Friday, November 30, 2007

"Office Vocabulary" Found on a Few Old Cards

While clearing out the house my father has lived in for many years, we found a half-dozen business-card-sized pieces of card stock, each labeled "office vocabulary." There's no indication what company printed them, or when, but my guess is that they're upwards of 35 years old.

Here's what was on one:

Never heard of it

We're looking in the files for it.

Family, Business, and Focus

I've been distracted lately. Distractible would be a better way to put it.

My father is almost exactly thirty years older than I am. That puts him in his mid-eighties. He's taken good care of himself, but a decade or so of smoking (he quit after health problems with tobacco became known in the late fifties), a childhood lung ailment, and a much more recent infection finally caught up with him.

With the exception of some trouble with short-term memory, his brain's working as well as ever. But, he's having the dickens of a time getting oxygen in, past a damaged set of lungs.

He, me, my wife, and our kids, are dealing with a set of transitions now. We're helping him move out of the house he's been in for some time. Our second-oldest daughter is taking care of much of that, since she currently lives only an hour away from him.

He's as logical and practical as ever, and realizes that he's going to have to move into town, into an assisted living facility: but that doesn't mean that he likes it. He also recognizes, as I do, that his life expectancy is now much less than what it was before the most recent infection.

On the other hand, a few years ago he told me that he'd been to one of those websites that calculate life expectancy (I assume, from the questions asked, that they use data from actuarial tables). He keyed in the data, and, if my memory serves, found out that he'd died about ten years previously. Or, rather, that he should have.

I've got a good, close, relationship with my father, thank God. I know that people have a limited time to live, and that death is one of the few things we can count on happening to us.

Just the same, the prospect of not having my father's experience and wisdom to fall back on is disturbing.

And, it's playing hob with my ability to focus on what needs to get done. Not that my focusability factor was ever very high.

What's the point of all this, as far as a small business is concerned?

This is obvious, but I'll say it anyway: having a family, in fact any human connection, is going to interfere with doing business.

The trick is to achieve a working balance. And, in my opinion, keep in mind the observation that nobody, facing death, ever said "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." That's not just my opinion, I see. The advice to "get a life" is in a "Forbes article: so it should make business sense.

After all, one of the reasons I'm trying to set up a sort of online publishing business is that I want to be around my family.

Granted, another reason is that I got laid off in my mid-fifties, have discovered that I can't do the lift-and-carry jobs that I could manage a quarter century ago, and that central Minnesota, delightful as it is, doesn't have much demand for someone with my qualifications.

Oh, well: this is a great opportunity for me to get creative in a new, and largely untested, kind of business.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another Day, Another Discovery

Not a big one, but a discovery.

One of my blogs, " Another War-on-Terror Blog," had an unusual amount of traffic in the last 48 hours. It's still below the numbers I need, but there was a distinct spike.

A look at the logs showed what had happened: People were Googling for Gilliam Gibbons and Bill Krisoff. Those people are the British school teacher who's been accused, and now convicted, of attacking Islam by letting her class of seven year olds name a teddy bear Mohammed (you can't make this stuff up!); and a man who enlisted in the Navy, at the age of 61, to honor the death of his son, an American Marine.

Lesson learned: people are interested in people. Nothing new here, but it's something to remember.

I'll be Back Tomorrow

I hope to be back to this blog tomorrow. Make that today. I just now looked at the clock.

As the cartoon caption said:

"I am sorry, the person to whom you are speaking has been temporarily disconnected...."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Coffee Break Stuff: Procrastination Flow Chart

"Procrastination Flow Chart" may not be significant, but it's funny. And, parts are entirely too familiar.

Four-Day Weekend Coming Up

I still don't have that schedule worked out. I did, however, make a graphic for Thanksgiving. Which is something. Specifically, it's a task completed.

I'll try to be back with something more significant, later in the week. Meanwhile, here's that graphic. Maybe next year some city will try to top Seattle's 'Thanksgiving: day of mourning' school project with 'Turkeys of the World, Unite!'

