Productivity RubyCoded

Silly mistakes when managing projects

The fundamental problem I was facing was that I acting like a freelancer instead of a business owner.

I didn’t have refined processes for client management, outsourcing work, and managing projects.

It certainly takes time to think about your business and build out processes for it.

At the same time, you’ll benefit from moving from a freelancer to a business that has the potential to scale beyond the 24 hours in your day.

via 4 Ridiculously Obvious Mistakes I Made Building WordPress Sites for Clients – WPMU DEV

I’m basically guilty of all of these issues while running RubyCoded. Plenty of room to improve, and we’ll keep improving.

Productivity Thoughts

On being a Jack of All Trades

Stumbling upon an article from Tim Ferris on being a Jack of All Trades, reminded me about my decision to become a generalist a few years back.

I can’t quite recall whether it was after reading a Robert Kiyosaki book, or the 4-hour Work Week, or something else, but I did make the decision, and looking back, I’m glad I did.

There were definitely some downsides, but I think it’s worth it. One downside that I’m always encountering is that coming from a technology background, it’s still incredibly frustrating when I don’t understand something tech related and need to ask for help. It’s even worse when I don’t understand the explanation. Depending on the situation, I could either pay someone to solve the issue for me, or spend more time to better understand the situation and work on a solution.

Is the CEO a better accountant than the CFO or CPA? Was Steve Jobs a better programmer than top coders at Apple? No, but he had a broad range of skills and saw the unseen interconnectedness. As technology becomes a commodity with the democratization of information, it’s the big-picture generalists who will predict, innovate, and rise to power fastest. There is a reason military “generals” are called such.

The upside of all this is I understand a lot more things now across a different categories and can piece the experiences together, giving me a better or broader view of things. Being a generalist also required me to be nimble, catching up and learning different trades quickly to make up for lost time against others who have been practising it for years.

Not that I’m against mastery of any field. However I do feel that once you pass a certain point, there are diminishing returns for your time spent on it, and unless you’re absolutely certain that it’s your one true passion, your time might be better spelt elsewhere.

Generalists recognize that the 80/20 principle applies to skills: 20% of a language’s vocabulary will enable you to communicate and understand at least 80%, 20% of a dance like tango (lead and footwork) separates the novice from the pro, 20% of the moves in a sport account for 80% of the scoring, etc. Is this settling for mediocre?

Not at all. Generalists take the condensed study up to, but not beyond, the point of rapidly diminishing returns. There is perhaps a 5% comprehension difference between the focused generalist who studies Japanese systematically for 2 years vs. the specialist who studies Japanese for 10 with the lack of urgency typical of those who claim that something “takes a lifetime to learn.”

It’s important to note that being a generalist isn’t for everyone, and I’m glad that there are specialists in this world. It’s great that the world is filled with different types of people, and my choice is to be a generalist.

The jack of all trades maximizes his number of peak experiences in life and learns to enjoy the pursuit of excellence unrelated to material gain, all while finding the few things he is truly uniquely suited to dominate.

I also happen to think that it’s more fun this way, so there is also that.

Minimalism Productivity

Slow down

Being in Fast Mode leads to constant switching, and constant busy-ness. It leads to overwork, because when do you switch it off? It leads to exhaustion, because we never give ourselves breathing room.

Learn to recognize when you’re in Fast Mode, and practice switching to Slow Mode now and then. It’s essential to doing all the things that are really important.

Via Zen Habits

As I’m pushing to focus on minimalism, one of the things I need to consciously remind myself is to always slow down. Some may call it stop and smell the roses. The result of rushing and thinking slowly differs greatly. While we’ve been brought up on the notion that hyper productivity is good, sometimes we take it to mean that it’s raw speed. I myself am a fan of productivity and its various techniques, but I think slowing down is a strong skill in terms of productivity itself. After all, being constantly stressed and busy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being productive. It’s also one of the reasons why I’m back to using my iPhone 4 for the moment.

Why not give it a try? Try and slow down when you’re doing something that you usually rush through, be it washing the dishes, replying a customer email, or typing a blog post.

The results might surprise you.

Productivity Tech

Things app

things-mac-black-friday-saleI’m a sucker for productivity apps, but one app that has been highly recommended by many folks that I haven’t tried is Things, mainly due to the price.

The good news is that the iPhone and iPad versions of Things is free for Black Friday, and the Mac App version has a 30% discount until the 28th of November.

Prior to using Things, I was hacking together a similar solution using Wunderlist (which is free). Things feels like a productivity app designed with GTD in mind, but has a nice balance between the simplicity of Wunderlist and the power of Omnifocus (which is also incredibly expensive, so I have yet to try that).

One minor quirk I’ve found is that I can’t set a reminder for a task, which seems like a strange oversight for me, but I just work around that.

If you haven’t tried Things yet, I’d recommend you download the app while it’s still free and give it a whirl. I tried it for a day or so and ended up buying the Mac app. No regrets so far!

Productivity Tech

Switching to FastMail

I’ve been a Gmail user and advocate from day I managed to get my hands on one, which was a big deal when it was launched. Since then the email interface has gone through changes, some good, some bad. Of late, there seems to be an increasing dissatisfaction towards Google, the way it treats user data, and privacy concerns of government access to data since the Edward Snowden incident. None of these has been enough to push me over to switching to FastMail.

Recently, many of our clients on RubyCoded require an email system where they can manage the users themselves. There are free solutions to this issue, such as allowing client access to the CPanel; forwarding the emails to Gmail; or some other hackish solutions. None of those seemed to be the right way to do it. There were alternatives such as Google Apps and Office365, but they’re more expensive than FastMail, and can sometimes seem like overkill. So I’ve since switched our RubyCoded emails to FastMail. Hopefully our clients will appreciate using FastMail too.

So far, aside from an irritating situation where my Mail client on OS X and iOS randomly asks me for my password when I try to send an email, everything else has been just fine. In fact, the FastMail web interface itself feels extremely fast, clean, and snappy. It’s also refreshing to not have to see advertisements. I guess advertisements are something that you don’t notice until they’re gone, and it’s nice that they’re gone.

For my personal emails, I’m still alternating between my Gmail and iCloud accounts while deciding what to do. One of the main reasons I’m still giving my Gmail address out is that everybody knows what “at gmail dot com” sounds like, so I can mumble that to phone support and they’ll usually get it right, as opposed to me spelling out my custom domain. It’s a lazy man’s excuse, but hey, I’m being honest here. Eventually I assume I’ll move my email to my custom domain and put it on FastMail.

Some things I want from my email provider include:

  • Fast web interface. This is key to me as I like being able to check my email on a public computer if needed.

  • Works well on mobile. FastMail doesn’t have a mobile app like Gmail, but recently I’ve grown to like the iOS Mail app, and FastMail works just fine on it with IMAP.

  • Reliable. So far so good.

On privacy
FastMail has issued a statement explaining their stance on government surveillance requests. I don’t entirely agree with their views on not having to hand data over to the US government if they’re asked to, but then again, I don’t expect 100% privacy for an online service anymore. It’s 2014 after all.

It’s probably worth a read to check out the views of some tech guys who have switched over to FastMail too:

On referrals
I don’t earn a cent from this blog so far, but I every now and then I put in affiliate link (like the FastMail link above) just to see if some day I’ll actually earn more than $0 from an affiliate link. Consider it a personal experiment, and if you’re adverse to those affiliate links, you can go to the FastMail website directly.