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Archive for the ‘organising’ Category


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None of my grandparents are still alive. Helen died when my mum was little,  Walter when I was just out of university and May & Tom shortly after I got married. I have some things that might traditionally be considered my inheritance from them, although some of the things might seem a little odd.

From Walter I have cigar boxes, tins, wooden boxes, a stack of leather skins and offcuts, old curtains, and photos. From May & Tom I have a meat slicer, pie tins, knifes, a Mrs Beeton, a stone rabbit, a red honeysuckle plant, jewellery, and photos.

Walter was stubborn and eccentric.  A big food lover. So much of a storyteller that we don’t know how much of the family history is true. He was a cobbler, creative, a good craftsman but not such a good businessman.

Helen I never knew. She was a matron. Mum’s memories make her sound gentle and caring. She was able to live with Walter so must have had super-human tolerance and patience. And thrift.

May was an organiser. She had a document tabulating all the holidays they had even taken, with destinations, dates and travelling companions. Food cupboards had lists of their contents pinned to the back of the doors. Food prices at different stores were noted in a book kept by her armchair. Household accounts were monitored with double entry book-keeping. She’d been a civil servant before getting married. They let her stay on so long as she kept using her maiden name but her working life came to end once my dad was born. A whole lot of pent-up organisational ability got directed towards running the home like a miniature government department. I recognised a lot in Hallie’s My Grandmother the IA presentation.

Tom was very different to May. He needed a few cigarettes a day, friendly chats and no office politics at work. That was about it for his demands from life.

So other things I may have inherited are pleasure in a simple life, in organising things and in crafting things. And probably a bit more from Walter than I prefer to notice.

Written by Karen

May 16th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule

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This rings true for people who are clearly in one camp or another, and probably explains my diary nightmare:

“There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.”

via Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.

IAs are a bit of both, so I have a diary cluttered with lots of ‘short’ decision making meetings but I also need to carve out half day (at least) chunks so I can actually design or write stuff. The real GTD challenge for me is keeping my design work going in weeks where I only have scattered time here and there.

Written by Karen

July 31st, 2009 at 6:25 am

Posted in gtd,happiness,work

organising in the New York Times

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I won’t make you guess which camp I’m in!

“The workplace is divided into two camps: those who have a place for everything and the rest of us, who waste time — up to six weeks a year — looking for files, letters and other detritus.

In a recent survey of 200 executives of 1,000 of the nation’s largest companies, respondents were asked: “What percent of time do executives waste because they or their assistants can’t find things?” The median response was 4.3 hours a week, based on a 40-hour week.”

via When Time’s Money, Organizing Pays Off – The New York Times.

Written by Karen

July 17th, 2009 at 6:33 am

Posted in office,organising

blogging practices of knowledge workers

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From Passion At Work (pdf)

“Blogging helps to articulate and organise thoughts, to make contact with people interested in the same topics, to grow relations with other bloggers that often turn into a joint collaboration, to do research, or to work on a publication. When used in those ways blogging is beneficial for work and yet it is inherently personal, driven by the passions and investment of an individual, and difficult to formalise or control.”

“Archeology is about studying artefacts in order to say something about artefacts or practices…Ethnography would be an alternative: studying practices by living the “life of the tribe”…This research combines both the study of artefacts and of the practices behind them.”

“I treat my weblog as a reflexive journal (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) that documents research choices, personal experiences and emotions in the process of doing research.”

“Studying practices of other bloggers while being one myself puts me in the middle of two conflicting practices when representing them in my reports. In the blogging world, the rule is to attribute any quotes from other blogs, ideally linking to the original post, while in the research world the rule is to anonymise to protect privacy of the respondents.”

“In this work I look at a weblog as a personal knowledge base and take a somewhat narrow perspective on PIM activities, using as a starting point those proposed by Barreau (1995): acquisition of items to form a collection, organisation of items, maintenance of the collection and retrieval of items for reuse.”

“Capturing ideas in a trusted external repository makes one’s mind free to work on a task at hand, and it also creates an opportunity to notice connections and to generate more ideas (Allen, 2005, pp.16 and 72-74 respectively). From the perspective of this study, a weblog is viewed as such an external repository that might be useful as a parking space for ideas.”

Written by Karen

June 19th, 2009 at 6:19 am

Posted in gtd

anti multi-tasking

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I like multi-tasking. Making bread during conference calls is one of my favourites. But I also like not multi-tasking. I came across this article about avoiding multi-tasking. These are a couple of the times mentioned when you need to stop your attempts to multi-task:

  • Waiting for your PC to boot up. This can often give you a minute or two of staring out the window with your first cup of coffee warming the palms of your hand
  • Waiting for the kettle to boil. You don’t need to click the button and rush off to do something else. You may wait there with the kettle and enjoy a few minutes of quiet contemplation.Tom Hodgkinson recommends making your tea with leaves rather than bags. This not only makes better tasting tea, but allows you the pleasure of walking into the garden afterwards to tip out the used leaves.

via Finding Stress-Reducing Idle Moments: The Anti Multi-tasking | LifeDev.

I’m not sure about the pleasure of tipping out tea leaves bit. I always find them frustratingly sticky. But you get the idea.

Written by Karen

May 26th, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Posted in gtd

four tools for managing thoughts

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A consultant I’m working with is loving Compendium. Weird to see something I’m used to in the Open University universe in such a commerical setting. Surely they ought to be forking out for some expensive sparkly software?

