The Power of Little Tasks

There’s a lot to be said for the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing little tasks, especially on the weekend. These are those tasks that sit around on your list, annoy you every time you think of them, and generally are a mental nuisance.

Set aside a few minutes each day to take care of a couple of little tasks to get yourself back on track if you’re feeling unfocused.

Posted in Tools, Update, Working from Home

Changes to the office

I’ve been struggling a bit lately with the configuration of my home office to make it more functional to work from full time again. There was a time several years ago when I was working from home that the layout and hardware were different and I could function effectively. Now, my office is not only used for my full time job but also podcasting, writing, development, and many other things (not to mention the occasional gaming session.)

One of the main challenges has been running a laptop and a desktop all-in-one machine as my central monitor without having two different keyboards and mice AND sharing one webcam (since that’s a critical thing now.) It took a little planning and an order from Amazon but it has all come together.

The Amazon purchase was for a 10 port powered USB hub with three charging ports built in. The second part was a manual switching USB hub. The way the set up works is: the keyboard, mouse, webcam, boom mike, headset, and phone charging dock all plug into the UBS hub. The hub is plugged into the switching hub which in turn is plugged into the laptop and the all-in-one desktop. (I’ll include non-affiliate links to the two at the bottom.)

This configuration means that by pressing two buttons (one to switch the hub and one to change the all-in-one monitor’s input from internal to external) I can effectively jump between machines without changing a single cable.

When working on configuring your home workspace make sure you are setting it up so it works for you rather than trying to emulate the artificial standards placed on you at work. Finding the configuration that works for you can make all the difference in the world.

Links:

Tek Republic TUS-200 USB Sharing Switch – 2 Port Manual Switch One USB Device…

APANAGE Powered USB 3.0 Hub, 11 Ports USB Hub Splitter (7 High Speed Data Tra…

Posted in Strategy

Putting yourself in charge

It’s safe to say that at some point we all feel like we’re not in change of what’s going on in our lives. For some that’s a rare occasion but for most it’s a far more frequent occurrence. In this “year of growing up” (that’s the tagline I’ve been using for 2019 for reasons I’ll explain over the coming weeks) one of the things that has been brought to light for me is the importance of putting yourself in charge.

So often we spend time looking from direction. We look to parents, spouses, leaders, managers, co-workers, politicians, friends, intellectuals, religious leaders, philosophers, bloggers, influencers, and so many more trying to find the direction and guidance we need to feel we are doing the right things. The one person we fail to include in that mix is ourselves and it is to our detriment.

There is a fear of responsibility when it comes to our actions and we look to mitigate that fear through the validation of others. “If so and so says I’m doing a good job, then I must be.” Why can’t so and so be you? One of the things I am doing with much greater frequency in this year of growing up is looking at my actions and deciding for myself if they are the right things. I have plenty of rulers and scales by which to measure from the world around me, but the one thing I no longer require is validation of those measures by someone else.

It sounds arrogant I know and I don’t mean to say I don’t take feedback and criticism from others (because it’s coming whether you want it or not) but what I don’t do is make it the center of my decision making process. What others think is given due consideration, but at the end of the day my decisions are my own and I need to be ready to live with them. So here’s the question for you: are you ready to put yourself in charge?

It’s not an easy thing to do by any stretch. Sometimes it has to be forced, other times it can be eased into slowly. But in either case taking the step to make decisions with confidence, accepting the impact of your decisions, and not delaying until you get enough validation to absolve yourself of responsibility is a powerful beginning.

Posted in Strategy, Techniques

Managing Physical Clutter

“Does it spark joy?” If you’ve done anything in the organization or productivity space you’ve heard this phrase from the popular organizer Marie Kondo. While I haven’t gone down the complete rabbit hole yet I have been making a concerted effort to get my physical clutter challenges under control. A few things have started to work well for me and I thought I’d share them. Your mileage may vary.

Label, label, everywhere

I used to chuckle at my father for years because there wasn’t a thing he had that wasn’t labeled in some way. The drawer, the box, the bag, it didn’t matter, there was always a label to tell you what it should contain. I’ve resisted using labels for years out of a foolish desire to find a way to make things work differently than my father. Since his passing, I’ve learned how foolish I truly was and that labels just make sense.

By breaking things down into categories, providing a container for each category, and then labeling each container, I’ve started to get not only a physical grasp on the clutter but a mental one as well. For example, I used to have a large freezer bag of pens (way too many to ever use them all) kept in a cabinet in my office. I thought that since they were all together in one place, I had them “organized.” To quote the late, great comedian John Pinette, “Oh, nay nay.”

Now what I do is break the pens down into the types of pens as I would need them. Those groupings fit into smaller containers (more about that later) and then I label the containers accordingly. The key is for the label to be relevant to the need. When I need a refill for my Parker pen I know there is a small container labeled “Parker refills”. When I need a cartridge for a fountain pen, it’s in the container labeled “fountain pen refills.” Again, the key is the labels identify the answer to the need rather than just being a description of the contents.

Little boxes

Over the past several months I have been on a quest to try and reuse as much packaging as I can from orders and purchases. If I buy something that comes in a small box, I keep the box. If something comes with a small cloth bag, I keep the bag. The idea is to use these free “little containers” to help subdivide my things into relevant groupings. If you go back to the labeling example, the “Parker Refills” container is actually a small, flat cardboard box from Harry’s shave club. I cleaned the packaging out and labeled it appropriately before putting it in my cabinet. Not only does this help the environment, but the smaller divisions make keeping a grasp on what I have and what I don’t have much easier.

Labeling things as well as containers

There are some things that don’t lend themselves to singular containers as well as others. For example, power supplies. Being a technology guy I have accumulated a large number of stray power supplies over the years. Now each power supply typically marries to only one device (thanks a lot old-school lock-in thinking) so it is important to know what goes to what. Hence the labeling for the power supplies. Rather than putting a label on the wall plug end of the supply (where there is usually a large wall wart to stick it to) I wrap the label around the plug end of the cord like a flag. This way I can easily tell what plugs into what before I damage anything.

USB cables are another excellent use case as to the importance of labeling. Look at this mess I have:

  • USB-A to USB-A
  • USB-C to USB-A
  • USB-A to MicroUSB
  • USB-A to mini USB
  • USB-C to USB-C

In most cases I have multiple of these cables of varying lengths and qualities. This is where I go back to the “little labeled containers” approach, but in this situation rather than hard containers I go with fabric pouches. These make it easy to bundle the cables by type and store them for easy access. It also means I can create “go bags” that are composite of the different cables into one bag so when I need to “go” I can grab one of the bags and know I’ll have all the standard cables I might need.

Only a beginning

There are many types of clutter that still elude me and my new ways. Notebooks for example are going to need some special thought to get them under control. In the end, each step closer to getting the clutter under control is freeing up mental cycles for me and making the quest of being productive move that much closer to success.