Monday, August 11, 2014

Timeful Review: After 3 Months

TL;DR version below

Creepy predictive. Unrelenting personal assistant. Crazy productive.

My usage of Timeful could be summed up with those three phrases.

When I started using it, I decided to turn on the suggestions to the max (if I could, I would have gone to 11). Almost instantly, Timeful started giving me suggestions of all the habits and task I wanted to do. When it did this, I promptly either 1) rejected them or 2) rescheduled them.

For two weeks I used only this app and none of my other to-do apps (like Omnifocus, Asana, Zippy). Everyday I would plan out my to-dos and then promptly begin rejecting the suggestions that Timeful placed in my schedule. For a while, I felt that the app was a gimmick at best. It was was nothing more than a cheap UI over the iPhone's calendar and reminders.

Then things got spooky.

Unlike others whose schedule is devoted to one job all day, I split my day between two. My job and my business. The hours between 7AM-5PM belongs to my job. A few hours at night and some hours on the weekend belong to my business. This is where Timeful got spooky.

Toward the middle of the second week, I started noticing Timeful suggestions for my business to-dos during the time I normally work them. Mind you, I didn't manually place them their, Timeful did. That might not be impressive, but then I noticed other habits appearing around my lunch time at work. This meant that I did more business work when I was off the clock at work during the day. I was no longer cramming my business in the span of a few hours during the night. Suddenly, I felt that Timeful became a personal assistant rather than a fancy UI over iPhone calender and reminders.

What I did notice, is that Timeful remembers what time you complete certain task. Obviously, I did some business task during my lunch time, so after a few days of this, Timeful started placing other task there. I also found myself not rejecting as many suggestions as before since Timeful was "smarter" than before.

Its really cool to list all my to do for the next day. Go to sleep. Then the next morning open Timeful and see it populate my day with it's suggestions. Now, I tend to follow its advice, and I am a hell of a lot more productive. It is seriously like having a personal assistant that maps out your day, but for free.

Of course, there are some things I would like to see in future updates:

  1. A web interface, this would be easier to add multiple task during my day instead of being constantly glued to my phone.
  2. Landscape view to see the week ahead.
  3. Able to track projects or at least tag task to certain projects.
Seriously I would pay for those features.

Right now, I use Evernote and Timeful. 

I track my projects using Evernote and any task related to a certain project, I simply paste the link in the note section in Timeful and follow a naming structure (i.e, PROJECT: TASK). Not the cleanest or slickest way, but it gets the job done.

Overall, Timeful is finally the to-do app I've been looking for. It is lightweight, fast, and smart. It did what the creators said it would do. Make us more productive. 

Get Timeful. Use it for two to three weeks. Don't cheat on it during that time by going to another to-do app. You can reject Timeful suggestions but try your best to reschedule them. Use Evernote to track projects. Understand Timeful will be clunky in the beginning, but like anything, the more you use it, the better it is. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Best Computer for Doctors

See the original post here

Your a medical professional. Your slammed with an influx of new patients and strict HIPAA guidelines. There’s a stack of patients’ charts and hours of dictation left to do. Now your medical group added new goals to meet by quarter end. How will you balance all it all? How can you adapt to a computerized medical field?

The answer is simple:

Get the right computer, learn the basics, and succeed.

The problem is finding the right computer. 

There once was a time that having someone who knew computers in your family was rare, now their as common as Marvel superhero movies. You end up listening to that 14 year old nephew of yours, and you buy buy that $2100 dollar Alienware laptop or that $1900 dollar MacBook Pro. Now you have no idea how it works and your IT department can’t get the programs you need to run on it.

Now your stuck with an expensive brick that will now be demoted to watching Netfilx and YouTube videos.  

Lets avoid the expensive mistake. Keep these two rules in mind:
Rule 1: You computer should be compatible with your medical group’s network.
This is simple to find out. If your medical group uses Microsoft Office, Exchange for your email server(you can ask your IT department), and the rest of the employee’s have Windows XP, 7 or 8 running on their desktops. Then you should use Windows as your main operating system.

