NYC Area — Our friend and fellow REED parent Shelly Milstein will be on the Nightly News with Chuck Scarborough on NYC Nonstop tonight, LIVE at 7 PM Eastern. Oh, and Suzanne Wright of Autism Speaks will be there too. (Ok, I’m biased.) Here’s the place to find the right channel for your cable system.
Over on Simplifying Complexity, I recently doubled one of our software bounties from $250 to $500.
Here’s a deeper background on the topic:
- Marketing/networking (all “keeping in touch” that doesn’t get put into folders for Pam, the boys, and my brother/sister-in-law/twin nieces).
- ASD will be a new folder to collect autism-related items, separated into REED, Dylan, 30seats, and client-specific folders (same rationale as above).
- Under a “Business” folder, I’ll track these:
- Client/project-specific folders
- Admin for everything that is business admin-related and doesn’t go elsewhere.
- Nonprofit for my work on various charitable efforts (including Allegheny and other autism efforts)
- Usernames to keep password emails all in one place. (Still seems easier to find that FedEx username without having to look through tracking notices.)
- Z-Quicken for everything that’s an e-receipt, order confirmation, or payment (I use the “Z-” prefix to keep it at the bottom of the list).
Putting the list down on paper does make me feel happy about the impending reorganization. As for waiting-fors, actions, etc., we use the NetCentrics GTD plug-in for Outlook, so it creates a few extra folders. My biggest reason for not putting stuff in an “action” folder for emails that have to be checked is the sense, proven by my experience, that I will ignore that bucket and it just becomes another black hole. Things need to be handled, and my goal is to use the plugin to take emails with embedded tasks and turn them into actual tasks rather than move them to a different pile.
As I scan the inbox now, there are 187 messages, 2 unread. 1 is a furniture ad I’ll delete shortly and one is a BCC from me. There are probably 30 messages related to a blast I sent out yesterday related to Dylan’s CBS appearance. I’ll get caught up on those today and get back down to 100 by COB today. The rest that require more work: I recognize that I need to frame them into tasks, and I want that burden right in front of me, whether it’s things to read, track, or respond to. In many cases, for those items where I’m writing things such as this post, I prefer to just handle them by writing the post (or at least starting it and adding a link) rather than going through an intermediate step of creating a “BLOG xyz” task in Outlook. (I promise I’ll break that habit soon!)
In any event, I thought that this brief explanation will be helpful to some of you. My recommendation is that you consider attending one of People-OnTheGo’s “Total Organization” workshops by my colleague Pierre. The ToolsMap (™) is absolutely amazing, and even now, years later, I think it’s terrain completely untouched by anyone else in the productivity field.
Lifehacker recently highlighted a “tangent log” idea from another writer. I thought the concept sounded familiar and realized that my colleague Pierre has long included the “Add to to-do list” page as part of the journal he discusses in his “Accomplishing More with Less” workshops.
I’m slowly migrating toward using a paper journal (Moleskine Ruled Notebook Large, with a nice leather cover) as an adjunct my tablet and Blackberry Pearl. (I’ll skip the gory details on those for a later post on tools & tricks of the trade.) While I’ve learned in Outlook to simply create a quick task for the blips and beeps of everyday intrusions, Pierre’s model is to create a dedicated space on your working pages to make it simpler to note what’s starting to intrude on your brain and handle it enough to let it slip away without stealing your focus. I suppose David Allen would use a post-it (I recently read an interview where he was jotting on a post-it in the middle of answering a question. No link handy at all.)
What techniques have you used to handle pre-distractions so that they aren’t lost but don’t destroy your concentration?
I am currently attending a conference related to special education law. This fact isn’t critically relevant to this post, but it explains why I was sitting at a table this morning watching the presenters try to get their laptops working and then wait for the inevitable “tech guy” from the hotel to come sort it out.
When you think for a few minutes about everything that we can do so easily — post phone videos directly to Facebook, use geosynchronous satellites to help us drive to the nearest Starbucks, or publish our thoughts to the world using a sophisticated CMS that non-techies can install on shared servers after 1/2 hour of reading — it’s amazing to me that, in conference rooms all over the world, it’s still hard to believe that companies haven’t settled on a straightforward plug ‘n’ play solution. Why don’t all these systems just work? Plug in an external monitor cable, hit a key combo, and presto! I really can’t figure it out.
The President’s new healthcare record digitization plan is fraught with good intentions.
Making healthcare records easier to exchange, analyze, cross-reference, maintain, and update. No one seriously doubts that particular issue. However, there are serious problems with the President’s plan that show the intrusion of big-government thinking over individual freedom.
