5 things I’ve learned since becoming a parent

We are 4 months in now with our little baby girl. And it’s that time to look back and review the year just gone. I thought for posterity I would share a few things that have surprised me or brought just a little nod of pleasure over the past few months. 

Everyone knows about the core things – sleep deprivation, no time to yourself, etc etc – and to be fair I think we have been lucky on these fronts. We’ve had a few issues, and our life has changed, but otherwise (so far) nothing really damning. It feels more like a natural continuation of our previous life rather than a complete radical upheaval; but you know, I’m sure that will creep up on us.

So I won’t cover those, but rather a few smaller things that I don’t think get covered so much. 

  1. Ninja steps

Never in my life have I been so dainty or stealthy. If baby is finally asleep, then God forbid you wake her. Where once the house / bedroom was a relaxing zone, now the floor is your enemy and you must creep. Our ninja steps skills are pretty strong now. Creaky floorboards hold no fear for us.

2. Brushing teeth in the dark

Unexpected side-effect of this is obviously you can’t turn lights on. For us, where we have the crib right next to a tiny en-suite bathroom, this means all pre-bed and morning rituals need to be done in silence and in the dark. Opening the door without it creaking, shuffling in and finding my toothbrush blind has become an art form.

3. They sleep = you sleep do the chores

When she was born, everyone advised: “when they sleep, you sleep”. And while this has been true for nights, during the day it just hasn’t worked out. We have succeeded perhaps once, right back at the start when we were near-crazed through sleeplessness. Instead, sleep time is the only opportunity to actually make sure the house is kept in a sane state. Or God forbid, to wind down a little and do other things in snatched 30min chunks.

4. Back to basics entertainment

Back when we were little, my sister and I used to do small, interactive plays for each other; usually murder mysteries, using Beanie Babies, a chair, and a bit of imagination. Twenty years on, I’m finding all of this flooding back to me as I desperately try to think of ways to entertain baby.

At the very start, when she was just tiny and needed mostly comforting and a bit of singing to, I suddenly found myself having to remember songs to sing to her. We have a couple of lullabies, but then soothing slow songs. I ended up finding out I knew more Adele lyrics than I ever expected, and fewer Norah Jones and Rufus Wainwright ones than I would have liked.

5. Sheer nostalgia

All of this has had the effect of sending me unexpectedly back through the past 30 years, and triggered emotional memories I had long-since forgotten. Whether it’s been half-remembering songs my own parents used to sing to me as a child, or what we did then, or tapping into the weird, simple ways we’d entertain ourselves (Beanie Baby plays, making films, making up songs or levels for computer games) or just sheer previous experience with babies – mostly seeing my cousins appear and grow up around me when I was 5-15.

It’s opened up things in my head that I’d closed down through focus on work and the narrow experience we have running from day to day.

To me, this has been the most interesting and alarming part, reconnecting and developing nostalgia for all the things I’ve enjoyed over the years, and trying to remember not to impose them too much on baby. When we’re searching for things to read, watch or do I’m enjoying the strange flashbacks I’m getting to equivalent times in the past – and how those filter through from more innocent / younger times (before mobile phones & instant video) to help empathise and inspire me now. Certainly, I think both my wife and I have got a bit softer with people, and I think this is in large part to the opening-up of a new field of experience and new memories that the baby has brought.

On the other side, I am sure it is annoying for my friends that I talk about it all the time.

So those are my notes on daddyhood. I’m curious how much these resonate with others. If you have any comments / similar / alternative experiences that you were surprised by, please leave them in the comments.

For me. I’m just finding it funny to think of baby reading this in 10/15/20 years, on what? A headset? Eye implant? Or read by all-knowing Alexa? Suggesting “retro songs” she could then listen to on Amazon Music? By then 2018 will be like 1988 and 1988 like the 1950s – just gone; a vague, distant, stereotyped decade, with a different culture filled with top hits and period costumes.

M

A Year with OmniFocus

When I started using OmniFocus, there were very few guides around for people who aren’t already crazy productivity gurus.

I found the systems others suggested were too laborious and didn’t really work for me, even though I still felt I could get good, very specific use out of the platform.

Most of my time is spent at work, where I work on multiple projects at once that change constantly. Trying to use an app to manage my own tasks on these, I’ve found in the past, is just impractical and much better served by simple lists in my notebook.

Managing what I need to do at home, however, and planning things that need to be covered off each month / throughout the year, is where this app really comes into play – and has been incredibly helpful.

So I wanted to share how my system works – to help anyone else out in a similar position:

  • Having to organise multiple things
  • At home and at work long-term (e.g. personal goals)
  • When you might be slightly forgetful
  • In as little time as possible

But firstly…

What is OmniFocus?

If you haven’t come across it before, OmniFocus is a fairly heavy-duty, premium app for managing tasks, to-dos and lists.

Its main point of difference from other apps is its idea of “Contexts“, which let you simply group tasks by some other dimension – like “To do at Home” or “To do at Work” or “Urgent” vs “Not so urgent” tasks.

