Workflow & Productivity

Confession: I enjoy reading those articles people post about hacking/optimizing their workflow or daily routines.

I haven’t blogged in forever and it seems like as good a topic to write about as any. Or at least better than politics. 🙂

I sit at a computer for most of the day. I have kids. I have projects, ideas, to-do lists, accounts, passwords, kids’ devices, tablets, more logons, and calendar events than I know what to do with.  How do I keep it all organized? Well here is my current system and what works for me. It’s always up for optimization and sometimes I try out new things and either keep them or remove them. I’ll break it down into sections.

 

1. Quick notes or reference.

If I’m at the computer:
Notepad++ is my go-to and has been for years. It oftentimes looks like my web browser with a ton of tabs open. But it’s so useful. Some of the notes are just temporary landing spaces for ideas before they get turned into full-fledged office products (word docs, spreadsheets, powerpoints, etc) if they are for work. It’s a basic text editor with some nice features if you need them like coding language support, macros, and plugins. Some notes stay long term and get saved as .txt files in a folder on my desktop apply named “text files.” The desktop is included in my cloud backups so I can always recover those text files if my pc dies. (See earlier blogs about the woes of an insufficient backup solution.) Sure I still scribble on paper and post-it notes when I’m at my desk, but those get lost or forgotten or never have enough detail to last long and often get discarded when I clean my desk. If I want the information to have a shot at survival outside of my short-term memory, at the pc, notepad++ is where it all starts for me.

If I’m on the go:
Apple Notes. I like that it has cloud backup and the ability to insert photos. I don’t have a ton of notes (8 currently) and the one I use most is called to-do list where I add and delete stuff to it daily and reference it quite often for things that have to get done in the near future.  It has a ton of features that I haven’t learned to use yet that seems neat.

Photos. Who doesn’t do this? need to reference info later? take a quick picture. I have tons of photos that (probably be deleted later to save space) that just reference information. I’m working to start including these into apple notes for more important things to remember.  I also still like using a marker-board to draw out ideas and lists for projects, and oftentimes photos get taken before it gets erased to save the content.

If I’m reading on the web (pc or mobile):
Pocket. For reading things later. This is one of my newer inclusions in my workflow. But for reading stuff later, this is great. No longer are the days of having 37 tabs open in my browser of stuff to read later. I can open a link, save it to pocket easily on my pc or phone, and then close that tab or app. I can go open pocket when I have free time to sit and read. I can organize, delete, or ignore the content to whatever my mood is that day. This quick dumping ground for “read it later” stuff is slowly getting better results than “I was going to” best intentions.

2. Projects, ideas, lists, etc.

Evernote is my go-to for this. When my notepad++ ideas and lists are ready to get more formal, Evernote is where it gets copied to and improved upon. I’ve been using Evernote for over 2 years for organizing longer-term ideas, projects, lists, etc. I have to date 137 notes inside of 10 notebooks that are further organized into 3 stacks (personal, work, and tech). It also has the ability to tag notes, upload photos, or scan in hand-jammed notes on paper. I don’t even need the upgraded features or use the windows client. I’m sure there is even more functionality in those, but the basic version does everything I need it to. The editor has gone through a few iterations and it’s quite popular to compare it to the markup language in BEAR these days, but it does everything I need and is stored in the cloud.

3. Files.

This will be its own separate upcoming blog post on cloud storage. But a lot of those ideas, projects, lists, etc end up generating content and files and need places to go. I’m not a huge fan of local storage on computers as hard drives tend to go bad and oftentimes backup solutions haven’t been tested thoroughly enough. External hard drives are great if you remember to lug it around with you whenever you need it, but sometimes we forget them. Luckily these days with cloud sync technology it’s rather hard to lose your important files. It’s more likely harder to find them in the unorganized sprawl of your digital life. Good luck if you are trying to get organized or delete stuff. It’s work. I routinely dump files to cloud storage solutions like dropbox, onedrive, and google drive. They are super useful, have varying levels of features and all have additional storage space for a price. I currently have files in at least 9 cloud services and am researching consolidating down to 3 or less and possibly getting a paid tier for one solution for ease of use and family content management. Be on the lookout for a future write-up on this.

