GTD: One Year Later

I wrote, just over a year ago, about discovering GTD…that’s a misnomer. I didn’t discover it. It was required reading. But…I mean, it’s kind of discovering?

Not the point.

A year ago I wrote about being new to the concept, new to the practice, and now, with little time to write these days and even less capacity for new ideas for this blog, I am reviewing my last year in GTD. In my typical fashion, no less.

First, my confession. I royally sucked at All The Things for most of the last year. It’s a hard thing to learn. Especially for someone who has random thoughts throughout the day, some of which might be worth capturing, but the vast majority of them not really…tangible or worth making not of. I swung wildly between extremes. I wrote everything down, but then I would exhaust myself going through all the stuff. So then I scaled back, but I scaled back too far. And frankly, after Zoe passed, there was about a month of me just trying to stay above water at all.

Even through the struggle and the sucking really bad at following the really clear directions provided, I adopted small things that worked really well for me. Organizing ideas, to-do’s, etc. by project? Super helpful. In a way that I thought would be overblown, but it made it clear just how dis-organized my prior organization had been. What is a project? Anything that is more than one task. Well that makes it really simple to identify a way to categorize projects. That and…you know…managing projects as my job.

I tried not to beat myself up about it too much because, from conversations with others who had started out with GTD brand new, there’s often a time of off and on again.


But I did beat myself up about it. A lot. And frequently. Like anything else, it’s something that I knew I needed to devote more time to, devote more energy to, and so I would try, but when I failed, I failed hard. Or at least I thought. I was trying to mimic, in every way, other people’s processes.

And then in November things kind of clicked into place. I wish I could say there was a sudden shift or some specific thing that happened that made it all clear, but there wasn’t. I just realized that I couldn’t do things exactly like other people. Even the book makes it clear that there are levels and different ways of doing things – the concepts are what matter, not the tactics.

So I gave myself one goal. Every day I needed to review OmniFocus. I put no restrictions on myself in terms of when that happens or in what context, but each day, I need to review OmniFocus.

What a difference that made. Instead of trying to force myself to do X, Y, and Z, I just said “do this one thing.” The rest sort of fell into place.

Because I knew I would be checking OmniFocus, I started entering important things there. Sometimes as a generic capture-to-inbox thing, and sometimes as a go-to-the-project-and-spell-it-out thing. No pressure. And if I was in between back-to-back things and didn’t put it in immediately, that’s ok because I’ll be checking it later, anyway, and I can add all of those little extra things then.

That’s really the point. It’s not about following the “rules” or step-by-step instructions. It’s about freeing yourself of having to remember all the things. I don’t have to remember all the things. I just have one goal, every day, and if I’m consistent with that, the rest falls into place.

Still not perfect. Still forget some days. But it’s better, and I think that’s all we can ever ask for.

Ready Admin One

Or what video games have taught me as a Salesforce admin (and consultant).

I realize that this will come as a shock to almost 0% of my audience, but I like to play video games. Mostly long (100 hour plus) RPGs with rich stories, well-developed characters, or at least enough of one to mask the lack of the other.

Growing up I didn’t have a game console. It wasn’t until I was an adult, free to make my own choices and eschew responsibilities as I saw fit, that I really started getting into them. As an avid reader and someone who revels in the feeling of accomplishing a task, they’re kind of perfect. There’s a story, and there are clear steps and tasks presented that have clear success or fail requirements. You know…not at all like real life.

All the same, I’ve been able to apply a lot of things from my hobby to my job. If you’re a fellow gamer, you might recognize some these things, too.

Leveling up can be a grind

I am a trophy hunter. If there is an achievement to be unlocked in a game, I’ll probably go after it. Enter: Skyrim.

One of the last trophies I earned before getting platinum was the silver Master trophy, for reaching Level 50. I had completed the main game with two different characters. I had finished all of the side faction storylines, but I still wasn’t quite there. So I did what any other Skyrim fan has done – I started grinding through low-level abilities to get that sweet XP. I made so many daggers; I cleared so many dungeons. It was boring.


But I got the trophy. And I got the platinum.

Twice. (Thank you, Bethesda, for re-releasing it on the PS4.)

If you think that only applies to games, you’ve obviously never gone after multiple Salesforce certifications. Reading and re-reading release notes, help articles, the study guide, blog posts, Trailhead, etc. It takes some serious heads-down time to study for some of the certifications out there, and yeah, it can be really boring. But at then end, you have a brand new certification.

