Organisation

This category is for all things relating to Organisation, Planning, and Action Managment.

What’s your every day carry? 2014 Edition

In 2012 I did both what’s in your bag and what’s your every day carry posts, and this year I have decided to revisit both.

Also check out What’s in your bag? 2014 Edition

What's your every day carry?

Windows Phone

My Windows Phone of choice at the moment is the Nokia Lumia 920. If I had to pick a new one today I’d go for the 1020 because of the impressive camera – however I’m going to continue to use the 920 until the next generation of phones powered by Windows Phone 8.1 hit the market. (Very soon!)

Wallet

I am still using an All-Ett wallet, and this one – the small leather ‘sports’ version – is still going strong after getting it in June 2012.

Keys

I carry two keys with me all the time, and I’m still keeping it as simple as possible. I am also still carrying the Swiss Tech Utili-Key, because you get so much for such a small package.

Fitbit

I’ve recently started carrying a Fitbit One with me all the time. This passively records statistics like number of steps and calories burned. It has quickly become an essential item for keeping track of my health and fitness – and I even purchased a second device immediately when I realised I had lost my original one.

Pro-tip: Don’t lose it!

What's your every day carry?

What’s changed?

I no longer carry earphones with me, as I keep a pair in the office and I have a pair at home. Both are the Nokia Purity in-ear type. I like them.

The addition of the Fitbit One is something pretty recent, and I’ll be keeping an eye on other wearable devices that are compatible with Windows moving forward – I love getting all the statistics.

Last of all, I’d like to mention that while this is the minimum I carry, it’s not the only things – when I’m out doing astronomy I have a set of items I take with me, and I recently got a new bag to carry my personal computers around when visiting friends and family.

What’s in your bag? 2014 Edition

In 2012 I did both what’s in your bag and what’s your every day carry posts, and this year I have decided to revisit both.

Also check out What’s your every day carry? 2014 Edition

What’s in your bag?

Unchanged since around 2008, I still carry my Tumi work backpack which I carry into the office every day. If you’re interested in what I carry with me when I’m not at work then have a look at my Knomo Kilkenny bag for Microsoft Surface.

Dell Laptop

My work laptop is a pretty powerful Dell M4600 with an Intel Core i7 processor and 8 gigs of RAM. I’ve had less problems with this machine than the old HP I used to use, so you won’t hear any complaints from me. Though I have had my eye on the newer Dell workstations that include up to 32 gigs of RAM. Yes please.

USB Stick and USB Cable

It’s a tradition of mine to get a new USB stick every time I change jobs. This one contains debuggers, software installers, eBooks, and backups of my scripts and utilities. I never use these USB sticks for personal information about me, my employer or my clients – it only has the software I need to get up and running.

I also carry a standard micro USB cable, because you never know when it’ll be handy for charging my phone.

Notebooks

I still carry two Moleskine notebooks, but these days I track a lot more work stuff in OneNote – so the black work notebook has become more of a check list for most important tasks with space for notes. I tend to use about two pages a week.

Keys and Pencil Case

I carry a couple of keys with me in my work bag, including ones I need while I’m in the office. I also carry a small pencil case which includes the following:

What’s in your bag?

What’s changed?

The biggest change is the computer, and thankfully I no longer carry my charging adapter with me all the time, as I have a docking station in the office. I keep a spare charger at home, and if I ever need to go see a client I can just take that with me. Thanks to my recently replaced battery, I actually have plenty of power to do email and other tasks when I get home without needing to plug in anyway.

The next biggest change is probably the lack of paper notes. I used to carry a MUJI document folder with various printed specifications and other helpful documents. These days I try to print out as little as possible – mostly for security reasons.

I don’t carry a mouse in my bag either, again this is because my docking station at work is already set up with my Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard and Mobile Mouse. I have a spare mouse at home, for if I need it.

Finally, the Zune HD has been retired – these days I listen to Xbox Music, and when I’m at work that means my Lumia 920 – which is part of my Every Day Carry.