There is no reason why the government needs to maintain the health records all by itself. What the industry needs, if anything, is for government to regulate, not by taking over the market, but by setting standards for data schema, interoperability, data ownership, data correction, privacy, security, and portability. By setting up these types of rules (and the federal government already handles similar issues via HIPAA, credit report rules, and cell phone numbers), government allows the market to expand through the efforts of non-governmental entities, such as nonprofits, healthcare companies, and separate private data warehouses. By solidifying the ground rules, government can create an immediate common platform for development and implementation.
Is that the only role for government? Of course not. Should the President want to “ensure” that everyone have access to this new system, the government could certainly provide such services to everyone for free. (The VA and medicare will certainly maintain their own databases in much the same way they do now.) An analogy can be made to the vehicle inspection regime in New Jersey: the motor vehicle department will inspect your car for free at specified location with (or sometimes without) an appointment. Or, you can have your car inspected at your convenience at a local garage for a modest fee. This dual approach helps people by allowing the market to segment itself rather than forcing everyone into the same box. Could we allow, but not require, everyone to use Medicare’s version of the health record information system? Why would a system that covers so many people *only* work if we force everyone else to use it too?
Avoiding the possible abuse of access by insurance companies, healthcare companies, or even hospitals is a worthwhile goal, but there is no reason that every citizen must then be required to trust the government. After all, many of these same politicians become incensed about government databases of other kinds, such as pictures of protesters at political rallies or even the cross-referencing of connections across pre-existing databases (remember “TIA?”).
Why should the citizens be forced to give up their most personal information to the government? Only fans of big government, who are confident in their own good intentions and certain of their wise decisions would tilt the scales in favor of the federal government, particularly when the other positions about government databases are considered. I expect we will hear assurances about the inviolate nature of the database, but a compelling case will certainly present itself quickly. What Democratic representative or senator will say that health data cannot be accessed to track a killer of doctors who provide abortions? A wifebeater? A child molester? A right-wing militia-style terrorist? An al-Qaeda sympathizer (sorry, that’s the other guys)? The basic point, the fundamental libertarian approach here, is that we can almost certainly trust people to make better decisions (for them) about how to disclose their medical information than government would; we ALREADY do that today. How does taking that power from the people increase freedom rather than extend government’s reach? How can we possibly prevent politicians from either party from deciding that their new bugaboo is a compelling-enough justification to eliminate the protections that will half-heartedly be added to this legislation?
Twist the issue around, and there’s no categorically worthy justification for preventing people from keeping their data safe from Uncle Sam virtually all the time. Hypotheticals about emergency access to data affect every system equally, and required disclosure scenarios (e.g., adoption, infection, genetic diseases, child support) will either affect the government system equally or have already been outlined by separate legislation in other areas, such as the rules that allow the IRS to share taxpayer information for the purposes of helping ensure payment of child support.
In short, government here can do what governments do best in these situations: set a standard and enforce compliance with the standard. There’s no need to overreach and take power from the people.
Why is this here? Because handling information is what America is all about these days. And handling it wisely, in ways that are respectful of the rights of the individual, is what prevents government officials, particularly well-meaning ones, from doing harm to us “for our own good.”
I’ve been working on and updating my proposal for a child-centered autism information system (maybe that’s the name, but I’m not sure yet). Thinking about ownership, control, and access to information is part and parcel of that project, and it reminded me of this. More to follow, of course.
The first incarnation of thoughtstorm.com was for a business that, in modern terms, facilitated the crowdsourcing of advertising ideas for companies and ad agencies looking for fresh sources. The VC client with whom I spoke at the time, seeking feedback and funding, said that the idea would not really do well because of the inherent risk for buyers: not the IP risk but the knowledge that a baby commercial was the idea of a child molester, or something similarly awful from a PR perspective. I took his advice and continue to respect his opinion and knowledge; the only reason I won’t link to him now is to avoid appearing ungrateful for his honest opinion or casting aspersions on his advice with the benefit of hindsight; I certainly didn’t take the alternative route and followed his advice of my own accord.
Seeing these sorts of articles, about crowdsourcing in general and advertising in particular, has nevertheless always been a bit of a sore spot for me. I’ve always thought that I’ve had a succession of good, even very good ideas, and I’ve apparently done poorly at getting them executed, at creating something substantial that exists in the world.
So this self-awareness is part of the genesis of the “orphan ideas” tag on this site and even on the “official” ThoughtStorm blog. My goals are to:
- Release the old ideas from my brain and to-do lists so they’re not cluttering up my thinking and draining my energy, particularly if I’m not actually likely to do anything about them now. GTD advocated moving these to “Someday.” I’m accepting that “Someday” is closer to “Never” and doing something, however small, in taking that step.
- Gain psychological credit for having ideas before other people; not really worth much, but it’s a way to help myself accept #1 and points me to #3.
- Encourage me to pursue ideas in some tangible format, whether rapid prototyping of a social networking website or actual writing related to a book idea (and then a follow-up with a proposal). Executing is all that really counts; ideas really are a dime a dozen, but people who can turn an idea into something, anything, even an ugly but functional website, are rare.
