I was recently drawn to a photo of David Allen’s home office space, as posted on the GTD Times blog. I took a good look at the photo and started to think about my workspace and what its setup said about me.
Over the years I’ve tried many methods and tools to help me do things better. Most recently I’ve been concentrating on ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD), which I’ve found to be very beneficial in managing my time (and, well, getting things done). I use the Pomodoro technique to time box my activities during the working day and use tools such as Evernote and Flipboard to manage my thoughts and information streams.
Where I’ve not yet found a suitable solution is when it comes to writing. And here I mean medium-to-large, structured documents, be they blog posts, reports or whatever. Up until now I have been using mind maps to help organise my thoughts but I find that I tend to become trapped in the structure I originally lay these thoughts down in. I’ve been looking for something more specific to the writing process and have discovered Scrivener.
I initially gravitated towards Scrivener because of its separation of content and format, the benefit being that you can concentrate on the words and structure of the document without unnecessary formatting getting in the way. It also has a full screen mode whereby you can completely immerse yourself in the job at hand without distraction, though this, along with pretty much everything else, is completely customisable.
I’m very impressed with the User Manual that comes with the application – I’ve nearly read it end-to-end and will have to go back and re-read some of it, but it’s easy to locate specific information, and so works well as a reference.
The range of formatting available is also comprehensive; it comes with a number of templates for screenplays, scripts, and a host of other formats; and can output in HTML, RTF, for input into other writing / publishing applications, and also ebook and mobi formats for iPad/Kindle etc. And, obviously, you can modify existing templates or create your own.
As of now, I don’t have a lot of experience with it, so I may be singing it’s praises a little too early, but I’ve started a couple of projects with it and I am finding it a lot better than previous methods I’ve used. I’ve installed the Index Card app on my iPad and have been synchronising my writing across to it when I’m away from my laptop computer – great for train journeys – and this is working well for me.
Scrivener is a Mac-only application (beta versions for windows/linux here), so it’s not going to be the solution for everyone, but I’m hopeful that it’s the solution for me.
Update – 17th August 2011
There’s a follow-up post here with the results of my first end-to-end use of scrivener.
I just wanted to post a little “Thank you” message to everyone who sent me birthday greetings yesterday, whether by Facebook, Twitter or in person. It was a very ‘normal’ day; I was working, but went for a drink at lunchtime, which was very welcome. When I got home in the evening, I found that Finn had created some ‘beachcomber art’ in the dining room for me from shells and little pieces of driftwood, and a ‘Happy Birthday’ banner.
After a quick game of ‘lorries’ with Finn in the living room he went to bed and then it was a quiet evening watching catch-up TV.
Thanks once again for your messages.
As a follow-up to my last post – “Education, Education, Education” – we recieved the results of our school lottery draw recently. As it happens, our son and, to my amazement, most of his friends all got their first choice school. This is great, because it means my son will be going to school with his friends, and the school is relatively small which I feel is advantageous.
However, the system still sucks. Yes, we got our first choice, but as I stated in my previous post, our first choice in the lottery was not our preferred school – we made our lottery choices based on a compromise between school quality and probability of a place.
Regardless, the result is that we are in a happy place, where we are encouraged that the boy will have a good education. I wish I could say the same for all the parents and children in the same position today.
I spent a considerable number of hours last night determining the future prospects of my 3-year-old. If you think that that sounds like an over-reaction, then I would respectfully suggest that you are wrong. My son’s education is going to define him and his path through life in a most decisive and important way. It’s simply not something you can leave to guesswork or happenstance.
I was very fortunate in that I had a very good primary school just up the road from where I lived as a child – Allesley Primary School, if you are interested – which gave me a good enough grounding that I was able to gain a bursary to a local grammar school (King Henry VIII School, Coventry). My parents were not well off, so the bursary helped, but even so, if it had not been for my Grandmother basically handing over her pension to pay for my fees, I wouldn’t have been able to go.
Anyway, back to the present. I’ve seen children’s futures ruined by poor education. And I feel that the education system we now have is making matters worse, rather than better than it was in my day (1970′s and 80′s. I am fearful for my son’s future. If I had the means, I would pay good money to get him out of the system and into private education. So my only hope is to get him into a good primary school where his potential (assuming he has some – he’s only 3 and a half, after all) can be nurtured. Here, perhaps, I am over-reacting a little, as I think that secondary education will be more influential on his future than primary education. Nevertheless, the grounding he receives over the coming few years will determine the type of secondary education he can get, and so it is not insignificant.
The ‘lottery’ system that Brighton and Hove City Council employs to determine where a child is placed has received criticism (one example). I am not a fan, but I can’t think of a better way to do this either, and there’s no doubt that it has been mis-represented in the press. I’m unfortunate in that, where I live, there’s not a great choice of primary education and so my preferred choices for school are not necessarily my nearest. All I can do now is wait until April 27, when the Council’s ‘decision’ as to my son’s future will be emailed to me.
This post is by way of an apology – I’ve been very lax in my commitment to Project 52. It all started very well, in that I got my first post out in good time, but since then there’s been nothing. Given that the first post set out my plan for how I would manage a post a week, I feel that I’ve let down both the p52 community and myself. That said, it’s only week 5(!) and I do have a lot to write about – it’s just finding the time that’s the problem. As a fan of Getting Things Done, this shouldn’t be the issue, but there you are.
So you can look forward to some posts about the following:
- The 3 books I’ve recently taken receipt of. I’ll not be writing reviews until I’ve read them (novel, I know), but want to introduce them to you and the reasons why I acquired them;
- The two project releases that we did at the end of January;
- My new kitchen. (Well, it’s of interest to me, and I want to ‘big up’ the suppliers and workmen who, on the whole, did a fantastic job.)
So, that’s it for now – watch this space, as they say…
In this, the first post of the New Year, I thought I would offer an explanation for my decision to join Project52, and also lay down my plans for implementing it.
The main reason for joining is that I am hopelessly undisciplined in my personal tasks (at work there is no such problem – probably due to the inherent structure in working life). I’m hoping that by having to write a blog post each week will spur me on to:
- Actually write something,
- Give me more momentum to get other personal projects / chores completed
Anyway, that’s the hope, and here’s the plan.
The object is to write (at least) one blog post a week – that’s 52 posts in the year.
I’ve decided to split that into 4 categories with 13 articles in each. (Though I’m going to be flexible on this if I have more to say about a particular subject, at least being able to say ‘the next post needs to be regarding X’ will help me to focus on ideas for the post.)
The categories are:
- Interests (personal / professional)
- Observations (a bit woolly, I know)
- Excellence (a bit like ‘observations’, but concentrating on things I think are excellent – one of the core purposes the blog was originally set up for)
So, this is the first of my 52 posts (in the ‘Interests’ category, I guess). A bit of a cop-out, really, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and there’ll be more meat in the next post.