Side quests

It’s Monday morning for the solo admin, and they have their week planned out. Got some Trailhead badges to earn, a new dashboard to build, and a meeting with the steering committee. They have one goal this week: deploy a new custom object and flow, to support a functional group that is adopting Salesforce.



A user needs a password reset.

Another user deleted a record but they can’t remember which one, and they need it back.

An executive needs a report of all sales in 2012, for some reason they have deemed unimportant to share.

And on and on and on. Each random task may only take a handful of minutes, but those minutes start to add up, and soon your inbox is full of minor requests that may have a time limit attached to them. At least all experience is good experience, right?

It’s good to recruit companions

dangerousEven non-gamers know this one.

It’s not impossible to finish quests and storylines alone, of course. But misery and joy and struggle…pretty much everything loves company. So why wouldn’t you recruit companions? Especially if they can fill in gaps in your abilities or knowledge.

Most of us already know the importance of the community, so I can pretty much just…leave this here, right? Ohana, my peeps.

Once a completionist…

This is actually a thing (read about the Zeigarnik Effect here). Once a gamer (or an admin) starts on a quest, we have to finish it. Luckily many of these tasks have definitive end-games.

Slay the dragon.

Deploy the change set.

Find the pan.

Build the report.

We obsess over the things we haven’t completed. How many of us have gone to sleep, thinking about data schema, only to wake up with the answer and excitedly go about building what we imagined?

How many of us have to get all the Trailhead badges? (BTW, if you think Trailhead hasn’t taken into account some of what I’m writing about here, you aren’t paying attention.)

And it’s not just video games

Ultimately it comes down to liking the feeling of solving a puzzle. Admins are problem-solvers. We are people that like to get our hands dirty, play with something, and make it work. For me it’s like video games. For some people it’s like puzzles or building things.

We are the people who stay up into the wee hours, searching the community, building and rebuilding our flows, until it is done.

And bonus! Now I can check this particular task off my list.


Vocab and syntax: a programming language is still a language


Disclaimer: I am not a fully-functioning programmer, yet, so please don’t look to me as an authority, by any stretch. What I am is curious and interested in languages, which gives me a unique perspective on things like programming *languages*.

I am not multi-lingual. I can only speak English fluently, although I can muddle my way through French, still retain my knowledge of syntax and many vocabulary words for Japanese, and I’ve been chipping away at my grandparents’ native tongue, Italian. Maybe Maltese eventually, to nab the other side.

I’ve worked through enough foreign languages, though, to understand how to go about learning them. Practice, obviously, but I’m not going to be pedantic here.

There are, honestly, a few ways to do it. You can focus on vocabulary first, learning words and how they, individually, translate into your native language. You will likely learn a lot of words this way, but language is more than just phonemes and morphemes. The other way to learn is by learning grammar. If you understand the function of a noun, pronoun, direct object, indirect object, conjunction, etc., you will be better equipped to handle the structure of a complete thought in your new language.

Most classroom foreign language instruction works on both at one time, in tandem. That’s difficult to achieve when learning in your spare time (trust me on that).

It follows, then, that learning a programming language functions the same way.

You must learn the vocabulary and the syntax. The order depends entirely on you. If you feel comfortable with grammar and parts of speech, then it makes sense to start with syntax. You can comfortably fit in placeholders.

; refers to a full stop. () asks for a direct object. {} implies that there is a conditional clause or conjunction.

Syntax also includes the meta-language, if you will. What is a verb called in object-oriented programming? A method.

Vocabulary are the words that fill in around the syntax. My nouns, for instance, are things like integers and strings. These are things. They can serve as adjectives, as well, and they may be the subject (a Class, for instance), or they might be an indirect object (a set that is receiving an input of integers).

So if I see List<String> Vocab = new List<String>(); I can break this down.

I know that I am dealing with a complete sentence here because I have a ; at the end. I will be receiving a direct object, a noun of the string type, which I know because it’s in <>, which I think of as a way to indicate that my noun is acting as an adjective. I am saying that when I mention the proper noun Vocab, I am referring to a new list of strings that I will define.

Once I learn my syntax and my vocabulary, I can read a text more fluently. I can still read French, even though my ear is not as sensitive to the nuances of the language as it once was.

As you begin to read, you can start to translate and write.

This brief explanation of how I’ve started to become more comfortable with Apex is in no way complete. As with any other language, there are shortcuts and dialects that might change here and there – exceptions to the rule. But everyone must start somewhere, and this seems as good a place as any.



