Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Idea Bank

If you are like me, there are plenty of times when you see or hear about some of the new web applications, you go “That’s exactly what I thought of! Now why didn’t I follow it up?”. But someone else has actually through it through and then followed it through and executed the idea and made it a reality. While you, just kept that idea at the back of your head.

The difference between success and failure is in the execution. But in order to execute, you need to record and develop your idea. For this, you need to have an idea bank.

This notion of an idea bank is promoted in many productivity, self improvement systems as well. In GTD, these are someday/maybe projects. You record your ideas or projects that are lingering in your head. If you cannot put in a time line to it, you record it anyways and get it off your head.

I have recorded my ideas in so many different places that it is impossible for me to figure out where they are recorded at times. Worst thing that you can do is to record them in planners as when the year ends, the planner goes into storage and so does all your ideas in it. For this reason I have started to use a little black note book, to record my ideas. I was contemplating the options between high tech and low tech for this purpose. I have a few ideas stored in my phone as notes as well.

But I like the notebook for several reasons. I can generally write faster than I can type. Now with my adoption of iPhone, my typing speeds have diminished even further. And I tend to think more about words and spellings when I type whereas when I write these flow without thinking. Hence writing gives me the ability to concentrate in the idea itself rather than on what I am writing.

I am very fond of fountain pens. My love with fountain pens makes me want to write more. If I was typing I would keep the sentences short and type out a fewer sentences. But when I write, I would be more descriptive. Being descriptive when you are recording an idea is pretty good as otherwise there are times I have just written down a short sentence and some time later I cannot recall exactly what the idea was!

I also love good quality stationary. This is also a part of why I chose to write down the ideas as opposed to storing them electronically. Also the free flow of ideas, ability to draw diagrams or pictures to support it, is much easier with pen and paper.

But writing them down isn't entirely without its nuances. If you need to amend and expand and idea later on, it isn’t as easy as if you had recorded it electronically. Also I may not always carry my little black book with me whereas I will carry my phone. And these days, applications like Evernote, with it’s automatic syncing of notes makes it pretty easy to record an idea through one device and pick it up from another device. I did start using Evernote and I actually quite like the application. I think an app like Evernote will be a pretty good choice on a Windows Mobile device with the ability to draw things on notes in Windows Mobile. But this feature is not there (or I have not come across it if it is there) on the iPhone application and hence it is limited to what would be typed.

The other advantage of high tech in this regard is it will be easier to share your idea with anyone else. Specially with apps like Google Docs, it is a breeze to collaborate and develop an idea using a shared document. And there are plenty more applications for mind mapping and allows sharing mind maps too.

While I am still exploring all these high tech options, for the time being I am going to stick to my black leather book and fountain pens to collect my ideas. I would love to hear your views on these as well. Also, any pointers to great, free, web based mind mapping solutions are welcome.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Reflections on life

I can vividly remember my teens and my twenties. I'm glad that I lived up the years, experienced life to the full. Now that I am turning 33 today, life is taking a different path.

Those were the years that you could eat anything you want, play as much and party all night long and still make it to classes or work the next morning. Had no care for cholesterol or BMI or blood sugar! We played cricket, almost every day and cycled a few kilometers daily.

Now when I cannot play badminton for an hour at a stretch and when you do, the next day you feel as if a truck has run you over! Now the concerns are on losing weight and getting the waist line to a respectable figure, to a figure that you can tell a shop assistant without feeling shy! Typical life story of a Sri Lankan professional male?

But I am not lamenting in any way about how my life turned out to be. I am glad and proud of it in fact. True, I may be a little over weight and a few muscles that needs shedding, which I am working on by the way, but what i have, I truly cherish!

So on this birthday I like to thank all those people and circumstances that I am grateful about!

Thaththa - It's been a while since you bid adieu. But you have been the biggest influence in my life, my mentor and my role model! Need I say more? Except, I miss you and there isn't a single day gone by without me wishing that you were around!

Amma - Thank you for putting up with me for all this time. For bringing us up in one piece. You have been the strength of our lives! All relations tell me that I was a brat and now I know what it must have been like, because I have two of my own!

Lush - You are the best a wife can get! I thank my destiny every day for bringing us together. You love me and support me unconditionally and that is all a man can ask for. And you put up with all my sillinesses. I love you and promise to love you till my last breath!

Dinara and Dineth - You are the apple of my eyes. Thank you for bringing a joy into our lives which we did not know that existed before. You two are a handful (and more), but the joy of seeing you two blossom is the greatest joy in the world and brings a new dimension to our lives!

Malli - Thank you for being my brother, friend and advisor. Above all thanks for putting up with me. You give all you have and never expect anything in return. You have always been there for me and I truly value our friendship.