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Good Advice About Time Management

"How to Shave Ten Hours Off Your Work Week" assumes that the reader works in an office: and gives good advice about meetings.

The seven-point list is worthwhile reading for people who are their own bosses, too. It's the same touch-papers-once, sort of advice I've read for decades, with the possible exception of Michael Hyatt's advice about unfocused Web surfing.

What makes this list helpful is that

  • It's manageably short (seven items)
  • Recognizes human needs and limitations ("make appointments with yourself")
  • includes a review/revise step
I'm not convinced that it'll open up ten hours a week, but I've been wrong before.

("How to Shave Ten Hours Off Your Work Week" is Friday's post in "From Where I Sit / Musings on My Life, Thomas Nelson and the World of Publishing" - Michael Hyatt, President and CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishers.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Spend an Entire Day, Getting Nothing Done:
Here's How

Yesterday was not a red-letter day for me.

I rely on one computer for most of my 'heavy' work, including graphics and web publishing. The latter doesn't take that much power, but it's easier to have everything on one unit, instead of trying to set up a network.

Easier for me, anyway.

So, early this week, an odd little bit of malware showed up on a routine scan. It seems to show up, every time my eleven-year-old son uses this thing.

"Seems to," because I don't have enough data yet to make a case. We could be looking at statistical hiccups here.

Anyway, I'm concerned and/or worried about something having gotten into the works. "Concerned" being the rational, logical, part of the process, "worried" being the emotional side that: but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, I spend quite a bit of time chasing ghosts in the machine. No luck. I still don't know where that 'Fraud.ProtectionBar' came from.

That was Wednesday. Yesterday was more of the same, plus frustration with a digital camera.

(Note to self: next time, think a little longer. Buying the rock-bottom cheapest, made-in-China model may not be the most prudent and Promethean path.)

So, after supper on Thursday, I get back to working on Wednesday evening's Sauk Centre Journal post. There's a nifty Christmas yard display up, here in Sauk Centre, involving flashing lights. I was trying to create an animated GIF file to display it.

Simple? To someone else, no doubt. To me, not so much.

About 10:30 or so, I decided that I was getting somewhere, and that it wouldn't make sense to stop 'at our moment of victory.' I glanced at the clock a short while later, and it was 2 in the morning.

Subjective time sense and objective reality aren't always on speaking terms, I've found.

Some shred of common sense allowed me to abandon what I was doing, and get some sleep. Not much: just enough to remind me that I am no longer twenty, and that I can't get away with all-nighters the way I used to.

So, best-case scenario: I write off yesterday as a learning experience.

Wondering about that schedule I was starting last week? So far, it's not working out too well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mostly Technical Stuff, Today

I was my company's technical staff for most of today.

The only thing I've got to show for it, so far, is the label cloud on this blog. It's the phydeaux3 label cloud: I've found it satisfactory on other blogs.

The day wasn't a complete wash, though. I gathered some equipment I'd stored, bought a little more (mostly an inexpensive extension cord from Wal-Mart), and discovered a number of limitations that my new stuff has.

The idea is for me to have a web cam updating still images to a Web page. Simple, basic stuff: but I've never done it before.

I also did a little business-related reading, and had manager-me talk with employee-me. I think we came to an agreement about how I've been using time. More about that later. Tomorrow, I think.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Equipment, Maintenance, and Backup

I spent part of this afternoon get getting my 'main' digital camerIa back. It had been 'in the shop' in Alexandria (Computer Specialists: where my last computer was built,and where I take devices for repair).

Good news: it seems to be in working order.

Not-so-good news: video I took, of a lesson one of my daughters gave, is probably unrecoverable.

I learned something from the experience, though. The video probably got corrupted because I made a continuous recording, over a half hour long. That's very likely too long for the storage technology I'm using.

Live and learn.