Divine intervention

Eric has said many times that it seems things just happen in my life. This can be good or bad, but regardless, I always seem to fall into things. And if I think about it, I can see that trend myself.

After college, I left my job at a candy store to pursue a “real” job. I had joined the volunteer fire department by then, and I was using a newspaper to look for jobs because both of my parents worked in journalism, so it was a natural choice. That’s how I found an opening for part-time/temporary full-time 9-1-1 dispatchers. I had no experience, but I still applied, won them over, and got the job. Dispatching was a lot of fun.

When I lived in Seattle, my first job was at Target, and I took that job because it meant I didn’ t have to live in my car; I could actually get an apartment and stay there. But after I met Eric, I wanted more, and he let me borrow his computer a few times. I browsed Craig’s List a lot for furniture, and I decided to take a look at jobs one day. A quasi-local nonprofit (Seattle Goodwill) had a job posting for a Risk and Safety Support Specialist. I applied, hoping that my background in the fire service would help. I was the third applicant, the third interview, and I got the job. My boss from that job and I are still close.

I had some strange health problems in Seattle, and I went to an alternative specialist when nothing else seemed to work. While there, I read an article about Teach for America, and it inspired me to apply, which I did, and I was accepted. If we hadn’t moved to Arkansas via TFA, Eric would not have gotten the job at US Steel, so he would no manufacturing experience, and wouldn’t have gotten the job that brought us here. I also would not have learned that I am actually good at math.

Which brings me to today. While I was at work, a nice gentleman who works at a local university had some exchanges, and as I helped him with his transaction, we started talking. I mentioned that I have been considering going back for an engineering degree, and it just so happens that he knows most everyone in the engineering department. He gave me some great information, left me with his card, and told me to call him any time. He had some great advice, and I left today feeling rather confident.

There have been many times that I mull over decisions I’ve made and conclude that I screwed up somewhere. I didn’t go to Stanford (so I didn’t have student loans); I never moved to England (so I met my husband); I joined TFA, so have struggled to find a job because most people wonder why I’m not teaching (I love my job now). But today I watched all of those pieces that had to fall in line just so I could have a conversation with a complete strange who showed the utmost faith in my ability to go back to school and excel.

Maybe he didn’t give me a free pass into the college, but he’s given me the exact boost that I needed to start making things happen. It’s great that a lot of things in my life fall into place on their own, but I think it’s time for me to push a few of those bits into place.

In other news: Eric is coming home early this weekend, so I will have to put off working on his Christmas present until Tuesday and Wednesday when I have some time off. This is not a bad thing; it just means a further delay in my actual crafting blog. 🙂

Asphyxiation: what a yarn

I have kept quiet about some recent developments in one of those superstitious attempts to not jinx things. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s worked because I haven’t heard back yet anyway. All week, I’ve felt as though I were holding my breath, and with a holiday weekend upon us, I think the silence is all the answer I need.

No sense in keeping it all in now.

About two weeks ago, I applied for a job with Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids doing, essentially, what I was doing for Goodwill in Seattle before I moved to Arkansas and began my rather sad attempt at teaching. I was very excited about it; so was my former boss, Tim, who called them and said “Hey, you know, she did great things for our Goodwill. You should hire her.”

I had a phone interview, and then last week I had an in-person interview. When I left they suggested I would hear back by the end of the week. Here we are, almost end of the day on Friday before a holiday, and I am thinking I won’t be hearing from them. I called a couple of hours ago to follow up; no answer.

So to distract myself, I am watching Doctor Who (I know, right? A shock!) and working on knitting. I haven’t touched knitting needles in about 8 years, so rusty is too kind a term.

I have tried twice to get a row or two done, but the cast is all wrong. I am looking at new ways to cast, so that perhaps I will have more success. In the meantime, Zoe has greatly been enjoying the presence of yarn in the house. I’ll get back to the knitting as soon “End of Time” is over. 😦 Oh, 10th Doctor.

Stick a pin in me; I’m done

When I woke up yesterday, I had already decided to take onat least three projects, one of them being a sewing project I have been putting off – a pin cushion.

It seemed easy enough, and I thought it would make a good pause between other projects. Hand sewing, for me, can be almost a meditation, an exercise in quiet. More than that, I thought it silly that I had made a skirt, upcycled a shirt, and a few other projects but had not put together two little squares (or circles) to make a cute pincushion. While I have nothing wrong with the traditional tomato cushion, I felt I should follow through on what I see as a Right of Passage.

Besides, I have some great fabric just sitting around!

