Managing Electronic Stuff

While efficiency is not as important as effectiveness, efficiency is still pretty important. And it’s something I’m always trying to improve on (I’ve written posts on task management and task management 2.0).

At its heart, efficiency is a matter of finding a system that works for you. There are no perfect systems because we’re all different. Systems are important, though; they’re simply structures, or ways of doing things (for example, Purpose Driven is a system; Five Practices is a system; Methodism began as a system, a method of discipleship).

My last post talked about our system for managing fluid schedules. Another area that I improved in the last few years is the system I use for my email, a system inspired by an article called The Inbox Makeover, which is based on the popular task management system, Getting Things Done (the book at Amazon.com).

Using this system, I am usually able to keep my inbox empty. Emails that need a quick response, I act on immediately, if possible, or if not, move them to the Respond folder for action later when I have time to knock out some quick emails. Emails that require more time/work can go into the Action folder to handle later when I have more time. Things I need to read (like newsletters) go in the Read folder if I can’t read them right away. Emails that I need to hang onto for a while I place in the Hold folder (which I go clean up occasionally).

I delete most emails after I’ve read or acted on them (I have it set up so that they stay in my Trash for one year; I figure if I don’t need to find them in a year, I shouldn’t ever need them). Some emails I may decide to keep; I place those in a sub-folder in my Archive folder. (For more on working with email, see Inbox Zero.)

The latest area that’s needing some work, though, is the organizational filing system on my computer. An article at Macworld.com describes two different approaches: (1) the organizer’s strategy and (2) the searcher’s strategy.

Up to this point, I’ve practiced the organizer’s strategy using an elaborate filing system of folders and sub-folders. My documents folder had several folders and each of those had several subfolders, etc. Because it got to the point where I was having to remember which sub-folder of which folder I saved my files in, I’m currently experimenting with a radically different approach, the searcher’s strategy.

The searcher’s strategy relies less on folders and subfolders and more on searching for keywords in the filename and/or the file. On my Mac, that simply means using Spotlight (Cmd + Spacebar opens Spotlight). The key to this approach is using good keywords in the title (of course, it helps to remember words or phrases in the actual file, as well).

I think this system will work well for me. I love using the advanced searching tricks on Google, many of which I learned from a book I perused once at a local Barnes and Noble bookstore (some of them are listed here, here, and here). When I want to look up a phone number, I use Google (I can’t remember the last time I used a telephone book). When I want to do a calculation, I’m almost as likely to use Google as I am a calculator. If I need to do a measurement conversion (like how many feet are in a mile), I use Google.

I’m just starting on reorganizing my files, and so far, I’ve set up (only) four folders in my documents folder: Archive, Leadership (work), Life (personal), and Read (which may also include temporary stuff unless I create a Temporary folder, because like my inbox, I like to keep my desktop empty!). I’ve already renamed a number of my files, moved them, and have been able to get rid of a lot of folders and sub-folders.

Most of my files will probably end up being dumped in the Archive folder. That’s where the search feature will be most helpful. My current files will be in the three other folders, which should be very manageable (as long as I move stuff to the Archive folder periodically).

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. What’s your filing system? Are you an organizer or a searcher?

I’m a Mac

IMG_2689Months ago, Ethan learned the fruit and the word, “apple.” One day, even though apples are usually red, he pointed at the lighted white Apple logo on my Mac notebook and said, “apple.” (And, in case you’re wondering, he did it without any prompting from me! 😀 )

Speaking of computers, someone bought a toy laptop (which has a red light on its lid that Ethan sometimes calls an apple even though it isn’t) for Ethan at one of our baby showers, thinking he could use his laptop when Mommy and Daddy are using theirs. Recently, Ethan has started going to his laptop, which plays music and sounds, when he sees one of us working and says, “Email.” A couple days ago, he said, “Email, check.”

Ethan will likely be what Leonard Sweet calls a “native.” Sweet describes people as being either “natives” or “immigrants,” with 1964 (the advent of the computer) generally being the dividing line between the two (although, this age is more psychological than physical; that is, some older people are natives and some younger people are immigrants).

Natives are computer literate, people who have grown up with or learned computer technology. Immigrants are people for whom computer technology is a foreign language (of course, immigrants can learn the native language).

While I’m a native, it was more a late-developing process for me. I remember the first computer in my high school in the mid-1980s (in a chemistry class). No one, including the teacher, really knew what to do with it. I think it had some sort of chemistry quiz on it.

In high school, I bought my first computer (1985), an Atari 520ST (modeled after the Mac, if I remember correctly). In college, I had to take a basic computer programming class. Later, I bought an “IBM-compatible” computer, as it was called at the time (1993).

My next computer (1998) would be my last PC. In 2003, while preparing to enter the Doctor of Ministry program at Asbury, we decided to replace our aging desktop PC with two Mac notebooks (our marriage would’ve never survived sharing a computer while working on D.Min. degrees and writing dissertations!).

Anyway, this post was inspired by Ethan pointing at the Apple logo on my Mac! That, and the fact that the WWDC event is taking place this week where Apple previewed its new operating system, Snow Leopard (due in September), and announced some developments (including significant price reductions) to the MacBook Pro lineup.