4. Account info, usernames, logins, kid’s account info, etc.

LastPass. I honestly don’t think I could function without this tool. I’ve had it for over 3 years now and it has been a game-changer. I have 399 passwords saved in it. (You probably have 100 more passwords than you think you do) I used it every day to log into systems, websites, applications, etc. I use it to generate long secure gibberish passwords. This is useful when I get notified I was a victim of (insert the latest breach of a major corporation here). I just go and change my password for that site. I don’t have to worry that the hackers now have my 1 password or 1 of 5 passwords that gets re-used EVERYWHERE! Don’t lie and say you don’t do it. I used to too. 🙂 Now, I only have to remember my 1 master password to unlock my LastPass. It has multi-factor auth and works across all my platforms. I also use the notes sections to write down important stuff that you hardly ever reference, but I want to keep secure and encrypted. Some examples include all of my kids’ Xbox account names and passwords, my domain registrar and DNS info that I log into hardly ever, etc. Password managers are a must-have in today’s digital life and they have tons of extra features as well. Check out LastPass if you don’t already have one.

5. Physical Books.

Libib and Goodreads. I like reading books. I have grandiose ideas every year of how many books I will read. I even purchase a fair amount of books. I then usually have large stacks of books on my desk and nightstand that don’t get read. I’ve added libib and goodreads into my workflow to track what books I own, which ones I have read, and give me nudges to finish book 5 of 10 that I planned to read for 2020. Guess I better get some more reading in to finish out the year in time! I sometimes enjoy kindle books as well, but with only the kindle app on a phone or browser, I get distracted too easily. I think if I had a traditional kindle device like my wife and son both recently got, I might have better luck at staying focused on digital reading. Also, it’s probably gadget envy some too!

6. Trial mode:

So I mentioned testing out new things in my quest to optimize my workflow and productivity. I’m currently experimenting with using Asana as a project management tool for some of my larger long-term personal projects and putting deadlines and collaboration efforts around some of my more detailed Evernote documents.  I like the interface so far, I just need some more time and reps with the platform to see if it will stick around, but so far it’s promising. Headspace is another that’s on the potential list to try out sometime over the next few months.

7. Apps list.

In 2017 I tweeted the following list of top productivity apps in my life.

1. @Google suite (Gmail, calendar, drive, Waze, home)
2. @ynab
3. @LastPass
4. @Twitter
5. @Dropbox
6. @hotelsdotcom
7. @RadarScope
8. @lyft
9. @Facebook Messenger
10. @pocketcasts

So for fun, I made it again in 2020.

1. @google suite
2. @brave browser
3. @ynab
4. @LastPass
5. @Twitter
6. @onedrive
7. @amazon (pretty much all of their stuff)
8. @pocketcasts
9. @myfitnesspal
10. @hotelsdotcom
11. @spotify

honorable mentions:
@chipotle
@iexit and @lyft
@crypto.com
signal/GroupMe/facetime/duo/session/Facebook messenger
Apollo (Reddit)
youtube

So there you have it. My tips and tricks to get things from my brain to completed and some of the tools that I use to help accomplish that. Send me your comments at [email protected] or on any of the socials. Thanks for reading.

Later,
-Derek

Long Overdue Update

So it’s been a while since I updated anything on here. Life gets busy. Here are the highlights of 2018.

I sold my house in January and moved to Georgia for a 9 month Army school. (WOBC)

I learned to track my eating and lifted weights for 7 months which resulted in me loosing 20 lbs and getting stronger.
I can bench 225lbs, squat 170lbs, and deadlift 325lbs on my best of best days.

I graduated Honor grad (2nd in the class) from my WOBC course at the end of August.  I’m a fully qualified 255A and up for CW2 next May.

I received a promotion at my civilian job to Information Security Manager.  Yes I’m that IT security nerd. But it’s fun stuff!

We moved back to Overland Park, Kansas over Labor Day weekend.

The kids are back in school and I’m back at work this week. We are getting settled into our new house and new routines quite nicely after a busy, busy 3 weeks.

Amy and I joined the crossfit gym across the street from our house. It’s fun and challenging.

