people buy their way into people's hearts and minds.

I must say though, it's good to be home. I find after being in Hong Kong for so long, I've grown accustomed to its habits and in a way I've become stubborn. I like the fast pace lifestyle, I enjoy the fact that everything you want is almost always near you, I appreciate that you really can't get bored here if you know how to play the game right. And that brings me to something I've been thinking about during my trip.

I met a lot of people, family, friends, strangers. That means I met a lot of different personalities. It's interesting when you first meet people because often you can sense their personality right away. You have the people who seem to be overly-cheerful and always try to say something nice/funny but after a while it feels a bit trying-to-hard, then you meet the people who are obviously insecure about themselves because they try to politely one-up you on everything you say/do. There are people who talk really big but eventually shoot themselves in the foot by saying something near impossible. I also met people who knew when to open their mouths, but just sat and quietly watched the show. These were people I admired, seeing them only give advise when asked for and contributing when they see a need for extra help. It occurred to me that:
The way to help is to do so only when necessary.
After all, we all know the saying too many cooks signifying that too many people are trying to help by making decisions or leading in different directions.

I guess help, like anything else in life, is best in moderation. You actually can help too much, much like a teacher spoon-feeding children in class does nothing more than spoil their appetite for knowledge.

But going back to the main aim of a major blog entry -- a time for self-evaluation.
Ever since being away from Hong Kong, I've had to put my ability to work on the go to the test. It was a good experience because it allowed me to find all the flaws in my workflow system that still forces me to cling onto my workstation. One thing I'd always been using is Microsoft Outlook to keep track of my to do's, contacts and calendar events. The reason I use this dates back to when I got my very first PDA. That was a real mind-blowing experience, knowing that my calendar, tasks and contacts could be synced to my computer so I had all my information on the go. Ever since then I stuck with this solution and was really happy with it.
It was when I was away that I realized that Microsoft Outlook is still dependent on being able to plug to your workstation to stay updated. Sure there's Microsoft's Exchange and all that, but that's a whole different game.
I'd also grown used to Outlook's limitations. However, I'd also grown numb to some ways. The fact that everytime I input a task in my PDA, it'd automatically be set as a task that is not started really upset me, because I'd often not see it in my task list in Outlook because to avoid myself from being overwhelmed by tasks, all my not started tasks are hidden by default (these are tasks that usually have a due date or I can only start doing them after a certain day, such as calling a client when they return from a vacation). I eventually developed the habit of making sure when I input my tasks in my PDA that I manually set it to due today so I'd see it on my computer and tend to it asap. A very bad habit, but I got used to it.

Eventually, I started getting overwhelmed because when I looked at my @pc list, I'd have everything mixed up, personal, work-related and anything computer related would be thrown in my face, making it seem like my list never ended. At the same time I'd see a mixture of overdue tasks (big yikes in my mind), tasks due today (stress in my mind) and tasks due later (I don't have to know about this if I have overdue tasks and tasks due today to tend to do I?). I started growing numb to the repetitive list of overdue tasks and eventually got frustrated.

The search for a better to do/GTD system began. I went back to my roots, to my first ever GTD-related tool I used, Remember the Milk. Yes I know, I spoke of this before, but, well, this is my blog :P After some research, I stuck with this tool and till today, I'm happily using it. It's solved all my psychological frustrations I had with Outlook. Now I can create my own lists with my own set of rules such as "show only tasks that are @PC and overdue or due today" so if I see that list as being empty, I can happily go over to my "whenever I can, do this @PC" list and work from there. Not only that, I've happily divided my list of "personal" and "work" related tasks. That way when it's day time, my focus is on everything "work" and when the sun goes down, I tend to my personal stuff. Guilt free :). Do I still have over-due tasks? Sure, but the good thing is, it feels like I only have a few tasks to tend to, rather than feel like even if I did all my work for today, I still have a load of stuff waiting, so don't get so happy.

The added benefit of Remember the Milk is its ability to sync just like Microsoft Outlook to my PDA's native task list. Wahoo! MilkSync for the win!

To do list - Mobilized!