Siri/Diana - Thanks for trusting your daughter with me and also accepting me for what I am. You give me the space and the freedom to lead my life but yet silently support me. You're the best in-laws anyone can ask for!

Rukshan - I had a brother and then I found another! You are a brother to me and there is no in-law part in it!

All my friends - You know who you are! Far too many to name individually. I treasure every memory with you all and though we don't get to meet as often as we used to, I know our friendships will stand the test of time and distances. The great thing about the friendships that I have with you all is we can always pick up where things were left off! I have learned from all of you and all of you have been there whenever I needed you all! Remember the good times mates!

Relations - Thank you for being my relations! I do not regret anyone one of you being my relation. Some of us we meet only occasionally and some more often, but what ever the time and distances between us, our relationships will remain!

I have also to thank my past colleagues and bosses who shared the fun times with me, and from those of whom I learned quite a bit. Thank you for sharing those moments with me.

It is a great time to be alive. And a lot is going on in my life right now. So a few years from now, it should be interesting to see how my decisions have played out.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Marc Anderssons productivity tips at work

I thought I would put Marc Anderssons productivity tips (at least some of them to work today). This concept is also very similar to the Zen To Done (ZTD) concept of Most Important Tasks (MITs). Here is my take on how it fared and how it came about.

I tried to come up with 3-5 things that I wanted to achieve today. Then I first thought of it, I was overwhelmed, everything that I had procrastinated came to my mind and I had a tough time choosing only 5 of them.

Another thing that I realized in this process was that I was not distinguishing between goals and chores. There are things that I have to get done in a day which are part of the projects that I am working on for clients. These are the daily tasks that I have to get done, no matter what. So if I was looking at MIT in this way, then there are basically three or four tasks that I am working on in a given day. In a way these are contributing towards the goal of earning a living, but then there aren't any room for any other personal or professional goals.

Another important task that I have been omitting is in the front of fitness/health. I am the closest to a couch potato. I spend most of my time in front of a computer and get little or no physical exercise. Since I started to work from home, the time spent in front of the computer has increased. So I need to put in a task/goal of weight loss/exercise/fitness to my daily task list at least a few times a day.

Another MIT to put on a list is to blog. Anyone reading this blog would notice how random the postings are. So maybe if I start to update the blog on a more frequent basis, with blog posts becoming a MIT for at least a couple of days a week, would do these blogs a great deal of good.

Come to think of this, my new found fondness to GTD and in particular to blends in nicely with this scheme of things. has a feature where I can define recurring tasks and even create schedules for exercises, blogging with frequencies that I want and they start appearing on checklists, so it does its part of making us guilty of not checking them off (doing them).

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

GTD in practice - an update

This is a continuation from the previous post on my attempt with GTD, Giving GTD a try.

I didn't realize that it has been nearly two months since my first post on GTD. From then to now, I have managed to complete the part one of the book which covers GTD on a more theoretical level and am currently reading the phase of GTD implementation. I also managed to shed some misconceptions that I had about GTD, which I had written in my previous post. One of the main rants that I had was GTD's focus on stuff on the plate and less focus on goal setting.

But reading through the theoretical part, I understood two things:
  1. GTD has goal setting. David Allen calls it views from different altitudes and proposes that we take a look at different areas in our lives from these altitudes.
  2. GTD is not a philosophy on HOW you should set your goals. It is exactly, what it proposes it to be, a WORKFLOW to get things on our plate DONE.
Steven Covey calls this "Clock Vs. Compass". I do not think that we need to think of these as two mutually exclusive practices. I can think of incorporating both these practices, Steven Covey's principles to set direction and GTD to manage the implementation of these principles.

I have been practicing a basic form of GTD. I started with Google tasks after reading a post from somewhere about how to use Google tasks for GTD. Then I came across a more specialized application for GTD, This is a fantastic application for a GTD practitioner to kick start GTD in thier lives. Also, I found it impressive that the site has also incorporated and has road maps on how to use to implement GTD (obviously, ZTD and even 7 Habits).

If you are using a site like this it is pretty easy to incorporate something like 7 Habits' staying on quadrant 2. As even Covey says, the tool should be flexible enough to shift things around and to keep our focus on quadrant 2. I think we can do this with a tool like I am planning on writing a post dedicated to my use of There are a lot of things that I like about that tool and at the same time there are a few areas that I think that can be improved to make the users lives smoother.

So far I have set up the systems in place to capture the tasks and also in my case the processing happens on a daily frequent basis. I am also managing to stay on top of tasks most of the time. But I am currently facing a mini crisis with conflicting demands on my time. And I am hoping that diligent practice of GTD will help me manage that as well.

