Getting Things Done with Trello

I have recently read Getting Things Done, which is both the name of a book and the productivity system it proposes. In essence, the philosophy behind GTD is:

You need a trusted system outside of your own head for collecting, processing, organising and deciding on things that need to be done to avoid these things taking up any of your mental energy.

The entire GTD methodology can be summarised in this chart from the Cotsco Connection magazine. The idea behind GTD is to be implementation-agnostic. In theory it should be possible to implement GTD using pen and paper or by using software.

For me, Trello works brilliantly as a GTD system, together with the Trello iPhone and iPad apps. Trello gives you boards, each consisting of one or more lists, and each list containing a bunch of cards.

I have three default boards: @Actions, @Ideas and @Projects (the ‘@’ characters makes the board always stick to the top, so it’s easy to access).

The @Actions board contain a list called ‘Inbox’ for collecting stuff. It also contains contextual lists (e.g. ‘Shop’) for collecting next actions for specific contexts (e.g. ‘buy margarine’). This way I can easily access different contexts based on my physical location.

The @Ideas board contains all the stuff that I might want to do at a later stage (such as ‘build a pizza oven’ or ‘learn JavaScript’). Once I decide to begin working on an idea, it becomes a project.

The @Project board contains all the projects that have an extremely deterministic set of steps to complete. Reading a book is one example of this kind of project: each chapter will be a definite step, and once you’ve read all the chapters you can safely assume that the project is done.

Every other kind of project (which would be the majority I think), get its own board. This way you can create lists and cards particular to the project. Another bonus is that you can invite other people to the project (collaboration ensues).

One last trick is to assign yourself to any cards that need immediate attention (that is, those actions which are the next step). When you do this you get a consolidated view of all your ‘next actions’ at http://www.trello.com/yourusername/cards.

I’ve only been doing this for about two months, but I’m already observing a huge increase in my productivity.

I love post-rock

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I love post-rock. What is post-rock? Look at this excellent answer from Quora by Carlos Narziss. Here’s a few main points (as highlighted by Carlos):

  • Post-rock can simply be defined as patient, unconventional use of rock instruments (especially guitar, bass, and drums), often complimented with non-rock instruments such as violins and cellos.
  • What sets post-rock apart is a certain patience to how the instruments are used. The music gradually builds up, “delaying gratification with a certain patient repetitiveness and some occasionally wandering”. Eventually this will intensify and climax, followed by a shorter relaxation.
  • There are no vocals (with a few minor exceptions).

Here are some pieces that are representative of the genre in a general sense:

I also subscribe to farpastpost, an all-post-rock radio station. My preference is the more energetic variety of post-rock, such as 65daysofstatic, Russian Circles, And So I Watch You from Afar and Baulta (you can download both their albums for free – consider supporting them, they deserve it). Although not everyone’s cup of tea, I also love a small Japanese band that goes by the name of . Just watch the video below to see a bit of their energy.

What I have learned from working at large companies

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I have been working in banks as a business analyst for the last 2 years and 8 months. These are some of the things I have learned.

A chain is really only as as strong as its weakest link. The obvious way to control a large group of people is by organising them into hierarchical supervisor-subordinate relationships. Supervisors can then control subordinates by sending and receiving information through these hierarchies. There is an inherent weakness however: the flow of information typically passes from one person to another, forming a long chain of communication, and all it takes for the entire chain to fail is one person not relaying information effectively. This creates a plethora of other problems. For example, it creates a situation where you might have a lot of responsibility but very little mandate to act on that responsibility, since everything you do has to be vetted by hundreds of people above you. By the time they approve it, chances are that it might not be necessary anymore.

Things are never as simple as they seem. And we have a tendency to oversimplify things. This is bad. Things are never as simple as they seem. When you think something is going to take you X hours to complete, multiply it by π (3.14159) to get a better reflection of how long it will actually take (thanks to my brother for this one).

Always be pragmatic about stuff. I care deeply about my craft. I know you care deeply about your craft. People who care deeply about their craft tend to be perfectionists. Sometimes this is good, because it means that you will deliver a quality product. But more often than not, people don’t care about perfection, people care about delivery, and for you to be able to deliver you will have to be pragmatic (that is, you’ll have to make some compromises on quality in order to deliver).

Focus where the pain is. This is arguably the most important learning. This puts everything else into perspective. It determines how successful you feel. Don’t just do stuff for the sake of doing them. In fact, don’t do anything if it’s not directly addressing some real pain somewhere. Add value.