- Recognize value that I’m just not that interested in pursuing and so revealing it for someone else to work with or build on. It’s like seeing a bag of returnable cans in the garbage; I’m not really likely to take it out, but I’ll gladly tell someone who’s collecting cans about it. What’s the harm to me of benefiting society in that tiny way? What have I lost? Nothing, and if you think about the gains from #1, 2, and 3, I’m actually better off.
So the history of ThoughtStorm is now revealed. I’ll try to update that old c2b page into a post so it’s legible and more accessible.
The next zero-based exercise tip takes no time and close to no effort. When riding the subway or a bus for a reasonable distance, stand rather than sit. Our bodies use 17% (I’ll find a reference soon) more calories standing rather than sitting. That may not be a lot, but for zero effort, it’s great!
I do this on the subway in NYC, which also means I don’t have to look for a seat ever, and on buses from the airport to the rental car counter, for example. There’s no need to be silly about it, though: if your feet hurt, take a seat. If you’re on the 1-hour busride commute, take a seat. (However, when it comes to getting on the bus and standing vs. waiting for the next one, I’ll stand for the hour and save the extra 15-20 minutes.
As I said, I’ll look for the references and calculate the calorie difference between the two.
This minor, almost insignificant, change is the heart of the zero-based series. Small changes on the margin are easy to make and add up over time. I don’t think about standing on the subway anymore; I just do it.
The zero-time exercise series is a set of short tips on ways to exercise or diet that either cost nothing or take no time.
The first tip reflects something I’ve seen only in New York City, and not in any other city in the US or elsewhere: walking up escalators. Sure, walking up the escalator takes effort, but it’s not “zero-effort exercise.” In fact, walking up the escalator actually saves you time, unlike similar suggestions to park your car far away from the office or the mall entrance. If you want to start more easily, start with walking down the escalator. Then, if you’re improving and happen to have slow elevators in your building, walk down the stairs rather than wait for the elevator, from about the 5th floor down, you’ll probably actually save time (you can certainly measure the times and find an optimal solution).
Why don’t I suggest walking up the stairs? Well, when I walk up five flights in a suit, I get a little too overheated and uncomfortable; I don’t want to go into a meeting like that. Sure, walking down doesn’t burn as many calories but that’s not the comparison: the comparison is to how many you would burn standing in an elevator.
The “zero-effort” time-saver series is a collection of short tips that I actually use to save time and be more productive. The key is things that are actually useful, cost basically nothing, and don’t take huge amounts of effort to implement.
First up: tear your sugar packets along the long side rather than the short side. The sugar dumps out more rapidly, which is the big time lag with sugar. If you drink 4 cups of a tea when spending a Saturday morning in Starbucks like I do, you might save a minute or so.
What’s a minute? Well, if I do that every week, it’s an hour. And, if it’s wasted, what’s the point of that? I reject the framing of the issue that says I have to justify saving a minute (again, with no effort and no cost); I say “why should I waste that minute?”
This article on the caloric math behind drinking ice water to lose weight reminded me of something I wrote a number of years ago.
My friend John was at Comedy Central doing on-air promos at the time, and they were running a contest for “Absolutely Fabulous,” looking for story ideas.
The idea I submitted was that the two stars take up eating ice as a fad diet, which would lend itself to any number of gags suitable for that show. But what I liked most about the idea was that it wasn’t as silly as it sounded.
According to How Stuff Works, drinking 8 8-ounce glasses of ice water per day would burn a net 70 Calories per day. If, however, you had an equivalent amount of ice cubes (for the purposes of this comparison, it’s assumed that the ice cubes would be in your mouth rather than in a glass of water, since that would allow heat loss to the atmosphere), you would burn an additional 79.7 calories per gram of water/ice, or an additional 150 Calories per day for a total of about 220 Calories/day.
That’s equivalent to 1 pound of weight loss every 16 days for ice, vs. 1 pound every 50 days for the ice water-only diet. On an annual basis, the ice diet would lead to a loss of over 22 pounds vs. 7 pounds for ice water.
I haven’t had a chance to confirm how many typical ice cubes are equivalent to 64 ounces of water (the ice would have about 9% greater volume), or how long it would take an ice cube to melt in your mouth. It might be that you’d have a lot of ice in your mouth all the time. UPDATE: 8 oz of water is about 14 smallish ice cubes, and my unscientific test was 3 minutes to full melt, with just a little chewing at the end to hit the 3 minute mark. So, 14 cubes x 8 glasses = 112 ice cubes x 3 minutes = 336 minutes, or about 5 1/2 hours a day with ice in your mouth.
That sounds crazy, but some people will go through a lot of effort to avoid exercising.