Monday, May 29, 2006

Planning, To Dos, etc.

I'm messing around this week with way to keep on task. I've been using my PDA for a couple of years, but I'm off and on with it -- as I might be with any solution, to tell the truth. I'm on my third Sony Clie SJ20 -- an affordable solution at about $50 used/reconditioned/whatever. I have one with a cracked screen, one that won't charge, and one with a worn out digitizer. So I moved a good battery into the one that wouldn't charge, and I'm using that for the time being. I'm also eyeing these.

I've been using DateBk5 as my planner. I use it more for to dos than for scheduling. But I don't love the way it handles repeating tasks. Somehow, they are set to repeat, but when I check the repeat status of a repeating item, it says None. I don't get that. Maybe only the initial item stores the repeat info. I'm evaluating Life Balance right now, but I'm coming to the conclusion that it isn't close enough to what I want -- especially for the price. I'm not sure that the contexts idea works for me -- I don't really have different contexts. I mostly do my kids and the house, and I fit in my hobbies when I can find an opportunity. And my work is usually one thing at a time, not projects with many steps plus phone calls on the side. And I'm not crazy about the mixed up to do list -- too fiddly to get it in an order that actually makes sense to me. But I do really like the outline approach -- I like it a lot, and I wish I could have my To Do list at the top of Datebk5 in outline form that I could expand and collapse. I would probably use top categories of Errands, Chores, Projects, Money, Hobbies, and Homeschooling. I would like to be able to list chores in outline mode -- sometimes I do just fine with housework -- other times I need a reminder (what do I do each morning? each week?). A collapsible outline would be great. So I may look at outline software for my pda like Bonsai and Arranger. Note Studio has some GTD (Getting Things Done) fans, but I don't get it at all. And it's tempting to spend time messing and evaluating rather than actually doing the things on my To Do list!

I have the following categories of things I like to remind myself to do: chores (repeating), calendar items (some repeating, some not), projects, ongoing goals/projects, and homeschooling topics. What works well for all but chores is a sheet of paper in landscape mode. The top has the days of the week listed, with a column for each day split into three parts (morning, afternoon, and evening). Into that I put appointments. At the bottom of the page I have three columns for things I'm working on for the week: Projects (like chapters I need to revise, items I want to sew, errands I need to run), ongoing goals that require some thought (potty training, evaluating financial newsletters/memberships, gathering things to sell at a yard sale), and topics that seem to be of interest to my kids (or that I want to introduce to them). I very much like planning for a week, and the result is a manageable piece of paper with goals that seem doable. And I've noticed that I get a lot of what I put on that paper done within the week. I'm not sure that the approach makes a difference, though, or if I would have done everything anyway.

I struggle with how much of a record of what I've done I need to keep. I have a strong urge to keep a trail, but I know from experience that I rarely look at that. And I very seldom need it -- not for chores, that's for sure. Occasionally it's interesting as a way to remember where I was and the kind of things I was doing. So for now, I have a small datebook that I keep notes in -- kind of a keyword journal, since it's not big enough for full sentences. I particularly use it for homeschooling topics, activities we've done, etc., even though I don't need to report until next year. I think the urge to journal my life is about a need to feel that I'm really here doing something useful -- I'm not sure that journaling actually helps me achieve that goal. Hubris.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Making money?

I've been thinking lately about making some money. It feels like we need it, and in doing our taxes I realized that our income has fallen in the last few years because I've been working and earning less, while our expenditures have definitely risen due to the house and the kids. When I had one kid I worked a fair amount from home as a technical writer. With two kids I still worked some. I worked on a book about Microsoft Access when the kids were one and three. I had a nanny one day a week (who fabulously did all my laundry), and a sitter two afternoons a week, and worked during naps as well. That seemed to work. That was my last big project. I have another project coming online now (revising the same book).

To do technical writing work I need to have a sitter and some uninterrupted time. Although I've had regular teenage sitters for years, I don't have one right now, which turns out to be a problem. I get stressed looking for babysitting options. It's mostly about me -- the kids are almost always fine with whatever I find for them. This week they've been out two days, once with grandma (who I paid for sitting, for the first time ever) and once with a friend (I had her kids the next day).

I've also thought about doing work that I can do around my kids. I've made and sold a few mei tai baby carriers. This week I dyed about 70 playsilks for friends and acquaintances. One thing I've learned is that the prices people charge for both of these items are, in fact, about right. I can undercut them, sure, but I wouldn't want to for the long haul. I've never sold anything before, and there's a lot involved in finding the seller and following through with the deal, not to mention having any necessary documentation or whatever is needed. I've also been thinking about what it would be like to do baby care for someone who was working part-time, and how much I could expect to get for that (and if I could ask for payment in cash).

My ideal job is technical writing (or editing), at my fair but relatively modest consulting rate for about five hours a week. Seriously. But finding that amount of work is somewhat challenging! Ah well, put it out there, and who know what will happen . . . .