The Ant Wars

Once a month (or so) a colony of very small red ants and a colony of equally small black ants rise to the surface and go to war in an epic battle of miniscule proportions!

They carpet my front walk to the extent that we enter and exit through the garage for about 24 hours.

Then they disappear, I hose away the dead ones, and I don’t see them again for another month.

This is a picture of roiling ants fighting a smallish skirmish just off the front walk:

The Ant Hordes

In previous summers, I tried killing them by placing ant traps, poison (or jumping up and down over and over) but it doesn’t seem to deter them, and they do a great job of killing each other anyway. So now, I just sit on the front steps and enjoy the spectacle.

GTD – Step 1 – Prioritize

On Tuesday I talked a little (ok, maybe a lot) about GTD.

To reiterate… Step 1 is all about taking care of the important things first.

And doing it is easier than you may think. I made this little image, printed it out and hung it on my wall (There has to be a name for this, I know I didn’t invent it!):

(* update – sorry, it won’t let me embed it! so I linked to flickr)

(* update 2 – added the image!)

That’s it.

Now EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) gets a label of 1 to 4. Everything I need to do that is going to take me more than 15 minutes goes on an excel spreadsheet and receives a rating of 1 to 4; then:

Things that receive a # 1 Get Done First.
Generally things that receive a # 2 Get Done Next, followed by things that receive a # 3.
And of course things that receive a # 4 get thrown out right away (very little gets a number 4).

It’s easy, it’s helpful, and it makes a huge difference.

Getting Things Done

Wired man

I am Zen… I’ve discoverd my Tao… I GTD (Get things done)

Oh wait, reality’s setting in, yup, work’s still piled up to my eyeballs.

-sigh-

I love dabbling in new things & I love multitasking (I get bored if I’m not busy), but I have a problem.

Lately… ok, for years now… I’ve had some issues Getting Things Done.  Not that I don’t get things done, I do, but my list of things that NEED gettin’ done seems to grow faster than my list of things gettin’ done.

And I can’t stop.  Everyday brings new things to look at, play with, test, tweak, fix, and before I know it I’ve yet another thing on my GTD list.

Unfortunately, at least for me, a really long GTD list is a little depressing.  I know I can’t realistically get through it ALL, and if I try I won’t be able to really dig in and get it done in a way that would make me happy.  Pretty soon I stop doing the basic stuff (like trying to stay organized) because it all starts to feel like too much work.  And the snowball grows.

Eventually I get frustrated with my list of half completed projects, crumple my GTD list into a little ball (metaphorically speaking) and toss the whole thing out the window so I can start fresh; generally losing some things that really SHOULD have gotten done in the process!

So what do we do?

Todays world demands us to do things bigger, better, faster and more frequently, and many of us are happy to try and oblige.  But at some point it starts to feel like we’re going to, crack, explode, go crazy or otherwise expire.

Maybe it’s just me?  Maybe I’m the only one trying to fit way too much into way too little (time)?

I doubt it, most people I know are in the same boat to some degree or another.  Very few people are really good at just one thing, love to do that one thing, and spend all their time and effort concentrating on that one thing… It’s just not human! ;)

So again, what do we do?

Well, in the infamous words of Bob “Baby steps to four o’clock”.

Starting today I’ve decided (this has been building for awhile, I’m not making a rash decision :) to make some changes:

  • Less clutter
  • Fewer superfluous activities
  • More directed effort
  • More ‘work smart’ effot
  • More GTD!
  • More zen in my life

I’ve been agonizing over where to start for a while and am in the process of making a list of steps, but I think the best way to start is One Thing At A Time!  So, as of today, I’m going to be exrutiatingly meticulous with Step 1:

Taking care of the MOST important things first.

I already try for the most part, so it should be a relatively easy transition. It’s funny how so many of the less important things seem to take care of themselves eventually!

Step 2 will be:

Wake up at a consistant hour

I know this may sound like an irrelevant thing to worry over, but I get out of bed anywhere between 6:30 and 9:30 and the fluctuation really effects my day to day patterns. My goal is to get up everyday between 6:45 and 7 am.

Step 3 is Declutter

Both work and living spaces.  I’m bad. Really bad.  Not unorganized, but definitely cluttered (my parents, were they present during this conversation, would likely chime in right about now with some kind of ‘PackRat’ type comment)

But before I can get this far I need to deal with Step 1.

Starting now.

And right now the most important thing I can do is go home and spend a few hours with my kids!  Tomorrow I’ll talk a little more about How I plan to go about Step 1.

Wish me luck!

Delicious Del.icio.us

I’ve been alternating between Firefox 2 and 3 for a few weeks now and I have to say, it’s really frustrating.