My Multi-Tools

There is something I really like about multi-tools. Especially ones that fold up into neat packages. Here are all the multi-tools that I own, and each one has its own purpose:

Victorinox Cyber Tool

Victorinox Cyber Tool

My Victorinox Cyber Tool was the first real Swiss army knife I got, and I was lucky enough to win it through a radio show. This version of the Cyber Tool is the most complete version that Victorinox made, and has 41 tools by their count. While I must admit I don’t use all of them, a great deal have been extremely useful over the years. The most unique features of this particular knife, is that it has a socket driver, which has been used to open and repair computers and other electronics. It has now been discontinued.

Wenger Ranger

Wenger Ranger

My Wenger Ranger 55 knife has gone camping with me many times, and has been used for a very large amount of tasks, including cutting cardboard, rope, opening tins and sawing fire wood. I decided to get the version that included a bottle opener – rather than a screw driver – because it seemed more likely that I would need that tool when camping, however I think all of the wine I have enjoyed while camping was either a screw top, or in a box. I originally ordered a black version of this knife, but received a version with camouflage themed scales. I decided to keep it.

Sigg Cutlery

Sigg Cutlery

Also for camping, my Sigg cutlery set has been very handy. Personally, I would have preferred it if they hadn’t included the bottle opener on the fork – as it seems that almost every other multi-tool has a bottle opener already. But, despite the strange shape of the fork and the sharpness of the knife, it has served me well. It turns out that the spoon gets most of the eating action in this set – and the knife and fork are more often used while actually cooking.

Victorinox Classic

Victorinox Classic

The tool I use the most by far is my tiny Victorinox Classic pen knife. This little knife usually lives inside a bag which also contains various medications and nail clippers. I’m guessing this is also the most used pair of scissors I own – outside of my kitchen.

Leatherman Wave

Leatherman Wave

Around the flat I tend to use my Leatherman Wave for a number of tasks, the pliers have helped out when fixing handles on doors, and the large blade has been very handy for cutting cardboard. I have a number of bits which can be used with the screwdriver which are great. This is also the sharpest blade I have.

Leatherman Squirt

Leatherman Squirt

When I am out doing astronomy (or hanging around our observatory) I always take my Astronomy Every Day Carry tools with me. Included in the kit is my little Leatherman Squirt PS4. The pliers, knife, screwdrivers and scissors all get plenty of action with this tool, and I’m always pleased to have it when I need it.

Swiss-Tech Utili-Key

Swiss-Tech Utili-Key

The Swiss-Tech Utili-Key 6-In-1 is the smallest of all my multi-tools, and the one that goes with me literally everywhere. There’s no chance I’d go for anything larger, as keeping my keys small is the top priority… but thanks to the small size of the Swiss-Tech Utili-Key, it is no worse than carrying one extra key. I mostly use the blade on this tool, but the tiny screwdrivers have saved me on a number of occasions.

Knomo Kilkenny bag for Microsoft Surface

Knomo Kilkenny

I spent a lot of time looking around for a bag that will suit my current computing habits – I found myself taking my Surface with me when I went to see friends and family quite often. I used a bag I already owned which was not really designed to hold a computer – and I worried about it. I knew I needed something that would keep my computer safe.

First I thought about what I wanted to be able to carry and came up with a list of must-haves and optional extras that would all need to be able to fit – though not at the same time.

  • Surface Pro (10.6 inch screen)
  • Surface Mini (when they make one!)
  • Arc Touch Mouse (Surface Edition)
  • Mechanical Pencil and Surface Pen
  • USB sticks & USB cables
  • Moleskine Notebook
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Nintendo 3DS XL
  • Surface Charger

I decided I wanted it to go one of two ways:

  • Backpack
  • Cross-Body Messenger Bag

Eventually, after whittling it down to two* very different options, I decided to go for the Knomo Kilkenny cross body messenger bag, designed for laptops and tablets with screens up to around 11 inches. While it is not designed to be used with the Surface as such, it fits really well without being so tight that I wouldn’t be able to switch the computer out to something of a similar in the future. It’s also leather, which means it will hopefully last even longer than the technology it will hold.

Here’s how I’m using it…

The padded back compartment is specifically designed to hold a laptop or tablet, there’s no extra pockets in here and my Surface Pro 2 fits really nicely. This will be the only purpose for this back section to ensure I never accidentally scratch or damage the computer.

Knomo Kilkenny

The middle compartment is probably going to be the most changeable, and there is plenty of room for a second Surface tablet, Amazon Kindle, or Nintendo 3DS XL. There are two pockets a nice amount of padding as well as a zipped compartment providing a number of options for storing cables, devices or chargers depending on what I need.

