Monday, January 31, 2011

It's almost February

On January 7, I had an empty inbox for the first time since I could remember. How does my inbox look at the end of the month? Well, see for yourself:

I admit, it has become a little bit of an obsession to keep it empty, but the end result is that the things I need to accomplish today are all on my to-do list. It also encourages me to get things done because I write my to-do list by hand each day, and I really don't like re-writing things...

The end result of this is a real sense of freedom and of being in control of my day. That is totally worth the time it took to get here...


Sunday, January 23, 2011

3D Movies

Recently it seems like every movie worth seeing is being touted in 3D. The reason for this is simple: they can charge more for a 3D ticket and people are willing to pay it.

But is it worth it? Does 3D really add anything to a movie or is it just a gimmick?

When you talk about 3D the first movie that comes up is Avatar. I enjoyed Avatar, and the 3D added tremendously to the whole experience. Without it, I think it would have felt like a shallow film with cardboard villains and questionable politics. But the 3D helped you look past the films faults and just enjoy the moment.

So what about the more recent films? The first one I saw was Dawn Treader. I quite enjoyed the movie but the 3D didn't really make any difference, to be honest. It was nice in spots but given the choice I would have gone for 2D.

The second movie was Tron Legacy. This movie used 3D really well, even making the "real" world 2D and only using 3D when inside the computer. This was actually cool, and it added to the film. The movie seemed deep and rich in the 3D segments. So here it added to the movie and my enjoyment of it.

And then we saw Green Hornet. It was an entertaining film, and the only reason we saw it in 3D was that the 2D showtimes didn't work for us. But oh boy the 3D was not good. In fact, it detracted from the film to me, making me feel like I was reading a popup book at times.

And that's the real problem. Movies are being made into 3D that were never meant to be that way in the first place and it ends up just making everything worse. As long as the ticket prices cover or exceed the cost for conversion, we are not done with this. There will be more movies that are poorly adapted to 3D.

I can only hope that 3Dization goes the ay of colorization and the only movies that are 3D are ones that were meant to be 3D from the get go like Avatar...


Friday, January 7, 2011

The incredible freedom of an empty inbox

I do a lot via email. It's the very nature of my job. After spam is filtered out, I get somewhere between 100 and 200 emails a day. With that kind of volume its very easy to get behind, and when you get too far behind on emails things fall through the cracks. I have, in trying to get caught up from time to time, found emails that should have been dealt with weeks ago.

It's difficult to get people to talk about this issue. Most just joke that you should simply delete all of them and the problem goes away, but it really does not because it makes you come across to others as uncaring and inconsiderate. When they are waiting on you and you never reply, they get frustrated. We are called to serve one another, not frustrate them. The other response is usually something like "I have so many emails I lost count years ago" and a glance at their 4000+ message inboxes shows you that there is no point in ever emailing them anything.

Neither one of those approaches is effective. In August I read Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky. The most valuable thing that book did for me was helped me to recognize the value of personal organization at work. I'm not the type of person who lives or works in a giant pile of clutter, but it was not uncommon for my email box to get away from me and find 1200+ emails staring at me on a given day. Likewise there was a stack on my desk of papers that needed attention that was beginning to growl at me in the morning.

After reading Making Ideas Happen I completely revamped my daily task management, and in doing so I began to break down large tasks (empty my email inbox) into smaller tasks (email inbox to 1000 messages) that I could put on a daily task list and check off. I also reorganized what I was working on so that what I planned to accomplish today was "above the line" and everything else was below the line. Now if someone calls and asks if I have time to work on a project with them, I put it below the line for now until I have the opportunity at the end of the day to prioritize it. By doing this I can keep my train of thought on the current issues in front of me. I also found that by doing this, when I moved the "below the line" items up I accomplished them much quicker than if I had just tried to work on them immediately because I was mentally prepared for what I needed to do.

That was August. Today is January 7, and for the first time in years I have exactly zero items in my inbox. It's blank. Empty. Nada. I keep thinking that my iPhone mail client isn't working. Of course, lots of messages come in throughout the day, but when there are only a handful, it is very quick to answer them and get back to what I was doing in the first place.

The other advantage is that I get back to people right away, and they appreciate that. By taking the time to be more organized, I am able to serve people better. I am more effective in doing what I have been called to do, and I can make ideas happen.

There is nothing special about my system, and it's not even described in the book I read. The funniest thing about it is that it is pen and paper. No mac, ipad, iphone or other technology needed beyond paper and ink. But for me, it works brilliantly, and today I am experiencing the incredible freedom that comes from an empty inbox.