Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Go paperless!

I love working on paper…. When I’m deep in thought, working on new ideas, I find myself to be most effective when I scribble on paper as I think.

There is something about that natural physical action that cannot be replaced by even the best drawing tools on a computer screen.

As much as I love paper however, I hate it as well.

It can really accumulate and if I’m not careful my desk and workspace can become a cluttered mess!

But, I have found a wonderful solution. I started taking digital pictures of all my important papers, uploading them on tagaabo, and then throwing away the original paper.

For example, here is my sketch idea for tagaabo:


I even use this method for business cards. (I also keep the original business cards in a box, but that’s only because I feel sorry if throw them away. I don’t try to organize them at all.) Here are some that I got at a recent conference:


Some tips for taking the clearest and most readable photos of documents include:

  • Use a flash. This makes the shutter speed faster, resulting in a clearer image without blurring.
  • Take the picture from as close up as possible. This minimizes the blur caused by small hand movements.

Also, using Eye-fi is REALLY helpful. It automatically and wirelessly transmits my pictures to my Macbook, so I don’t have to bother connecting my camera to my computer all the time. Without it, I might get lazy about keeping up this habit….

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Log your questions

Questions are very important, especially when you are trying to learn something new.

When I read books that are hard to understand or are simply thick and intimidating–naturally I feel bored, discouraged, and have a difficult time concentrating on them.

However, I recently made a great discovery! When I have a particular question in mind and I am looking for the answer in the book I am reading, I find it much more interesting and easier to stay engaged. Sometimes I become so engrossed that I am shocked when I see how much time has passed while reading something that I previously found tedious and difficult.

How does that work?

I have a theory. I think that the human mind is naturally driven to rid itself of anything that makes it feel uneasy. And when a question pops up in your mind, that causes uneasiness. When you hear a quiz-type of question, doesn’t it bug you until you find out the answer?

Basically, your brain can’t stand not knowing something. So, this creates a natural curiosity that drives the mind seek the answers to questions, so it can return to a happy and balanced state of knowing. Perhaps our ancestors developed this thirst for answering questions in order to survive in nature. Maybe this is ingrained down to our very genes.

Good questions and not-so-good questions

I find that different types of question create different levels of mental uneasiness. And since we are looking at questions as a way to motivate us to learn, the bigger that uneasiness, the better.

For that reason, I think the best kind of question is a “why” question. In many cases, “why” questions indicate that you are feeling some kind of logical contradiction like “Why is it possible? I can’t believe it!”

“How” questions are also very good. They can indicate surprise like “How is it possible?” which also indicates a gap between what is and what you expected.

“What” questions, on the other hand, are not quite as useful. They indicate that you don’t know something, but they don’t include any feeling of mystery or intrigue.

However, sometimes you have to start out with a “what” question. For example when you start learning “Ruby on Rails,” the first question that might occur to you is “What the heck is ‘Ruby on Rails’ anyway?” So the first thing to do is to get a quick answer for that initial “what” question, and then to come up with a more detailed “why” or “how” question that will keep your mind engaged. “How does ‘Ruby on Rails’ make web application development more agile?” is a good example.

So, when you have a question, think of it as a wonderful opportunity! It can be a great learning motivator and a catalyst for you to focus. When a question occurs to you, lifelog it in Tagaabo with a question tag before you forget it. My questions listed in Tagaabo looks like this.

my questions

Staying on top of all the questions that pop up everyday is a fabulous way to keep track of what you want to learn about, as well as to accelerate your learning process.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

GTD on Tagaabo

GTD (Getting Things Done) is a life management method created by David Allen. This method helps you to achieve more while wasting less time, all with less stress. For more information on GTD there are many great resources such as this or this.

You can start to use GTD in many different ways. Some people implement it with pen and paper, while others may use special software. You will be happy to know that Tagaabo is compatible with GTD. In fact they work together perfectly because they both emphasize having everything in one place.

By the way, have you ever tried implementing GTD, only to give it up? Didn’t you find that paper-based solutions made you to do too many tedious bookkeeping types of chores, while software-based solutions forced their way of doing things on you? I felt that way, which is why I started developing Tagaabo. If you feel the same, Tagaabo is for you. It provides a nice middle ground between paper and conventional software, and is both efficient and flexible.

Before going forward, it might help you to take a look at this entry to understand the basic idea of tagging in Tagaabo.

So let’s look at how to implement GTD with Tagaabo. There are basically two main habits that you will start employing on a regular basis.

  1. As you lifelog, start using specific tags to organize tasks
  2. Bookmark some specific Tagaabo pages (I will give you a list of pages and explain how to use them), and refer to them every so often.