Knomo Kilkenny

The front compartment is protected by a zip, and has a couple of small pockets as well as two loops for pens. I must admit the space for the pens is a little shorter than my other backpack, making both my Surface Pen and my Koru Toga fit tightly – but they do fit.

There’s also a back pocket and while I wouldn’t use it normally, it is ideal for picking up mail or storing documents for quick access. Very pleased to have it.

Knomo Kilkenny

I’m really happy with this bag. The quality is high, and it contains just the right mixture of storage verses size that I wanted. Especially when compared to the bag I was using, I’m sure that the Knomo Kilkenny will protect my most important electronic devices.

* the alternative was the Grid-It backpack. It is super cool, but a little big for what I needed.

Astronomy Every Day Carry

Astronomy Every Day Carry

As an amateur astronomer I have a number of handy tools or utilities that I like to keep with me when I’m out looking at the stars. While the things I want to have to hand at any given time changes depending on what I’m doing, there are always some essentials I’ll want to have.

For example, if I’m taking photos I’ll want my Canon 7D and my tripod. If I’m going away to Star Camp, I’ll want to take my binoculars as well as my computer for taking time lapse video.

On almost every occasion, there is a requirement for a torch – preferably a red one, to avoid damaging night vision. Because this is the most important tool, this serves as the center of my everyday astronomy kit.

Olight M20 Crimson

Red Torch

After spending a lot of time researching torches, I discovered the Olight M20 Crimson while I was at an astronomy show. It’s actually very bright and has multiple settings from 3.5 lumens up to 100 lumens. This could well be too bright if you are using it to illuminate a star chart or camera equipment, but it is fantastic for lighting up where you are going as you walk around an observatory or at a dark location.

  • Ultra bright red Cree LED
  • Three brightness settings with memory
  • Tail switch with momentary on
  • Anodised black steel construction
  • Various included accessories
  • Handy carry case

The only thing I don’t really care for is the strobe feature. While I can imagine it being useful for an emergency, it’s just not something I would use for astronomy and it can be activated by mistake. But I’m willing to put up with this superfluous feature for the fact that this torch is so high quality when compared to other (incredibly poor) astronomy torches on the market.

Leatherman Squirt PS4

Multi-Tool

I know many people carry either blades or multi-tools with them all the time. The majority of the time I like to keep things simple and I do not need to carry one all day.

However I have found that on the occasions where I am either at the observatory or out with other astronomers – having some kind of tool has been extremely beneficial. I decided to get the Leatherman Squirt PS4, which is an extremely small multi-tool, but has some incredibly useful features.

  • Spring action pliers
  • Great scissors
  • Flat and ’2D’ Philips screwdrivers
  • Very impressive file for the size
  • Small blade

When I first looked at multi-tools, I had considered choosing something from the Leather full-size tools – ranging from the expensive Surge to the cheaper Sidekick. I eventually decided that it was a much better option to go for something that is both high quality, and legal to carry at all times in the UK.

Green Laser

Green Laser

Finally, the last of my every day astronomy tools is the green laser. This particular one is a is a relatively cheap ‘no name’ device which I purchased from eBay. Having a green laser is extremely handy for pointing to things up in the sky, from stars to satellites. And while you can certainly get much more powerful lasers, I only wanted something that would be good enough for astronomy rather than something extremely powerful and potentially dangerous.

  • Bright green laser shows up well
  • Very inexpensive
  • Single AAA battery

One of my favourite things about this particular laser is the fact it uses a single AAA battery. I’ve seen other lasers that range from small watch batteries up to multiple AAAs and beyond. In my opinion this design gives just the right amount of power verses portability, and I would recommend this device to anyone who is looking for an astronomy laser.

It’s worth noting that I also use it with a Duracell rechargeable, so it’s easy to replace when it eventually does go flat.

Astronomy Every Day Carry

Final Thoughts

I feel like I’ve actually ended up with an extremely well rounded every day carry kit for doing astronomy. In fact I was so impressed by the case that came with the M20 Crimson torch that I used it as the base for my whole kit. It’s easy to carry in my pocket or wear on my belt – and I can even use the torch without removing it from the case as shown above.

