Archive for March, 2007

Organization and management solutions (Basecamp, Backpack, Highrise)

Friday, March 30th, 2007

37 Signals is a developer focusing on software as service applications. I initially found them via a colleague’s recommendation of Basecamp, their project management tool.

I’ve been using Basecamp ever since, finding it very useful both at work and in my hobby project of managing a videogame developer team. It’s pretty great for to do lists and milestones per project. Actually I have a problem now, because my company forces me to use Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, which does not play with Basecamp. So I use Bacecamp for everything except for meetings that I have with people in my office. I’ve previously tried to use Microsoft Project, but it’s just not good at all, forcing all kinds of clutter on you. Actually MS Project’s former develoment manager has promoted Basecamp, saying it’s first proper project management solution out there. I totally agree so far – it does only what you need it to do and being web-based, is always available.

Their other big solution is Backpack, meant for personal information management. It basically gives you a simple interface to build web pages for whatever need you have. I use it to store passwords and lists of things I want to remember over a long time, something I’ve used GMail drafts for before – admittedly clumsy. Also when I’m working on something that I need to gather notes for over a period of time, Backpack is the right solution. If I was still in school, I’m sure I’d be a heavy user. Professionally I don’t see much use for it, though.

Last week 37 Signals launched Highrise, a combination of a contact manager and simple CRM system. Upon first exposure, I think I like it a lot. There’s some overlap with Basecamp, which makes me scratch my head a bit – like they both have tasks, but you can’t interlink them. I think I’ll need to give it a go and see if it suits my work or not. In any case, it seems like a great place to store personal contacts, too. The basic idea is that you can attach notes to people and form cases to which people can be attached.

These web-based solutions have changed the way I work considerably, and definitely for the better. Basecamp alone has helped my organization troubles immensely.

The gym as a reward

Saturday, March 10th, 2007

Yesterday I went back to the gym for the second of my two weekly workouts. It felt fantastic afterwards, I just smiled all through my post-workout sauna. There was a couple of things I did that caused this.

First, I set the workout as a reward for myself for getting the week done. I started my work on Friday with the sentiment of “what I need to do before I can go to the gym”. So instead of feeling tired after a week’s work, I was happy to reach my goal.

Second, I further increased the rewarding feeling of the workout by incorporating a couple of things I’d been looking forward to. There was a podcast (One Life Left, good introduction here) I’d wanted to listen to but hadn’t found a suitable one-our slot – listening to it while working out was a very good idea. Then there’s the issue of pedaling. I pedal to warm up and wind down, which requires at least half an hour of sitting. I find this various degrees of dull. A portable music player alleviated the problem somewhat, but yesterday I realized I could read the week’s economic news while pedaling. Score two for time management! Reading the newspaper is another thing I rarely have time for, so a twice-weekly recap ought to come in handy.
With just two workouts behind in my renewed efforts to stay fit, there’s a huge addictive feeling going on. I can’t wait to get back to the gym. Unfortunately, my muscles ache enough to prohibit more than two workouts a week for now.

Back to the gym

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

With the winter receding and spring rolling in fast, I got inspired enough to return to the gym. My target is a pace of twice a week workouts. The first time after the winter felt very good indeed. I’m delighted to notice that I’m not nearly as broken as the last time I returned to the gym after a long hiatus; my legs ache a bit, but that’s about it.

Once the snow’s really gone, my intent is to also return to running, also going for a twice-weekly rate. About time, too, the stomach was beginning to gain bulk. I’m aerobically clearly more fit than before, though, so last summer’s running didn’t go to waste.