This sounds boring, but is incredibly helpful. It means you can really easily a) jot down things you need to do over time, then b) organise them by priority, and change that very quickly. So that you can end up with 100s of things you’ve needed to jot down stored in the app (to remind you), but only the main things you need to do in one list for you to keep reference to daily.

So y:

When I started, I found it quite difficult to find guides and inspiration as to how to best set up the app for a novice user.

There seem to be a lot of guides for people using it to manage freelance lives – and give their life structure when not doing a 9-to-5 – which results in a pretty intensive “work about work” scenario. But very little for just casual users who want to use it alongside their work lives to help them get more organised, productive and less stressed about things they might have forgotten.

This small report is therefore to help anyone who’s coming to OmniFocus from this perspective. Working 9-5 and otherwise using it to organise their broader goals and home lives.

You’ll notice for this reason that my workflow is probably more casual than many others who have shared their own. I am definitely not a Productivity geek, but have found the app very useful.

Why I started with OmniFocus

Back at the very end of 2016, I knew I had a big year approaching, with getting our first house, moving, sorting bills and also a few personal projects I wanted to get started.

My wife is naturally very well organised – it is baked into her blood – but I am not. My job requires me to come up with creative ideas at a fairly rapid pace, and this leads my brain to be more naturally searching, sporadic and slightly absent-minded rather than systematic.

I appreciate order, however, and so the ideas and plans I do have I want to note down as quickly as possible so I can review, refine and keep myself to them.

As a side-note – I’m also a massive cultural hoarder. Books, games, ads, TV shows, films… I take a lot of photos in my phone of things I find interesting around (esp. books) and store for future reference or purchase. Managing this is a nightmare.

When I came across the OF app I had already tried multiple task management and listing apps to try and achieve the same kind of thing – ToDoist, Trello, Clear, Evernote – as well as writing copious notes in VesperApp on my phone.

I was attracted to it for 3 reasons:

1. Contexts – because it allowed me to put another filter on projects/tasks right off the bat to make them relevant.

2. Its detail – sometimes a task is just a task, but often I like to list things and store that. With the iOS version of OmniFocus, it’s very easy to quickly note down outlines of what you want to do and flesh them out later without pain.

3. The Get Things Done (GTD) method – I’d heard about this before but never quite sussed what it was. The fact you can do a very ‘lite’ version of this task-processing workflow was very attractive.

In other task apps I’d found that I never felt comfortable using them as a second part of my brain. Either it was slightly too painful to get lots of tasks / lists down quickly, or just not structured enough to give me a way of working with them right off the bat.

With this, I found I got into workflow fairly quickly, and the app is so robust that I feel comfortable listing a lot of long-term things in there without the fear of the company suddenly shutting down or a trendier app coming on the market.

How I use it

The app is expensive (£40 – ridiculous for a task management app, but so well designed I have found it definitely worth it), and I think this breeds a kind of confirmation bias that leads users to really *want* to make it work to justify the cost. This is no bad thing, but also my experience with it is that I have been consistently impressed by the thoughtfulness of design and seamlessness – even beyond what I could imagine when I started, or when I need to try something new with it. It is very rigorous but easy and flexible.The workflow I’ve got into over the year is:

  • Capturing – get all tasks / thoughts down as I think of them, into the Inbox, try and be as full as I can and worry about organising them later
  • Processing – where I decide where all those tasks go, how I prioritise them, what “Context” they should have etc (more on this later
  • Doing – as tasks get done, obviously I tick them off; with this I roughly follow the GTD “do / defer / delegate” method, though rarely in my home life is there a situation where I can or should delegate.

This is very similar to the broad Marie Kondo method for organising things in your house, which also gives me a pleasing bit of symmetry & satisfaction.

Setting up the app

img_9556

For those on the app already, you’ll see I just keep standard layout – I’m not a power user.

If you’re new to it and wondering whether to try it out, you can see there are 7 main parts: Forecast, Inbox, Flagged, Projects, Nearby, Contexts and Review.

In reality, I find I only really use 5 of these – “Review” I started off using but found it too fussy and annoying to set up the way I wanted (I think the desktop app is better for this); “Nearby” I just never use.

The main bulk of work happens in “Inbox”, “Projects” and “Contexts”.

Inbox

img_9557

All my tasks start off as a dump in Inbox.

I use this to remind myself of tasks which I can’t do immediately (so have to remember). Then I sort them into Projects and Contexts before ticking them off.

Often if a task is pretty quick I’m sorting it into a folder only at the same time as ticking it off, to keep some kind of order and trail.

Projects

img_9558

Projects, I’ve discovered, should be used more like a filing system.

I rarely refer back to them for tasks, unless I’m sorting a list in there (eg. books on my want list, clothes on my want list, year goals).

You can see here that I try to keep Projects as clean, simple and structured as I can:

Goals – for setting myself yearly / monthly goals

Home – to house odds and ends I need to do in the house, errands or things we need to get etc.

Finances – to house my lists of credit card due dates, main recurring outgoings etc for financial planning & budgeting

Work – for any work tasks (these are only few and far between as I note most work tasks in a book) or personal projects (more likely)

Organising – to list sorting tasks within OF that I haven’t done yet; so for instance “Organise your Books folder”, “Add in Birthdays”. By far the most meta of my Projects.

