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