Monday, 7 April 2008

Flaming foxes and greased monkeys

Is there hope for the hopelessly disorganised?

At present, my personal filing system consists of piling bits of paper on the floor until I feel disgusted enough with myself to be bothered transferring them all to whichever folders in the three dusty, overstuffed box files under my bed seem least inappropriate. When being organised is predicated upon feeling bad about yourself and makes you sneeze chances are you need a better way of getting organised.

I also have a terrible procrastination problem. I put the 'pro' into 'procrastinator'.

Oh, I get work done, but not without first putting myself through countless wasted hours of pointlessness, or doing everything else I possibly can until the only thing that's left is what I'm supposed to be doing. Work by default, you might call it. It seems to get results, mind, but there must be an easier, more sane way of going about things. Mustn't there?

Well, that's what this blog will set out to find out, every Monday: ways in which to become more organised and productive; preferably without developing OCD.

After a cursory browse of the World Wide What-was-I-supposed-to-be-doing, the first thing I will definitely not be doing is this. It might be a neat time-saving way of combining work and exercise, but somehow I think I can soldier on a while longer without feeling like a trapped hamster.

Thankfully, there seem to be an abundance of more sensible suggestions out there, though; ones that don't appear quite so dispiritingly symbolic of going nowhere.

The most famous websites dedicated to organisation and getting things done are probably lifehacker and 43 Folders. Both sites promise that you can get more done in less time simply by making little alterations to your everday life and work routines. The idea is to 'hack' your life to make it do what you want it to, in much the same way that a tech-savvy musician might hack an old games console to use its sound chip to create beats and bleeps. Or in the same way that someone might create an add-on for Firefox to make it do something useful that it doesn't do as standard.

In fact, that's one of the things lifehacker seems to recommend, harnessing the power of Firefox add-ons to streamline your web-browsing and get what you really need from the websites you use. To this end, the extension it seems most fond of is Greasemonkey.

Greasemonkey allows users to control how they see and use a website by creating a script that Firefox will run every time that site is visited. Which sounds a little complicated... Fortunately, though, you don't have to write these scripts yourself, you can just browse and download ones that people have already created.

Is there something that's always irritated you about YouTube, say, or Gmail, or something you wished those sites could do? Well, chances are someone's already created a script to remedy or enable exactly those things. And here they are: Better Gmail and Better YouTube (the Greasemonkey extension needs to be installed already, I think). The blurb at the links will tell you what they do.

No idea, yet, whether they're any use, or whether they might actually save time or get me even slightly more organised, but I shall report back next week. And by then I might even have manged to read and filter through some more of the endless productivity hints, tips and systems that seem to be out there. Seriously, you could waste weeks looking through that stuff. Which, erm, probably isn't the point.

UPDATE: Lifehacker's Top 10 Greasemonkey scripts.

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