Working Tools 18. – Bullet Journal Update

Working Tools 18. – Bullet Journal Update

At the end of this month (April), I will finish my third consecutive bullet journal. I started here. Six contiguous months, planned, noted, bulleted, journaled. Six months counts as a consistent practice and I feel qualified to write a review.

Bullet Journal Update

What works?

By far the biggest win for me, is how the practice fits into a morning routine. The morning routine is beloved of productivity gurus and enthusiasts. I once bought access to a course on the morning routine, and when we got to the section on “go to the bathroom”, I realised that I may, with no formal tutoring, be a guru myself. I have been regularly going to the bathroom for years. That aside, getting the day started right certainly beats getting the day started wrong.

Morning routine

Leaving out the bathroom, my days starts with an espresso (or more likely two) and my journal. I write the date and then my first note of the day, which is always a gratitude note. I simply write one thing for which I am grateful. Isn’t that nice? Try it. You might be surprised. It does make you feel good.
From there, I’m automatically jotting “To Dos”, reviewing calendar events, just getting an idea of how my day is going to unfold. Once I am down in the office, I will more formally review the previous days – and check if there is anything that I want to migrate forward; either an uncompleted task, or a note that I took. At this point, I will decide which of my tasks are priorities, my “must-dos”. These, I mark with an asterisk.

At that point, the journal gets closed. I don’t constantly refer to it during the day. In many ways, it is the act of the practice that is important, rather than the output. An analogy might be that the journal is an old-fashioned road map rather than a satellite navigation system. I look at the map before I set off.

Reference

Generally, I start the day with creative tasks. I stay away from e-mail and social media, lest my day start by other people prioritising my day for me. As I go through the day, I do sometimes refer back to the journal, either to check completed tasks off or to make a note. At some point, I will review “inbound”, where there will undoubtedly be tasks for me to deal with, note or ignore.

Evening routine

In theory, I review the day and make the odd note. Often, I don’t get to it. It is a lovely way to close the day out, if I can be disciplined enough to do it, but sometimes, well, life happens.

What doesn’t work?

Collections

I have some that I setup at the beginning of each journal, but adding to them does not come naturally to me, I’ll concede. I also create some on the fly, when I have need. At a conference that I recently attended, rather than using the pad provided for notes, I created a collection in the journal. Similarly, I have drafted blog posts in the journal – rather than carry around another notebook.

Bullet Journal Update

Conclusions

Ryder Carroll, the guy behind #bujo gets a bit of stick. Some suggest that his book on the subject goes OTT on what the system can do for you: “Bullet Journal to the rescue!” One can see where people are coming from, but I get the impression that Ryder is self-aware and maintains a balance between promoting the system and staying humble. I find my bullet journal practice helpful and will continue it. I will customise it and evolve it, which is exactly what Ryder suggests you do.

My writing is supported by people like you. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Done not perfect

I’m on a roll with golf. So, I’m going to draw another parallel.

The first time I played a whole round of golf, I was not very good. I had fun, hit a decent shot or two, but the round was a long way from a masterpiece. Why would it be for heaven’s sake? It was my first attempt. However, I had proved that I could complete a round, and even keep score. I had shown signs of potential.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 42. Golf in the sun

Golf in the sun

Both Mrs L and I play golf. Annoyingly, her swing is much better than mine, but I don’t tell her that and I don’t think that she reads the blog, so keep it to yourself. The opportunity to play a lot of golf in the sun was a definite incentive to make a life here in Cyprus.

Choice

There are four golf courses easily accessible to us and we tried all of them before settling on Secret Valley Golf Club as our choice. We can walk the course, which is important to us. Contrary to some people’s belief, golf is exercise; it’s essentially a long walk, punctuated by swings of a club. You can remove much of the walking by hiring a buggy that you drive around the course, but neither of us enjoys that mode of play.

Membership

Of all the courses, this one felt the most like a members club, one where we might make friends. A golf club is as much a social hub as a sporting one and we are drawing on the collective experience of our fellow members. I’m getting a great deal of advice where to buy a lemon tree, for example. Best Doctor? Dentist? Hairdresser? Information like this is invaluable and readily available in the bar. Despite feeling like a members club, Secret Valley is not. It’s a proprietary club. It was built as the anchor for a development of villas, targeted at retirees and holiday makers. When the financial crisis hit, most of the development was postponed indefinitely, and the property now belongs to a Bank, presumably repossessed. From time to time, buggy convoys of suits are toured around the course; potential buyers, I suspect.

