A casual chat on digital vs paper-based processes and why paper can be hard to quit. Plus personal automation challenge updates.
As remote work becomes the new normal, many are reflecting on the items left behind at the office. While some long for their ergonomic chair or second monitor, others ponder the fate of the break room fridge.
As synonymous as the digital workspace has become with work itself, physical items and processes still affect our ability to be comfortable and productive. In this episode, we discuss parts of our workflows that aren't yet fully digital and why.
Later, we catch up on the results of our personal automation challenge.
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Click here for the episode transcript
Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they'll help you to get to the scripts for the digital workspace inner workings.
So today, we wanted to talk about the the items we've left back in the office, I guess that the non digital items. Did you have anything you wanted to start off with?
Heather Bicknell 0:42
Yeah, well, you know, what brought this topic to mind for me was a couple weeks ago when we were talking, you had mentioned that one of the things you missed from the office was your textbooks. And that got me thinking about items that we could translate to having digital versions of or processes that we could transition to doing digitally that we don't for whatever reason, so I thought that would be interesting to dig into.
I guess for me personally,
the things that I still tend to do, physically that I, that I've tried virtually, and kind of falling back on the physical processes would be like note taking. I just find it more effective for myself to to use pen and paper for that. And yeah, I still do print out a lot of things. So if I'm going to, especially research, I tend to print out if it's actually like a white paper, or some analysts research I'll print that out so I can mark it up. Mm hmm. Those are my two big, big ones.
Ryan Purvis 1:53
Yeah, I'm pretty similar on the printing. Yeah, there's some documents even though I get them in PDF, and I could go through them on the device and work through them. Just print them out to draw on them feels better. I don't know if there's any science behind it or not what what I have struggled with and I ended up putting a whiteboard up for was just having a whiteboard to draw on. As much as I could draw on a piece of paper, it's something about standing in front of a whiteboard to map something out. That just makes it flow better. So those are definitely two things that I I've had brought with me from the office. And then in the same token, trying to do digital brainstorming is not the same. Over zoom or teams. I missed I missed those in the room discussions, which we've been trying to do digitally versus not the same feeling don't get the same flow.
Heather Bicknell 2:48
Yeah, it's hard to quite replicate.
I guess on those textbooks. I'm curious what what textbooks Do you still use? You know, are they are they ones from school or
Ryan Purvis 3:01
The books that I've accumulated over the years. And the reason why they're at the office is because my wife didn't want me having them at home. Because they are quite, quite thick and big in some cases. So if there's like, for example, a product that I'm trying to learn, again, which is Dynamic CRM, so there's, there's one of those big thick books on that. There's a book on stats that I referenced quite a lot, which I've now found an electronic version that's similar. There's a whole bunch of business books that just have had useful things in them. Where instead of taking a photo and maybe storing the photo of the page, I've kept the book and I've marked the thing that I find interesting for future reference. So it's those things that that have traveled around with me that I haven't always had them in the in the other offices that I've worked in that because our offices, you know, a lot of people like to read things. I've kept them there. In case someone else wants to have a look at them and because we're in the office most the time, so it's those little things, but I've managed to come right with finding them online now, as I've been buying the digital versions of the books, and then finding this the spots that I remembered and marking those up and not taking screenshots of those and storing them in notion. So I've got them there. So I've adapted took a while but I've adapted
Heather Bicknell 4:26
I guess, you know, that makes sense. To me. I have
a few grammar and style books that I've accumulated over the years that I keep at work, but don't find myself referencing all too often because if I get tripped up on a grammar rule or just want to remember I usually just you know, that's easy enough to take to the internet for unless I really want to make sure you have the full institutional authority is some you know, grammar expert behind me from a book or something like that, but You know, my, my style requirements at work aren't quite so rigorous. I hope no one's critiquing me to that degree. I guess the dynamics book is interesting to me, because that seems like one that would age out pretty quickly.
Ryan Purvis 5:14
Oh, yeah. And it has. So this one is, it's 2016. But it's almost so so I what I find with with a product like dynamics is there's a lot of it's about the approach that you take when you work with it. And what I liked about this book is that the way they wrote each chapter and the way that focused on functionality was very much about why would you approach it this way. So it's less about the actual follow this, click here, click here, click here to do this. It's more about if you want to make changes to fields, then we suggest you change them this way. If you're going to, if you're going to the way that dynamics works is you can have a sort of core solution, which is the product and then you can deploy your own customizations and your own solution. On top of that, so if you're going to remove key functionality, because you don't want it in your solution, you can do that in your own solution without impacting the core product. And so it's really the why would you do things that I keep the book for. And sometimes it's just quicker to go and shoot through the index and look for something that is to go Google and sift through 10,000 examples of someone trying to do it, which is not quite how you would have done it, or not quite related to how you what you're looking for. Where the book tends to most cases has had something useful, at least at least made my question to Google a lot clearer. Because I'm calling the component by the right name, as opposed to what I think it is. So yeah, that's a good reference book in that sense.
