Working Tools 28. Analogue v Digital 1. Calendars

I am afflicted with infatuations both for the analogue world of stationery and the digital applications for Apple hardware. Mix those in with a desire to be as productive as possible, and a large degree of experimentation is inevitable.

Over the next few #Working Tools posts (alternate Fridays), I’ll talk you through the bare-knuckle fights, one by one.

Calendars

In the red, (analogue) corner, The Economist Diary 2020 by Collins Debden, weighing in at super heavy.

In the blue, (digital) corner, ical, google calendar, the calendar app and Timepage by Moleskine, weighing in at well, nothing.

Red Corner

The Economist Diary is a tome. A big, heavy book. Mine is the signature red, week to two pages view, in a leatherette cover. It sits handsomely on my desk, telling me, and everyone else, that I’m a proper, serious business person. I write in it with a broad-nibbed fountain pen. Including only the most weighty and important of appointments.

Blue Corner

I have 18 calendars, split across iCal and Google. Some are mine, and some are shared. I have a core set always on, and others just a click away. My dog’s worming schedule is in here, alongside a meditation calendar. Eclectic.

The fight

My Personal Assistant copies all of my appointments from the Economist Diary into my electronic calendars. She is permanently at my side with her iPhone, lest I need to check Spice’s worming schedule. This allows me to flick through the diary attaining useful statistics, when not writing in flowery script. Did you know that in 2010, the Department of Work and Pensions employed 133,500 people?

The trouble is, I don’t have a Personal Assistant.

So, the diary exists as a very expensive sledgehammer to crack the nut of time blocking my week.

The electronic calendars are THE truth, particularly for Margaret and I, who keep abreast of each other through them.

Killer punch

The “shareability” of electronic calendars is unbeatable. I can access them at my desk, on my couch, in the car, heck, even on my wrist.

That said, the diary will remain on my desk, and does get used every week – even if only lightly.

By the way, did you know that the National Income per person in Chad, in $, in 2018, was 654? I bet that’s not in your calendar, is it?

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Members 54. Epiphany! Epiphany! They’ve all got it…

Wow! Alcohol holds a powerful place in our society. Told that I am not going to drink alcohol for a year, people react in a variety of ways. Some are flat out incredulous. Others nod sadly, (which is disconcerting). One or two respond positively, but these are a minority.

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Living the Dream – 75. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you!

Christmas

How were the holidays for you? We’ve had a cracking time.

Christmas was at the mountain hideaway, just Mags, Spice and I. The weather was boisterous, but we managed to get Spice out for a windswept walk on Christmas morning.

Travel

On the 28th, we loaded up the car and headed off for a week in Turkey. Now, Turkey is less than 300 miles from Cyprus, but it’s complicated.

Since 1974, Cyprus has been effectively partitioned. I live in the Republic of Cyprus, which is the officially recognised country. The Northern part of Cyprus is termed the “Illegally Occupied Territories.” In those territories, and in Turkey, the area is known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In recent years, relations have thawed a little – and people are permitted to cross from one side to the other through a series of border posts.

Our journey therefore to drive to one of these crossing points, park on the Republic side and be collected by a Taxi from the Turkish side. The taxi took us to the airport, and we made the short hop to Antalya, on the southern coast of Turkey. I’ll talk about the holiday in another post.

Once across the internal border, our cell phones lose signal, and will not connect to local services. Likewise, there is no roaming agreement between Cyprus and Turkey. Wifi gets us round this, but it is extraordinary that such a thing should persist in the 21st century.

World Events

While in Turkey, the USA killed General Qassim Suleimani. Iran, and to a lesser extent Iraq, where the killing took place, are, if not disgruntled, certainly less than gruntled. The region is in flames. War, of one form or another, rages across Iran, Iraq and Syria. Not to mention Yemen.

One of our party commented,

“It’s all a long way from us though…”

Another replied

“Absolutely, after all, Syria is a full 50 miles from Cyprus.”

Happy New Year, eh?

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Members 53. Cheers!

Sober, I want to be moderate. Moderate, I fancy another drink. Or two. At that point, I’m either having such a good time that another drink is in order, or I’m bored; perhaps another drink will help?

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Going Solo 23. Action Plan Key Initiatives

I wrote last week about my review process and how it related to Nero’s Notes.

I’m working on identifying the key initiatives that we will implement this year to improve performance.

Top 3

1. Newsletter. In 2019, we sent far fewer e-mails to customers. To me, they felt toxic. Facebook and Google were being creepy, the GDPR had come in and Mailchimp and Shopify had fallen out. I think that it’s time to reinstate some communication. The exact nature of it, I’m not sure yet, but the focus will be on delivering value to subscribers without harvesting data.
2. Prioritise Content. Nero’s Notes is, at its core, about using and enjoying analogue tools. We curate analogue experiences. Amanda, Scrib and I write not just about new products, but about why and how we use them. I am keen to bring this more to the fore.
3. Affiliates. We have had some success with Affiliate marketing in 2019. I would like to build on that. Logistics are challenging, in terms of getting the right levels of stock in at the right time.