United Nations

We have been surprised by the breadth of nationalities represented in the membership. In a recent competition, I found myself playing alongside a Swede. A Russian and a Cypriot. It sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it? The United Nations of Golf.

Living the Dream

Of all of the aspects of #livingthedream, golf is one element that has gone superbly. Mrs L’s handicap is tumbling, she is part of two fun groups and enjoying herself immensely. I’m getting to play both with her for fun and in competitions alone and feel comfortable with the majority of the members. I have even represented the club in a match.

Happy Days.

Working Tools 17. – Podcast Setup

Every Monday evening, I come down to the the office to record an episode of 1857. “Make the past, the present in the future.” If you haven’t already, have a listen. TJ Cosgrove and I chat through our week and talk around a subject that has captured the attention of one of us. As I write, we have just recorded episode 64.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that two years ago, I had only the faintest concept of what a podcast was. I’d certainly never listened to one. I am sure that you, dear reader, are completely au fait with the concept, but lest someone like me has stumbled upon this post, permit me to supply a definition:

“A podcast or generically netcast, is an episodic series of digital audio or video files which a user can download in order to listen to. It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s own local computer, mobile application, or portable media player.“(From Wikipedia)

There is a huge choice of podcasts out there – and I have become a voracious consumer of them. From time to time, I publish lists my current favourites. Here and here for example.

How to listen.

Listening is easy.

Personally, I live in a Mac world, and in my opinion Overcast leads the market. So easy, even I can use it.

Sometimes overlooked – the good old BBC produces some superb podcasts

How to record.

It never occurred to me that I could record a podcast. Then along came Anchor FM, where I was able to mumble into my phone on the way to work and call it a podcast. Anchor is a fantastic way to get started, and is adding functionality all the time. Anyone can become a podcaster in moments.

TJ has been knocking around the analogue world for a while, producing logos, and particularly, great video content. He had shot some video for me at Nero’s Notes. TJ and I got talking. We had never met, but what the hell? We decided to record. I looked around at outsourcing editing services, until we settled on TJ. We looked around at sponsors, until we settled on Nero’s Notes.

It’s that simple.

Podcast Setup

Not as complex as you might think. In a nutshell, we talk on the phone and each of us records our own voice. We usually talk through What’s App, but Skype works too. You could even just talk on the phone – subject to your call plan! We’re talking though our headphones. I use these. In order to record my end of the conversation, I use this, the Blue Yeti. (As does TJ.) It plugs into a USB in the back of my monitor. It has a little furry hat on (or a pop filter, as techie folk call it) to stop my plosives popping on the audio. Recently, I bought a boom arm, to reduce the clutter on my desk.

Podcast Setup - Desk
Podcast Desk

The recording is done though a piece of software called Audacity, where I press a button to start recording (the red one), and another to stop it (the yellow one). Then I export the audio to my dropbox and send TJ a link to the file. He then imports my file into his Audacity, and mixes and edits the two tracks together. There is undoubtedly some work in that editing phase, and I have no doubt that TJ’s experience in editing video has helped him master it quickly, but I am told that it is learnable, with great instruction available online.

Our recordings are hosted at SimpleCast, for a low monthly fee, and people subscribe to us through a wide variety of channels.

Why do we do it?

That’s really simple. We enjoy it. We take pleasure in our conversations, and our listeners do too. The podcast has spawned a Slack channel, 1857ers chew the fat, and that’s great fun too. If you would like to join – get in touch and I’ll send you an invite.

People like you support my writing. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Golfing Gods

Regular readers know that I play golf. Living here, it’s a great excuse to be out in the sun, breathing fresh air and burning some calories.

Of late, I have not been striking the ball well, nor putting well. The strongest part of my game has definitely been the drinking of beer in the club house.

Background

At Secret Valley Golf Resort, where I play, there are regular competitions, and these competitions are drawn – that is to say, you don’t get to pick with whom you play. Such is the traditional way. As a new member, this helps me meet new people. Five hours on the course provides plenty of opportunity to get to know someone. On the flip side, I am inevitably more nervous playing with people I don’t know. Still, I have entered a few competitions now, and know a few more faces. Most members know me by sight, (Plus-twos and bright stockings probably help with that), and as a result, I’m more comfortable.

Saturday last was the monthly medal. I was scheduled to play with three gentlemen, only one of whom I had played with before.

