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

Top 10 Diet and Exercise Life Hacks for your 30’s.

So you’re in your thirties. You’ve got your career somewhat figured out and it’s going. You’re making money and you’ve got some kids. You’re in the whirlwind of life of logistics, meetings, kid activities, and the occasional date night when you can fit it in. You realize you’ve had to buy new clothes because your old ones don’t fit anymore. Maybe someone cracked a joke about your weight or your dad bod or mom jeans and you hadn’t even really thought about it for the last few years because you’ve just been busy. (This also works for your 20’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc)

Sound familiar? It’s easy to let taking care of yourself take a back burner to managing life and family. Well here are the top 10 (plus 1 bonus) diet and exercise life hacks I’ve gathered over the last year of my journey of Amy and I deciding to be intentional with our fitness and diet. These have helped us get stronger, lose weight, look better in photos, have more energy for the day, and be more active outdoors with the kids. Those are all probably goals you could agree on as well right?

Disclaimer: This is what I’ve found works for me (so far). Maybe it can help you out some. As always, take it with a grain of salt and modify to fit your needs. I’m not a doctor, just a computer nerd who enjoys being healthy and active. For reference: I’m 34 years old, married with 4 kids, 2 jobs, and just 1 year of serious fitness and a healthy active lifestyle with intentional eating under my belt. Check out this instagram post to see the results of 2018 Me.

 

1.Schedule your workouts for the week.
Use your calendar and communicate with your spouse. Plan each week. Usually on Sunday afternoons or evenings we will try to verify our calendar plans for the week including kid activities, school meetings, weekend activities, etc. This is when we talk through things like, “Well we have 3 kids activities on Tuesday night so both of us getting to the gym in the evening might be hard. Maybe I’ll take the AM class, or make it my rest day, and can drive kids around town while you get to the gym.” Other times we’ll tag team. I’ll get the 5:30pm class and Amy will get the 6:30pm class or vice versa. Kids come to the gym with an activity bag or get handed back and forth between parents and cars like a hostage negotiation. lol. Sometimes it’s crazy, but we do our best to make it work.

 

2. Find a healthy drink replacement for soda.
Water preferably. Some type of health drink (not Gatorade), or make your own. Invest in a good travel mug/water bottle you can easily carry around on your person, in your bag, in your car, at your work, even on foot (for all the walking you are gonna start doing!) Start taking it with you everywhere. When it’s like your keys and you take it with you, you are more focused on it and it’s easier to use each day. If you HAVE TO HAVE soda, at least try to switch to diet and limit it to 1 or 2 cans a day and work to wean yourself off of it. Artificial sweetener filled Zero calorie soda is just as bad for you in a different way. Ramp down gradually. Cold turkey is just rough. NOTE: I’m not saying give up caffeine! I use caffeine pills to regulate my caffeine and still get the energy I need. I also have caffeine in my pre-workout mix and the occasional coffee.

 

3. Get a good lunch box and some Tupperware you can use for meal planning.
If you are serious about your eating healthy, but are taking a overnight trip or weekend trip, you can plan ahead, do some meal prep, use ice packs or coolers to keep food cool. You can pack healthy foods like meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts which all pack well. You can even find microwaves at a QT if you had to or worst case, (Gasp! eat food cold. A trick I learned in the Army. You won’t die, I promise!) Planning ahead with your food allows you not to be a victim and HAVE TO eat out. It will also save you tons of money which is an added bonus.

 

 

4. If you do have to or need to eat out, plan ahead!
Decide where you are going and make the best choices possible. Shoot for as healthy a meal as is possible. Whether that’s from their lower calorie menu or the least processed type of meal you can get. This can help you avoid those 1300 calorie #1 combo meals or a dinner plate at a Mexican restaurant which could honestly feed 3 people. I’ll give you two examples from this month. I went to lunch with a vendor at Jack Stack BBQ (amazing bbq!) I had just started a nutrition challenge at my gym. As much as I wanted to just get brisket or burnt ends (which wouldn’t be that bad for my diet) I wanted to avoid all the sugar in the bbq sauce. Trust me, it’s there. It’s why it tastes so good! I ordered salmon and vegetable kabobs. I know that was like the cardinal sin at a BBQ restaurant, but I’m still alive and I’ll get the bbq another time. I was intentional with my choices as it relates to my current short and long term goals. 2nd example. On Sunday, I only had 570 calories left for the day. Not an easy task when you still need to eat dinner. We picked up Chipotle on the way home and I tried their new Whole 30 bowl for 495 calories. It was pretty good. It didn’t have the rice or beans, but was pretty much a normal bowl with lettuce, vegetables, meat, and guacamole. I added some sour creme at home and I made it work. My normal chicken bowl at Chipotle would net me approximately 800 or 900 calories. If you just put a little effort in, you can make better choices and not just reactionary ones.

5. Keep your Sugar under 50g a day.
Ideally under 30g and under 20g if you’re being really strict. Use an app like myfitnesspal to track what you eat. You’d be surprised how much sugar is in EVERYTHING! Subtract natural sugar from fruits like apples and bananas. Natural sugar is ok. Added sugar is bad. Anything ending in -ose such as sucralose, fructose, etc. You’d be surprised how much sweeter fruit tastes once you’ve detoxed from the sugar overload in pepsi, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, etc. It’s added to everything! The first two weeks will be difficult as your body CRAVES (as in a junkie needs a fix addiction type crave) of sugar! Once you push past that it gets much easier.