I plan to use the (corrupted?) files as practice pieces for recovering video data.

While I was in Alexandria (the nearest larger town - about 8,000 people: about 20 miles down the road), I got a "4-port hub" for a USB port. I'm planning to enhance a Web page. More about that later.

Faced with no usable camera for a few days, I stared thinking about how sensible it might be to have backup equipment on hand.

On the one hand, with redundant equipment, I'd be able to keep projects, and updates, going without interruption.

On the other hand, that redundant equipment costs money: which is a scarce commodity here.

Looks like I'll be repairing and replacing equipment on an as-needed basis.

Monday, November 12, 2007

No Wonder Managers Make More

One of the advantages of working in a large business, and being under the supervision of someone else, is that you can blame your boss for bad management. As a sole proprietor of a tiny business, you can do the same thing, but it's like throwing mud in the air: it comes right back at you.

This morning, I looked over the first (partial) week of my new time schedule.

I came to the conclusion that, in terms of planning and execution, it could have been worse.

The biggest issue seems to be dealing with unexpected events, with keeping an eye on myself running a close second.

I'm making a few revisions of the schedule, filling last week's sheet, and getting on with a new unexpected issue.

The digital camera I have in the shop for a dataectomy is in worse shape than I figured. The technician is, currently, using some sort of data-recovery program in an effort to scoop the video files out.

I'm thinking about getting another camera.

Great: more money going the wrong way.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Managing Yourself as a Small Business Owner:
Trying, Anyway

Despite what the "Dilbert" comic strip shows, managers need to think.

Since management is an important, no, make that vital, part of what you do in a sole proprietorship, I try to think. "At least once a week, whether I need it or not." I think I read that in a Pogo comic strip.

I thought a bit, and read a bit, today. The thinking was mostly about the schedule I'm developing. I see that the items on the schedule are more goals than tasks. Today, I spent some time working out the specific tasks involved.

That's a pretty vague statement, I know. When/if I get something worth showing, I'll post it.

Aside from task-defining, I thought through what I should be working on next.

Veteran's Day is tomorrow: that's going to be number one.

The reading I did was mostly something moderately technical about coding Web pages. I dozed off while doing that. More about that tomorrow, I think.

Friday, November 9, 2007

One Schedule: Kaput for the Day

That schedule I put together went 'pop' today, for the most part.

The digital camera I use to make photos for my 'flagship' website's journal ("Sauk Centre This Season / Sauk Centre Journal") is 'at the shop.'

I made my longest video recording yet with it, last weekend. And learned that I can't get the video out of the camera and into my computer. I think it's too large - or that it's so large that it takes too long for the system to handle.

So, I drove 20 miles to the nearest business that handles technical issues to my satisfaction. The technician who would handle the job had today off, so I left the camera there. I'm hoping that the files will be out of the camera and on a dvd Monday.

Or, since Monday is the day after Veteran's Day here in America, it may be Tuesday before I see the camera again.

That trip took almost two hours out of the day.

Down side, lots of time spent.

Up side, I had time to think while on the Interstate.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This Week, I Gotta Get Organized

Toward the end of October, my wife said I should start keeping track of what I do with my time. After more than a quarter-century of marriage, I've learned to listen when she speaks.

She was right, as usual.

Two days of tracking confirmed what I'd guessed before. I was spending by far too much time on a particular blog. It had shown promise at first, but the early growth hadn't continued.

That's been the case with all blogs. I've been working at them long enough now to see that either there are limits to the number of viewers I'll get: or that I've been doing poor marketing. Maybe both.

Aside from blogs, I've been spending (maybe wasting) time on creative tasks that are fun, and eventually may be worthwhile. But, for now, they've been keeping me from getting more immediately useful things done.

The first part of this week, I evaluated what I've been doing, what I've got, and what I want to get done. Then, I put together a generic weekly schedule that may help me get to the short-term goals.

Enough for today.

("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

Small Business Watchers