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Getting things done the Galavant way

21 Sep

I’m a huge fan of lifehacking, by which I mean “I am completely overscheduled and need more hours in my day, so in lieu of a Time-Turner I’m going to need to be as efficient as possible”. I sometimes call this life in beta.

My preferred tools and techniques have evolved over the years – I used to be full-on hipster PDA, for example.

Here’s my GTD toolkit circa September 2012, ranked in order of measurably-improve-my-(perceived)-productivity.


- Quicksilver - this is by far my favourite application launcher for OS X and it’s consistently the first application I install on any new Mac. Use this constantly. (Free)

- Divvy – Found via this post on Reddit, Divvy is the single best window management tool for OS X. Use it about once every 10 minutes. At least. ($)

- Google Apps – Google organizes my life. I’ve been a Gmail user since 2004 (when Blogger users received invitations to the beta), and a Google Apps user since at least 2008. I won’t tell you how many email addresses I have. But it’s a lot. I use Google Apps for calendaring, document collaboration, email hosting and analytics for my domains.

- Asana - I use this for everything – at work for project management, at home for grocery lists and travel planning.

 - iDoneThis – I started using iDoneThis in July 2011 (from my first entry: ‘wrestled inbox back into submission’). At the time, the iDT team were alpha-testing what has become their primary product: iDoneThis for teams (then called ‘WeDoneThis’). I use iDoneThis to keep track not just of “what I did today”, but also what I ate, whether I had a migraine, what time I woke up. It’s part #gtd, part quantified self. ($)

- Alfred – I confess to being late to the Alfred train – I used it on and off while Quicksilver was on a development hiatus – but after reading this post on how to integrate iDoneThis and Alfred I coughed up the GBP 30 for a Mega Supporter license. Don’t be a free user, etc. (Free, $ for the advanced feature set)

- Fantastical – Holy calendar management, Batman. Fantastical allows you to use natural language to enter calendar events (like “breakfast next Tuesday at 8am with Brianne at Ground Support); it syncs with iCal, BusyCal, Entourage, or Outlook (and by extension, iCloud and Google Calendar). Use this hourly. ($)

- Evernote – Recipes, yoga poses, notes from classes I’ve attended, pages ripped from magazines and newspapers, receipts, bills, travel itineraries  - Evernote is my go-to digital filing system. (Free, $ for features like offline notebooks and searchable PDFs)

- BusyCal – Because iCal is terrible, terrible piece of software. Even without the skeuomorphism. I rarely ever have to open BusyCal – because Fantastical is just that good – but when I do, I’m able to seamlessly manage my (embarrassingly large number of) Google Calendars which span two different Google Apps accounts.

- DropBox – DropBox makes it automagical to access and sync files across all my devices, or from wherever I am. And I never have to travel with external harddrives again. (Free, $. Referral link)

- CrashPlan – After one catastrophic hard drive failure and a subsequent roommate-formatting-my-iPod incident, I converted to the way of the backup. My backups have backups. TimeMachine + CrashPlan + multiple external drives = peace of mind.

- Lastpass – Even though I’ve been increasingly been moving to the xkcd approach to password management, Lastpass is a brilliant, useful tool. (Free, $ for premium features like mobile access)

- Pinboard – I was a long, long time Delicious user. And then – that whole thing. And that other thing. Cue swift switch to Pinboard, which is a brilliant service. The archiving feature is well worth the paid upgrade. ($)

- Instapaper – Flirted with Read it Later (long before it was Pocket) and Readability. Subscribed to Instapaper and paid for the app when there was still a free option available. No regrets. (Free, $)

- IFTTT – The glue of the internet. IFTTT makes my phone ring when I get an email with certain terms in the subject line or body. It sends articles I like in Instapaper to my Pinboard archive. It’s awesome. (Free)

MailChimp - I switched to MailChimp from TinyLetter (which was acquired by…MailChimp) for the Galavant Times newsletter. Easy to use, full featured. (Free, $)

Shoeboxed - Paperless life, activate. Every month or so I gather up my receipts, assorted business cards, hand-written notes and other paper-based odds and ends and mail them to Shoeboxed. Shoeboxed scans all those documents and allows me to download the scans to Evernote or in the case of business cards, export the collected contact details to a CSV. ($)

- Week Cal – Because calendars on the iPhone don’t have to suck. ($)

- Tweetbot – RIP Tweetie. Long live Tweetboot – brilliant on the iPhone, tremendous on the iPad. ($)

- LiftFoursquare for habits. Simple, elegant. (Free)

Hardware / Offline:

11″ Macbook Air – The best laptop I have ever owned, bar none.

iPad 3 – Great for my ploughing through my Instapaper backlog. And catching up on Tumblr.

Kindle – The basic, ad-supported $79 edition.

iPhone – 4S, via many Blackberries and preceded by an HTC Sensation.

Sennheiser HD 380 Pro – Money well spent (as recommended by Marco Arment).

Doxie – A lightweight scanner with solid software and seamless Evernote integration.