6. Increase your vegetables.
This is the hardest for me. I’m doing a competition right now and I don’t get any points for vegetables unless I get 500g a day. The points go up from there as I get more than that up to 1000g. Eating 3-4 servings of vegetables is netting me around 350g a day right now. So it takes some serious planning and effort. But 350g is way more than 0-20g I would normally eat over a 3 day period. The key to this is finding ways to prepare vegetables that you like. It will take some time and experimenting to figure this out. Maybe steam broccoli and add seasoning. Maybe mix them into a smoothie with your blender. Maybe heat up frozen vegetables and add seasoning. Find a way you like to eat them and rinse and repeat. Do some Google-ing. The good side is usually vegetables are very low in calories and high in fiber so you can eat as much as you want and they will help keep you full when you are having cravings.

7. Containers for your Powders.
If your planning on packing protein or other powder based supplements for your shaker bottle, get some small containers made for this. I currently use zip lock bags (which work, but take up more room in my backpack or car). These come in handy so you don’t have to lug around giant bottles of protein or creatine or meal replacement shake or whatever else you want take. Being intentional and planning ahead with your powders, helps you maintain that mindset of “I’m going to eat healthy today,” or “I’m going to make it to the gym. I’ve already planned it and have everything I need.”

8. Improvise a workout.
You’re at a hotel or friend’s house. They don’t have your normal setup of equipment or a way to stream your ddp yoga or whatever. Improvise! Change it up! Go for a 2 mile run. Find a heavy object and do some improvised kb swings or weighted air squats. Find a rock or step you can use for box jumps. Make up a workout. Do 3 rounds for time of 30 burpees, 30 air squats, and 30 situps. I JUST made that up. If it’s too easy, add another round! You don’t need space or a gym or a perfect area. You need an area the size of a sleeping bag and something to do for a few mins. You can google random workouts. Find a stretching video or yoga video on youtube. there are so many available workouts for free! If you want to be active you can find a way. Make up your mind and do it!

9. It’s ok to be hungry.
You honestly don’t need to eat as soon as you get the first twinge of hunger in your stomach. Try this. When you feel hungry, go drink a glass of water then wait 10 minutes. If you’re still hungry, drink a cup of black coffee and wait 10 more minutes. If you’re still hungry then go eat! But odds are you can satiate your random hunger with a drink of water. It can help you push out another hour or two until your meal time versus just mindless snacking. Or if you’re at your calorie budget for the day, maybe you don’t eat a bedtime or evening snack. It’s OK to go to bed slightly hungry. Odds are you will wake up not hungry. Or if you decide to go ahead and break your calorie budget, keep it small. like 150 calories or less. Enough to satiate the hunger but not be a 500 calorie meal. Just know that you’ll have to make that up eventually in sweat equity if you’re trying to lose weight. The more your diet becomes real whole foods vs processed foods, your hunger cravings won’t come in such large waves. It will even out more.

10. Go with the flow / Give yourself grace.
Sometimes your calendar planning won’t workout. Life happens. You’ll have to work late. Your kid will get sick. Your plans will fall through, etc. It’s OK to miss a workout. Don’t beat yourself up over it. If you really have to get x number in per week (etc) to stay on track or you’ll completely quit, then go ahead and do something at home at 10:30pm if you have to. Otherwise, give yourself grace. 15 workouts in January when you planned 18 is better than 3 you did and then quit because you kept missing. If you can maintain a lifestyle change where it is a priority and if that means 15 workouts a month for you then great! If that means 22 workouts a month then awesome! Consistency is more important than a specific number. Worst case you make it a rest week, and start over again on Monday! Just don’t let 1 rest week become two, then three, etc. You’ll find that you actually miss it after you’ve made it a habit and it’s part of your routine and lifestyle. You’ll need the energy you get and endorphins from exercise. It’s a weird transition, but it’s cool once you get there.

 

11. Find a system that works for you!
No health / fitness / diet plan will work if you can’t maintain it. Start with small changes and slowly add in a new change once you’re used to the new routine. If you jump in head first and try to change everything, you will likely burn out. I don’t care if it’s weight lifting, p90x, yoga, couch 2 5k, pilates, crossfit, kickball, basketball, jazzercise for being active; to keto, macros, paleo, zone, whole30, vegan, weight watchers or whatever for diet, just be intentional with what you do and what you eat! Don’t just react eat. Plan and fuel your body with the best you can do at the moment! Then 3 weeks later, slowly add in something new. I started with just tracking my food. Then I added in more protein. Then I added in more fruit. Now I’m adding in more vegetables. Now I’m cutting out even more sugar. Replacing Soda, etc. Don’t do it all at once! Find a sustainable starting point and then slowly add to it. You can’t do this all in 3 weeks or 3 months and hope to be the amazing before and after story you see on commercials. It’s gonna take time. Honestly. There are no short-term solutions. Probably 1-3 years to get to where you think you should or could be. Then it’s about maintaining. But that’s another article for another day.

I hope you found this list helpful. I’m absolutely no expert on this. These are some things that have added to my success. I’m a work in progress and I have goals to hit this year. I currently average finishing in the bottom 3rd of my classes on workouts, but I’m working on my endurance to improve that and I’m seeing slow progress. If you want specific info from me on my approach to diet and exercise message me and I’ll answer your questions. I hope to be an encouragement to all to live healthy lifestyles.

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