Heads up, this content is 17 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

How can I put this?

As I write this, I’m vacuuming. (Well, that’s not entirely true.)

As I write this, my home is being vacuumed, and I’m the only one home. (Well, that doesn’t feel so true, either.)

As a write this, an artificial intelligence robot is running amok in my living room, gobbling up everything in its sight. (Yes, that’s it.)

iRobot Roomba SchedulerI bought an iRobot Roomba Scheduler (not an affiliate link) from Woot.com as a birthday present to myself. I set it up today and am equally impressed and entertained. It’s so cute, running around my floor going “gimme! gimme! gimme! gimme!” to all my dirt (no, it doesn’t actually have sound effects — I just feel so connected to my Roomba after the first twenty minutes that I believe we now speak the same language).

(It just found my kitchen — look at it go on the linoleum floor! How long has it been since I’ve swept over there?!)

Every creative genius has an Achilles’ heel. Housecleaning is mine. Still too stubborn to admit defeat and hire assistance for the task, I tend to just let the dirt just pile up. I can already tell that the Roomba and I are going to be great friends. This model comes with a scheduler, which means I can program it to clean every day (or less often, if I’m feeling lazy) while I’m at work. And since vacuums can’t clean under scattered laundry, this will force me to pick up more regularly, lest I anger my new AI roommate. Hey — double victory!

(Right now it’s navigating the underside of my futon, choking on electrical cords and freeing itself from the madness without crying for help.)

The other thing I’m proud of — I bought this puppy for $130 when it retails for $330. Have you heard about Woot.com yet? (If not, don’t feel bad — I just found out about it last week). It’s a geek-oriented shopping site that only sells one item per day. “One Day, One Deal” is their motto. The item is almost always super cheap and super cool. They’ve got an impressive business model:

A) Negotiate with companies for a low price on a really cool item that you can guarantee to sell a lot of in a really short period of time.

B) Build a community around a promise to provide the coolest, cheapest products on a daily basis through a really user-friendly and focused website.

C) Put non-obtrusive ads on the site.

If you’re a twitterer, you can find out about the latest buys on woot via tweets (wow, out of context, that sentence sounds really strange).

Expect a more critical review of the Roomba after I’ve played with it more. It ain’t perfect, but it’s a heckuva lot better than what I had going for me before.

Heads up, this content is 17 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

Lifehacker has a great discussion today on Paper versus Electronic To-Do Lists — the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, they make a stronger argument for paper, and I can’t disagree. I still haven’t found the perfect set of solutions, though — my to-do system remains a personalized hybrid of several recommendations and fixes. The benefit is that it’s molded to fit me; the downside is that there are always holes, and it requires discipline to maintain. Here’s what’s working for me right now:

The Whiteboard (aka My Baby) – I have a massive 3′ x 4′ whiteboard on the wall in my home office (aka my living room). It is the central bucket for quick thoughts. Because it is limited in size and super-easy to use, it’s the most likely bucket in my life to get processed thoroughly. I want it clear for me to add to, so I’m always pushing its content forward to where it really belongs.

The Other Whiteboard – Next to My Baby, I have a second, smaller white board (1.5′ x 2′), which sits right above my desk. It’s too small for brainstorming, but it’s perfect for defined to-do lists. When I sit down at my computer to crank out tasks, the first thing I do is list them out on the board in the order I want to get them done. I also leave a margin on the right for adding other tasks as they come up while I’m working. (Note: if I’m not working at home, I replace this either with a piece of paper or a plain text file. They do the job, but they’re not as slick.)

The Treo (aka My PDA Phone) – I’ve found that I rarely look at my Treo when I’m working, so it’s not a good place for me to record work tasks. It is, however, a great place to keep shopping lists, since the machine is always with me when I’m out. I use the other to-do categories to record non-critical tasks that I can forget about for a few weeks if necessary — usually creative problem-solving ideas. If I really need to remember to do something and all I have on me is the Treo, I’ll either email the task to myself or attach an alarm to it. I also use the alarm system to remember non-work-related events.

The Date Book – I carry a thick Moleskin notebook calendar with me whenever I’m working. It has a separate page for each day, and I use it to keep track of the Big Picture. I log my goals, major tasks, and hours worked. The first thing I do on Monday morning is review what I did last week and make a master list of big things I want to accomplish this week. Then I break that list down and spread it out over the days. The first thing I do every morning is look at what’s queued up for the day and revise it to fit my latest plan. The last thing I do before I quit work each day is record what I actually did. I could do this in any notebook, really; the benefit of using a calendar is just that it’s archived for reviewing later. I prefer paper to electronic here because I can leave it open on my desk, and I can work on it while I’m on the train.

The Inbox – I use Thunderbird to manage most of my email (my big client-specific email accounts are kept separate in Entourage). I automatically filter the inbox down into four categories:

  • Biz (email addresses I’ve identified to be primarily work-related)
  • Groups (email address I’ve identified to be from a social networking site or a mailing list)
  • Personal (anyone in my address book that doesn’t fall into one of the above groups)
  • Misc (not in my address book, but not in my spam folder either)

There’s a minor breakdown in the system here: I’ve found that if I don’t respond to an email the second I read it, I may forget to respond at all. I’ve tried several different techniques for managing unanswered emails, and all of them have required more discipline than I’ve been able to maintain. So for now, I just add “respond to ___” to an external to-do list when I know it’s important, and that seems to work.

The Misc Lists – Everything I’ve talked about so far manages the big stuff. Sometimes, though, there’s little stuff — lists miles long of little things i need to remember to do at some point. These end up all over the place — on Post-Its (stuck on my desk), on pieces of paper (stuck on my wall or refridgerator), in Stikkit or Backpack (depending on my mood — I haven’t picked my favorite yet), or in notebooks (to be transferred later to other places). I’ve learned to be careful about where the urgent and important pieces get captured, and I’ve also learned to relax about the rest.

Heads up, this content is 17 years old. Please keep its age in mind while reading.

It begins when I leave my house in the morning (anything before that is not yet routinized, and totally up for grabs). My neighbor meets me at the corner, and together we walk into the local cafe. Jenny, the owner, perks up and says to both of us, “The usual?” We nod.

Then my neighbor and I spend the next forty minutes catching up on our lives — which, really, is just what’s happened in the last twenty-four hours since we last rode to work together. We’re both poets who work in the web industry, so we compare notes about the latest happenings. When it’s finally time to part ways, we end with our mantra: “Today is going to be awesome!” It’s usually accompanied by some kind of victorious hand gesture.

She goes above ground; I switch to another train. Once on board, I pull out my day planner, review my goals for the week, review what i did (and didn’t do) yesterday, and write down a few bullet points of things I want to focus on today.

When I get to my stop, I pull out my ipod and stick it on shuffle (let the universe determine my theme songs for the last leg of my journey). In my ten-minute walk to the office, I make a point to pass by the recycling center, because the squashed cubes of metal feel like art to me. The two fork-lift operators recognize me, stop what they’re lifting, and wave vigorously to me as I walk by. I wave back, dancing in my walk to whatever song has ended up at the top of my playlist.

I walk into the office, drop my things, and chuckle to myself that I’m still, always, the first one here. So fortunately, there’s time to blog.