Moo – Gorgeous, cost-effective business cards and stickers. ($, referral link)

Galavant Media on Up With Chris Hayes: July 22 2012

22 Jul

More clips:

Is Congress Capable of Raising Taxes? – Sun, Jul 22, 2012 ; Drought, climate change and the price of corn – Sun, Jul 22, 2012 ; A new era for climate and the food supply – Sun, Jul 22, 2012 ; Commodity prices and climate change – Sun, Jul 22, 2012Big banks betting on food – Sun, Jul 22, 2012The Romney Plan: A Giant Tax Break for the 1% – Sun, Jul 22, 2012

Galavant Media on Russia Today: The Alyona Show

19 Jul

Talking commodities, consumer credit and Capital One.

“Three weeks. Likely four. That’s how much time I estimate I’ve “lost” to migraines. Time spent…”

2 Jul

Three weeks. Likely four.

That’s how much time I estimate I’ve “lost” to migraines. Time spent curled up in the dark, in a fog of pain and nausea. And that doesn’t include the days I’ve spent merely impaired - composing emails with one eye squinting shut, wincing at any noises louder than a whisper - and not wholly incapacitated.

- From the latest edition of the Galavant Times, to which you can subscribe. If you’re into supporting (random) people’s writing habits, etc.

Startups 101: How not to lose mentors and irritate advisors

20 Jun

I’ve spent quite a lot of time “having coffee”, where “having coffee” involves discussions around social media strategies, product launches, presentation tips, CV polishing and so on.

Some of these are ongoing, quasi-mentor/mentee relationships; others are ad-hoc or one-off; not all of them actually involve coffee. Sometimes I leave these meetings exhilarated (which is saying something, given my introvert tendencies). And sometimes I leave these meetings irritated or frustrated, or with a strong sense of having had my time wasted.

Sometimes this disappointment stems from having been kept waiting (5 minutes – understandable; 15 minutes – piss take; 20 mins – I’m out) or from an obvious lack of preparedness by the other party (“so, what do you do again?”).

With that in mind (and inspired by Ty Ahmad-Taylor’s brilliant guidance to his mentees around email introductions), herewith the first version of the Galavant Guide to Not Pissing Off Your Mentors and Advisors:

Confirm the meeting and give at least 24-hours notice if you need to reschedule

Confirming the meeting the morning of the day before you’re due to get together isn’t just polite; it also acts as a reminder to your mentor/advisor and gives him/her an opportunity to reschedule or change the venue if needed. If you’re no longer able to make the meeting, give at least 24 hours (and ideally, 48 hours) notice if at all possible, and suggest specific dates/times for an alternative meeting (avoid open-ended statements like: ‘when is good for you?’). And above all, don’t be a chronic rescheduler.

Here’s a real example of how to make a less than positive impression (names and details changed):

- Send an email with the subject line, “Not sure what happened this morning”
- Get the date and location of the meeting wrong, suggest it was a mix-up on the other person’s behalf: “I’m sorry I think I must have had either a miscommunication or brainfart; I thought today at 9 we were meeting at the XXX offices. May I suggest we perhaps reschedule for another day this week at the same time?”
- When corrected as to the date/location of the meeting, manage to first be very late and then completely miss the actual meeting by getting lost in NYC
- Fail completely to email or call the other party after having missed the meeting

Don’t be late, but don’t be too early

Respect your mentor’s time. Plan your route well in advance and give yourself enough time that traffic or a transit snafu won’t completely derail your arrival. If you’re going to be late, let your advisor know. On the other hand, don’t arrive too early – especially if you’re meeting at your mentor’s home or office. Alex Taub of Dwolla has a solid post on why earlier is not always better (but late is never good).

Be prepared

I’ve had meetings with people who’d obviously forgotten my name. This is…not a good look. Always have a clear objective for your meetings with your mentors and advisors, and make specific requests. Avoid: “I’d really like to meet people and media”. Prefer: “Would you be able to introduce me to XXX editor at YYY newspaper? I’m interested in an internship there over the summer.”

Offer to pay for the coffee or meal

Your mentor or advisor will appreciate the gesture, even if s/he declines. But always offer. And be sincere.


At the very least, send a thank you email within 24 hours of the meeting. Ensure you send your mentor any information or details s/he requested – like a PDF of your CV. And if the interaction involved career advice or introductions, keep your advisor informed of your progress .

Here’s a real example of how to fail at following-up:

- Ask your mentor or advisor to recommend you for an internship.
- Secure an interview for said internship; fail to let your advisor know of your progress.
- Secure said internship
- Allow enough time to elapse that your advisor first hears that you’ve started the internship from a third party
- Entirely fail to send your advisor a thank you note or update of any kind

Don’t embarrass your mentor

When you asked your mentor or advisor to introduce you to someone, you are effectively asking him/her to trust that you will not abuse the privilege. You can bet that if you annoy the person to whom you have been introduced (or, and sometimes worse, if you fail to follow-up on an email introduction, for instance) you will undermine your relationship with your mentor.