For context, my handicap is 13. So, par for the course is 71, add the 13 and on a good day, I should complete the course in 84 shots.

Golfing Gods

Something happened. I hit a good drive on the first hole, pitched close, and holed a putt for a birdie three. Starting with a birdie usual foreshadows disaster, but hey, anything is possible. The Golfing Gods were smiling upon me. As I stood on the 8th tee, I was one over gross par, so several shots better than my handicap.

Disaster struck. I pulled my drive, and watched as it crossed the boundary of the penalty area and disappeared under a bush.

I took a penalty drop at the point the ball crossed the line. The ball was quite severely above the level of my feet (which promotes a hook), and the flag is 152 yards away. This hole had the potential to be a disaster and to sink the round. I have, in the past, from a similar lie, hooked the shot, losing a second ball, having to take an additional penalty and running up a big number. Still, I know what the risk is, so I adjust my grip, my aim, and focus on hitting a smooth 7 iron.

I hit a good one. Smooth, the right shape and in the right direction. A playing partner, from a good vantage point called out:

“Shot! Oh. That’s close… Wait! …It’s in!”

When it’s your day, it’s your day. A potential disaster had become a birdie 3. Moving my score to gross par. For good measure, I added a birdie on the 9th meaning that at the turn, I was under the card. By some measure, the best scoring nine holes I have ever played.

On the back nine, I was nervous, and however hard I tried to play one shot at a time, the score kept echoing in my mind. I was dropping shots thorough a lack of commitment. Ultimately, I did pull myself together and finished the round on 77 shots. 7 shots better than a good day.

Result

April Medal winner. A tumbler, a voucher for a meal for two in a local restaurant and a whole 6 euro for my 2 on the 4th. My handicap index is cut from 14.7 to 12.6, meaning next medal I’ll be getting 11 shots rather than 13.

Most important of all, a rekindled belief that I can play golf, that I can become a single figure handicapper. This belief buoys me along, puts a smile on my face and will almost certainly last only until the next time I play.

Every golfer knows, the game will reassert its dominance over me at the very next opportunity. Whatever happened, will un-happen.

The beer game will stay strong though.

Writing Secret

I wrote last week about the depths I plumb to avoid actually moving the book forward. I immediately set to work rectifying that, and edited the first couple of scenes of the novel.

Hurrah!

 

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream – 41. Guest Season

Guest season is upon us. We have two sets during the month of April. They are looking forward to it, we’re looking forward to it. I just hope that the weather Gods got the memo.

Not surprisingly, moving to a house with a pool, in a hot climate makes for a higher visitor count. Of course, this is in part, because we are much further from friends and family now, so it’s not as though we can hook up for a quick coffee any more: But the proximity of the beach helps.

Guest Season Management

Turns out that living cheek by jowl with other people is not the same as being friends with them. Things are further complicated by the fact that the guests are on holiday, but for us, it’s another week. Having guests is a privilege, and I don’t intend to ignore them totally, but these posts won’t write themselves and contrary to what you may have heard, Nero’s Notes does require a little bit of work from me too.

Cyprus is blessed with a wonderful coastline and gorgeous beaches, but my Celtic skin is not best-suited to beach days, so those will be the times when I get my work done. When it comes to long barbecues and cold beers however, I will be front and centre.

I have been tasked with writing the house rules. These aren’t actually rules, more a plea, “Let’s talk about stuff.” In our experience, the key things to work out are meals and plans. We can’t put our lives on hold every time that we have guests, but we want our guests to have the holiday that they want. So the rules are an ice-breaker, an enjoinder to start a dialogue before everybody ticks everybody else off.

Money

In true British fashion, a source of awkwardness is money. We’re happy to provide people with breakfast and a light lunch, but thereafter, things need to be split.

“Should everyone pay for what they consume? Shall we split evenly? Your turn, our turn?”

“But you had a bottle of expensive wine and I only had a sip! I didn’t have a starter, and he had a dessert.”

The British way is to find a way that suits nobody, pretend that everything is fine and then complain bitterly to your partner in private.

To avert this, I have declared a kitty. Each person pitches in a cash amount to fund communal evening meals at home and communal meals / drinks out. This is the start point, and we adjust from there if there is an obvious inequity in consumption.

(Put another way, I’m not allowed to outdrink guests four to one)

What could possibly go wrong?

