Michael Koehler

Exploring the intersection of productivity, technology, and life.

ReVuDo 0.3

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It’s been just shy of two weeks since I posted version 0.2, and since then it has felt like a conspiracy has been trying to prevent the release of the next update.  I finally reached a point where I decided it was time to declare version 0.3 and let everyone see the changes. I think two weeks is my limit.

Changes in 0.3:

The installation program has been completely re-done.  It will now give you options for where to install, whether to create a desktop icon and other handy features.   It will even check if the required Microsoft .Net 4 is installed, and install it for you if it is not (a reboot is required in this case, but not otherwise).

I added an About button to the main projects window, which will display information about ReVuDo like the version and web site.  With a long stream of updates to come I wanted to give you a clear way to determine what version you are running.

I knew that options would be a big part of ReVuDo, so I added an Options button to the main projects window next to the About button.  There is only one option right now: to always open ReVuDo’s windows maximized.  I find this very useful when I am reviewing my projects as it gives me a clear view with no distractions.

Closing the main projects window will now close all the other windows you may have opened and close the program.  I have found that I can wind up with a lot of windows open and this provides a way to close everything.

In the contexts windows, if you double click a context, a window will open showing all the tasks for that context.

The change I like the most is visible when you are viewing a project’s tasks: a Prev (previous) and Next button at the top.  Clicking them allows you to move to the previous or next project on your project list.  This is great for weekly reviews.

If you are viewing tasks that are not all for the same project (Next Actions, Context, or tasks with Due Dates) the project name has been added so you know what project the task is for, and if you press Ctrl-Enter, or right click on one of those tasks and select Jump to Project, the view will switch to showing all the tasks for that project.

Get the latest version on my ReVuDo page, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Written by mwkoehler

2011/06/21 at 9:58 pm

Posted in GTD, Nozbe, ReVuDo, Windows

ReVuDo version 0.2

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I originally posted this on my ReVuDo page, but with many changes to come, I realized that this belongs on my blog.  So here is the short list of changes that made it into version 0.2 on June 8th, 2011.

Changes in 0.2:

I have added buttons to the main projects window to open windows for Inbox tasks, tasks that have a Due Date, tasks that are Next Actions, and a list of Contexts.

I also cleaned up the display of tasks and fixed a bug where completed projects and tasks were being displayed.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/06/21 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Nozbe, ReVuDo, Windows

More Ways to View Your Nozbe Projects – ReVuDo 0.2

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Tonight I fixed some problems and added more views to ReVuDo.  Inbox, Next Actions, Due Dates and Contexts are now available.

There is more to do, but even this early release is giving me great new ways to see my projects and actions.

To see the changes, and the road map as well as download the program go check out the ReVuDo page where everything lives.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/06/08 at 10:20 pm

Posted in GTD, ReVuDo

How to see Nozbe in a whole new way – ReVuDo

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Almost two months ago I announced both the release of an open source .Net library for writing programs and scripts that access Nozbe, and something that I had code named WinNozbe until I could think of a real name.  My intention was to develop this Windows client for Nozbe publicly so that anyone could comment and steer its development.

Tonight I finally reached the point where the program was useful, even if it is so very far away from version 1.

Version 0.1 of ReVuDo is now available here.

So why did I name it ReVuDo?  First, I did not want Nozbe in the name.  That name is not mine and I did not want to step on someone else’s trademark.  I actually need to ask Michael Sliwinski if he will forgive Nozbe.Net’s name.  If not, I will need to rename it.

The second reason for the name was that I wanted the new name to be as unique as Nozbe’s.  Something that could be found easily in the vastness of the Internet.

Finally, I wanted a name that meant something.  What does ReVuDo mean?  The ultimate lesson of GTD: Review, decide, then do.

So, what should I enhance first?

Written by mwkoehler

2011/06/06 at 11:28 pm

Posted in GTD, ReVuDo, Windows

Why We Need Lists

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In my last post, I discussed work as either a sprint or a marathon and gave a business example; but we are all more likely to experience this on a personal level.  After all, life itself is a marathon, one that we want to be purposeful, successful, and happy, not overstretched and leaving us exhausted before we’ve really begun.

