Todoist: Focus on tasks based on your location

My Todoist workflow

It’s the start of a new year, and I’ve taken a few days leave. So what better time to evaluate my Todoist workflows. Todoist is my go to productivity tool. It keeps me productive, by reminding me of exactly what I should be doing at a particular part of the day.

However one of the issues I had with the way I’d set it up, was my need to perform tasks relating to both work and home life. The real problem though is that life is never as neat and tidy as you may want. For example, if I need to arrange a plumber to come and fix a dripping tap at home, I have to do this during office hours.

So how do I focus on work or home tasks in Todoist without making it a cluttered mess?

The key for me is the use of labels and filters. All my tasks use a label called “home” or “work”, and have a due date. Using these I’ve setup filters to focus to tasks due to be performed today, but also focusing on each label. This allows me to focus on work tasks when at work, and home tasks when at home. However I can also use the default “Today” view if I need to view all tasks side by side. Handy for calling that plumber.

Guildford: Improving the shopping experience

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how to regenerate the UK high street shopping experience. Several large retailers have gone under in the last year alone, leaving gaps in streets up and down the country. Throw in our love for online shopping, and the foot fall in our shopping locations has decreased dramatically in recent.

How do you solve this? The general consensus is to offer what we the consumer want. This includes making shopping more of a social experience. For example, having a good mixture of cafes and restaurants, as well as more non-retail businesses like cinemas. But it also means retailers offering what their customers want.

Yesterday my wife and I went shopping in Guildford, Surrey. We don’t normally head down that way, but we fancied going somewhere different. It’s a lovely historic market town about 30 miles south of London, with atmospheric alley ways full of independent retailers as well as your well known high street brands. There’s even a Norman castle a few minutes walk away.

Whilst walking around we found some interesting items. Some we bought. Others weren’t for sale. Try these for size…

Will they park as neatly as this when they’re ground up?

It’s not uncommon these days for shopping malls to offer transportation for the younger population when out with their parents, but these cars stood out. For a start, they were bigger than normal, and they had a handy shopping bag at the rear. But what made them stand out for me, was the parking bays. Cute.

But cats are more intelligent than dogs!

Elsewhere we found this sign outside a shop. According to the PDSA charity, there are almost nine million dogs in the UK. Guildford is one of those places where there’s more than average. It has something to do with its rural location with stunning scenery, and a plethora of well marked walking routes. So it makes sense to welcome our canine friends with their owners.

Guildford was a pleasant shopping experience. OK a lot of this has to do with its location and wealthy demographic, but it also seems to have started to react to buck the general trend. That is the answer to any problem. The only constant is change. In business, if you don’t change, you’ll eventually go under.

Down and out? Not likely!

They say, “Start as you mean to go on.” So how about getting out on New Year’s Day and go for a run? Well I’m a runner, and I’ve an aim to achieve. Having recovered from a serious injury last year, I’m aiming to run a 10km race in May and hopefully a half marathon by the autumn. So hey, let’s get going.

At the moment it not about speed particularly, just building the distance and stamina. For the last few months high impact exercising was a no-no. Something to do with a higher than average risk of issues later on in life. But I’ve been participating in regular spinning classes to keep fit, as well as doing some weights. It’s really helped, as I feel as strong as I have for a long time.

So how did I do? See for yourself.

Run - 1 Jan 2019
An “air the cobwebs” run

OK it’s not a earth shattering time, but at around six minutes per kilometer it’s a respectable base to build from. I’ll get faster. Last year saw my best 10km time of 56 minutes, and I’ve my eye on a sub-55 minute finish this year.

It’s nowhere near my best 10km time, but that was almost 30 years ago! Come on, give a oldie a break.

Thanks 2018, but I won’t miss you

As today is the start of another year, it is customary to look back at the previous twelve months. It is supposed to help you focus on what went well, and what you should do to change things that didn’t go so well. That is what new year resolutions are normally about right? Putting things right.

In my case, 2018 was a pretty poor year. Back in March, I fell heavily whilst out running and fractured my pelvis. Whilst I was still on crutches, my Mother was admitted to hospital with a bladder infection. Whilst she did recover from that, the whole episode was the start of a downward spiral that resulted in her death in June.