Don’t embarrass yourself

Spell check your emails. Get names right. Don’t show up for a meeting hungover. Etc.

Have you had an excellent or awkward mentor/mentee relationship? Weigh in with your suggestions for avoiding embarrassment and ensuring good relations in the comments

Startups 101: Pitching and Presenting

Presenting your best self and ideas on air and online: a project by Manoush Zomorodi

6 Jun

Manoush Zomorodi is a freelance reporter, moderator, and media consultant. Her multimedia ebook CAMERA READY: How to Present Your Best Self and Ideas On Air or Online is the definitive manual for anyone appearing on camera, and will be released on Tuesday, June 12.

From 1995-2006 Manoush reported and produced for BBC News, with postings in Washington, Berlin, Brussels, and New York.  As a freelance reporter and anchor, she covered business and technology for Reuters Television in New York from 2006-2010. She is a media trainer and is piloting a new public radio show about how innovation is changing New York.  Follow her @manoushz.

We asked Manoush about her latest project, Camera Ready (which we’ve backed on Kickstarter)


Get the Galavant Times

5 Jun

Get the Galavant Times:

So I have this newsletter. It’s full of win. Don’t take my word for it - how about these other people you don’t know but should listen to because don’t we all take it for granted that people on the internet know what they’re talking about, surely?

Here’s why I always look forward to and read the Galavant emails It’s always been interesting so far so until proven otherwise, I know it’s time well used It’s good value. Definitely better than Vogue (and I do mean that as a compliment) Your hyperlinks always lead me to discovering new things I like the format. I like the idea of a blog-like email Your logo and title rock
Am enjoying the Galavanting. And very keen to see where you find the next intersection of the geeky + interesting + inspiring…
$2 a month. At least two people say it’s totally worthwhile. What more do you need? Oh, links: Paypal Amazon

Startups 101: Pitching and presenting

14 May

This is the second in a series of posts distilling various lessons I’ve learnt while working on various projects, etc

My fellow fellows at the CUNY / Tow Knight Entrepreneurial Journalism program are gearing up for their pitches, and over the past weeks I’ve been helping several of them refine their spiel. Herewith some notes on how to deliver more effective pitches and presentations:

- Don’t forget to breathe. Take 30 seconds before you head ‘on stage’ to take slow, deep breaths. This calms and relaxes you, and makes it much less likely you’ll start the presentation by taking shallow, gulping breaths (leading to that ‘running out of air’ phenomenon).

- Pause. Silence is a powerful way of emphasizing a point, connecting with your audience and giving them a change to digest the awesomeness of what you just said.

- Maintain eye contact, but don’t stare. There’s a fine line between engaging with someone through good eye contact and creeping them out. Stay on the right side of it. Remember – don’t just focus on the judges, you want the room to pay attention to you, too.

- Don’t read your slides. Just don’t. You waste time and bore the audience. Slides are your *supplementary* materials; you are the primary attraction.

- Tell me what you’re going to tell me (“Now I’d like to talk about”; “let me me tell you” etc); tell me; then tell me what you’ve told me (“to recap”; “as I’ve explained”; etc)

Startups 101: Thinking about your communications strategy

The Broad Experience: a show about women, the workplace and success

18 Apr

Ashley Milne-Tyte is a New York-based writer and reporter. Ashley produces radio pieces for Marketplace, NPR, and Voice of America, writes for print/online and teaches radio boot camp at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Ashley is currently a (fellow) fellow at the CUNY/Tow Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism . Her entrepreneurial ‘project’ is a podcast: The Broad Experience.

Below is the latest episode of The Broad Experience, all about men, equitable relationships and sex, plus the keys to being a good leader.

‘Life is too short to be writing on China if that’s not what gets you going’

16 Apr

John McDermott is a beautiful writer, a voracious reader and an active tweeter.

He’s also the executive comment editor at the Financial Times, a longtime friend of Galavant Media and an early supporter of the Galavant Times.

Below, he offers some advice to aspiring writers.

1. Write about what you care about. To some extent, any writing is good practice, but you should write on your passions. Life is too short to be writing on China if that’s not what gets you going.

2. Know who you’re writing for. Reading this piece, I wasn’t clear. It’s nicely turned in places but what is it trying to do? Entertain? Great, then entertain who?

3. Avoid rococo writing. Foreign words, adjectives, adverbs and cute metaphors should be used sparingly. Cliches never at all. It’s hard to be breezy and persuasive at the same time.

4. You should be able to summarise your argument in one sentence. If not, there’s something wrong.

5. Start small. Practice writing “perfect” sentences. Sentences should comprise a complete thought; no more, no less. Then move on to paragraphs, and so on. This is not meant to patronising: it’s where most creative writing classes start.

Finally: Read Orwell on Politics and the English language, Strunk & White on style, and everything by Waugh and Fitzgerald. And write. A lot. Don’t give up.

Oh dear, my dad is following me – John McDermott, FT
Step inside the mind of Willem Buiter — but tread carefully – John McDermott, FT Alphaville