Now the next thing was mobilizing my calendar and contacts. This was an easy one because I'd always been an avid fan of Google Calendar. The issue here was to see if I could sync it to my PDA just like before. I though to myself, it's google, surely they've thought of this, and I'm sure people have requested for this service. In comes Google Sync. It can happily synchronize Google Calendars and Contacts! Talk about 2 birds 1 stone! :D I tested it out and after a while, it worked perfectly! Not only that, to the normal user, they'd never know that anything changed because it uses Microsoft's Activesync just like Microsoft Outlook did.

Calendar, Contacts - Mobilized!

There's one thing I know about myself and that is that I have a need to be greedy with perfection. As much as my goal was to mobilize my to do's, calendar and contacts, I started asking questions. For example, Having used Outlook for so long, I actually grew accustomed to its calendar. I thought it'd be great if I could sync my outlook calendar to my google calendar. Turns out, you can. Even though technically not automatically, Google has created a nifty little program that allows you to do so behind the scenes. In comes Google Calendar Sync! Sweetness!

I'm still trying to find a way to sync my Ms Outlook contact list to my Google contacts, but so far I've had no luck. Why not just use Google contacts? Because it requires that little bit of loading time, after all, it's off the Internet.

But what if you don't have Internet connection? Bye bye everything?

Nope. The lovely little tool that I've been using for a while, Google Gears, is available for all the tools I've selected. This means that when I don't have Internet connectivity, I can still use these tools, but it'll be on my computer only and any updates will have to wait till I go online to sync with the online version of my tools. Wahoo! Best of both online and offline worlds!

So after 2.5 years, I've come to a very happy point where I love my to do list, calendar and contact systems.

Is that it? Do you just... stop now?

Nope, as I said before, I'm greedy with perfection. I'm evaluating the way I work now and trying to find any repetitive patterns I have and automate them. For example, when I get emails from people asking about hiring me for some private stand-up comedy gig, I have a canned response somewhere within my reply (I don't like to use a reply template because I always feel if someone took the time out to contact me, they deserve a little bit of my time in their reply). In comes Gmail's Canned Responses. Yes, now I have things that I typically reply to people in my canned response tool. I thought about the idea of making it an Autohotkey shortcut, but that'd limit me to this computer only. OK, so I did make it an Autohotkey shortcut, but the point is to make it mobile so when I'm away, I can still have the same, or near-same functionality. If you didn't know, every time in my email when you see:
It's actually the autohotkey shortcut of "rv" which gets changed into that text. Nifty eh?
But why don't you make it a signature? you ask? Well because Gmail allows you to have only 1 signature per account. Sometimes I respond wearing different hats, so the signature also has to change.

Typically used text - mobilized!

In terms of being mobile, I'm mobile in my management end. However, I'm still not 100% mobile when it comes to working on my projects. I'm still figuring that part out so hopefully in the next few blog posts, I'll have that sorted out.

I went to the gym yesterday and today and boy does it feel horrible to see my strength level drop to what I was back in the beginning of July. It's the end of August, so my 3 week trip has pushed me 4 weeks back in my training routine. I could feel myself both physically and mentally exhaust faster than before. By the 45 minute mark, I could feel a big crack in my concentration, those arm curls felt like a drag and I just couldn't get myself to push my muscle to contract anywhere close to what it was before. I never experienced any pump where you feel your muscles hit a point of maximum swelling and you know your body's at peak condition and ready to destroy anything in its path. I guess it'll take me a couple of weeks to get back that mind-muscle connection.

Fitness levels - fallen back to what it was in July 2009. 2 months ago! Darn!

Speaking of mind-muscle connection, I haven't practiced my drums in a month! Yikes! I haven't had a chance since I returned from my trip so that's double yikes. I have a bad feeling I may not get much of a chance before I go off to the US in end of September again. I suppose I could perhaps practice during my trip there? We'll have to see. But I do look forward to returning to Hong Kong in early October and taking on the world! Rah!

Drumming skills - lacking practice! Darn!

On a brighter note, my trip has given me a lot of new ideas and comedic material to work with. I'm still refining a lot of it, but it sure is welcome after finding myself stuck a lot of the times while I was in Hong Kong. OK, so trying to write comedy when my brain is at 50% isn't a wise decision, but it's better than not doing it all!

Comedy - got new material wahoo!