Anyway, that started me thinking about tools for organising your thoughts and the stuff I normally use:

  1. A3 paper -  I swear I think differently off-line. Good pen, nice paper and lots of space. I don’t keep the paper though. It either goes in the compost (and eventually becomes tomatoes) when the thinking is done, or gets converted to electronic form for keeping. Short term management only.
  2. Google Notebook – every unstructured thought gets dumped in Notebook, usually via the Firefox plug-in. When I’m online they go straight in but if I’ve been musing on paper in meetings then I upload later. Eventually they evolve into a loosely structured set of notebooks and sections. I tidy up a bit but my notebook has a shockingly mixed bag of categories and still has “my first notebook” aka the miscellaneous one. Which is an IA sin.
  3. Delicious. ‘Only’ a bookmarking tool but actually a repository of half-formed thoughts and some more concrete ideas. I make notes against some of the bookmarks but everything gets tagged. Unformed ideas get big general tags but as ideas get beaten into submission the tagging gets more focused.  Again used mostly via Firefox plug-in.
  4. FreeMind. For mindmapping software I’ve used Mindmapper and Inspiration in the past and I’d looked into Compendium. Visio will do at a pinch. But FreeMind came ready installed on my EEE so I’ve been using that lots recently. And quite happily so.  Some of the more useful A3 scribbles have ended up in Freemind.

Google Notebook in particular has helped me get to Desk Zero (well, almost). The scarily clear desk does help me stay organised and is also a bit of internal marketing. Everyone seems gob-smacked that I keep it clear and this seems to establish my credentials for sorting out our digital mess. And makes my colleagues think I’m a bit of a weirdo.

Written by Karen

May 6th, 2009 at 6:50 am

Posted in gtd,inspiration

i’m still here, honest

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There was a rumour that the BBC implanted chips in long serving staff, with a view to preventing them leaving, Wedlock-style  perhaps. I didn’t fall victim to anything so dramatic.

Nor can I blame my silence on overwork in my new job. There’s been loads to learn but that’s not the problem.

I’ve been over-committing myself elsewhere. Everything seems to be happening at once, from my writing for FUMSI, speaking events and Open University deadlines, plus trying to get the garden ready for winter.

Unfortunately blog-neglect also meant an unpleasant job of ploughing through weeks and weeks of comments spam. Always a nauseous task.

So to come…talking about the future of the web at the V&A, SharePoint IA, and the challenges of creating accessible IA deliverables.

Written by Karen

October 9th, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Posted in energy,gtd


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I’ve been unsubscribing from loads of RSS feeds. I felt very guilty/disrespectful/sacrilegious unsubcribing from some big names but I guess they’ll never know.

I’ve been getting rid of blogs that are:

  • talking about other things these days, compared to when I first subscribed
  • drowning in Delicious posts. Interesting stuff in their links but I can’t skim read the post headlines so never read them.
  • specifically for old job (I realised there are some people I felt compelled to keep up with)
  • in my reader for non-discernable reason at all

Reading every that is left still isn’t manageable (even utilising Martin’s tips) but I feel less stressed by it.

Written by Karen

August 8th, 2008 at 6:46 am

Posted in gtd

one at a time task lists

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I’m playing with a to-do app called now do this

“It’s an incredibly simple program: The site has a white page with a single task written on it (you can change it to your own tasks). Below the task is a button that says “Done”. Finish the task, click the Done button, and the next task on your list appears. When you’re done with your list, a refreshing “all done!” message appears.”as reported by Zen Habits

I like the single-mindedness of it.

Written by Karen

July 25th, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Posted in gtd

an appraisal for me

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We do annual appraisals at work. They help book-end a year, create a framework for reflecting and making plans. I’m glad we do them but there are inevitably a compromise, a negiotiated contract between boss and employee. I don’t feel morally and emotionally held to the resulting document, just professionally obligated.

Every year there will be stuff on there that my boss needs me to do but isn’t something I get that bothered about. And there’ll be really big things I want to get done that year that won’t feature, either because they are not about work at all, not things my boss is supportive of, or just because there wasn’t space.

So I thought I’d do another one this year. All for me.

I’m not drawing distinctions between my main job, other paid work and general endeavours. In the world of my appraisal there is no such thing as work-life balance, there’s just lots of stuff I want to get done.



  • write a little every day
  • write for a new publication (by June)
  • select and attend some editorial training (by May)


  • talk to a family member every week
  • correspond with at least one person from event I attend
  • comment on a blog I read at least once a week


  • visit 4 new places in the UK (by June)
  • at least one new place a month in London
  • the library once a month


  • end my last magazine subscription (by Jul)
  • buy a sheep for the freezer (by Sep)
  • quit buying coffee at work (by Aug)
  • drop a zone from my travelcard (by May)


  • buy blackcurrant bushes and plant them (by Feb)
  • propagate at least 5 of the following: yellow pansies, lamium, sedums, vinca, winter jasmine, dogwood, mallow, red honeysuckle, yellow honeysuckle, golden hops (by May)


  • breakfast at least 6 days a week
  • at least one dish each of foraged elderflower, wild garlic, blackberries and mushrooms


  • give 1 presentation to university students (by Jun)
  • propose an IA Summit workshop or panel (by Dec)
  • register as an IAI mentor (by Sep)
  • write something each week aimed at people learning IA


  • one item of clothing (by Dec)
  • muffins, pita and roti (by Sep)
  • at least one handmade Xmas present for everyone (by Dec)
  • a cake or biscuits every week (but not cheesecake every week)
  • my deer mosaic (by Sep)

Written by Karen

June 28th, 2008 at 10:48 am

Posted in gtd