Among all this drama, I caught shingles, probably as a result of the stress I was under. It took me a couple of months to fully recover, only to come down with thrombosis. Having initially put my shortness of breath down to some sort of summer allergy, it was only when I was unable to walk more than a few hundred yards without sitting down that I sought medical help. To cut a long story short, I was admitted to hospital for six days with a clot in both lungs and one in my left leg. All of this was probably a result of the pelvis injury.

Elsewhere my beloved AFC Wimbledon were having a frustrating time. Having just survived relegation to League Two in May, the manager had a clear out of the old guard in the summer. The trouble was, how do you replace players of the same quality with one of the lowest budgets in the league? In our case, you don’t. Watching us play was a fairly soul destroying experience at times. It was never going to end well, and it didn’t.

There were positives in 2018, it is just they fade into insignificance when compared to the above. So forgive me if I don’t look back for too long at the last year. After all, it is not as if anything I could have done would have prevented that stuff from happening.

So I’ll raise a glass to 2019, and wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Bereavement and Christmas

Yesterday was the six month anniversary of my Mother’s death. She was 98, and had been ill for a few months. Even before the end game, she’d been gradually going downhill.

Last Christmas was a particularly difficult time. The whole family came around to our house for Christmas Day lunch, but halfway through the meal, Mum just slumped in her chair and didn’t move. She eventually recovered, but it was clear something was wrong.

I didn’t realise it was the six month anniversary until my sister texted me mid morning. She’d had “a moment” and reached out.

At first I chastised myself for not realising the significance of the day. Why hadn’t I at least made a mental note of it? Was it a sub-conscious defence mechanism to protect myself from the emotion of that period?

Unlike my sister who retired a couple of years ago, I’m still working. When my sister texted me, I was sat at my desk trying to deal with an issue that had landed on my lap. It required a lot of thought. So I made a note to ring my sister when I could talk.

When we spoke my sister asked, “Did you ever howl with tears?” I had to admit I hadn’t. Neither had she as it turned out. We’d both shed tears at specific points. I remember walking past a sweet shop whilst on holiday in September and seeing fudge being made. Mum loved fudge, and it set me off.

Part of the reason for the lack of extreme grief, is that both my sister and me saw it coming. Last Christmas was major sign, and it had been coming for a few years. It sounds callous to say this, but there were times when we wanted it to be over. There’s nothing worse than seeing the quality of life slip away from a proud and dignified lady.

The whole episode has made us both think very hard about about our own lives, and what we want should we ever reach the same situation. The two of us have talked about living wills, and even euthanasia. Of course it is easy to think clearly when its a hypothetical scenario. If you’re stuck in a situation like this, would I think differently than I do now? Big questions that are not to taken lightly.

At the end of the call, I added a reminder to ring my sister on the first anniversary of our Mother’s death. We’re in regular contact with each other, and occasionally visit each other’s homes even though we’re geographically separated.

It’s important to have that support network for when times are difficult. We may not be able to solve a problem, but just having someone else to talk to and say, “I’m feeling the same way”, can make a big difference.

This Christmas will be the first time for over 50 years where my family we won’t be together. We discussed this, but both wanted space. My sister particularly wanted a quiet Christmas Day to reflect on what had happened. We’ll meet up on the 28th and share a low key lunch together. Maybe next Christmas will be different.

The secret to wedded bliss

As we reach the season of  goodwill / bah humbug / wondering if we’ve still a functioning government, it is time to show some gratitude to my fellow colleagues.

And what better way to do so, than to feed them.

My initial thought was to ask my dearly beloved to bake us some goodies. She enjoys baking. It gives her the excuse to do something useful apart from moaning about me, and it gives me an excuse to disappear off to my study / a football match / the pub. That’s how we’ve stayed together for 15 years!

The trouble is her propensity to not follow any recipe and make things up as she goes along. She freely admits this doesn’t always bode well for quality, but we’ve survived all these years by acknowledging each other’s strengths. I may know how to add more consistency into her baking, weighing ingredients and having some idea of what she’s going to add to the mix would be a good start, but she enjoys the thrill of wondering if her latest creation will be either be, well, “meeahhhh” or“damn that’s good”.