Macs are nice, and yes, you can buy Office and Outlooks for a Mac. Macs are expensive though —which is nothing new— but the biggest issue is having them serviced. Your medical group’s IT department will have almost an endless supply of people who know how to fix windows. Which means if your computer breaks, someone will be able to trouble shoot it. If you have a Mac? Then Billy the I-still-have-a-holier-than-thou-IT-mentality network troll will be the only guy to help you. 

Trust me, most of the medical software out there is designed to run on Windows. You could access your medical groups’s programs on a Mac using a local virtual box, dual booting, or using VMWare or Citrix. The problem is now you’ll either have to configure virtual box yourself or be at the mercy of a wireless network. 
Rule 2: Go with a Solid State Hard Drive
I can go into major detail why solid state hard drives are 100x better than traditional hard drives; however, I believe this video will say enough (its 3 minutes long, but its worth the time)

I recently decided to buy a 500GB Samsung 840 EVO for my laptop. I installed Windows 7 Professional and decided to see this speed first hand. 15 seconds later, Windows was up and ready to go. 

Also, using a SSD will make applications load faster like Photoshop, EMR/EHR programs and radiology viewers. 

One of the reasons Macs are so much faster is because their hard drives are SSD not HDD. Now, an SSD will be more expensive than a traditional one, but benefits outweigh the cost.

I love Macs, but they are not the best tools in an enterprise/medical environment. They fill a specific niche and that niche isn’t the medical field. If you are willing to drop $1400 MacBook, you could buy a HP EliteBook Revolve 810 which has the same specs and doubles as a tablet.

There you have it. Finally some clear advice for a busy professional. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Three Rules to Change Your Life

Changing at all.

As my previous blog post mentioned, I've often been plagued with having multiple projects to do and no time to do them. To compound the issue further, I tend to have more dreams and no means to accomplish them. As I get older I realize the time for grand overreaching dreams, while still useful to believe, need to give way to more realistic ambitions and goals.

For many years I've been struggling to improve myself. My ultimate goal is to achieve mastery over myself. The goal is to be no longer be dictated or determined by whims but by conscious action. It's hard to imagine, for myself, such a lofty goal. But I do believe it's there.

So I created 3 criteria to help me choose the correct habits and goals that will hopefully align my life.

  1. Whatever habit or goal I choose, it must be easy to follow. This means a clear, concise and consistent routine. Something I can do daily that will become habit.
  2. Whatever habit or goal I choose, it must be simple to maintain and to understand. Goals can have multiple levels of complexity and so can projects, but ultimately they must be a simple progression from point A to point B.
  3. Finally, the habit or goal must be minimalistic. This represents the idea that any habit or goal cannot add more complexity to my life without allowing me to be creative. Learning to program is inherently a complex undertaking, but it takes creative thinking to manipulate the code into a workable program. Mathematics is inherently a complex subject, but he takes creative thinking see the underlying patterns beneath the surface.
Ultimately these 3 criteria well me determine what is best for my life. Tonight, while I should be in bed resting, I am drafting up a blueprint that will ultimately decide my fate. Alzheimer's runs in my family along with certain forms of cancer. I have pre-hypertension in my pulse hasn't been below 70 in a couple weeks. I'll be the father of the 2nd child within a month and a half. I have many dreams and ambitions I wish to complete, but it will never be able to reach even if I cannot master myself.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Timeful: Time Management for the Stressed

Like many people I struggle with too much to do and too little time. Each day is an epic battle between my dreams and what others require or ask me to do. I am swamped and at times feel like drowning in the depths of all the chaos that dwells behind every corner and lurks behind every email or phone call. 

"Can you do this? Can you take care of that? You need to do this. This is required ASAP!"

Haven't we heard all of this from either family, friends or employers? Each day is a fight. A stress fueled day of endless chaos and struggling to get a head. 