Heather Bicknell 6:45
Google can be kind of tricky with with some of those product searches in particular, or you know when you when you're looking for something very specific because I feel like so much of the so much of Google's been taking over By, you know, marketing folks like me who are trying to target keywords to, you know, get them here. Or, you know, content creators in general. So I can I can, you know, confuse the, the search there. Yeah. And
Ryan Purvis 7:16
then that's exactly the challenge is you end up spending hours was hours but you spent a good hour sifting through search terms and multiple pages trying to find their thing, whereas having the book, and this is sort of why I still buy books as opposed to saying everything's on the internet, I can just find it there. If someone's spent the time packaging it in the right structure, or in a structure that helps to convey how to how to do something. So when you go looking in the book, there'll be a bit of a story potentially or depends on the bookkeeper. And obviously a fiction will be different. But a nonfiction education book will have a structure and approach. So it's very easy usually to find the solution we're looking for, in and then potential example now that example may not Be the, you know, best practice industry most secured example. But at least get you going to say okay, I now know where to start. And I can kind of get with a bit of hacking or whatever it is to where I want to be without wasting too much time trying to find the right video on YouTube
Heather Bicknell 8:19
Yeah, for sure. And yeah, I mean, I, you know, I came into the technology industry as somewhat of a self professed self professed Luddite. I mean, I'm not really but definitely not like technology first for just solving things in my own life. You know, I like books. I like physical books. I like the tactile you know, nature of them. If I'm doing creative writing, that's almost always pen and paper over. typing it just my brain works differently that way. And I think that's why I still like to take notes Physically as well, as sometimes, you know, if I want to draw a diagram or a table or something in my notes, it's a lot easier to do that than to, you know, do it within a program sometimes for me, depending on, you know, the complexity of what I'm creating, I guess
Ryan Purvis 9:19
I can totally agree with that. Because I mean, I've tried to get away from writing notes so many times and using getting rid of, you know, having too many mole skins and too many you know, so a five booklets, a four booklets, whatever it is, I end up coming back to them often, even though I do shift to them. So what I kind of do now is I have a lot of posts notes, that I'll make notes on very quick notes. So if I'm going to call and I need to make notes, I'll make them on there. But then I have a cleanup process in my head at the end of the day, where I'll convert those into notes in in drafts in my pad, which then means that notes of me in sort of a stage to cleanup And then stage three cleanup which will either put it into some sort of action add to do, or it goes into notion as as a reference material for whatever it is. And that's how I've done it just because I assume as you I find the technical writing is is more more beneficial than just putting it straight into a task manager straight into a notes thing on my on on an app that almost goes out of my head. But the tactile writing keeps it there for a bit longer.
Heather Bicknell 10:27
Yeah, I feel the same way. I'm looking at my, my notebook. You know, in terms of like things, I go to the office supply closet for it's it's generally that and the only one he just left since we've been you know, quarantining for a few months now. I'm gonna have to find some scrap paper lying around the house. And I did I think it's interesting that you brought up notion because I did want to talk about, you know, some of the technologies that we do, incorporate or have have tried to incorporate so Is his notion something you've been using for a long time.
