Chunking

run photoOverwhelm happens to the best of us. In this hyper-connected world these days, there's so much going on. There's so much information coming in and we know, to the second, what every single person we know is doing, what they're buying and where they are going. It's hard not to get competitive with all these perfect "Facebook Lives" we see and push to attain all those things ourselves. That leads to one conclusion: overwhelm.We try to do everything. We try to please everyone. We try to be perfect like those "Facebook Lives" and wonder why it's not the same. Every way I look at it, it just leads to trying to do too much and getting frustrated.Many times, it's how we're thinking that needs to change so we can get a handle on doing too much and feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes those feelings will only go away when all of the work is done. If you've already committed to the work then it just needs to get done. So what do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed but still have work to do?Chunk it.Huh? What is chunking? Chunking is just breaking things down into smaller tasks. When you've got a large task ahead of you you can always break it down into smaller parts or milestones that you can do in a shorter amount of time. If you are doing a project with 10 sections, then it's easy to split that up into 10 chunks. You do one, take a break, and then move on to the next.You can chunk your email. Next time you're overwhelmed by your email, chunk it down by date or person. Search for a specific date, complete all the email from that date and then move on to the next date. Gmail is great for this, you can filter your inbox for specific dates using filters like "in:inbox before:14/01/01 after: 13/01/01". This would search only your inbox for any email before January 1st 2014 and after January 1st 2013. Only show email from 2013. You can put in any dates there if you want. Chunk down small enough so it's doable or until you have 5 or 6 emails there, then attack. Finish those 5 and then widen the filter and let in a few more. Complete those and repeat.You can chunk running too. If you're trying to finish a big run it might be hard to imagine what each of those kilometres will feel like so don't think about them until you get there. Focus on doing each kilometre, then move on to the next. I ran the 47 km Juan de Fuca trail a few years ago and all I could think about the next kilometre. Thinking 20 kilometres ahead was too much to handle.Why use it?Reduce the overwhelm. When you're working on a part of a project or run or task, you don't need to think about the whole thing. You need to think about a small part of it to work on, just enough to get you moving and working. That's rarely a lot. Running a marathon, take it on kilometre at a time. You don't need to think about the whole thing when that's just going to overwhelm and discourage you. Just think about the one next kilometre you're doing. That's it.Minimize the time required. When working on large projects, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need a large amount of time to get anything done. "I'll need 2 hours to do anything with this." It makes it hard to fit that task into your day because it's a solid chunk of 2 hours. If you can break that up into 4 or 6 pieces though, then it's much more manageable. A 30 minute block of working is far easier to tuck into your day around other tasks than 2 hours is. Or chunk again to 15 minutes.  Everyone has 15 minutes somewhere in there day to work on something.Chunk your next projectBig projects or tasks can be hard to work on when you're looking at the whole thing. When getting to work, it's far easier to start when you have a very small amount to start with and work on. Chunk it down and start on something smaller and far easier.  

Don't Let Your Life Get Stuck in Maintenance Mode

renovate photoI work in an IT office where we talk about maintenance, service level and projects a lot. Like, all day sometimes.Maintenance is the work you do on an ongoing basis. It doesn’t change much, it can be repetitive. It’s basically keeping the lights on and the email running.Service level is how much you are giving your clients on a regular basis. If you keep systems running to do email that’s one service level. If you want to give them more, you increase your service level.Projects are new things that can increase efficiency or increase your service level. They’re new things that change how you do things or what clients can do. Projects are planned, start, then end and are gone. They have a start date and an end date.This is a quick description of an IT office. But it’s a lot like your life.You have maintenance that you do every day or every week to keep things going. You eat, work and do laundry. Some of these things are literally to keep the lights running in your house by paying your bills. Some of them more metaphorically keep the lights on by feeding you, clothing you, and entertaining you.What you do each week is your service level. Those are the things that your maintenance affords you. If you want more, then you are going to get to a higher level of service. You’ll need more money, skills or people to get what you want. To get those things, you’ll need to start a project.Projects change the service level in your life. If you want to eat better then you can do a 30 day challenge (a project) to eat paleo. After that project is complete your nutritional service level will be higher. You will be eating better.If you want to get fit, then you might start a Couch to 5k program (a project). This will increase your fitness service level, you will have more energy and be stronger.This service level are what you can do. It’s not for external clients or friends or family. It's for yourself. You will feel better after taking on a 30 day project to eat better. You will have more energy if you take on a 30 day project to run 3 times a week. You will think more clearly if you finish a 30 day meditation project.If you are stuck in maintenance for the rest of your life, things will get boring fast. People stuck in maintenance will have a mid-life crisis. They get to retirement and wonder where it all went.Life isn’t meant to be stuck in maintenance the whole time. There are only so many days left.Always be planning a project. They make life worth living.