Roll the clock forward an hour, and I decided not to use my stock “I told you so” response when the latest bake (by her own admission) didn’t pass muster. She wondered what to do with it, and I offered some suggestions. Unfortunately none of them met approval, but they did illicit one further thought from her. I’d never thought of using a cake in that way before!

So as my fellow Mimecasters are purveyors of quality, I brought in some other shop bought treats for them to savour. They may not have the same creativity as Nagham’s baking, but you’ll have fun searching in the tin for your favourite.

BTW we do love each other really. See the photo for proof, and it was all her own work. Honest! 😊

Wikipedia is just fine the way it is thanks

According to Livewire, Wikipedia is a among the top 10 websites for number of hits worldwide. In fact it is consistently in the top 10, battling with tech giants like Google, Yahoo, YouTube, and various social media platforms.

Yet Wikipedia is unlike any of the other websites in the top 10.

For a start it doesn’t have a similar business model. It sole reason for existing is to provide a free resource for any internet user. Content is freely available, and can be edited by anyone, provided they stick to a few guidelines. In essence it rigidly maintains the ethos that the internet should be free to use, and open to all. It doesn’t rely on advertising, with all its operating costs covered by voluntary donations.

Admittedly Wikipedia isn’t perfect, but what is? With anyone able to edit a page, mistakes and falsehoods do creep in occasionally. Many a young aspiring journalist has fallen into the trap of accepting everything on it as gospel. But considering the sheer volume of data, it’s astonishing that the level of accuracy is so high. In fact that’s the very reason why it’s the go to online resource.

So the next time you Google something and see the first result is a Wikipedia page, take a moment to consider what it takes to run the service. Oh and if you can, give a little to maintain this wonderful resource in the way it was intended.

https://donate.wikipedia.org

What’s a few more bytes among friends?

Users of the internet generate on average 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day, according to recent research by Domo. That’s a lot of zeros. Their report came up with this statistic having analysed publicly available data from a range of sources, including web measurement services like Internet Live Stats and news outlets like BuzzFeed.

Among the key insights were that on average, every minute:

  • The Weather Channel receives 18 million forecast requests.
  • YouTube users watch 4.1 million videos.
  • Google delivers results for 3.6 million searches.
  • Wikipedia users publish 600 new edits.

What’s more, it’s estimated that 90% of all online data was created in the last two years.

That’s a lot of data. So here’s a few more bytes to maintain the daily average.

Sometimes a “staycation” is the way to go

The demise of the British seaside resort and the rise in cheap air travel abroad, has seen most Brits jet off to sunnier climbs for their summer break. You can’t blame them really, as virtually guaranteed sunshine is hard to find at home. However we shouldn’t, no mustn’t, consider a foreign holiday as a first option. There is so much on offer in the UK, and if you’re lucky you’ll get the weather too.

This year my wife and I decided to head to the Lake District. It’s an area I know a little, but my wife didn’t know at all. Situated just south of the England Scotland border, it’s an area with dramatic mountain landscapes interspersed with some of the largest lakes in the UK. It’s a mecca for walkers and cyclists, although we choose the more sedate option of driving.

Bakewell

SignWe’d tried to make it to the Lake District last June, but had to call a halt to our holiday after two days after a family emergency. This time we aimed a driving to Bakewell in the Peak District, before heading up to Bowness-on-Windermere. We’d stayed in nearby Matlock in June and had briefly visited Bakewell, after visiting Chatsworth House. We liked what we saw, so we decided to stay there on the way up this time.

Bakewell is home of the Bakewell Pudding, an oddity not to be confused with the Bakewell Tart that you’ll find in just about every UK supermarket and cafe. Our hotel claimed to be the place where the recipe was first conceived, but then so did at least three other establishments in the town! The hotel was also the first place I’ve cone across where they disallowed mobile devices in the restaurant, a policy that is sure to devide opinion.