Ryan Purvis 11:04
I'm pretty proud of you use it most of lockdown. So it's a fairly new app. So previously I had tried Evernote, I tried OneNote. I tried Apple notes, previous versions Apple, those now there's a new version which were more updated version which I'm now using again. And I found Evernote to be very slow and painful to use, but they did have one thing that I really liked which which, which OneNote didn't have which was the ability to tag things. So you could find them in searches and that the challenge that I have with Evernote is in order to use it though you ended up having to pay quite a lot for what you pay for, in my opinion what you're getting out of it. And also wasn't wasn't that fast. So if you wanted to write something really quickly, you would almost lose what you had in your mind because Evernote would take so long to open. And that doesn't matter which device it was. It was on iPhone, iPad. laptop, whatever web just it was clunky and slow. So I tried one note, I moved everything across but that was that was even worse. It lacked that structure that I got out of Evernote. So I ended up going back to to the as I said paper books and stuff. And I was still just dumped into Evernote but almost forgot about it once I got to Evernote, and then someone that I knew I mentioned notion, then he gave me a whole bunch of videos to watch on YouTube, which I ended up watching and going okay, well I'll try this thing out. And it's been quite, quite good. It's very much a wiki style of capturing things so you get as much as you could you can import your stuff from Evernote, which which I've done. I've missed one thing I'll come back to that. And so what I like about is you can create pages and those pages can interlink between other pages. And that was one of my challenges with with Evernote is if I had a note that I wanted to link to another note, I couldn't really do that and that's a sort of move them into different books and I found that very accent clunky. And the other tool that I was using was a thing called quip, q IP, which was bought by Salesforce. And I quite liked that because it was quick to, to open up and write. The problem there was, was that I wasn't. I wasn't really grateful for workflowy stuff. So having things sorted together and, and as I say, there's interconnectedness. So when I got onto notion, I basically moved everything from both applications into into notion. And I quite enjoyed it. It works on on older devices, which is important because I have a Windows device and an Apple device and Apple devices. So I wanted something that was multi device. It is also a bit clunky to kind of get used to it. But it's very flexible. You can do pretty much you know, anything you want from task management to reference material to building little apps, a lot of sub API things you can do with it. You can write scripts, This is quite powerful. So I quite like it. I'm still getting used to it. And I've shared some stuff with you, which is also quite nice I as the subscriber, I can share it with anybody else, which I quite like. So it's a good tool from their point of view to from collaboration and stuff. I still use Apple notes. And I use Apple notes primarily if I'm in a meeting and I want to take notes that I've left my posts behind. I'll write the notes in Apple notes and then I will transfer them as a PDF into into notion. So but it's becoming my brain, in a sense notion which I could navigate right with Evernote or with quip. So I'd
Heather Bicknell 14:41
love it. Yeah, I'd love to check in and a few more months and see if notion is still you know, if you still feel the same way about it, and see if that's like, because I'm wondering, you know, if over time, you'll find some, you know, flaw in it that isn't working for you or worse. is like the right tool for you there.
Ryan Purvis 15:02
Yeah, that would be interesting. Because I find it if I listen to other people, and they're sort of journeys there, they also tend to change every six months, my biggest frustration with changing as you get so far down the road of moving stuff in into a solution, that to move it out, again, is almost more painful than just just dealing with the frustration that tool does give you, but what I have found, which which is a plus on notion versus the other vendors, is when I've sent them a support request about anything, like how do I do this got caught are struggling or, you know, could you do this? I've gotten a response fairly quickly. And either we can't do this. Here's some other options. Oh, that's a really good idea. We'll put that on the roadmap, which I think also translates into a personal ownership but but because they will need to listen to me. I feel like that, you know, there's a there's potential here for a long term relationship. So we'll see. We'll see you Interesting times.
Heather Bicknell 16:01
Yeah. And it's it's it's interesting that it's notion that you've kind of turned to because that's one that I've been getting more podcast ads for. So it seems like it's perhaps an up and coming up. We're definitely not sponsored on this podcast. As much as we probably love to be so,
Ryan Purvis 16:19
yeah. Well, so just so you don't use any electronic or digital note taking or, or toss tracking or anything like that.
Heather Bicknell 16:27
So I've tried so many feels like, you know, one note, just notes in my OneDrive. I've used Asana, I've used Trello. You know, I've used slack in teams. And these kind of all fulfill little different pieces of function, whether it's, you know, collaborating with my team. I've tried some of the Microsoft Project Management apps like I think it's planner and To do which to do appeal to me because it's like a simple list. You know, I guess along with note taking just making a to do list is something that I still fall back on doing physically. I guess for me, what happens is if I make it, if I make it digital, I no longer you know, and then I closed my tab or whatever, I don't see it anymore. And for me, like just the sometimes I just need that constant reminder. It's like, you know, I like crossing things off my my physical to do list and if it's not staring me in the face, and there's this like, small thing that I wanted to remember to to do today. Yes, that's in a digital spot. I might miss it.
Ryan Purvis 17:41
Yeah, so that's why I use do which that app I mentioned the other day, because if you put something on there, it reminds you and it reminds you until you basically dismiss it or you postpone it or you mark it done and it just sometimes it can be painful because you you've got like 17 things come up at the same time because you postpone them But sometimes it's also good because you're like, completely forgot that I needed to put the bins out or I had to do this with three, three report or something. Because you can future futures scheduled things to occur. I found all the ones you mentioned. So I've used all of them as well. And the biggest challenge that I found is trying to mix in your personal stuff with your work stuff and trying to get them to link together. And that's between nano your task boss your calendars. I haven't found a solution for that yet.