While I do not carry this stuff with me all the time, it’s always the first thing I pick up when I go out to do astronomy, and I’m sure this equipment will keep me going for years to come.

The Death of Outlook & Exchange for Task Management

Windows Mobile

Rewind to around 2005 – 2006, I had recently discovered the works of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and I had started looking for more resources and found the likes of Merlin Mann and others. These people were telling me that it was possible to do all the things you want to do by keeping track of all the tasks and commitments in a simple, trusted system.

Just like now, I was living mostly in a Microsoft ecosystem – I had a Windows Mobile Smartphone, I used Outlook & Exchange for my email and all my computers ran Windows.

I read a book called ‘Take Back Your Life! Using Outlook to Get Organized & Stay Organized‘ which took many of the principles behind Getting Things Done and implemented them in Microsoft Outlook to help keep track of what’s important.

  • Outlook Tasks – universal capture for all ideas as well as a single place for next actions
  • Outlook Calendar – the ultimate way to track professional and personal commitments
  • Outlook Email – a large amount of incoming tasks would come through email and processed directly from the inbox
  • Outlook Notes – sticky notes that could be used to make lists and capture ideas to be processed later, this was later superseded by OneNote for Windows Mobile – a separate download.

Outlook was ideal for this, because it also synchronised using both Microsoft Exchange and ActiveSync – software that ran on your computer and would sync your Windows Mobile device when attached. As Windows Mobile was my mobile operating system of choice it included Tasks, Calendar, Email and Notes without any extra software. It was Outlook, in my pocket.

Windows Phone

Fast-forward to 20012 – 20013, and the importance of Outlook has diminished significantly. Not by my choice.

The support for Outlook or Exchange Tasks in Windows Phone is very low. In Windows RT the situation is even worse, there is no way of getting access to Exchange tasks without third party software, and no way to flag emails to follow up. If I can’t use it on all my computers, it’s not worth using the feature at all.

These days I use a combination of other apps to follow up on actions – the Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging applications allow me access to Exchange Mail and Calendar – but I manage notes and tasks through OneNote – which is fantastic for capturing but not so hot for reviewing, processing or planning.

Over the years I have actually moved away from using purely digital capturing and planning tools, favouring paper notebooks in some cases. However, I feel that Microsoft has not done enough to keep the functionality that they used to have for task management, and that they’re missing a trick by letting the functionality fall behind.

By focussing their smartphone and tablet efforts on consumer tasks and social networking, I believe they have lost a lot of the value they had by giving users ‘Outlook in their pocket’ – I hope they bring it back.

All-Ett Wallets

Around 2005 I got myself an original All-Ett canvas ‘sports’ wallet. Since it was designed for American notes, I had to be a little creative on how I stored money in it, but it was so much smaller than anything else I’d ever used and I was hooked.

When my canvas wallet started to get worn down, I decided to replace it with the leather version which looked to be even stronger. I was right, and it lasted many years! While I’ve been very happy with the performance over the years, recently the canvas part of the wallet had become unstitched – allowing cards to leak*.

As the quality and size was just perfect for me, I decided to get the same design as a replacement…

My new replacement arrived a couple of weeks ago, and again the quality of the workmanship has gone up. The stitching is now far better, making it less likely to happen again. Hopefully this new wallet will last me just as many years! I can highly recommend All-Ett if you’re looking for a thin and modern wallet design.

* Resulting in a rather lolworthy incident where I thought I’d lost my drivers license while out with friends in York.

Digital Junk

I know a lot of people who are file collectors, ranging from keeping every possible bit of information which has a memory attached to it, to keeping all their emails even though they’ve dealt with them.

I personally feel that a lot of this stuff can weigh us down, so I try to keep it all to a minimum. But there is always going to be a lot of ‘digital junk’ that has to be dealt with – even if you are careful about what you keep.

The ‘Spam’ folder

One of the biggest sources for digital junk is obviously spam, by letting email into your life you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of rubbish. Because email was essentially invented by hippies, there’s no system in place to force users to prove who they are – this means you can send an email from Bill Gates without any email servers batting an eyelid.

Yea sure things are better these days, but I still tend to get quite a lot of spam. I also have a policy where any email address that isn’t trusted is automatically put into my spam folder. Because of this I tend to check my junk email at least a few times a day. Oh the joy.