So first about adding specific tags. In addition to the regular todo tag, you will start using some new tags:

  • waiting – add this tag to anything that you are waiting for or are waiting to take action on
  • someday – for things you would like to accomplish someday, but not immediately
  • next – for things you will do as soon as you have some time
  • event – for things that will happen on a specified day

Also, you might have noticed that Tagaabo automatically adds a dated tag on To Do items with a due date.

In addition to the tags above, you will create your own project tags and context tags.

Project tags

Come up with tags that represent your projects. In my case, of course I have tagaabo tag, since for me development of Tagaabo is a project that generates To Do items. I also have a moving tag, since I moved to a new apartment recently and there are many To Do’s related to that. You might have just a few of them, or you might have many more than that.

Context tags

Come up with some tags that represent your contexts. I have an errand tag and a work tag. I also have a books2buy tag so that I don’t forget to buy books that I want to read.

As you lifelog, apply these tags to your items. Note that you can apply multiple tags at once. For example, for a work related low priority item, I apply “todo work someday”. If you are not sure at the moment which tag to add, don’t worry about it. Just lifelog and you can add and adjust tags later on.

Pages to bookmark

Next, bookmark the following Tagaabo pages and visit them regularly.

  1. Inbox


    This page will show you your 100 last lifelog items that don’t have a todo tag.

  2. Due Today


    This page gives you the list of To Do’s that should be done by today.

    till_today parameter in the URL is used for showing all of the items that are dated today and before. You can also get to this page by following “Items due today only” link (see the picture below) from regular To Do list (http://tagaabo.com/lifelog/todo).

    This link!

  3. Next


    This page shows you the list of all the things you want to do next. Whenever you have some extra time, go to this page and get busy!

  4. Event Calendar


    This is your calendar of events.

  5. Projects

    Bookmark the pages for each one of your project tags. The URL would look like this.


    These pages show you the current status of each one of your projects. Review and organize them so that they reflect the latest status of your projects. If you find a To Do item that can be done next, mark it with a next tag, so that it will also show up in the Next page.

  6. Contexts

    Bookmark the pages for each one of your context tags. The URL would look like this.


    These pages show you what you need to do in specific contexts. Review and organize them so that they reflect the current status.

  7. Waiting


    This page shows a list of items that you are waiting on. Review this page periodically so that you don’t forget what you are waiting on, and follow-up if necessary.

  8. Someday


    This page lists all of the items that you’d like to do someday. If you see something you want start to take action on, replace the someday tag with the next tag, set a specific date, or create a project for it.

  9. Due Date Calendar


    This is your calendar of deadlines.

  10. Miscelleneous To Do items

    First, start with this URL.


    If you have just a small number of To Do items in it, you can just bookmark it.

    If you have more than a manageable number of To Do items listed here, most likely a lot of To Do items from your projects or contexts are mixed in here. If so, click the right side of the button that is next to one of your project/context tag that looks like this.

    This button!

    That will filter out the To Do items from the project/context. Repeat this until the number of To Do items is reduced to a manageable size, or until you don’t have project/context tags for filtering anymore. Now bookmark that page. The resulting URL should become something like the following.


    The To Do items you see on this page are the ones that are not covered by any of the other pages I have explained above.

Weekly review

Now, I will explain how to use these pages in your weekly review.

  1. First, go to your Inbox page.

    Go over them and see if they remind you of anything that you need to do. If something occurs to you, create new todo tagged items. If you haven’t done so for a while, review older entries.

  2. Next, go to your Miscellaneous To Do items page, and process the To Do items listed there.

    Possible actions to take include:

    • If it will take less than 2 minutes to do, do it now and check it off!
    • Mark it with a next tag
    • Mark it with a someday tag
    • Set a deadline and defer (Click anywhere in the item text, or the pencil shaped “edit” icon, check the “Due date?” checkbox and set a date.)
    • Make it a project (create a project tag for it), or part of a project (tag with an existing project tag).
    • Mark it with one of your context tags.
    • Delegate it to someone and mark it with a waiting tag
    • If there is no action to take, delete it or remove the todo tag

    As you go with the above process, To Do items will be either resolved or moved to other pages.(After marking the items with tags, reload the page to see them disappear.) Keep the size of the items in this page as small as possible.

  3. Review the rest of the bookmarked pages.

    Now, your remaining To Do items are categorized and moved to appropriate pages. Review the rest of your bookmarked pages one by one and make sure they are up to date with current reality of your status.

This concludes the fundamentals of GTD on Tagaabo. This is just a basic introduction, so you can tailor it for your individual requirement by introducing your own tags and your own combination of tags.

Please let me know if you have any problems or questions around implementing it.