Heather Bicknell 18:28
Someone's probably listening out there, you know, getting an idea for a killer app. Well, I think you know, that's a great way to transition into our automation topic, which we also wanted to discuss today. So I'd love to hear about how your personal automation journeys been the past two weeks.
Ryan Purvis 18:50
Yeah, so I took thing that I wanted to automate. And I've got to kind of work in how I wanted to be it so so when I sit down to work on something that we're acquires concentration. And so normally it's writing something or generating some content for something, I follow the Pomodoro method to an extent where I book out 25 minutes. And then I have a five or 10 minute timer and then I want to do another 25 minutes. So So in essence, you're getting an hour of concentration with the with some breaks built in. So what I what I typically would do is and it depends on what time of the morning if it's really early, I don't use my little alarm clock, I use a watch to do the timer. Because I want to wake anybody if it's early. If it's during the day, then I that I use a little timer thing I've got this clock that you can turn to it'll only measure 60 minutes. You just turn it to when you want to start and then it'll count down and then beep when it hits the end of the time. So what I've managed to set up is with an NFC tag, so I ordered those on Amazon when we were after our conversation. When I when I put my phone on their tag, it starts to timers, so The first time it starts is the first 25 minute timer, it then has a delay and then starts the second time of 10 minutes. And then it has, and the delay is the first 25 minutes. And then third time is another 25 minutes. And that basically logs at the end of it in a draft page that I did this, this session. The piece that I want to add to it is it actually captures an input an input box what I was working on at that time, so I can almost have this long list of what have you worked on by date. That's that's the plan. But that saves me now instead of me having to set the timer and all the rest of it as I'm working which is you know, it's probably costing me 30 seconds at a time. But it's now a tap. And that's, that's really cool, because that saves me one and a half minutes each time I do it which it sounds small, but it's also the first time I've written mon shark or saved my chocolate The first time I created my own shortcut that's actually a productivity game. And in exploring the NFC tag It's been quite interesting which you can, you can save stuff onto the NFC tags. So what I'm thinking of for my next automation is to turn is an NFC tag on the back of my phone, which will be my business card information. So you know, a phone number, my email address, my whatever. And when I meet someone, when we're allowed to meet people, I'll have them tap on that NFC tag, and they'll get all my details because that's also so I always forget to carry business cards with me. And I think the tag will be fun because that'll be just on the back of the phone.
Heather Bicknell 21:35
Yeah, and I mean, I feel like it fits your role really well to have something like that. So that's a really cool way to do it. Do you feel like that has it just workflow wise, you know, not taking that 30 seconds and just hitting the button instead, has that improved kind of the the flow state and even strengthened that method? Have you noticed a difference?
Ryan Purvis 22:00
It has in the sense that it's one less thing to remember to do. So now all I have to do is assess probably a few things left to do. Now it's just tap and go. Whereas before it was I set up a timer. Okay, set the timer for 25 minutes, and then I'll start working. And then when the when the buzzer goes off again, oh, I must remember now to set this 10 minutes and then go and then I must remember set it back to 25 minutes. So those are, those are three or four extra steps each time are just unnecessary steps. So now what happens is I just tap my phone on the on the thing, put the phone down and I start working. And when the timer goes off, I just do whatever I do is my break which might be go grab some coffee might do some push ups, whatever it is. And when the timer goes off again, I know to get to my desk and start and I don't mind if I lose a minute because I'm sitting down again. But the point is I'm not worrying about measuring out that whole hour. And then the capturing at the end of that would go automatically straight into two drives. The only thing that that kind of the We get a little bit complicated that is what happens if you had interrupted in those minutes and you lose that second session or you lose that first session baby then you have to go kill the kid gifts come and kill the timers. But that's, you know, it's it's a simple automation in a lot of ways. So it saves me saves me some extra thought processing.
Heather Bicknell 23:21
Yeah, I mean, it sounds it sounds cool. I have to try out seriously the Pomodoro method sometime.
Ryan Purvis 23:29
It's an interesting thing. I know some people do longer sessions but I found 25 minutes to be quite nice. So it's long enough that you can get into flow with something short enough also that you don't feel like you're burning out. Like some guys go 45 minutes like 45 minutes a bit long. Yeah, I
Heather Bicknell 23:50
think for me, it would vary a lot on the task at hand.
