Execution is everything


Some quick thoughts on execution, and speed:

Sometimes the temptation to be perfect is overwhelming.

We work towards perfection because we’re told that it’s worth aspiring and achieving. The problem for you and me is that perfection for some is rubbish for others, especially when your product reaches beyond the early adopter pool of people.

There are so many cliches around this thinking, some of which are below:
Release early, release often
Minimum Viable Product
Lean Startup Thinking
Ship it!
etc etc

What they all say is that getting out the door with something working is favorable to pretty much everything else.
Just get your shit out there for people to use.

It’s something I have to remind myself of every day, because the temptation is to labour over every pixel, every word, every line of code, so that it’s perfect. But perfect doesn’t pay the bills.

To me, that is execution.

* I guess one caveat to this is not to build up so much technical debt, or otherwise, that you can’t recover.

Actions, projects, priority, benefits


One of the things I do most often, to my detriment, is grouping actions along with projects. So the result is that I end feeling overwhelmed and unable to accomplish everything.

Ever done / found that yourself?
I’ve been doing this for years, so it’s a really hard habit to break but I’m getting there ;-)

So what I’ve started doing is using columns for my thinking, before they go into my GTD system:
The left column is for actions. [Usually full]
The middle column is for projects. [Usually 3 to 4 things]
The right column is for projects that are further out, and are just nagging at me but don’t need immediate attention. [Usually one or two items]
Items that are highlighted are a priority right now. They get immediate action. [Usually 3 or 4 items]

So that helps me to get things in perspective. I run through the actions on the left to make progress, and figure out the next action for the projects in the middle. The ones on the right, well they stay there.

And that’s it – 20 secs to do the columns, 10 mins to put things into their place, 5 mins to get it into your GTD system.
And voila, I feel back in control.

Hope that helps.

How do you do things?

Persistence. Decision. Direction. Design. Patience. Results. Fitness. Salvation. Future.


Today was another eureka moment for me.

I was in the gym, and to check I pulled myself up on the pullup bars. I did 3 pullups. I could also hang from the bars for 30 seconds without a problem. After my bodyweight workout I did an interval cardio run and it felt great. Better than I have in a long time. During the run I was thinking “What the crap is going on, this is great!?” and “What’s different? What have I changed to get here?”.

So I reflected on the last few years and this is what I came up with:

Firstly, I’ve got a long, long, long high road still to travel. This post is not about chest beating. This is about small inches that create momentum, which result ultimately in self knowledge and self reliance.

Ten years ago I played hockey 6 days a week, and ran a winder (1km on a hockey field) in 3 mins and 5 seconds. I wasn’t an elite full time athlete then, but I was close enough to compete with the best in my age group and province (who were also among the best in the country). In my mind I’m still 22…

Seven years ago I weighed in at 125kg (275.6 lbs or 19.7 stone), had a left ankle that was swollen and full of scar tissue, a left side weak from a broken collarbone, was drinking 2 or 3 cokes and eating 2 or 3 chocolate bars a day, I couldn’t touch my toes standing up, couldn’t run without getting shin splints, couldn’t do pullups or pushups, and sure as hell felt crap (and probably looked it too – when I look at old photos I wince, but that’s life). I look at that as my brute strength phase.

From three to four years ago I was working 18 hour days, 7 days a week, non-stop. Fitness and health wasn’t a priority. I can remember coming home one Friday night and tucking into a full tin of Pringles chips, a full huge Morrisons £3.99 chicken and bacon pizza, a half litre of diet coke, and two Magnum ice creams, while watching either Akira or one of the Ghost in the Shell movies. Then going on valiantly to do another few hours of work afterwards. Most of my friends had taken me off their social lists and being alone on weekends felt normal. That was also a brute strength phase.

Two years, and up to a year and a half ago, I had shoulders that wouldn’t let me lift my laptop bag more than waist height or open a kitchen cupboard (left shoulder, then right shoulder – both from falling while snowboarding and not being strong enough to carry the fall). I was probably about 110 / 112kg then. My overwhelming sense was that this wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of my life. There had to be another way. So I saw a physio for my shoulders, and started in earnest. I look at that as my decision phase.

A year ago I was doing curls, bench presses, shoulder raises and getting better at running. Shinsplints were still common when I pushed it, and I had dropped to about 108, getting to 106 when doing a lot of cardio. But something was missing and it didn’t make sense for all the effort I was putting in. Still, persistence carried through, and I started educating myself. It became obvious pretty quickly that despite my biological background, human physiology from 10 years ago wasn’t going to give me the answers – so I became a sponge. I look at that as my search for knowledge phase.

Today I tipped the scales at 101kg (that’s 222.2 lbs or 15.9 stone), but more importantly for me I was able to do 3 pullups in a row. I thought “I am getting stronger, I can lift my own weight!“. I haven’t been able to do that since my early twenties. But that in itself isn’t what this is all about – my eureka moment was that persistence and patience, through gradual design and conscious direction, has created results that have made me realise that I was my own worst enemy all along. So this evening I celebrate, but tomorrow I go back to work – I still have a long way to go. I look at this as my being smart sponge phase.