I guess as they say, you can't have everything. Though that is my goal :) I can't say I've failed in any of this, I just have to find a better balance in everything and find the optimum amount of effort I need to dedicate to each thing I adore.

So I guess after 2.5 years, I still haven't really changed, I'm still striving for more than I can bite and constantly searching for better ways to live more. In other words, I'm still staying true to my blog -- I'm still finding connections between drumming, art, getting things done (GTD), creativity and generally life.

14 August 2009

The blog from across the globe

Hello there, how is everything? I'm writing this from Tenerife in Spain as I'm attending my cousin's wedding. Haven't been to this part of the planet in almost 15 years! Woah, I have barely any recollection of visiting this place and oddly, I'm here now.... blogging! Lots has happened and I've got a nice tan from all the time in the sun. I visited my sister in Cambridge, England then my cousins in Gran Canarie and now here in Tenerife. It is so bright my eyes are actually tired from squinting. I haven't seen so much sun in my whole life! The sun sets at around 9pm daily! It's quite bizarre because this is exactly what I always dreamed about. Having the sun stay up and go down just when it's time to sleep, not when it's time to eat dinner.

So why am I here blogging?! Well it is 11pm now after all, we've spent the whole day doing wedding-stuff and I'm trying to stay up-to-date with my to do list. Speaking of to do lists, now that I've been on the road I've been noticing my holes in my be a mobile warrior mentality. First of all, I've been exploring the importance of trying to find the perfect balance between having your tools on you and having them accessible from anywhere (as long as you have an Internet connection). I'd always been an avid Drop Box user, but the one downside to it is the lack of Windows Mobile access. So I did some research and discovered Sugar Sync. I must say, so far so good, I'm liking it more than Drop Box. The one thing that sold me is its Windows Mobile support. One thing I know I almost always have with me is my PDA. So this worked great, some tools that you'd normally carry on a USB thumb drive now get stored on my Sugar Sync account and anytime I need it, connect to my account via my mobile phone (PDA) and voila, I'm all set!

Another thing I'd notice being problematic for me was my to do lists. I'd always relied on my windows mobile device and Microsoft Outlook 2003 on my home computer to take care of everything. The problem is, being on a trip of 3 weeks means you're going to have to use your mobile device as your primary to do list manager. As much as it's convenient to have on you, having to poke away at it all the time gets quite frustrating. After a while, I just got tired of working with its tiny screen and felt like giving up. I went back to my roots (the days when I first began my GTD lifestyle) and found my good ol' Remember The Milk website (the first to do service I used!). I signed up for a new account just to start things fresh and have been spending a little bit of my down time re-familiarizing myself with the interface and trying to find ways to make it even easier to use (and also faster) than with Outlook. The major issue I was having with Outlook is its inability to allow me to be truly mobile. With Remember the Milk, I now can enjoy its services anywhere and should the day come I have no Internet access, well, thanks to Google Gears, I can still use the application offline. Fantastic. When I return to Hong Kong and have gone through using this service for a month, I'll probably pay the upgrade price and get the extra services (namely MilkSync) which allows me to use my mobile device just like I do now, but instead of syncing to Outlook, it syncs to my Remember the Milk account.

On the offline end, I've been reading the book DaVinci Decoded. It's by the same author as How to Think like Leonardo DaVinci, a book I love (read my earlier posts in this blog, you'll see how long ago it was when I read that book!). So far so good, it's not as good as the one about how to think like him, but it's a good refresher course. I bought my own copy of Art of War and also came across another book called The Back of the Napkin. It's about using drawings/images to solve problems, I was quite fascinated by this concept and also figured this'd be useful for me. I know a lot about this technique, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to learn a few extra tips/tricks through this book. I've been giving myself a refresher course on the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, but I'm leaving that reading for the plane. I've got a loooongg trip out of here :P. I was reading The DaVinci Method on my way here but halfway through the book I felt it was constantly repeating itself. I really don't like books that just keep going on and on and on about the same thing (ahah yes, I know you're pointing at my blog as nothing better).

So I return to Hong Kong at the end of August and it's back to putting the nose to the grindstone, but hopefully I'll have a fresh mind to see everything. The world awaits (when I return of course :P)

Enjoy the next 10 days!

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