This is why getting all of your commitments out of your head, and out of the stacks and piles of stuff around you, into a list of projects, and into lists of the actions needed to move those projects forward, is essential to having that purposeful, successful and happy life.  If you have those lists, you can review them regularly and know if you are in a sprint or a marathon.  You will know if you need to push hard on something until it is done, even if that means you’ll be exhausted at the end of it, or if you need to spread your effort out in order to be in it for the long haul.

Without lists of all of our commitments, we cannot know what is appropriate.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/05/05 at 7:00 am

Posted in GTD

Sprint or Marathon?

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, Relay Race

U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class David P. Coleman via Wikimedia Commons

When faced with a lot of work, it is essential to know if you are about to embark on a sprint, or on a marathon.

A sprint is a lot of work, but it is just small enough that if you put everything you’ve got into it you can get it done.  Exhausted at the end, tired, but you got it done.  The fact that you have no energy left is fine; there’s nothing left to do.

But a marathon is completely different.  With a marathon, when you have given all you’ve got, you’ve barely started.  So, if you treated the marathon like it was a sprint, you have a big problem.

Seems simple right?  But we often see people get this wrong.  Imagine you are running a business, and something really big happens that threatens that business.  There have been a lot of examples in the news lately.  The first thing that always happens is that everyone is called in to work on the problem.  All effort is poured into it.  But big problems like these are not usually a sprint, they tend to be marathons of days or weeks or months.  If you want to handle it well, you need to resist the temptation to call all hand’s on deck.  Instead, your first task is to make sure that your best people go get some rest.  In the first several hours, not much can really be done.  Sure, someone has to stay who can be in charge during those first hours, but you don’t need everyone.  Instead you need to be sure that you will have a second shift ready to pick up from the first shift when the first shift can’t keep their eyes open.  In short, if the marathon is going to be a long one, you need to convert it into a relay race.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/05/03 at 10:22 am

Posted in GTD

Preparing For Dark Clouds

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Jack Delano, photographer. Farm Security Administration.

In an earlier post I described how I had narrowed my GTD software options down to cloud based systems and chose Nozbe.  Amazon’s outage the other day highlights the risk of moving such a critical aspect of one’s work into the cloud: what do you do when the cloud fails you?

Michael Sliwinski talked about this on the Nozbe blog after a bug caused problems for many Nozbe users.  His main point was that Nozbe has been designed with problems, and recovering from them, in mind.  I applaud this, and I am glad that he took the time to describe what they have done to protect our data.  But, for me the right model is to have my own offline copy, ideally one that is more than just a backup.  It should be a copy that I can use.

Evernote does exactly what I want from every cloud based application.  They offer web access, apps for all the major mobile phones, and programs for Windows and Mac that will sync with the cloud, and allow you to work offline.  This means that if Evernote has a problem, as long as I have my laptop I have everything since my last sync (and everything that was ever entered using that laptop).  In short, Evernote could be down for a week, and I would just be inconvenienced.  I would still have all my Evernote data.

WinNozbe is intended first and foremost to solve this problem for Windows users.  It will connect to Nozbe, sync your information so both Nozbe and your PC are in agreement, and let you work offline.  Even if Nozbe is having a problem.  Even if you decide to leave Nozbe.  Even if you never signed up for Nozbe.

I know this is not coming quickly; is probably months away; but I am committed to making it happen.  And there will be some other goodies in WinNozbe as well.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/04/26 at 7:40 am

Posted in GTD, Nozbe, ReVuDo, Windows

WinNozbe Status

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Michael Sliwinski, the founder of Nozbe, has said that Nozbe would have been written much faster if only he hadn’t had to stop to learn how to do something so often.  I feel I am following in his footsteps.

When I started work on WinNozbe, I decided that I would use the project to learn Windows Presentation Foundation or WPF.  Not only would I learn something new, but WPF seemed to offer a lot of cool stuff that would make WinNozbe a better, more fun application.  Well, I am learning.  So far I don’t really regret my decision, as the promise of WPF is still there; but, it is really slowing me down.