Lists – this is my favourite folder, where I house all of my lists of books, clothes, films and games to get / watch, as well as friends’ birthdays so I remember and get an alert:

img_9560`

“Kondoing” on there is just a noted list of the order things should be tidied in the Marie Kondo / KonMari method for house tidying.

For whatever reason, I find all these lists highly satisfying. They help me plan the year and track & get the most out of purchases across it.

Everything except these lists (mostly) gets a Context.

Contexts

Contexts are where the most “doing” happens. Also the most difficult and complicated to set up.

The way I’ve thought about them is “This is how I prioritise the tasks in my mind”.

Most tasks are “!” – you’ll see there are lots of dots there. These are short, doable tasks to remind me what key things need doing when I have time.

Important or urgent tasks I “Flag” in orange. There are usually only a few flagged items. As I say, I use this to organise home life and long-term work matters rather than everything.

Anything that takes a long time, is pretty nebulous (like an idea for making something, for instance) or just doesn’t need doing right away goes in “Later”. I review this at regular intervals. It’s the indefinite twilight realm of tasks.

Everything else is pretty self-explanatory – I keep a “Buy List” to track across things I definitely want to get from those purchase lists I was talking about. This also combines with home item lists to let me plan finances a little around them.

“Goals” is to remind me of my yearly and long-term goals. “Waiting” I don’t think I’ve ever used (but have it in there from when I was trying out other people’s methods). And “Regulars” is to capture those regular payments, admin requirements etc that fit into various categories but I need to keep track of through the year. In reality with these, I mostly see them when they come up in “Forecast” on the front screen.

The remaining “Shopping” ones have been superseded, as you can see, but for earthiness I have kept them in there without tidying them out. Rebel.

Fitting into daily life

That’s about it for my tour of my beautiful OmniFocus collection. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

I’ve one comment regarding how this fits into daily life:

Often with these productivity things they ask you to put everything in there, do 15-30min every day, check back regularly etc. And to me, with my work style at least, I find this leads to a lot of ‘busywork’ – trying to keep all your work tasks in there as you go and ending up spending half your time mindlessly editing and updating.

For me, I’ve found the optimum has been checking my list consciously a few times a week. And only including in-work tasks in there if they are longer term and for my own benefit. Otherwise, daily work tasks I manage in a small written to-do list in my book.

It may be different for you, but this is what I have found. I am working in an agency where my time is often at the mercy of other people, so I suspect this makes a big difference.

If you use this and have found differently, please let me know. I’d be interested to hear your situation and process.

Until next time,

Michael

#5: OmniFluid

Ali & Mike chat about their ‘Hopes for 2018’ over some delicious coffee & breakfast.

Featuring:
 – Hopes for 2018
 – “Noogle”
 – Listener questions (lightning round!)
 – OmniFocus: a task management app
 – Setting goals &… keeping to them?
 – Ali’s NYE party
 – Mike doesn’t like mess
 – OmniFluid + Unicorn Shavings
 – “The spirit vs the letter”
 – More for Japanese listeners
 – Crysis 2 (Peace Mode)
 – AI government
 – Nintendo Labo
 – The future of RMPG?

Please enjoy, and give us a review if you do!
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/real-men-play-games/id1265438570?mt=2

Tweet us: @RMPGPod
Email us: realmenplaygames_AT_gmail.com

Music by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

#4: 2017 in Review

Hello! It’s Christmas Special time, magic is in the air! And Ali & Mike are very casually discussing the best and worst films, TV, games… but mostly films… of 2017.  

On the agenda today:
 – Zelda (of course)
 – Kingsman: The Golden Circle (hint: we didn’t like it)
 – Super Mario Odyssey
 – Horizon: Zero Dawn
 – Blade Runner 2049
 – Ali’s students’ antics
 – Life lessons from 2017
 – Living out in the country (again)
 – Blue Planet 2
 – Overcooked
 – Neo Yokio
 – Style over substance
 – Black Mirror
 – Panicky social fiends
 – The Handmaid’s Tale and… style WITH substance?
 – A shout-out to our Japanese listeners!
 – Contact details for the show?
 – Live show Twitter selfie

And finally, contact details! Tweet us a question and we’ll try and answer it on next show:
–  Twitter: @RMPGPod
–  Email: realmenplaygames_AT_gmail.com
–  Leave us a review: Apple Podcasts

Enjoy, thank you for listening and have a fantastic, beautiful, re-energising, wonderful Christmas and New Year every one.

Music by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

#3: Senua

On Ali & Mike today: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (a game about psychosis), Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Marie Kondo, tidying, the etiquettes of saving, and of course some boys vs girls.

Recorded back in September, there are a LOT of games this time round! And a slightly shorter show than usual. Look out for a Christmas special coming soon, and enjoy.

Topics covered:
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Xcom Enemy Within
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Europa Universalis IV
Overcooked
Marie Kondo
Boys’ vs girls’ brains
Changing yourself to suit others
The rise & fall & rise again of CollabLab
Being manly with microphones

Music by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/