I learned that property tax is done differently in KS vs MO.

Moving is expensive, even when you save and plan for it. So many small things you have to buy.

More updates to come later.  Follow me on twitter @derekcreason for semi more frequent updates and Amy’s instagram stories are probably the most up to date of our random day to day lives.  We are having a blast living life and embracing this new chapter of our lives including new job, new school, new church, new neighbors, new community, new gym, new friends, new drivers licenses, new car tags, and some of our favorites to include same friends, same chiefs fans, same awesome KC metro, same KC BBQ, and more! Be sure to say hi or come over and see the new place!

Until next time, Stay positive and embrace challenges. Or some other motivational quip….  🙂

Later,
Derek

Bonus: Random pics from my phone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a Podcast!

That’s right. I have launched a podcast.

One more place to share my thoughts on whatever. From movies, TV, and music, to news, politics, faith, IT nerdery, and more. Listen in for fun and try to decipher my attempts to be creative, witty, funny, and engaging in an audio format.

Below are the links for iphones and androids or pc!

Itunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/derek-creason/id1362333204

Pocketcasts:
http://pca.st/nw95

Anchor.fm /derekcreason for computer browsers.

So go listen and subscribe and send me your feedback! I hope you enjoy it.

Later,
Derek

Project Sunken Treasure

You probably didn’t notice or care. But this site has been down since August 22nd. That’s 8 weeks to the day.  That was a rough day as I woke up to 8 inches of water in my basement.
I learned a few lessons that day. Here are a few of them.

1. Don’t store your computer tower on the floor.
2. Don’t put your hard drive in the lowest bay in your computer tower.
3. Your backups of your computer files should not be on the computer next to your tower.  (I wasn’t quite at the 3 – 2 – 1 backup rule.)
4. You’d be surprised how much junk you store in your basement that you don’t need.
5. Throwing away your stuff is emotional. (It was my junk!)
6. Thank God for insurance.

So despite that major setback in life, things have been crazy busy and the world drives on.

Project Sunken Treasure is the complete restore of my website from cached pages on the web. The hard drive was toast. Completely underwater.  A company wanted $1800 to try and recover files from it. But now my site is back live on a new linode server! I’ll be working to push out new updates and more content as often as my busy life will allow me to. Click the icons to the right or at the top or bottom of my page to interact and follow me on all my various platforms.

Here are some of the things I’ve been up to and some upcoming things.

1. Benjamin is now almost 9 months old!
2. I attended WOCS in April – May and appointed to Warrant Officer in the Army.
3. I traveled to Brazil in South America for the first time for a week of work.
4. My refrigerator quit working.
5. I’ve been busy packing and cleaning getting ready to put my house on the market in November.
6. I’m moving to Georgia for 9 months of Active Duty school for my Warrant Officer MOS job early next year.
7. I’ve still got 2 trips tentatively on the calendar and I’m looking forward to the holidays as well.
8. LetterboxD is an amazing social network for movie nerds and tracking all your movies you’ve watched. Connect with me over there!

As far as my list of goals for the year, I’m about where I expected to be. I’m behind on the reading and writing ones, but making good progress on the career and physical health ones.
Having 4 kids and planning a house move means I really spend all my free time just doing logistics. Food, daycare, school, work, projects, travel, etc are always on my mind. The two most useful tools I have are Google Calendar and You Need a Budget (YNAB) budgeting tool.  Click here for a discount! They are both very useful for making sure things get done on time and not breaking the bank.

And finally, here are some photo dumps from my phone. Mostly of my kids because honestly that’s all you probably really wanted to see anyways. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later,
Derek

Changes

So today was my last day at my current job. I start my new job on Monday. It was really weird to walk out of the office for the last time. It was a great 3 1/2 years and I will miss my codero buddies. But hey, that’s what facebook and IM are for.

Now it’s on to the next step in my journey as a computer nerd. I am now a linux system administrator for Analysts International Corporation. It is a great career opportunity and I look forward to the chance to further my knowledge and nerdery of all things linux.

My next goal is to get my RHCSA cert. That may take a few months but it will be worth it.

In other news, Jackson turns 3 in a week!

Thats all for now. later.

Derek