I looked up a few different techniques and looks, and then I decided to do what I almost always do, which was to just wing it.

How to put this? Okay, yes, I did well in school. Yes, I am a quick learner, and I have done well in pretty much any job I’ve held. Yes, I studied for a few months and surpassed the requirements on the PRAXIS math test to teach. And yet, for all this, I am still not smart enough to remind myself that I need to follow instructions.

I didn’t start sewing when I was young; I come from a family with an inherent bobbin-winding deficiency. With the exception of writing and cutting and pasting pieces of paper, I am still new to the world of DIY to this extent.

I have high aims, though. It is a difficult road, teaching myself how to do these things, but I take great pride in it. Even my failures! And, I should clarify, I did make a pincushion. I just didn’t make it correctly, and I will likely have to make another one in the future. Which is fine.

What’s wrong with it? Well, the button is certainly not sewn on correctly, nor the ribbon, and it is perhaps a bit smaller than I should like.

But what is right with it? It holds pins! Done!

For now, enjoy the picture!


The Long and Winding Bobbin

I have put off sitting at my sewing machine again, but today I had a few hours to spare, since E was playing Xbox with the guys. I also feel like absolute crap with a throat/chest/nose congestion thing, so sitting in front of a machine seemed like a doable feat.

In speaking with my mom, I learned that I probably have a genetic predisposition for failing at bobbin winding. And having wound a few now, I think that winding a bobbin really is some kind of innate 6th sense. I was born without this 6th sense, but with the wonders of an electric sewing machine, I managed to overcome at least long enough to wind 5 bobbins.

My first attempt was actually successful, leading me into a hideously false sense of security. That warm, fuzzy feeling was dashed when I tried my second bobbin. It came out horribly uneven, making an almost triangle of thread. I felt bad for the poor thing, like its very existence caused it pain, and not knowing what else to do, I manually unwound the bobbin and returned the thread to the original spool. This was time consuming, frustrating, and probably the wrong thing to do, but I did it anyway.

My pyramid of thread

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure that the last 4 that I wound were actually done correct, but they were not as obviously warped as that 2nd one, so I am keeping them. I also failed to make all of them full. Learning curves! Learning curves, every one of them.

My Little Bobbins

Either way, it’s done. And that means my next project is to actually thread the machine. And then sew a stitch. But before I do that, I have to get a steam iron. Ugh. I hate ironing.

I’m Better Than I Think, And Then I Think I Could be Better

Let me tell you something about second-guessing yourself when it comes to cooking, or rather, not doing what you know you should do.

When you have a recipe in mind, and you know the basics of what you’re doing, just go with the basics and add onto it. Do not take short cuts or assume that you should, or even can, do something else.

Case in point: tortellini soup.

I know that to make a tomato broth, you need a stock of some sort and whole, peeled tomatoes. Maybe stewed tomatoes if you’re short on time. That’s all you need.

Today I was so proud of myself for having planned our dinners for the week. We went to the grocery and started purchasing what we needed for the next 7 days of meals, and somewhere between canned goods and produce, we realized that we had failed to determine a meal for dinner tonight.

No big deal! We can come up with something. E suggested soup –just a hardy tomato soup and some bread. I thought soup was a great idea, but I said, “Hey. I can make tortellini soup. The frozen pastas are on sale!”

As we were walking to check out, I mentioned that perhaps I should get some tomatoes. E said, “We already have the tomato basil soup. No rule says you cannot make your own recipe.”

True! But I had a bad feeling, and I ignored it.

Fast forward to now. I have a quasi soup on the stove. I used the pre-made soup, and I realized there wasn’t enough to include all of the vegetables and pasta –it would be much too thick.

No worries, I thought! I have chicken stock in the fridge. Not enough. That’s ok! I have some vegetable stock, too. So I add that. And then I taste it. Water. It tastes like water with some tomato spice in it. It’s disgusting. So I tried to cover it with some spices.

So now I have a water and spice and tortellini soup. Very bland. And all I wanted was to have something flavorful for dinner. This is what I get for saying no to reheating the pork and having BBQ sandwiches because I wanted something flavorful.

I also just wanted a smoothie, but that was not apparently dinner enough.

This is not a victory. This is yet another reminder that when I second-guess my gut reaction, it usually turns out wrong. I am a better cook than I think I am because I know instinctively what I need to do. But I am a horrible cook because I go against those feelings and allow others to convince me to take short cuts or ignore my instinct.

My bad. I have learned now. And E will have to eat it, too.