Like many others, I tried to find salvation in my gadgets and gizmos. Omnifocus, Zippy, Reminders, Remember the Milk, GTD, Evernote, Pen and Paper list, I can continue forever with the tweaks and hacks I've tried. Yet. Nothing has worked so far. 

No system, no gimmick, no hack, no rules, nothing. The wireless network went out, which sends me rushing to patch the issue while it destroys my Pomodoro. My son has a cold and I need to monitor his temperature, which knocks out my plan.  I got sick with the same cold, now my daily habits are all gone. I know sleep 8 1/2 hours day which kills my early morning routine.

Just like everyone else, we set out with good dreams and intentions. Yet, life always has something different.

So I decided to try a new app. Timeful. It combines iOS 7 reminders and calendar together. It offers an unique feature which the app will recommend task to do that you haven't scheduled. Its focus isn't on time management but brain management to quote David Kadavy.

I just got accepted into their Beta and I am trying to see how it fits in my life.

From the start, this isn't a project management tool, but could be used with Evernote to coordinate projects. It isn't a cheap gimmick to do list, because it allow scheduling and keeping on top of your events, meetings, and to dos. 

I am looking forward to using this tool more extensively in the next few weeks and will report back the observations.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to Handle Getting Laid Off

If you want to read what I've done to stretch out my funds to keep my family afloat, skip this and scroll down

I and seven other were pulled into the department manager's office. There was some small talk about what we'll be doing for the weekend, and some status updates about various projects; however, the manager was looking as if she was holding back some news. It was at this point that I knew something was amiss, and my instincts were correct. 

We were told that our last day was Friday, and that we are now being transferred to the temp department for the company. Many of the people teared up, along with the manager, but I felt oddly calm. I never been in this situation before. Any job that I had, I left on my own terms. I was never fired or laid off, but this was different. 

Now, after the whole shock of losing my job wore off, I need to make a plan of action. As you may know, I have a toddler and my wife who is now pregnant. We had plans for the next year with our budget and what we wish to accomplish, but now those plans are gone. I no longer have a steady paycheck or benefits. This is the same situation anyone who lost their job is feeling. The "I lost my job and can't pay my bills."

Thankfully, I have enough resources to last me until mid January. I do have a side business doing consulting and selling items online that pulls in a few extra dollars. I can still cut expenses. 

So now you know what my current situation is. My goal, since I now have so much free time, is to blog what and how I will cope with this life changing event. My goal is to either find new employment or move my business from part time hustle to a full time endeavour. I hope you join in for the ride of a life time.

But you are not reading this just for a sob story. Here is what I've done so far to handle with change of losing my job:

Ten Things I did when I got laid off:

  1. I looked at my YNAB reports to see any and all spending trends since March 13. I identified areas that we were spending money in that could be cut back.
  2. Called up my internet company and reduced our broadband from 40Mbps to 20Mbps saving 30 dollars.
  3. We are withdrawing only 100 dollars per month to spend in three very basic categories: Groceries, Household supplies, and blow. We normally spend around 600 dollars in this area, so we are now only spending 400 dollars. We reduced spending by 200 dollars or 33%.
  4. Thankfully, I am not upside down in my car loan, so I am researching how to sell a car with a loan. This would save 160 dollars per month (payment and insurance).
  5. We are cutting Hulu and I bought an antenna to get free television. 
  6. I am looking at doing some freelance work at various freelance websites.
  7. I am learning how to cook.
  8. I am learning Python programming language.
  9. I am offering free training in QuickBooks and QuickBooks Point of Sale
  10. I am relying on Stoicism and faith a lot more. (I know, it is an odd combination!) 