At this point there is nothing to show you, but I have a stack of WPF articles to read and I hope to make a break through soon.  Sometimes you just have to put in a lot of upfront work before you can see the payoff.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/04/21 at 8:00 am

Posted in GTD, Nozbe, ReVuDo, Windows

Getting the Inbox from hell to zero

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Full Inbox

Photo by author

We’ve all been there.  May be you are there right now.  You open your email Inbox and the feeling of being overwhelmed is so intense, you just want to do anything but deal with it.  Maybe you just returned from a week off, or lots of urgent work left you no time to process email for a few days, either way, you need more than your usual techniques for cleaning up.

This happened to me a few weeks ago, and it was nagging at me.  Part of me needed to get that Inbox to empty, but the rest of me was repelled by the idea.  This went on for several days before I finally got a hold of myself.  I needed a trick, a tool, something more than just the usual start at the top and go one by one.  Finally, inspiration struck.  I noticed one section of my Inbox that had a dozen emails about the same subject, just different people replying to each other.  That wasn’t 12 things, it was one thing.

I created a folder called “! Sort”.  The exclamation point at the front sorts the folder to the top of my folder list where it’s easy to get to.  I then created a sub-folder for each project I discovered as I moved down through the stack of email and just moved the email to that folder.  I had reduced the number of questions to ask about each email to just one: What’s the project?  When I was done I had an empty Inbox, 14 folders under “! Sort”, and a lot of deleted email.  Fourteen is not only a much more manageable number, but those folder names were project names, and I knew from looking at the list which ones were priorities, and which were someday/maybe.

In addition, having that short list enabled me to update my trusted system.  I checked my list of projects in Nozbe and made sure that I had a project for each one of those folders, and that the next action in each one was to process that folder.

With that done, I picked the most important project and went to work.  With an empty Inbox, an updated trusted system, and a clear understanding of what I was not working on, it was very easy to focus on the one project I needed to work on right then.

Try this the next time you can’t bring yourself to empty your Inbox.  You’ll feel great.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/04/19 at 5:44 pm

Posted in GTD

Listen to your product

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When you need to make a decision, but you don’t have enough information, you have two options.  Seth Godin suggests flipping a coin, and I agree that sometimes this is the best way to go.  When you are short on time, or there is simply no cost effective way to get the information you need, coin flipping will at least move you forward.  The second option is to get more information.  One of the great things about software is that you can often get more information with the simple investment of time.  Of course, when you can’t afford the necessary time, your back to coin flipping.

As I mentioned last time, I have shifted from Nozbe.Net to what I am calling WinNozbe (at least for now).  The idea is a Windows application that can either operate on it’s own, or sync with Nozbe.  I want it to operate either offline or online as needed.  But all this is work to be done; it is still early days.

The reason for the switch was that I did not feel that I had enough information to finish the part of Nozbe.Net that updates Nozbe itself.  Until I wrote a program that actually wanted to do that, it wasn’t clear how it should work.  So read-only Nozbe.Net was published, and I turned to developing the program I wanted to begin with so I could let the program give me the answers.

Did I learn how I wanted to update Nozbe?  No, I learned that I needed to modify how I provided the information from Nozbe!  Nozbe.Net was originally tested by writing Powershell scripts that sliced and diced the projects and actions, so Nozbe.Net returns arrays of hash tables, the sort of thing Powershell handles with ease (and not incidentally a simple translation of the data as provided by Nozbe).  But, WinNozbe is a more complicated system and hash tables are not exactly what is wants.  So work has shifted into the gray area between the two.  The end result will likely be an update to Nozbe.Net before WinNozbe is ready for publication.

I have heard artists say that a statue is not something they make out of stone, but something they find in the stone.  The structure of the stone constrains what is possible, and the combination of the stone and the sculptor creates the statue.  Working in software is far from working with stone, but that same interaction occurs.  If you can take the time to listen to what you are making, it will tell you what you should do, and the result will be amazing.

Written by mwkoehler

2011/04/13 at 10:33 pm

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