How I start my weekly review

A white mug of coffee with the word begin written on it sits on a wooden table.

Above: photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Every Sunday evening I sit down to review the previous week and plan the week ahead. This is my weekly review, a discipline that I adopted after reading Sally McGhee’s book Take Back Your Life in 2003.

One of the first things I do during my weekly review is read a document I wrote in October 2017 that I called The Discipline™. Occasionally, I update it to keep it fresh and relevant; it’s a living document.

It’s a reminder of what is important to me right now, what I should be focusing on. It’s like a little manifesto for my life—something to give me direction, to help me prioritise.

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An overview of my planning and productivity system in 2019

Google Calendar, Microsoft OneNote and Todoist

My personal organisation system has evolved over the years in an iterative and rather agile approach.

This post outlines the major building blocks of my current system.

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Trello coloured lists for Tampermonkey updated to v4.x

Coloured lists make identifying their purpose quicker at a glance
Coloured lists makes identifying their purpose quicker at a glance

This evening I updated a script I first wrote back in March 2014. I wrote about it on the old University of St Andrews web team blog.

The script, which runs in the browser using an add-on such as Tampermonkey, lets you define Trello list titles to search for, and then apply a background colour to it.

Continue reading Trello coloured lists for Tampermonkey updated to v4.x

Reinstalling Windows 10—my process

Trello board for reinstalling software on my PC
Trello board for reinstalling software on my PC

About two months ago, I reinstalled Windows 10 on both my desktop and laptop computers. This post is about what I do to make sure the process is as smooth as possible.

Installation files

Something I have done for years (since Windows 98) is to store most of my installation files in a directory.

I store mostly drivers, plus applications that are either rare or that I have purchased. I don’t store applications that update regularly (e.g. web browsers, WinSCP, IrfanView, etc.).

Within my installation directory I organise the files into sub-categories, like this:

Installation files organised into categories
Installation files organised into categories

This allows me to find drivers and applications more easily. It’s also roughly how I organise the installed applications on my Windows start screen:

My Windows 10 start screen categories more or less match how I organise them in the installation folder
My Windows 10 start screen categories more or less match how I organise them in the installation folder

I store these files on a separate hard drive from the one that I install Windows on; I always install Windows on its own drive. This allows me to quickly reinstall Windows without worrying about overwriting the installation files.

I also backup these files to an external hard drive. I currently use a 2TB Seagate Backup Plus drive (USB 3.0).

Trello board

For each computer, I have created a separate Trello board to guide me through the installation process.

I have boards for my desktop and laptop computers, plus my work computer. I also do the same for my Android smartphone.

Everything I need to know to carry out a smooth reinstallation
Everything I need to know to carry out a smooth reinstallation

Each board outlines my backup routine for each computer, any applications or services that I need to uninstall or deactivate before the reinstall, and then for each driver or application I record the steps I need to take, options to select, or any problems that I’ve encountered, etc.

The first few columns on each board outline the order in which I like to install things: drivers first then essential system applications. Within each column, again the arrangement of cards shows me the order that applications need to be installed, e.g. motherboard drivers, graphics card drivers then Windows updates.

I use images on some cards to make it quicker to identify them.

Images help me quickly identify to what the cards relate
Images help me quickly identify to what the cards relate

And as you may suspect, the column names on these Trello board match one-to-one the sub-directory names in my installation folder.

I then use Trello labels to track the status of each driver or application. I can see at a glance which applications I regard as essential and which I install only the first time I require them.

I use red labels to indicate any problems; purple labels tell me whether I need a reboot after installation; navy labels indicate work-related applications; and light blue labels give me a clue as to where to find them.

Labels help me track type of application plus installation status
Labels help me track type of application plus installation status

SafeInCloud

The last piece of the puzzle is where I keep any registration or serial keys. I store these in my encrypted password safe, SafeInCloud.

I use my password safe to also store registration keys for software applications
I use my password safe to also store registration keys for software applications

Conclusion

Since moving to this workflow, I have found the process to be very straightforward. I can track everything using my smartphone using the Android apps for Trello and SafeInCloud, and I can easily record any problems or lessons learned meaning that each time I do this it gets easier each time.

Do you have any top tips for reinstalling your computer?

Using Trello for team retrospectives

Physical kanban board and Trello board
We recently moved our retrospectives from a physical board using Post-it notes to Trello

Retrospectives are an important tool for Agile teams like ours. They allow the team to reflect frequently (usually at the end of an iteration) on work habits and processes, and agree how to improve them. We hold retrospectives every second Friday at the end of our sprints.

Until recently, we’ve been running all our retrospectives in the office using a magnetic white board and a small forest of Post-it® notes. Each retrospective we’ve lamented how much paper we waste, having used the sticky notes for only about an hour before they end up in the recycling bin.

So a couple of months ago, as one of our team members was working from home on the final day of our sprint, we used Trello (and Apple FaceTime) to allow him to fully participate.

We’ve used Trello now for the last four retrospectives, even when the whole team has been together in the same room. I want to use this post to reflect a little on what we’ve learned from the process. A retrospective on retrospectives, if you like.

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