This is just a rough list that I've done, everyone is different. If you have any advice or comments feel free to share!
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Monday, October 14, 2013

Free Envelope Budgeting System

We've all heard the financial gurus tell you about the benefits of cash. From Suze Orman to Dave Ramsey, cash is considered king whenever you are trying to control your budget. Each person explains a proprietary system to do this. I want to give you a cash management system for free.
I love to use cash because there is no late payments or interest. Its finite (which can be a double edged sword) and you can physically see how much is left in your personal budget. It pains me to break a 100 for a 35 dollar transaction. Since it is normal for humans to avoid pain, I tend to really think hard about breaking large bills for transactions.
Lets first debunk some common issues why people do not use cash. Whenever I think about it, it really boils down to two main issues against the use of cash.
Cash is unsafe, or I need a credit card for something something.
Lets discuss "Cash is unsafe". You may hear this rephrased as: "Cash can be stolen, lost, you can be mugged, etc..."
This is true. You can be mugged, cash be lost, a wallet stolen. Also a meteor. could crash on your head. I'm not denying that this cannot happen, but basic common sense can prevent many of these issues; however, let me tell you this. If you lose your cash, you can be out a couple hundred dollars (if you decide to carry that much).
But what is worse? Losing a couple bucks or Identity Theft? If you didn't know. The average amount lost because of Identity theft is $5,000. Not to mention the months it takes to fight collectors and to repair your credit. Yes, cash has risks, but compared to the cost of Identity theft, its a drop in the bucket.
The second most common excuse not to use cash is that you need a credit card for:
  • Car rentals
  • Credit rating
  • Online Transactions
  • Security (which deals with Identity Theft)
  • Ease
  • Online tracking of spending.
  • Other reasons.
Unlike some people. I don't believe in getting rid of all credit cards. I have two I use and 2 I keep open just for credit ratings. I budget out what I plan to spend and if that needs a credit card. I automatically set aside in cash that money, so when I do swipe the card, I can pay it in full. This works well when coupled with a good rewards card.
Enough being a cash apologetic. Lets talk about the system:
The CIK System (Cash Is King):
In our checking account we have a 100 dollar buffer, money to cover the months bills and fuel cost (my wife doesn't like paying cash at the gas station), and we deposit from our cash pile (more like a mole hill) whenever I use the credit card. The rest of our expenses is withdrawn once a week in cash at the ATM, and that is what we use for the week. This allows us to keep on budget while not having to give up our auto bill pay. We place the cash in envelopes with the budget category on the outside and amount on the outside (we use Dave Ramsey's envelope system for this). Just like a check register, we record transactions. Once the money is gone, its done. No running to the ATM or swiping a card. In the rare event that we don't have enough cash to pay for something (like at a restaurant) we swipe then afterwards deposit the cash ASAP.
Doing this method my wife and I save $300 dollars a month and here is how we did it in nine steps:
  1. Total all the money you spend in a month.
  2. Subtract all bills that are deducted automatically or could be paid with Auto Bill Pay.
  3. Once you have the total divide it by 4 (4 weeks in a month).
  4. KEY PART: Take the weekly total and subtract 10%. Round down to the next smallest domination your ATM will issue*.
  5. Distribute cash to envelopes.
  6. Repeat once a week.
  7. Every month try to increase the 10% in increments of 5. I managed to get my family to 20%. You can almost make this a game. Adjust as needed, but always aim for at least 10%.
  8. Your checking account should have a $100 dollar buffer*, money to cover fuel cost if you do not want to use cash, and money to cover your bills.
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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week Plan Review

Weekplan is awesome. As many of you know, there are hundreds of different time-management programs and apps out there. With so many choices its easy to get lost or waste time on apps that are sub-par. While each person will eventually find a program that is right for them, I can safely say I found mine.

What makes WeekPlan different? It is the philosophy behind the app. It combines the thoroughness of David Allen's GTD system with Steven Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. WeekPlan focuses on making you a better person while making sure you keep up with your work flow. 

The layout is clean and minimal

Each day is a to-do list. Moving and editing is a breeze. On the right hand side is the roles you play in life (which comes from Steven Covey's book). Each one of these roles can have goals created under them.

With the paid features you can export your list, sync with Google tasks, and set reoccurring events. 

The cost is 19$ per month or 72$ for six months or 84$ for the year. But please note, that many of the features are free and require no payment. I paid for the year version because I believe this system helps me balance my work, business, spiritual, and family roles so well. The least I can do is pay them for such a awesome app!

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