I love Firefox, and especially version 3… unfortunately I also love my addons.

One of the issues I’ve run into through the beta of Firefox 3 is that most of my addons wouldn’t work… I found a hack, but it causes some stability issues :) So I’d rather the makers of these addons would update them!

Am I being demanding? :)

The Frustrating

I realized today that Del.icio.us has finally updated their Firefox plugin to be compatible with Firefox 3. They may have done this a while ago for all I know, unfortunately, for some reason, the automatic update addon function wasn’t finding the new version.

I don’t know why it was released in this way, but despite already having the older version installed I had to go to the Firefox addon site and search for the new version and install it manually. Not a big deal really, but if Firefox (or del.icio.us for that matter) had informed me that I may have to reinstall the newest version manually, I would have done it long before now and been less frustrated (the Product Manager in me would like to take this time to explain Usability 101… Don’t make the customer think! Make it EASY to get upgrades and new products and hard to leave!)

On the other hand, now that I know (.5 of the battle my childhood hero used to say), there is a beacon of hope for all the other addons I have installed that aren’t currently working with Firefox 3. But now I’m going to have to go down my addon list and check one-by-one… not a big deal… but frustrating.

The Good

The good news is that Del.icio.us wins in a big way. Once I recovered from the frustrating realization that there really was a new plugin available, and spent some time poking around the new features I have to say I’m really happy!

1 – Speed

This is what it’s all about now-a-days right? In our clones of clones online world there’s often little to distinguish one service from another… So if you can’t make it unique, make it fast! Maybe it’s just me (I work off two monitors and a laptop; and rarely visit myspace or facebook because they are in the annoyingly slow to load category), but I leave sites if they take too long to load, and the del.icio.us plugin in FF2 was, at times, painful.

I have a system to naming my del.icio.us bookmarks (likely one only I would understand at a glance, but it works for me!) and I found typing in categories in the old plugin tended to take a loooong time to filter.

Not so on the FF3 version! Type in your category and the expanded results appear instantly! No waiting, no frustration, awesome!

2 – Sidebar Bookmarks

I reference my Del.icio.us bookmarks all the time and this is the first FF sidebar that I’ve really found useful; sortable, searchable bookmark results – by both category and individual bookmark – I doubt I’ll have to visit my del.icio.us account again!

3 – Status Bar Icons

Del.icio.us drops a few useful icons down in the status bar. I listed this as good, because it was a good idea, but for me, it falls into ‘the bad’ for a couple of reasons (see below)

The Bad

1 – A Toolbar!?

A toolbar!? for 2 buttons? Arg – kill it! Thanks but no thanks Del.icio.us! If you only use Del.icio.us periodically, you could just turn the toolbar on and off when you are ready for it, but I bookmark everything! toolbars take up valuable real estate and this one is frivilous. Using the Customize feature (right-click your toolbar and click ‘Customize’) I just dragged the new Del.icio.us buttons to another toolbar I already have open and then turned of the Del.icio.us toolbar (right click the toolbar again and choose “Delicious toolbar”)

2 – Status Bar

While I applaud the use of Status bar icons, I would prefer the ability to customize them. I use the Del.icio.us ‘Tag’ icon most frequently and that’s the one I would want in my status bar… but I can’t do that (yet anyway… anyone from Del.icio.us read me blog?! :)

The Score

The Toolbar is silly, but easily thrown out and the status bar additions were a good idea, but not flexible enough.

Realistically though, I use the Del.icio.us addon mostly for tagging and in this Del.icio.us has seriously improved (in my opinion). And I’m pretty sure I will be making use of the new sidebar in the near future!

Verdict : If you use Firefox, have upgraded to FF 3, and you use Del.icio.us (even once-in-a-while) you NEED to get the new plugin!

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Farmers Market Withdrawl

We’ve missed out on Farmer’s markets two weekends in a row now for various reasons and I’m starting to go through withdrawl.

I’ve pretty much run out of produce (except for lettuces and radish which we pulled from our own garden this week) and am dreading having to put in a visit to the grocery store to buy their ‘fresh’ product.

I’m not sure why Saturday mornings are becoming difficult (3 kids under 3.5 years old) but we’re having a hard time getting out of the house in time to make the markets.

I think this week we will visit the Eco-market at Hempola farms. We’ve been talking about it for a year, but Friday nights come and go and we always forget!

Ack – a note from the tech side of my personality… Apparently Hempola Farms haven’t updated their site since 2004! The good news is their Eco-Market will be up and running again in the spring of 2005! Doh! I missed it! Come on Hempola, I know farms aren’t always thought of as being part of the most tech-savvy industry, but try to make at least ANNUAL updates to your site if you are going to go to the trouble of having one!