Transparency and Risk

Looking at our blog now, you might think that posting pictures of Ethan has always been *easy* for us. 🙂

Truth is, we struggled with whether or not to post that very first referral picture last September. We ended up posting one (of the 6 photos we received) in the It’s a Boy! post.

When we received the second and third batches of photos, I think we only posted one from each of those as well. We also only posted one photo from our first meeting with Ethan (see 1,000 Words) five months ago in Korea.

Admittedly, posting photos of Ethan has gotten much easier, but our purpose, I think, remains the same — to inform and to influence.

But that kind openness and transparency comes with a price. It makes us vulnerable (I don’t really want to go into details here).

But vulnerability comes with the territory of leadership and influence. One of my last messages at Hope and 12th Street was on courage where my point was …

The difference between courage and comfort is the cost!

Choosing comfort is the natural choice, but choosing courage is necessary for people who want to influence others.

So we’ll continue to write about what God is doing in our lives and in our ministries in the hopes that God will use the seeds that are planted in people’s lives through this blog!

Influence

Life. Leadership. God’s Mission.

Those are the areas we’ve chosen to write about on this blog. But those areas have developed over time. We started out simply posting the text of our sermons. Later, we began reflecting on, and writing about, leadership.

Over the course of the past year, we’ve begun writing a lot more about what’s going on in our lives — mainly the adoption process. Originally, our main goal was simply to inform family and friends on how things were progressing.

However, we’ve continued to write about the adoption journey, including the process of adjustment since bringing Ethan home, not only to inform, but also to influence.

That makes sense, since as leaders, we are influencers (leadership expert, John Maxwell, has long taught that “leadership is influence”). Our influence through this blog has grown, apparently. We’ve received over 16,000 page views in the last 6 months from all over the world (which isn’t necessarily a lot, just a lot more than it was before that).

Currently, there is a link on a Korea Blogroll of another blog, from which we’ve received 134 page views by people who have clicked on our link over there.

We certainly hope that our story and our experience, ultimately our journey of being faithful to God’s leadership and work in our lives, is helpful to the people, who for whatever reason, choose to come here!

Our First WordPress Upgrade

Back in mid-January, we moved our blog from Typepad to a WordPress-powered site (hosted at Dreamhost), which we wrote about here.

WordPress updated their software earlier this week, so in the near future, we will be upgrading to the new version (2.5). Actually, if it wasn’t for dissertation work this week, it would’ve already been done!

Normally, we wouldn’t even mention the upgrade (you won’t notice the difference), but we are for a couple reasons …

  1. This will be our first upgrade, so we’re not exactly sure how it will go. 🙂
  2. Also, we may be changing the way we post photos/images on the blog, which may take us some time to get that part of the process working properly.

We don’t expect any real downtime for the blog; the actual upgrade should be fairly easy (Dreamhost has a one-click installer, so the actual upgrade shouldn’t take very long).

But changing the way our blog handles photos will be a chore.

Bottom-line: The blog should be available (barring complications), but the photos may not appear until we get the new process sorted out.

When will the upgrade take place? It depends on dissertation work, Ethan’s sleep schedule, and my energy level. I should be able to do it sometime after we mail our defense drafts on Monday (with God’s help!), if not before. Unless I decide to wait for the release of 2.5.1 to fix the bugs found in 2.5. 🙂

Well, for what it’s worth, we’re very pleased with WordPress and we’re looking forward to checking out version 2.5, which looks to be a pretty significant upgrade.

What a Ride!

We did a couple things pretty regularly while we were in Korea: 1) check the blog for new comments, and 2) check our blog statistics.

We enjoyed reading the comments; it gave us a real sense that we were not alone while we were in Korea. And judging by some of the comments we’ve received, it helped others feel as if they were with us, too.

StatsBy checking our statistics, we’d knew how many “hits” or views our blog received each day. As you can see in the image here, our statistics really started climbing when we went to Korea and spiked on the days we met Ethan and brought him home. Not surprisingly, the blog’s biggest day was “gotcha day,” February 12 when the blog received 531 views.

To put that into perspective, our old blog (willis.blogs.com) received about 10,000 hits from January 2007 to January 2008 (about 30/day). This new blog (williswired.com) has received more than 3,600 in about a month (125/day).

As we said before, we blogged in Korea for a couple reasons: 1) to help friends and family experience this part of our journey with us, and 2) to be a resource for other adoptive families who may come across our blog (our blog statistics reveal that people come to our blog through Web searches related to adoption). At some point in the near future, we plan to post some lessons learned along the way that may be helpful to other adoptive families (especially those adopting from Korea).

Thanks for making this a more meaningul ride for us!

Our New Digs!

After toying around with the idea of moving our blog from Typepad to a WordPress-powered site (hosted by Dreamhost) for a while, we made a sudden decision to make the move today. We’ve been Typepad users for a few years now but have decided to move our blog to a WordPress-powered site.

We were concerned about the process of exporting all of our posts from Typepad to WordPress, but it was fairly painless.

While we were mostly happy with Typepad, WordPress will give us complete control of the site; it will also cost a good bit less. Actually, WordPress is a free download, but we will pay for hosting at Dreamhost. BTW, there is a free hosted version of WordPress at WordPress.com for those who want to blog without dealing with the technical side.

So, welcome to our new digs on the Web!