Time for a refresh

It’s been over three years since I last did a refresh of my online identity – and things have changed a lot.

I’ve moved to WordPress from my ExpressionEngine install. EE is very powerful, and great for what I originally bought it for – learning to build HTML and CSS from scratch.

But I don’t blog with any frequency any more, and I don’t have time to build custom pages and sites whenever something needs a refresh or update.

WordPress – ubiquitous, free, easy WordPress – is the obvious solution.

I’ve a whole host of semi-embarrassing blog posts stretching all the way back to 2008 which I’ll import from the old database soon.

In the meantime — the blank slate is refreshing.

Low-tech love

I recently reawakened a relationship with an old flame of mine. For years, we’ve been on-again and off-again, since that time in college I thought I’d outgrown her. But we’re back together again, and she’s perfect. She’s silky smooth, reliable, and soaks up every word I say. And she’s currently wrapped in leather.

Her name is Paper.

See, I’m the type of person who needs to trick myself into working. I’d consider myself highly productive, but it’s not by nature. No, like many of us, I play games with my time, trying to make my calendar, my to-do lists and documents as fun as they can possibly be. Whether it’s my new favourite, the Pomodoro Technique, or the good old reliable Getting Things Done system, I’ve got an arsenal of anti-procrastination tools at my disposal that serve me well. And they need to be perfect.

Mind tricks, see?

I got hooked on these tricks and mind games by my good friend the photo editor back in 2007. He was always impeccably well-organised, and would constantly remind me of the editorial duties I had forgotten about several times during the course of the day. Eventually, I asked about the secret and he showed me how to make a list of projects and associated actions on the good old A4 pad. I’ve never looked back and am now a convert to the church of GTD.

Of course, this organization guru of mine soon purchased an iPhone, and when we talked again about the system months later, he showed me a selection of the shiny apps to help organise your life. Needless to say, when I purchased my own slice of the Apple smartphone pie, I eagerly downloaded the magic apps that would increase my efficiency 1000%. With gusto, I showed my purchases to my mentor. And he said:

Oh, those? I stopped using them ages ago. I prefer paper. Paper works.

…or something to that effect. I, of course, didn’t listen, and my productivity took a massive nosedive.

Scribbling is good

See, the problem with digital solutions is that they’re inflexible. They always have too many or two few features, or different options that don’t play well together. You might be able to view a project summary page, but probably not alongside its associated notes or support material on the same page. Hell, the supporting documents are probably on paper anyway. Maybe you’ve found the perfect program, but it doesn’t support one key feature of your workflow. Let’s face it; we all customise these systems a little. We’re all individual little snowflakes when it comes to efficiency.

I like scribbling in the columns. It makes my system better. My calendar needs arrows and circles to show related events and important appointments. I soak up visual info faster and more efficiently, and it’s far easier to edit and annotate.

I’m also more efficient when the key piece of organisational equipment I keep with me has blank pages for brainstorming and doodling. Ideas flow more freely: if you don’t believe me, grab a piece of A4 and start throwing down ideas now. I bet you’ll be surprised at how fluid it is compared to typing.

Flexibility

I’m actually using a Filofax I picked up in town for €25 now. It’s a simple, elegant solution, and so far I love it. It beats my previous number one paper tool, a flimsy and battered Moleskine, because it’s endlessly customisable. Sections can be reordered, added to or thrown away, and you can download or create custom pages, like they’ve done on DIYPlanner.com. I have to-dos (action lists) and projects (sorted alphabetically) at the front, followed by the calendar. It’s flawless so far. I might mix things up a bit in the coming weeks to experiment, but the compact ring binder format is so very useful for that very reason. If you’re not a fan of bulk, there’s an amazing compact GTD moleskine solution out there.

The best thing about the paper system for me is that i can relax more. It’s a constant, visible reminder that everything is safely recorded and not forgotten. I know my data is safe on my mobile device or in the cloud, but I don’t feel that it is. With a solid piece of kit, I don’t worry. And that’s worth anything.

Paper works. Some things, like contacts, work best on a smartphone for obvious reasons. But low-tech can be better, and often is. If you’re dissatisfied with your current system, give the old girl a ring. She’s just as steadfast as she always has been.

Trinity Ball- know thy audience

The biggest social event in the Trinity College calendar, the Trinity Ball, is Europe’s largest private party and is a black tie event. This year, in order to create a buzz around the event leading up to ticket sales, the organisers withheld the last act until today- revealing that it is, in fact, The Script.

Today, Facebook (which holds a massive place in Trinity’s social structure, far more, I think, than other universities) is awash with complaints, dismay, and general name-calling aimed at the Ents office. I think this is a little unfair- The Script, while not my type of music, are generally considered up-and-coming high-profile stuff- but it has to be said that this demonstrates a misunderstanding of how PR works.

If you’re going to keep people in suspense, there needs to be a pay-off of some kind. Deliberately heightening the public’s expectations does not automatically create a positive response- you run the risk, as in this case, of disappointing lots of people. And in the end, it amounts to a simple case of knowing your audience.

The reason that this is frustrating? Because the Ents office at Trinity has recently recognised the fact that the students there have, by and large, a preference for indie and electronica music. So much so, that they’re holding the launch party for the Trinity Ball at a new indie night called NOIZE in Andrew’s Lane Theatre on Wednesday. It should have occurred to someone that raising expectations, only to reveal an act that will, by virtue of their genre, disappoint a large number of people (there were rumours of MGMT, for crying out loud) would create negative publicity.

Again, I’ve nothing against The Script myself, and in my opinion, Trinity Ents and MCD (their partners in the ball) have consistently produced good results, and I’m sure it will be a fun night. I’m just agog that the potential backlash for letting the rumour mill turn without actually having a stellar hand didn’t occur to someone.