If you’re reading this, whatever you’re doing that you’re passionate about, or that you’re doing to change your life, don’t give up, don’t stop, don’t listen to anyone else – you won’t regret what you’ll learn or gain in the process.

Gmail outage yesterday


Just in case you didn’t know….
_ Official Google Blog: Current Gmail outage

If you’ve tried to access your Gmail account today, you are probably aware by now that we’re having some problems. Shortly after 10 9:30am GMT our monitoring systems alerted us that Gmail consumer and businesses accounts worldwide could not get access to their email.

We’re working very hard to solve the problem and we’re really sorry for the inconvenience. Those users in the US and UK who have enabled Gmail offline through Gmail Labs should be able to access their inbox, although they won’t be able to send or receive emails.

Even the 800 pound gorilla loses energy sometimes…. And I thought it was something to do with bandwidth in South Africa ;-)

Using IMAP for GMail with Evolution, and working offline


Evolution seems to show some mails and not others…. am finding that txt emails, or small emails, are viewable offline, but other not…. The search continues….


Frequently of late, I’m finding I’m not online, so getting through email has not been an option with IMAP, using Evolution on Ubuntu with default settings. So after some reading these are the steps to make it work by downloading mail for offline use:

1. Go to your email account settings dialogue in Evolution: Edit > Preferences > email account > Edit (on the right)
2. Go to “Receiving Options” tab
3. Untick “Automatically synchronise….” at the bottom
4. Then go to the folder you want to be available offline, right click, select “Properties”
5. Tick “Copy folder content….” and “Always check for…..” if you want Evolution to do that
… And that should do it… ;-)

I deleted all IMAP folders on my local machine for my GMail account first, then set it up again doing the above, and it worked like a charm. There is a delay while Evolution gets all your mail to sync to start. You may also want to restrict which GMail folders / labels are available to IMAP so you don’t download *all* your mail…. You may have to deal with this bug, but it’s not a big price to pay for offline mail…

Get an online personal assistant, it will make your life easier


The shorter version:
Checkout Online Personal Assistant. I recommend it, it’s saved me time and made my life easier. Best part is you can use it from wherever…
Try it, tell Ed you got there from here, and he’ll treat you nice ;-)

The longer version:
OK, so I’m the first to admit that I often find myself with too many balls to juggle. I find that having more to do actually makes me more productive and when I get in the zone, things happen and it feels good.

However, when you’re starting a business, or working on something important to you, and you decide that it is the highest priority in your life, then other things slip down the priority order, and they simply don’t get done.

Cases in point:

  1. I’ve needed to get a UK drivers license for at least 3 years now
  2. I’ve needed to renew my South African passport for over a year now
  3. I’ve been serious about taking up Kendo, or a Japanese Sword Art, for at least 18 months
  4. I’ve needed to sort out health insurance for a long long long time
  5. I wanted to organise a birthday bash for myself this year, for precisely the reason why it didn’t happen last year

I think you get the picture…. Basically you keep your life together somehow until something threatens to break, then you mend it so it doesn’t break in the short term, then you go back to being focussed. I know not everyone is like that, but I am, hence this post! ;-)

Anyways, I’m not really into recommending or plugging services that I don’t have a lot of exposure to, mainly ‘cos I get too many emails so it’s hard to decide whom to spend an hour for getting to know a service, and also ‘cos people don’t really read my blog for that reason ;-) I’m not Scoble or Arrington or Kirkpatrick, and neither do I want to be.

Back to the point – a while ago my friend Ed setup a service called Online Personal Assistant, and after a bit of nudging I decided to give it a try. My @Inbox was overflowing, and I really just needed to clear some stuff that was important, but not that important it could go above Kindo.

So I sent a list of stuff to my personal assistant Kevin:

  1. Book Geek BBQ venue for summer in London
  2. Book karting venue for my birthday delebration
  3. Book bowling venue for my birthday celebration
  4. Find me health insurance
  5. Find me Tai Chi schools close to where I live
  6. Find me Kendo schools close to where I live

As you can see, they’re all time intensive tasks that would mean me spending a few hours online for each one, at some point, getting to a place where I can make a decision and then do some actions… Getting my passport and drivers license require me to be somewhere in person, so I needed to do that.

Where we are now is that Ed’s team (thanks Kevin!) has spent about 9 hours doing all that stuff for me, for which I’ll pay an hourly rate. Everything is documented and tracked in an online workspace (not Basecamp), and I’m happy with the results. I have a few things to tie down now, but basically all the research is done, and all it requires is another booking, or an action on my part.

Bottom line – I’ve saved 9 hours of my time (which I value more than what I’ll pay for it), thereby enabling me to focus on things more important to me now, so as far as I’m concerned I’m a happy biologist.

I happily recommend the service, and am going to continue to use it.

Been down with nasty cough and flu


Been sick in bed the whole week with a nasty cough, and flu type symptoms… not been great at all, and super boring just coughing all the time.

Has reminded me very clearly how important stable health is for pretty much everything, and how it’s almost, if not definitely, ones most important priority. If you’re not healthy, what can you do with any effectiveness? Note to self…