Unsolicited editorials on cameras, lenses, film, developer, and black and white photography in general.

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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Finding Time for Photography

I’ve become a very poor example. The hackneyed phrase not practicing what I preach comes to mind. I’m the administrator of the PAW forum, one dedicated to encouraging people to post a picture a week (one taken that week mind you). We are nearly at week 26 and my PAW is at week 13. And I haven’t posted to my own blog in a month. Too damn many things going on. There were photo opportunities, but I didn’t have my camera with me. I have tried time management systems such as the Franklin Day Planner (I even attended their seminar). I tried the Stephen Covey Seven Habits system as well. But those systems encourage making to do lists and prioritizing them. How does one prioritize the task of “have a camera with you when a photo opportunity arises”? Worse yet, they always seem to focus on the big picture, requiring you to decide what matters most. You children, your religion, your prosperity, your health, your wife (not in that order). Where does “pick up the dry cleaning” fit in there? Well, last week I decided to switch from a PC to a Mac, and things began to change. Read on.
I have always been a huge fan of PIM software, all the way back to the 1980’s with Lotus Agenda and Instant Recall. I have probably tested 50 PIMs over the past two decades, switching from PackRat to Lotus Organizer to Day Timer to Ecco to Time and Chaos to Outlook to Ascend back to Ecco. You get the picture. Well, none of those run on a Mac (although Entourage, Outlook’s cousin on the Mac comes close). So I started googling for a good PIM for the Mac. All of a sudden GTD started popping all over the place. GTD is the abbreviation for Getting Things Done, a different time management system created by David Allen. I had seen the letters before, nested in the manuals for information managers such as Ultra Recall and Achieve Planner for the PC. But these Mac programs seemed to be far more dedicated to the Getting Things Done system. I went and bought David Allen’s book. By chapter one, I figured that I was hooked. You don’t try to tangle with big projects directly. You break them down into little subprojects, in order. If the subprojects are too big, you break them down, in order. And you tag each task with where it will occur. Each task has a “place” or a “context”. Thus, I tag each task with a category such at “at my desk”, “on the road”, “at home”, or “west bank campus”. All of this is headed toward one major goal of the system…to empty your head of the minutia that run through your mind during your waking hours. By breaking up big tasks into smaller tasks in a specific order, and by encouraging you to write down all commitments, no matter how important to you, you can clear your mind. And by attaching a place or context to each task, you can focus on only those tasks that are germane to where you are. What is most unlike the Franklin and Covey systems is the lack of prioritization. GTD encourages you to take care of the little things, things that might be a “C” priority on your to do list but that take only a few minutes to complete. Many of these minor “C”-priority tasks are commitments you have made to others, commitments that take only a few minutes, but that you never get to because you never complete your “A” and “B” commitments.

This system, to me, almost requires software to facilitate it. I cannot maintain separate to do lists for every place or context, and I cannot be rewriting the lists every time a new commitment pops up that belongs at the top of the list. Fortunately, there are numerous GTD software solutions out there, and some are free. Some are even web based, so you have access to your tasks as long as you are attached to the web. I did a lot of searching, and the best one appears to be futureware (a program that hasn’t been released yet). OmniFocus (from the makers of other killer software for the Mac) promises to be the tool to have, but it is still in beta. I can’t get a beta copy of it from them. When I tried to post a question on their OmniFocus forum, it was rejected (the OmniFocus forum is a read-only forum…a forum where you can listen but can’t talk). And there is no estimate of when it will be released. Well, people out there are using something that’s available, so I googled some more.

Life Balance is a program that sort of turned me off at first, primarily because of its name. Too touchy-feely, too much like the “What Matters Most” solutions of Franklin Covey. But there are versions for the Mac and for the PC, and the data files are interchangeable between these systems. Nearly all Mac software has a functioning “trial” version that will work for 2-4 weeks. I downloaded and installed about 15 of them, and ultimately settled on Life Balance. If it is supposed to balance my life, I’ll give it an easier task…just give me enough time each week to take some photos and post them. And let me get back to posting on this blog. In the week that I’ve been using it, I do feel much more productive and I do fret less about the tasks that need to be done. They are all posted, in order and in context, in the Life Balance program. Now my only challenge is those folks who have commitments to me who don’t use the GTD system.

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