New Year’s Resolutions

BitDepth#970 for January 05, 2014

Using the Pomodoro technique, you slice work into smaller chunks (or pomodoros) and work on them intensively for a short time. You can easily find software and hardware timers to support the technique. Photo courtesy imgkid.com.
Using the Pomodoro technique, you slice work into smaller chunks (or pomodoros) and work on them intensively for a short time. You can easily find software and hardware timers to support the technique. Photo courtesy imgkid.com.

Like everyone, I’ve got my bad habits and blind spots, some large enough to drive a petrol truck through, and this seems like as good a time as any to confess to my failings with tech and to resolve to do better.

Time slice, for real.

I’ve got an array of digital tools sharpened and ready to slice and dice my working day, already a sprawling disjointed mess, into easily digestible bits I can nibble on until work gets done.

This is the freelancer’s eternal dilemma, knowing full well what you need to do, what the deadline is, but choosing instead to feast on every distraction that comes along until nervous clients start knocking. Or e-mailing. Or texting. Or the ultimate nightmare, knocking on the door for real.

But knowing you having a problem isn’t the same as dealing with it effectively.

This year I need to get on top of the Pomodoro technique, a system for which I have several apps, to begin improving my focus and effectiveness.

In lieu of a boss hollering at you to get off the phone and go back to work, the Pomodoro Technique advocates alternating intense sessions of absolute focus on the task at hand with regular breaks (Slideshare explanation here).

That means no e-mail, no responding to Facebook notifications, no phone calls. In short, the dream state of every employer, which in a freelancer’s case is a good thing.

Fire bun the bundles.

I have to stop. This is probably a Mac thing, since I don’t see the same thing happening much on the Windows side of the software market, but there have, over the last five years or so, been a rash of very tempting bundles of software offered for sale.

This all began in 2006 with MacHeist, a game-focused website founded by John Casasanta, Phillip Ryu, and Scott Meinzer. The early riddles were fairly simple, and hints were easily found, so even a terminally game challenged participant (that would be me) was able to successfully complete the projects.

Most of the project’s successors have dispensed with the gaming aspect in favour of bundling two or three attractive software products with six or so cheaper, more narrowly focused apps.

You’ll never find the really big names like Adobe or Microsoft participating in these budget shenanigans, but you can find some really useful products in these bundles.

From a user point of view though, you end up with a big saving on something you were planning to buy or upgrade and a downloads folder littered with software you won’t ever find the time to explore successfully. It’s triage time.

Make a consumption plan.

I read a lot, particularly about stuff I’m very interested in and this is a great time to be a reader. Books are available in every imaginable format and lots of sensible advice is available for free as accomplished professionals work hard to elbow each other aside for your attention and the eventual upsell to their paid products.

For a photographer, the abundance is dizzying. Photoshelter alone makes dozens of useful PDFs available for free download and many good seminars offer a recorded component for far less than a plane ticket to the live show.

Needless to say, this stuff piles up quickly and I have a lot of difficulty dealing with it on production computers.

So I’ve finally yielded to that crazy fad and got myself an iPad for the content that doesn’t scale down well for a mobile phone. GoodReader is an exceptional PDF reader and content organiser and OPlayer HD plays every video format I’ve been hoarding.

Both have web servers built in that make transferring content a snap.

Paired with the Android apps Moon Reader Pro for epub books and the Kindle app on my phone, I’ve got no excuse for not making a dent in all this digital content.

  • Nicole

    Were you speaking to me Mark? If not, you certainly have my resolutions pegged. Happy New Year.