Trello Tips

trello photoI use Trello a lot for managing tasks for work and personal projects and just little things I need to keep track of at home. These are some of the tips I've run across that make Trello easier to use.

Trello 101

If you haven’t used Trello before here’s a quick overview.Imagine organizing a bunch of sticky notes in columns on a whiteboard. The sticky notes are tasks to do, and the columns can represent anything you want, statuses, phases of a project or something else. That’s what Trello is like.The board is like the whiteboard. You can have any number of columns or “Lists” on that board. The default lists you get are To Do, Doing and Done. Each of the columns represent a status for the “cards” that are in the list. Cards are like sticky notes that you can move from list to list depending on what status they have.When you start a task on a card, you move it from the To Do list to the Doing list. When you are done a task you move the card from the Doing list to the Done task.You can have as many lists on a board as you want. And you can have as many boards in your Trello account as you want.Ok, now you’re a pro user here’s some tips.

Tip: Use it however you want

The first thing I need to mention about Trello is that you can use it however you want. It’s very flexible and you can move cards and lists and boards wherever you want to. If you want to have all your projects on one board and view them all at the same time, you can. If you want to have all your projects on separate boards to separate them you can do that too. If you want to have a workflow that moves boards and lists from board to board, you can do that too. If you want to link from one board to another you can do that. However you want.Because you can do anything you want, all these tips are things to try, not best practices that you have to use. Try new things and keep what works for you and your projects.

Tip: Create links to other boards

In the descriptions and comments of each card, you can insert hyperlinks to other websites and other Trello boards. If you have a card that references a project on another Trello Board then you can link to it.I have a main board for all my website work that lists one card for each project I have. I move these projects around on the lists and use it as a birds-eye view of which projects have started and which have not. For all the details involved in each of those projects, I have an entire board. From my main birds-eye view board, I have links to each of the project boards. I can see the high-level status on the high-level board and when I need to see or work on details in one of the projects, the link will take me to the project board where all the details are.

Tip: Create an archived list board

Moving cards from the Doing list to the Done list is a great way to show that it’s been completed but all the cards pile up in the Done list on big projects. I’d rather not see a whole lot of Done cards but at the same time, I like keeping them around so I can look later, or find a card that’s been completed. At the end of every week, I add a date to my Done list and send it to a Done Board. The Done board is a whole pile of weekly lists of the completed tasks from each of the projects. It’s nice to see how much I’ve done. It also makes it easy to see when things were completed.

Tip: Double click to create a list

I just found this feature the other day. You can double click anywhere on the blue board background to create a new list. It will create the list just behind the list you are under when you click. If you are under your 3rd list when you double click, it will create a new list in the 4th spot by default. You can change the order of the lists if you want.

Tip: Use checklists for small items, create cards for large ones.

If a task on a Card has a couple steps that I need to remember, then I make a checklist for it. You can make as many checklists on each card if you want but the more you make the more confusing each are is. I use 2 or 3 max. Once those checklists get large and confusing, it’s time to make them into additional cards so you can track the information

Your Favourite Tips

Those are some of my favourite tips. The beauty of Trello is that there are so many different ways to use it. What are your favourite tips? 

Project Momentum

I've just recently finished off a big project that I've had going for over a year.It feels good.It feels really good.It feels good to be done. It feels good to be able to think about other things. It feels good to not have that nagging project saying, "I'm still not done yet." It feels good to say that I finished it.With that momentum, I'm going to carry on trucking right through into the next project I have lined up. Riding this wave of momentum I can get a big chunk of the next project done.That wave isn't going to last forever though and so I've taken steps to work times into my day where I focus on the project. Building the habits and routine around getting the work done is so important for big projects. Little things can be completed with a wave of inspiration and initial momentum. Big things need more than that. They need structure, a framework to get work done on a regular basis. Creating that structure has been a big struggle for me over the last year. I'm finally understanding how important it is. When something can't be completed in a day, it something to help. The longer it takes the more important the structure is.With completing this project I've learned about structure for big projects. I've also learned how important it is to ignore shiny new things. Those shiny things are a curse to big projects. They offer the warm-fuzzy short term satisfaction that a big project just doesn't give. They also suck, drain, rip and tear all your free time until it's non-existent. You can say so long to that awesome big project with all those little shiny things around.Slow and steady should be the name of the game for big projects, not the adrenaline rush of small shiny things.