The ‘Junk’ folder

I tend to make a folder called Junk inside my profile (C:\Users\Julian\Junk) where I stick any files that I haven’t yet decided where they should be (or if I need them at all!) Usually I just chuck everything from my Desktop into this folder when I’m done with it.

Saying that, I don’t usually keep anything on my Desktop at all. I only tend to use it for creation of content that is about to be uploaded or put into another project folder that I’m working on.

The ‘Downloads’ folder

Downloads probably the ‘buit in’ Windows folder that gets the most junk I have to sort out. Downloads tend to be a mixure of stuff you want to keep, stuff you wanted to just open to view, and (in my case as a developer) millions of documents that I’ve downloaded from one of Branded3′s internal tools.

Ahhh first world problems.

What’s your every day carry?

Yesterday I posted my what’s in your bag post, and today it’s time for the every day carry post. These EDC posts have become a bit of an internet trend, with loads of people posting the contents of their pockets for everyone to see.

Windows Phone

So Windows Phone is pretty cool right? I’m using a Samsung Omnia 7, though I would love one of those Nokia Lumia phones – I’m quite happy to use this one until it breaks. (it already has a couple of chips out of it – woops)

Earphones

My current earphones live in the case that came with my Zune earphones way back. I find it extremely handy and they have a cute Zune branded cable tidy.

As for the earphones themselves, I’m currently using some Nokia ones provided to me by Douglas Radburn because my Samsung ones broke. I’m actually on the hunt for some new ones… so I’ll be sure to post my findings.

Wallet

I got my wallet from All-Ett a few years ago and I absolutely love it. I try to keep the amount of stuff I carry down to a minimum and this wallet suits me just fine. In the picture above it carries a couple of receipts, two £10 notes, and seven plastic cards, yet it is still extremely thin and easy to carry.

Keys

My keys are also on the minimal side, carrying only what I need, but I also have a Swiss Tech Utili-Key for opening boxes and fixing glasses.

Again, as usual I try to keep things as simple as possible. I don’t usually carry anything else around with me, apart from the obvious stuff like my watch, my glasses. Oh and clothes…

What’s in your bag?

I’m a big fan of the what’s in your bag and what’s your every day carry style posts that have become an internet trend. People uniquely try to get just the right combination of things they need for their own personal tasks, and it’s super interesting to get an inside look into what they they find important.

I have a few bags, but the bag I carry around most of the time is actually my Tumi work backpack, which goes to and from Branded3 every day.

HP Laptop

My HP laptop for work. I just recently got this one to replace an HP G62 and it is a million times nicer to use. My biggest complaints about the G62 were related to screen resolution, stupid extra keys, and a funny touchpad. All of which are fixed.

I also have a SanDisk SD card plugged in all the time which I use for Windows Ready Boost. I’ve used this in desktop computers before, but this is the first time I’ve done it with a laptop.

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

I only just got this mouse, so I’ll be writing a review about it in the coming weeks. I tend to use mice in a bit of a strange way (at -90 degree angle to most people) and it works just fine for my needs.

When I’m in the office I pair this with my Natural Keyboard for epic coding.

Zune HD

I usually have my Zune with me at work for listening to music in the office through our speakers or using my earphones. As most people know, the Zune HD isn’t actually manufactured any more, but it still works with Zune Pass just as well as the day I got it.

Oh yea, and I keep it in an Apple iPod sock. Kinky right? The earphones I use are not pictured here, but I’ve included them in my every day carry post.

SanDisk 16GB USB Stick

This rather beat up looking USB stick where I keep a backup copy of all the scripts and tools I use, as well as installers for all the software I use.

I’ve always had a USB stick specifically for work stuff since I was at Sumo, and it’s a good habit to have as it ensures you’ve always got the stuff you need when something bad happens.

MUJI Document Folder and Notebooks

I’m always carrying some kind of documentation around, and it’s usually A4. Currently I’m using this folder from MUJI for these kinds of documents, and my two Moleskine notebooks for everything else.

Charging Cables, Keys and Pens

I always have charging cables for the laptop, the Zune and a Micro USB which I use for my phone and Kindle. Also keys are pretty important, and so are pens. Currently I’m carrying a Sharpie and a Style Fit Meister 3.

So yea, that’s everything. As usual I try to keep things as simple as possible, and this meets my needs completely.