Getting Ready for the new year

Published by Lorenzo Planas on December 30, 2013

I love the Christmas holidays because they always give me some perspective on life. Sharing these days with family and close friends serves as a reminder that time is the most precious asset I have.

Looking ahead to 2014 I want to invest my time more wisely. In the past week I have started practicing some techniques to keep my focus and remove clutter from my daily workflow. These techniques are quite simple:

Keep a Bullet Journal

I have been carrying a notebook around for years, using it for note-taking and some unstructured task managment. The Bullet Journal technique gives me the structure I lacked. And that little structure goes a long way.

Notebook

I now maintain two notebooks. I use the a Bullet Journal for the daily tracking of tasks, events and brief notes. When I need to take long notes, or flesh out ideas, I write on a separate notebook. The Bullet Journal forces me to be mindful of my priorities, and the notebook proper serves as a free-from space for extended work on specific topics.

Push everything to source control

It's amazing how many files I can gather in a single day. Some of them are the result of my work, some others are a necessary evil, and a lot of them I don't even know how I manage to accumulate.

I'm now getting quite strict on how I deal with every single file:

That's it. A couple of days ago Karla and I prepared new business cards. We got everything into source control: Illustrator files, typefaces, textures, PDF previews ... even the .ai and .psd templates that Moo provide on their website. Yesterday I was going through the accounting records for the fourth quarter. Off they went to an 'accounting-records' repository, where I can retrieve them when necessary. The records won't rot in my laptop and I don't need to worry if the laptop gets lost or stolen.

I may occasionally use Dropbox, but I try to avoid it like the plague. It's amusing how everytime I have used Dropbox as part of a group, we ended up implementing some poor man's versioning scheme. Version control systems such as Git aren't very good dealing with binary files (most of the documents we deal with), but at least they do have good versioning. A proper document management system could be better, but this way we don't have to setup or use any extra tools, and we can outsource the storage to Bitbucket at a very low cost.

Have some quiet time

I believe keeping focus and removing clutter are intrinsically good, but they are even better if they follow a purpose. In my case, that purpose is to enjoy what I do, which means working slowly, carefully, according to a process so efficient I can get a lot of value for the time I put into my work.

But even with the most fine-tuned process I cannot perform if I'm anxious or overworked. Let alone enjoy what I do. To avoid those situations, I reserve twenty or thirty minutes at the end of my day. Then I can slow down my thoughts, and cherish the day that just passed. This has helped me to realize a bad day isn't nearly as bad as I had imagined it in my head, and that taking care of how I invest my time nicely builds up in the long term.