2011: The Year of the Hustle

2010 was a great year. I learned a lot. A lot went well.That said, I felt like I didn't have much direction. It was fun trying to get involved with everything that came along but in doing that I was stretching myself thin over what I was already doing. Overall the year felt like I was bouncing back and forth from starting one project to another but not finishing anything. Thus, I've decided to dub last year Year of the Flail.Flailing around last year definitely kept things interesting. But as I said, I felt like I didn't complete much. This year is going to be different though. After doing a bit of a Chris Guillebeau style review, I looked at what went well last year and laid out a plan for this year. One of my goals is to keep my projects and to-do's more structured and really push to get rid of the tasks and projects that don't get me closer to my major goals.Almost everything I'd like to focus on this year will have a project associated with it. I think I'm more likely to complete things if they've got a nice, neat "project" label on them and are prioritized and organized with all the others. I won't get down into the nitty, gritty parts of life though, like cooking, cleaning and sleeping. Everyone does those!I've separated everything here into some main categories. I ended up with quite a few other ones as well during the review but they aren't quite as interesting as these ones. They felt required. These are the ones I'm excited about and will try my hardest to get them done. The categories I included here are Work, Learning, Travel, Outdoors and Adventure. Outdoors and Adventure overlap quite a bit. Outdoors here is more for the projects about the outdoors I'm doing whereas Adventure includes running, riding, kayaking, racing and other sports.Projects for the Year of the HustleWorkWriting for PureOutside, rcThink and Island AdventurerI put these ones under work because I hope that these will some day make up the bulk of my workload. It will be an amazing day when I make a living of these sites and related projects. There was really no schedule for posting to the sites last year. Posts would just go up on the site whenever I felt like writing and that was sometimes 3 times a week and sometimes once every 2 months. This year my goal is to post once per week every Monday morning on each of the sites. So far so good. It's only been 3 weeks but I haven't fallen off the wagon yet! I'm working on building up a repository of posts for each of the sites so that if I run out of time, I can just edit and update a post, rather than writing a whole new one.If you aren't familiar with my other blogs yet, I'll give you a quick rundown. PureOutside is a general outdoors site covering any outdoor topic like climbing, running, skiing, hiking and mountain biking. I've got a few projects scheduled to start this year that will be added on to this site. More details are below.Island Adventurer is another outdoor site focusing on Vancouver Island, where I live. Vancouver Island is a mecca for human-powered outdoor enthusiasts offering easy access to skiing, surfing, trail running, mountain biking, kiteboarding, climbing and diving. You can easily participate in all these activities any time of the year or even all in one day. Information for all these activities can be hard to come by, though, and is often only found after endless digging through websites or good-natured stalking of those that regularly participate. I'm hoping with Island Adventurer and PureOutside I can make it easier to organize and find all that outdoor information.Programming Home Sell Canada and Bed and Breakfast CenterOriginally started by my dad as side projects, I've taken over most of the support and programming on HomeSellCanada and BedandBreakfastCenter. Both are excellent opportunities to increase my passive income and learn some useful new information. I'm in the middle of an upgrade to the underlying systems right now and as soon as that is complete, I'll be working on the graphics and copy. They're both a bit dated and need a refreshing dose of new copy and design. On the list for them both are blogs to liven things up and provide a good reason to link to both the sites.Day Job at City of NanaimoI'm hoping to end up with some sort of location-independent career someday but while I'm getting started, I'm very thankful for the programming position I have at the City of Nanaimo. Every day I'm learning something new and get to work with a lot of great people in an enterprise environment. I know few people ever say they like working in a cubicle but, while I would rather be outside skiing or climbing mountains, it's been an awesome experience so far.LearningThe world is so amazing that it's tough to not write an entire book on all the things I'd like to learn. One of my goals for the year is to focus more fewer things but there are two that I'm going to focus on most.PhotographyA lot of my friends have been getting into photography lately and judging by all the amazing pictures on travel blogs, people online have as well. I used to travel, adventure and party with just a small point and shoot style camera. While it's a lot of fun to carry around in my pocket and have at the drop of a