Ryan Purvis 23:54
Yeah, what it does it does and yourself. Did you try any any personal automation things?
Heather Bicknell 23:59
Yeah, so my channel Just really just to wear my my Apple watch right and kind of see what that experience is like since I have kind of been a just I set it aside for quarantine thinking, you know, I'm definitely not going to be moving as much I don't really want my watch to scream at me for that. But I did you know, I've been wearing it so it has some thoughts. The first one is that after not wearing it for so long, my move ring went down significantly like I think it was only asking me to move. So to make up for like 100 calories. It wanted me to like move my gold down to that check that was interesting. Because it was just based on not it was based on the inactivity of not wearing the watch not on, you know, data collected about my movement, which is kind of, you know, of course it's you can choose not to set it to that level, but I thought that's kind of you know, it's slightly annoying in that like if I'm not wearing my Watch, and I put it on again. I you know, it's not that I haven't been moving a similar amount as I always have. It's just, I wasn't wearing the watch.
Unknown Speaker 25:11
Heather Bicknell 25:13
you know, in terms of like the stand goal, that's very, I feel like I found that easier to hit at home than in the office. I think part of it is like, I've been working on a wooden desk chair. That was like, I've been dragging around with me for, I guess, since childhood, you know, it was passed out to me for my dad. So it's not the most comfortable thing in the world. So I think that it definitely encourages me to get up and stretch more. But I think you know, and I think it's been interesting where and again, I think what I need to do is try and use a few more weeks and actually, maybe listen to all of the prompts. It sends me because right now what I'm mostly getting out of it is notifications. Which are a lot of New York Times alerts because I have like news alerts synced up to send me on my watch, which is nice to stay informed. But with everything going on right now, I don't necessarily want to see the news roll in as happens, I'll save that for the end of the day when I can, you know, not be so distracted.
Ryan Purvis 26:21
Yeah, I must admit that sort of stuff I turn off. I find that very frustrating or effective causes anxiety for me to be constantly notified about news and, and that sort of thing. So what I only have on as notifications go, is due and probably the exercise so if someone like because I've joined my watch with In fact, we should we should link up. If any of our friends have done their exercise for the day, I get the notification come through, which I quite like from a motivation point of view because it means I was gonna do something if I haven't done it already.
Heather Bicknell 26:58
Yeah, I haven't tried any of that. You know that. sharing with friends. So that would be interesting.
Ryan Purvis 27:04
Yeah, that's good. I'll send you mine. I'll send you a link after this so we can join them up. I find it just keeps you. Yeah, I'm not excessive on the exercise, you know, do 30 minutes, maybe an hour a day. But it just keeps you going. which is which is important because I think exercise is important.
Heather Bicknell 27:21
Yeah, I think I think having like fitness buddies is definitely always an effective way to go. Mm hmm.
Ryan Purvis 27:30
Cool. And are you tracking your sleep at all or you just leave it on during the day?
Heather Bicknell 27:34
I just seen it on during the day, I guess. I don't know how charging would work for me. If I slept with it.
Ryan Purvis 27:43
Yeah, you gotta you've almost got to select now because I'm sitting at my desk for for a good period of time. You know, it's on the charger. If I gotta have a shower, it goes in the charger. So you're constantly charging it as opposed to one long charge. I used to have two watches but I Found actually mentioned to watch is more painful than it was worth. Mm hmm.
Heather Bicknell 28:04
Yeah, I've heard of people doing that. I guess you know, that's so one of the downsides with the Apple Watch. Like the garments is the battery life.
Ryan Purvis 28:11
Yeah, yeah. Yes. And my wife's quite sensitive to to light. So when she sleeps I've got I got the watch off anyway, so I've actually moved away from Apple Watch for for tracking sleep. And I use an aura ring, which is a lot more interesting if you like the data. But that's probably a topic for another day.
Heather Bicknell 28:31
Yeah, I know. We're short on time. So you have to go.
Ryan Purvis 28:35
I do. I do my speaking good catching up.
Heather Bicknell 28:38
Yeah, this is a fun conversation.
Ryan Purvis 28:41
Cool, sweet. See?
Unknown Speaker 28:42
All right. Have a good rest of your day. Ryan, you too.
Ryan Purvis 28:46
Bye. Thank you for listening. Today's episode has a big nose our producer editor. Thank you, Heather. for your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes. tunes in the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the DW w podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website www digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace works and subscribe to a newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues
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