That’s it. Those are the three key initiatives.

Of course, there are all the usual challenges of running a business. Supply chain, cost control, pricing and margin and so on. We hope to get better at all of those too.

Funding

As indicated last week, the objective is to nudge the company into being cash generative this year. This will influence how I implement the three initiatives.

For example, the newsletter. One possibility is to outsource the production. There are people out there who specialise in newsletters and product promotions. I suspect they are pretty good at it too. However, there’s a cost. A cost that will slow return on investment. I also believe that part of our success is our tone, which is genuine and personal. Inevitably, that risks being diluted if someone else starts communicating on our behalf.

The same is true of content. It is tempting to identify a third party to implement a new theme on the Shopify platform and change how the site looks and behaves. Experience tells me that the cost of this would be significant and a certainty, where the return would be a variable and speculative. It turns out, that designing a web store with many products and variants is difficult.

I will focus on coordinating content and social media, making it easier for people to discover the excellent pieces that Amanda and Scrib contribute.

Affiliates should be simple. Plenty of people write nice things about us already. This is a way to measure that and reward the writer.

Budget

Next week – how I estimate the impact of the actions on the business, and decide how much investment I will make in each.

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Members 52. The Election

The Election is done. My prediction was spot on, Politicians won.

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Going Solo 22. Nero’s Notes Review

Nero’s Notes Review

Neros Notes is a trading style of Loggedoff Ltd. The company began trading in February 2017. To date, I have taken no salary and the company has lost money each year. Ballpark figures, the company lost 40k in Year one, 11k in Year 2 and looks like maybe a 5k loss in the year to end in January 2020.

Not exactly Apple or Amazon, is it?

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Members 51. Discourse

These days, I’m mostly furious. At Politics, at Apple and Twitter, and much of the world.

An example:

“Twitter is a great place to come if you like being called thick by people who put two spaces before a comma, think an ellipsis has seven dots, and who believe the reason they have a crap job is because of immigration.”

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Working Tools 27. Apps-tastic

Apps

The trouble with stock applications not working is that I look for other applications. While looking at an app for one thing, I inevitably find numerous apps for all sorts of other things.

Oh, the first world problems that plague me.

I started with Notes, and then fell down the rabbit-hole.

Productivity

I always pursue productivity, a chase that invariably circles back to task management. I bullet journal, albeit in a simplified way. It’s a struggle to make the system work for project management and segmented lists. I decided to revisit some old friends, namely Things 3, Time Page and Actions by Moleskine. I also had an idea that I wanted to look at habit tracking.

Now, the thing about Things (if you’ll excuse the pun) is that the more you put in there, the more it does for you. Cue a stream of consciousness brain dump into the app. Everything goes into “Inbox”, until I sort it somewhere else. Happy hours ensued setting up areas of responsibility and projects. The greatest irony of productivity systems is the amount of time that you have to put into them.

Moleskine

The Moleskine apps are beautiful, particularly the calendar one. I enjoy that I can customise the views, and the simple aesthetic of the display. Actions integrates beautifully, but lacks features compared to Things, so for the time-being at least, Actions will not get used. I bought an annual subscription to both Timepage and Actions which expires in a few months, so I’ll keep experimenting with them until then, when a further decision will be required.

Habits

In my journal, I have a habit tracker. One that is becoming increasingly complex to manage. Would that work better electronically? Turns out, I had already thought that at some point in the past, and had purchased “Productive”, an app for habit tracking. So – I’m back in that too.

Food Journaling

I have been reading about food journaling. Mostly because I am in danger of being awarded my own postcode unless I start getting smaller rather than bigger. In the past, I calorie-tracked through “My Fitness Pal”. It’s great, but it does require a level of input that I’m not prepared to give any more. I am interested in the psychology of recording what I eat and drink, without necessarily comparing the calorie count between an apple and a pear.

Could I use Day One? I have had this App since 2013, dipping in and out. Now – I am photographing my food, and noting how eating it has made me feel.

Is this going to replace all my analogue tools? I don’t think so. It may change the way that I journal, but I think it unlikely to replace it entirely.

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Members 50. Half a century, and still at the crease.

This is the third start of this particular post. The first was a proper grump about Twitter in general, about right-on, holier than thou, virtue-signalling Twitter in particular. Second was an enquiry as to what makes a stabbing “terrorism”rather than “knife-crime.”

The evidence suggests I’m grumpier than usual.

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