hat, the pictures that it produces just aren't fantastic. They will certainly do in a pinch and capture the moment but after seeing some incredible things in Australia and New Zealand, I was disappointed with the quality when I wanted to revisit those memories. The little camera just didn't do the landscapes justice, especially on our trip to Milford Sound. Now, I've got myself a Canon T1i and am trying to use it every day. A friend told me that the first 10,000 photos aren't going to be anything special. After that you might get some good ones so I've got a lot of photos to take.GuitarFor the longest time, I've wanted to play guitar. There's just something about it that I find so alluring. I find myself wishing I knew how to play when I'm sitting around a campire or on the road travelling. I just haven't got up the guts to get playing and sound like crap when I'm learning. What's worse is that I've had one sitting next to my desk for the last year and a half. I finally got some ebooks and a dvd for christmas and have been making time to sit down and learn the chords and a few songs. Watch out for a video of a song when I can get something together. It wont' be that bad, I promise!TravelFranceThe first trip of the year will be to France. My girlfriend and I are going to spend 2 weeks in France in May, with some of the trip in Paris and the remainder in the south along the Mediterranean. This will be my first trip to Europe and my girlfriends first off North America. I have these romantic visions of wandering around in Paris. I know it's probably not going to be anything like I think it's going to be but it's still going to be a great adventure nonetheless.PortlandThis won't be a very long trip but it's still a trip out of the country. We'll be heading down to Chris Guilleau's World Domination Summit for a few days in June to hang out with a whole bunch of bloggers and online entrepreneurs. Pretty sure I'm bouncing around excited for this to happen. I've been reading a lot of the bloggers that are going for the last year and it's time to finally meet them. This has been part of the reason why I'm going to be pushing my blogs hard the beginning of this year. Not only would it be nice to get a bit more traffic to all of them, I'd like to be a bit better known in the blogging circles.ThailandThis is a maybe trip. I'm going to try my hardest to make this happen by the end of the year but it might have to be the beginning of next year. I've been dying to go to Thailand for a long time and I finally said I'm going to do it. With all the other bloggers in Thailand right now, it will be a hell of a party and a great time meeting them face to face. I'm aiming for November with this one.OutdoorsRamblerI mentioned earlier that I've found it hard getting the information I wanted about trails, and other places to adventure. Even if I did find the basics it is almost never from the time that I want to go. Having a resource that's full of outdoor information that is up to date as well would be the holy grail of outdoor sites. I plan to make this happen over the next few years starting with Vancouver Island and spreading it around the world. Any users will be allowed to sign up and add their own outdoor trip reports and trail information. I've also got a few applications on the list that will integrate with the site to make planning your outdoor excursion extremely easy.Outdoor ManualsTo go along with the current trail and location information that Rambler will eventually have, I plan on making manuals for all the outdoor sports that are out there. Starting with the basics, they'll move up to intermediate and advanced as I get to those levels with the different areas. The first will be hiking and will most likely be a free one. Soon after that I'll be creating a skiing, climbing and mountain biking manuals and selling them for a small fee. They'll be full of all the resources and information you'll need to get you started in the various human-powered outdoor activities.Trail GuidesWith all the information on Rambler and in the Outdoor Manuals, I'm not sure if I'll need to create these Trail Guides. They'll essentially be very details guides of popular trails. The intention is that you could pick up one of these babies, peruse at your leisure online or your mobile device and then you'll be set to go for that trail or area. These will require a ton of time out on the trails but that's what I love doing most so it's going to be a blast.Map VITo get things started with Rambler and for some good stories on Island Adventurer, I've started a projecting called Map VI (short for Vancouver Island). While I get Rambler up and running, I'll be hiking, running, riding and kayaking everywhere I can on Vancouver Island to get good stories and data to fill Rambler with.  