There. You’ve heard the theory. If you don’t hear from me again, assume I’m at the beach, having beer for breakfast.

My writing is supported by people like you.  Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Working Tools 16. – Home Office

Since moving to Cyprus, I don’t commute any more. I am lucky enough to have a distinct home-office. It’s a converted carport, connected to the house, yet separate. Now, six months after arriving, I am onto office 3.0.

Desks

Home Office 1

This is a desk from Ikea where the height can be adjusted. I bought it with the intention of varying it through the day, sometimes sitting and sometimes standing. Lesson learned. Within days, I stopped adjusting the desk. It was a permanent standing desk, then a permanent sitting desk. Here is where I write letters, and sometimes work. It is not entirely analogue, my iPad Pro lives here and there is a small monitor on the wall. (It’s actually the doorbell, which also functions as an intercom to the kitchen, upstairs.)

Home Office 2

Turns out, an Ikea bookshelf makes for a perfectly adequate standing desk. The IT setup is a MacBook Pro with external monitor. The screen riser is a very high-tech solution, namely a ream of printer paper. My podcasting microphone lives on the boom and I have a Mastermind desk pad and Squire from the excellent Baron Fig. The small surface area enforces a minimalist approach, which minimises distraction. Focus is a real benefit of working on my feet and this is only enhanced by the new setup.

Feet Up

Central to my space, I have an armchair, where I meditate, read and nap. Trouble is, it’s a popular spot.

Home Office 3

The plan is that having a great workspace allows me to segregate my day. This is important. While Spice was tiny, I took to working in the kitchen, where I could keep an eye on her. While convenient, this very quickly blurred the lines between work time and downtime. Given half a chance, I’ll keep tinkering away for eighteen hours a day. Now, I am more able to switch off when I leave the office.

The next challenge will be the heat. Despite taking its time to arrive this year, summer is hot in Cyprus. Temperatures will reach 40 degrees centigrade (104 F) in the shade, and I’m sure that working on the terrace will seem very attractive. Surely that’s an element of #livingthedream? If it does get too hot, the home-office does have air-conditioning, so it may become a sanctuary.

I’m extremely lucky to have such a fantastic space, so time for me to make the most of it and do some work.

My writing is supported by people like you. Most posts here are free, but some are reserved for Members.  Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

And the Winner is….

Last week I decided to give myself seven days to choose who was going to be the winner, Sean or Jana. Time’s up.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Living the Dream -40. Walking

I have always been a fan of walking, in theory. In practice, less of a fan. There’s weather, traffic and other people. Largely therefore, I have gone through life seeing walking as a means to get from A to B. Much like a taxi, but slower.
I documented elsewhere, how I accidentally became a walker. Since then, I am a zealous convert. Most of the time, I am able to keep my walking habit within reasonable bounds, however, once a year, I spend a whole week walking, doing twenty miles or so a day.

Fitness

Thus far, I have completed three of these annual trips, a slightly slimmer man each time. Our first camino week involved the Pyrenees and on every ascent, I repeatedly wheezed that I was going to lose some weight. I did, mostly by turning my daily commute into ten miles walking a day. Recently however, I have changed my daily commute again, now to twenty seconds or so. As a result, some of those banished pounds have returned to my midriff.

The Plan

As I write, I’m five months from the next segment of the camino, with maybe twenty pounds to lose. The weather here is improving, so I will start my daily swimming routine soon. Spice is growing up, and so will enjoy a daily stroll beyond the confines of the garden and, and I am now a member of the Cyprus Rambling Club, which will get me out walking every second Sunday.

Dora

This weekend, I joined my first walk of the year, around a village called Dora. As I may have mentioned (once or twice), we have had a very wet winter, making for verdant views evocative of central Italy rather than Cyprus. I have never seen the island this green. Grudgingly, I’ll admit that the rain has done some good. I’ll still be glad to see the back of it though. The views were stunning and the weather kind. We were at altitude, had some hills to climb, and at eight miles, this was a perfect training walk for me. Talking to a fellow rambler, we marvelled at how the desire to walk takes us to places that we would not otherwise find. Here, less than half an hour from my house, were gorgeous views of valley and vineyards, as far as I could see. The only other people we met were a couple of goat herders, shepherding their flock across the path as we headed back to our start point.

Good Walking land

Benefits

Walking is good for you. Physically, mentally and dare I say it, spiritually. Get out there and do it. If it’s raining, put a coat on. You are, in fact, waterproof, you know.