Category Archives: Productivity

Record and Transcribe Notes for Yourself with Google Voice

There a few key settings in order to be able to record notes to yourself and have Google Voice transcribe them for you. You can get those from that Lifehacker link, but there’s an addition note I want to make now that I’ve actually tried this.

It works, but only sort of, and you have to speak really slowly and clearly. It’s hard and actually kind of takes some practice, because the first couple times I did it, I started off slow, and Google did well with the transcription, but then I focused more on what I wanted to say and not how I was saying it and the end of the transcriptions came out like a monkey was at the keyboard.

Nevertheless, you can usually get the gist of what you wanted to make a note of, and it’s usually easier to speed-dial your GV account than it is to try to pound out a text message (or even a “note” on your smartphone). It’s also more useful than a voice note (again, if your smartphone allows for that), because you get at least some of it transcribed correctly for you, and automatically emailed to you (instead of having to send it to yourself after recording and then transcribe it from there).

So, go ahead, all tens of you readers, give it a try (if you have Google Voice) and leave a comment with your experience, and if you don’t have GV, let me know if you use something else to record and/or transcribe notes to yourself on the go.

You are the Boss / Manager of your Future Self

Near the end of this podcast on Organizing, Robert (David Allen’s tech guy) makes the point, basically, that you are the boss of your future self. By “boss” he means, in the traditional 9-5 working for the man way.

Why is that important (as a concept)?

Well, would you rather have your boss just dump a whole bunch of papers on your desk, and say “do these”, or would you prefer a boss who only hands you papers when you need them, or when you don’t have anything else that you’re working (or at least, not anything that’s a higher priority)?

office-space

Would you rather have a boss who says “Here’s an entire project, get it done” or a boss who says “Here’s the first task of a project that I need you to get done. Come back to me when you are finished with this small, completable task, and I’ll tell you what to do next”?

dilbert-boss

In both cases, I’m hoping you opted for the latter. Making that decision one of the essential parts of GTD. By defining specific Next Actions and creating appropriate calendar reminders, you are essentially “managing” your future self in a way that is a Best Practices way of managing someone who works for you.

How Overestimation Leads To Procrastination

Rhyme time, baby.

The subject line is in regard to a fault of mine when it comes to personal commitments (like cutting my hair, mowing the lawn, going to the grocery store).

I tend to overestimate the amount of time and effort that are required to do simple activities like those mentioned above, and as a result, I tend to put off doing them.

For example, cutting my hair (I do it myself) takes about 40 minutes including a shower to wash all the excess hair off. I just did it myself recently and it looks a lot better than when I let it grow out and get shaggy. It’s always taken me 40 minutes to do it. Even when I first started more than 10 years ago. And I only do it every 6-8 weeks, so it’s not like it’s a huge time sink, but I often tend to do it closer to 8 weeks when it should be done after 6 just because I “don’t want to take the time” to do it.

This especially applies in the summer time because there are not a lot of higher ROI activities that I can do to make myself feel better than cutting my hair, and still I don’t do it because, in my mind, it’s a chore that takes a lot of time and energy.

Takeaway: Be realistic about the length of time it takes to do tasks that you do on a regular basis. I’m even thinking about making a spreadsheet just so I can stop fooling myself by storing the numbers in my mind and manipulating them “telephone” style whenever it comes time to do them.

boys_telling_secrets

How I Read The 4-Hour Work Week in 4 Hours

4-hour-work-weekOkay, this is actually really easy, but is great for people like me who are really slow readers… on paper.

I’m a very fast reader under the right circumstances… So, what are the circumstances that allowed me to read a 320 page book in 250 minutes? (I realize that this 1.28 pages per minute probably doesn’t seem like it’s all that fast, but it’s probably twice my normal reading rate*)

4 Factors:

  1. Audiobook
  2. 2x Speed
  3. Attention/Focus
  4. Forehand Knowledge

Yes, at first this seems like a cheap tactic – like exploiting a glitch in a video game. But, it is a cheap tactic that just saved me 4 hours and 10 minutes – more than enough time to write this blog post, and work on a fantasy basketball draft guide. And, I further believe that examining each of these factors will actually lead to further insights.

1. Audiobook

Yes, having someone read to me is much faster than reading myself. But the point I want to make here is that while I’ve been waiting for a hard copy of 4-Hour Work Week from the Chicago Public Library for nigh on a month, I was able to place the downloadable audio version on hold and get it onto my iPhone in less than a week. Bigger fish. Smaller pond.

2. 2x Speed

This is something that you get for free when you have an audio book on your iPhone (or iPod Touch, I would assume). Something that’s important to note, however, is that not all audio books are created equal. For example, the ones I download from ChiPubLib have a “type” of Audiobook, so the iPhone knows to treat them as such and will automatically remember my place as well as being able to play at 2x speed. Ones that are imported from Audio CDs (also available at your library), however, usually don’t get classified as audio books by default, so you have to do that yourself. Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy, and definitely worth the few minutes it takes.

3. Attention/Focus

Playing the book twice as fast as normal would be nothing without focusing on listening and paying attention. As luck would have it, I listened to 4-Hour Work Week on a Sunday while my wife took a nap, then while I walked to the store to get groceries and do some other unplanned shopping that I’d planned to do (that’s a concept for a whole different post), and then for a bit while I just sat in my office chair. A key to note is that while I was doing my unplanned shopping, I paused the audio book because, while my unplanned shopping was fairly mindless, it did still require some of my attention, and as such I knew that I would miss parts of the book and have to go back to re-listen. (I know this from the experience of having tried to listen to other audio books while doing menial tasks)

4. Forehand Knowledge

I haven’t done enough split testing to know if this is a definite prerequisite for my plan to work, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. But what do I mean by Forehand Knowledge? I mean, you have some idea of what the book is about, and perhaps even know some of the content from other sources already. The 4-Hour Work Week was great for this because I’ve read books like Getting Things Done, Talent is Overrated, Making a Good Brain Great, and I Will Teach You To Be Rich, all of which contain pieces that are also present in The 4-Hour Work Week. This allowed me to avoid frying my brain with 4 hours of intense focus, lightening the load somewhat by lowering the amount of concentration required to absorb the information.

* Just to make myself feel better: I do have excellent reading comprehension. I always did really well on the SAT and GMAT reading comp. sections. I probably should have learned to read faster at that point to save myself more time so I could have done better on the other sections, but I didn’t want to sacrifice one of my stronger areas for what might or might not have actually helped me in other areas.

How To: Save Time On Haircuts

I call it the Jack Shephard method, i.e., you either keep it really short, or don’t cut it at all.

jack-shephard-lostjack_beard

Either method will save you both time and money. I usually go with short in the summer and let it grow more in the winter. I had a friend in high school who would shave his head for the city swimming finals in the winter and then let it grow until the next year’s finals. Yeah, he was in high school so he could get away with looking like a ragamuffin for 4-5 months, and he had a good skull for the totally bald look. But, if you can pull it off, think of how much extra time you’ll have if you only cut your hair once a year!