My goal is to eventually have every single trail that's on Vancouver Island on the website free for people to see and use to plan hiking, biking and running trips. Of course I'll need the help of everyone I can if I plan to complete this one within a reasonable time. Getting people to go on trips up mountains and out into the woods isn't hard at all but getting them to record that trip online somewhere is a huge task. Most just want to go on the trip and take a few photos, they don't care about writing about the trip afterwards. There may have to be some incentives involved. Prizes anyone?AdventuringAfter working at an outdoor outfitters store for a while, I've got a newfound love and respect for those people that ski, hike, run, kayak regularly. Not only are they getting some great exercise, they're seeing some amazing places. Through the outdoors groups I regularly meet up with I've met some awesome people and have joined them for some great trips.SkiingSkiing is definitely my current favorite. It changes regularly but right now it's what I think about, read about and do almost more than any other sport(I run almost every day so that would have to be the most but it's more just to keep fit than adventuring). In fact, as I'm writing this section, I'm nursing some sore muscles from a good day on the local ski mountain. One of my main reasons for getting into skiing so much this year is that it opens up a lot of new territory to explore, photograph and write about. Most of the time travelling through snow, snowshoes are most often choice for mode of travel. But they can be slow. Throw a pair of climbing skins onto some touring skis and you can climb mountains, traverse glaciers and get to some incredible places. Best of all, the way down is much faster because all you have to do is ski!This year resort skiing was a top priority just to get as many runs in as I could. I've only just started skiing this year and I needed to find the fastest way to get my bearings on my new skis. I'm getting close to a comfort level where I can ski just about anything I want. After I reach that point, I'll be heading out into the backcountry for most of my skiing days. Hitting the backcountry is nice because there are far fewer people, the scenery is amazing, and once you've got the appropriate gear, it's free!Running Cape Scott and West Coast TrailIf I don't get anything else accomplished this year aside from running the the Cape Scott trail and the West Coast Trail, I'd be a happy camper... or runner. My running partner and I ran the 47km long Juan De Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island last year. As I was running it, I couldn't imagine running anything longer. It became apparent after that it wasn't that hard. Yes, it was the hardest run I had ever done up until that point, but after it was over, I knew I was ready for something more. If I had run that far in 7.5 hours after some mediocre training, what can I do with a little patience, a positive mindset and better training? If I can do 50k, why not go a little further and go 60km or 75 or even 100? Pushing yourself hard opens up possibilities that you never think are possible. Only a few years ago, I thought a 5km run was a long one. Now I'm doing ten times that for fun. The Cape Scott Trail will be a warm up for the West Coast Trail at about 40-50km. I've never been to the area so it will be a nice change from running around Nanaimo. The West Coast trail is a gnarly 75km run that will be an incredible test for my skill, endurance and spirit but I know with a bit of a push that it's possible. Lots of training needs to be done before then though.Momar Adventure Race in CumberlandRyan and I did this race last year. We did ok but I was sorely disappointed in my performance on the bike. The race starts with a kayak, moves into running for a few hours, then culminates in a beautiful mountain bike ride. All totaled you travel about 50km. It took us about 7 hours last year. Both my legs cramped hard on the ride and I feel like we could have finished around an hour faster had I been in good form. I had never done a race that long before and it kicked me hard. I'm determined this year to do more training for it. I feel now that I know what to expect, it won't be nearly as punishing.WakeboardingI wasn't sure if I should really call this a project but it seemed like everything lately that matters to me is being put into a "project" and made a priority. All my other adventure and learning projects could eventually lead to some sort of money but I can't see this one really going anywhere. I just really like wakeboarding. I remember all the way back to when we first started. My cousin and uncle brought home a wakeboard from a show they went to since it'd be fun to try. We all ended up loving it, especially my cousin and I. When we're at our summer cabin, every spare minute is of thinking about wakeboarding or actually doing it. I got busy last year and didn't end up going as much as I had liked so this summer it's going to be a top priority.Climbing ?This one is a question mark right now. I'd love to start climbing. A lot of my friends are climbers and I'm totally jealous every time they post photos. Like skiing, climbing also a gateway to some incredible places and another very healthy thing to do.  The issue I still need to decide on is whether I have the time to do it. To really get started, two days a week climbing is the minimum. I'm not sure if I have the time to commit to that right now but we'll see how my priorities change as we head into the spring and summer.What do you have going on this year? Any big projects coming up? What are you most excited to do?