We spent the day wondering around the market town, and along the banks River Wye thanks to some thoughtfully landscaped paths. Before returning to our hotel, we stopped off at a pub with outside seating overlooking the river. Ordering drinks was an experience, as you had to stand on a glass panel with the stream that originally fed the water wheel running beneath your feet. It was just about warm enough to sit outside in shirtsleeves, so two very quaffable pints later we returned to the hotel for dinner.

The Lake District

From the moment we stepped from the car and checked into our hotel, we knew we’d made a good decision coming here. I mean, just check out the view from our room!

IMG_E0387

It got better. Lake Windermere, the ten mile long lake that acts as a magnet for all visitors was little more than ten minutes walk away. From there we made good use of the ferries to Ambleside at the north end of the lake, and Lakeside in the south.

Windermere Lake
View from Bowness north towards Ambleside

Ambleside and Lakeside were VERY different. Ambleside is a busy town full of climbers, walkers, and outdoor types. It is at the heart of the Lake District, with many good walks around it. Lakeside in comparison is a small sleepy village that most people don’t even know is there. Instead they pass it by on the road towards Broughton-in-Furness. That’s a real shame, as it has stunning views and some very peaceful hotels right on the lake’s banks.

Whilst Lake Windermere acts as the major tourist draw to the area, the other lakes do their bit too. Among them are:

  • Coniston Water where Donald Campbell broke the water speed record. It is also near the Old Man of Coniston, arguably the highest peak in the Lake District.
  • Ullswater situated in the east is a popular sailing destination, and has a 20 mile walking trail nearby.
  • Derwent Water south of Keswick in the north. Keswick’s a smaller version of Ambleside, but without the charm. It does have the lack on it’s doorstep though, and that’s reason enough to visit it.

Other places that should be on your list to visit are:

  • The beautiful village of Grasmere, described by William Wordsworth as, “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found. That probably explains why he set up home there at Dove Cottage. If you’re there and fancy a meal in a Michelin Star restaurant, I’d thoroughly recommend The Dining Room at the Oak Bank Hotel.
  • The Honiston Pass, a narrow road just south of Keswick that goes through the highest point in the Lake District. It’s a road best tackled on foot or two wheels, unless you’re happy with numerous sharp bends, blind crescents, and nothing to stop you dropping a couple of hundred foot down the mountain if you’re not paying attention! It is a stunning drive, even if the weather isn’t great.

Before we left the Lake District, there was just enough time to soak in the views from the hill overlooking Lake Windermere. It was a view neither of us wanted to leave, but the journey south beckoned.

Shrewsbury

On our way home, we stopped off in Telford. Our idea was to visit the Ironbridge Gorge Bridge, but it was undergoing repairs and was completely under plastic sheets. So instead we went to nearby Shrewsbury on the banks of the River Severn.

The first thing you notice about Shrewsbury is it’s history. There are Tudor buildings everywhere and some quaint alleys and courtyards that are well worth exploring.

Shrewsbury
An example of Shrewsbury’s Tudor buildings

 

Hindsight: the Photoshop of history

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It provides colour and clarity to what at the time seemed colourful and clear, but was in fact sepia toned and fuzzy. Think of it as the Photoshop of history. Knowing all the facts allows you to edit out all the blemishes to deliver an accurate statement of fact.

In my last post I described my athlethic annus horribilis.  In it I described my “Strike Three”, which saw me suffering what I though were side effects of taking antihistamine tablets I’d been suffering from shortness of breath and a stiff calf muscle.

t turns out they were fine and I was suffering from another more serious illness. As the calf muscle got stiffer, I sought medical advice. Straight away my GP told me to go to hospital where I spent a whole week after being admitted.

The stiff calf and breathlessness had been caused by a blood clot in my leg, some of which had broken off and made its way to my lungs. Thankfully the clot hadn’t made it into one of my pulmonary arteries, or else I may not be typing this today! Instead it was a case of resting and taking anti-coagulation drugs for awhile.

As to what caused the clots, they can’t say. It was probably connected to the broken pelvis I described in “Strike One”, but they can’t be sure. So it goes down as as idiopathic deep vein thrombosis. Cue lots of idiotic gags!