The other is that I am sincerely hoping GTD would help me tackle my rather bad habit of procrastination. So far, GTD has been helpful in nudging me to get things done rather than putting things off. One thing of setting up next actions, is there is a mental push to get through the next actions. And the daily reminder email from also serves as a daily reminder for me to focus on my daily tasks.

My ultimate aim is to practice a synergetic practice of GTD and 7 habits. I am still not sure whether GTD falls under the third generation time management practices that according to Covey, simply does not work. But for me GTD is more than a time management tool. And if you are using the right tool, it can be used as a fourth generation time/task management tool. And that is what I am hoping would come out of this whole exercise.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Giving GTD a try

I have tried many productivity schemes from time to time but was never able to stick to one to see proper results or life changing habits. I seem to be getting back to my normal self after sometime and the latest seems to just die away. Adding to the list of many things that I have TRIED!

The latest obsession is GTD. I had read about GTD about a year back and then read a few articles about it, mainly from and other GTD related sites. On the outset it seemed like quite a bit of work, just to maintain and keep practicing it. The work flow seemed like a it required a lot of work in itself. Apart from that, those days I was not so busy. I had a pretty laid back work load and had the freedom to pursue my other interests like coding (read moBlog) as well.

But with the change of careers, I was getting more and more work on my plate. Responsibilities of my role grew pretty much to the point that it became almost unmanageable. And I felt the need for the productivity system pretty badly. I was working across time zones, so my working hours morphed into my family or personal time as well. And I was being pushed to my limits.

Then again I started to think about GTD. Call it synchronicity or whatever you like, I ran into David Allen's book at a department store a couple of weeks back. I read through a few pages, it didn't come across as an interesting read, but I bought the book anyway. And I started reading it leisurely. Now, with my workload I get to spend a very little time reading. I am trying to balance my free time between family time and reading time, so my reading of the book is proceeding very slowly.

So far I have reached the last part of chapter two. While I am sure that the process is proven and works, I am still a bit skeptical about it achieving the desired life that we all want to create for our selves. David Allen is pretty frank about it and he states that he is taking a bottom up approach to getting stuff done. His work flow is more focused towards getting the stuff on your plate done, but does not pay much attention towards qualifying them.

I mean it helps you go faster, but does not give much thought about the direction you are taking. To use Stephen Covey's words it helps you climb the ladder faster, but it does not tell you much about figuring out whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Not much on goal setting either. The logic behind GTD is if you get more stuff done and clear your plate, then you will have a clear mind to think more about the lofty goals. So any goals can be put into a someday list!

Anyway, something is better than nothing and I will give a try to GTD. At least if I can get the things on my plate done, without allowing anything to fall from the cracks that will be a good start!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Live Mesh from Microsoft

I have been looking around for a online storage for my frequent and important files which will also allow me to sync the files between my different computers. I use two laptops, a work laptop and a personal laptop. And I end up carrying my work laptop home because I sometimes have to work from home during a night, or just in case of an emergency.

I was thinking if there was a way where I could just work in my office laptop, save the files, come home and resume where I left off, on my home computer, wouldn't that be great? Also, it will provide a backup for all my files, in my home computer as well as some where secure on the Internet, so I don't have to worry about computer crashes and virus infections wiping out my data?

Sounds like wishful thinking? But isn't that what we all want?

I think I stumbled upon something that comes pretty close. Of course there are a few shortcomings, but those can be circumvented.

I just created an account at (rather signed up with my LiveID) and also installed the client software on my Vista laptop. All the folders I created appear as folders on my desktop and all i have to do is to setup the synchronization settings on the folders and copy the files I needed to be synced to those folders. And the client software automatically syncs them with the Live Desktop (i.e. the online folder). And it will sync the files automatically if I install the software on another computer. That's what I am going to try next.

UPDATE: I found a better way of adding files to the mesh. After installing Live Mesh (beta) on your computer, you can right click on any folder and select 'Add Folder to Live Mesh' and set the sync settings. This uploads the folder to the Live Desktop! Great! This is just what I wanted.

Is this perfect or what? Well the answer is Almost! The only thing is it currently offer 5GB of storage space. But there is no mention of how you can get additional storage space, even at a price.

There are a few competing (or are they complementing) product offerings from MS it self. They have the Live Sky Drive, which is kind of a GDrive (well GDrive is still a mystery, SkyDrive is here). I think this is mainly targeted for online file sharing. Live Mesh can also do online file sharing. And then there is Live Sync, which can sync files between two computers. A little bit confusing if you ask me. I think what MS can do is actually integrate all of them under one service, Live Mesh seems like the natural way, and maybe offer more storage space to the users! Now that MS's service is out of the door before Google, maybe they should consolidate on this space and lock users in! More storage is definitely the way to go!