I found a great new tool recently called Workflowy. It is so simple it is brilliant. It runs in a browser, so it works the same across all of my iDevices (love that!). And best? it is free!
The biggest issue I struggle with when trying to get things done is that I have too many things in my brain. My poor noggin is working so hard on remembering all of my to do items and great ideas that I have trouble concentrating on the one thing that I'm working on. This tool lets me just clear my head so I can focus. I also love that I can strike items out that are completed, because what's the point of a list if I can't mark DONE all over it?
I have long used an application called Things on my Mac and iPhone, and Workflowy won't replace that. But before I can set due dates and sort things neatly into projects and prioritize my working order I have to get all that stuff out of my head. That's where Workflowy comes in. I can just type into it like an outline. When I have more details on a project or a task I can just tab over and drill down into it. I can even change the view so I'm just looking at one task and its details at a time, or I can view the whole flowing mess (I admit that can be a little overwhelming). One could easily just use Workflowy to keep track of tasks, but once I've done the brain download, I find it helpful to move tasks with deadlines over to Things, where I can set reminders on them.
I've only been using Workflowy for a bit over a week, so there's a lot I haven't tried yet, but so far I'm super impressed. I suspect it will be really useful for working out rough outlines on writing projects. I've been trying to shove those into Things but a formal to-do list application really is not the right place for those.
Here are a few "Pro User" tips from the Workflowy team that I found really helpful:
Completing items. Every item can be a task if you want it to be. Once you've completed a task, hover over the bullet point of the corresponding item and click "Complete" in the menu that pops up. This will strike out the item. Your lists can become cluttered with completed items quickly, so we recommend you hide them by clicking on the "Completed: Visible" button in the upper right of the page. There's also nothing sweeter than completing tasks and seeing them disappear before your eyes.
Search. WorkFlowy lets you navigate through your lists by expanding them and zooming. But sometimes you forget where you put something. Or maybe you want to bring up all the items that contain a specific word. The search feature lets you filter your WorkFlowy account (or whatever list you're currently zoomed to) instantly, as you type. Try it by using the search box at the top of the page.
Sharing and collaboration. You can share or collaborate on any sublist in your WorkFlowy account. This is a powerful feature that lets you turn any portion of your notes, tasks, lists, etc., into a page that others can view or edit. They'll see your updates (and you'll see theirs) in near-realtime. Click "Share" in the menu that pops up when you hover over a bullet point. Read our blog post on this feature for more info.
Tagging. Sometimes you want to associate together items that are in different parts of your WorkFlowy tree. Say you have tasks for a trip you're planning in one area and tasks for a project you're working on in another. You want to mark tasks in both areas as being "high priority," and then you want to view only the high priority tasks. Tags let you do this. Add the tag "#highpriority" to all your high-priority tasks. Then click the tag (once you've stopped editing the item) to filter only items with that tag. Click the tag again to turn off filtering.
If you've used this tool and have any other tips I'd love to hear them!
We've been sick around here and it has been cold and the intersection of the two is soup. Soup made with chicken broth, preferably. Or garlic. Or both. This soup is the both.
I originally found it on the tremendous 101 Cookbooks blog, a spin on a recipe from Richard Olney's The French Menu Cookbook. Heidi Swanson's version nails down amounts, the main difference from Olney's version, but I just don't cook that way, so my version goes back to rough measurements and reflects my adjustments. It turns out this is actually a soup that you can wing pretty well.
This soup is likely to cure what ails you, and will also keep vampires away. I recommend feeding it to anyone you are likely to be up close and personal with in the next 24 hours so at least you all stink of garlic the same.
Richard Olney's Garlic Soup
4 cups chicken stock (homemade is best for combating a cold) 2 cups water 1 bay leaf a small handful of fresh thyme about 2 medium cloves of garlic, smashed, peeled, and pressed (un-pressed cloves should measure about 1/3 cup) fine grain sea salt to taste
Binding pommade: 1 whole egg 2 egg yolks medium handful freshly grated dry cheese (Parmesan or Asiago) freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
day-old crusty bread or large croutons, shredded cheese & more olive oil to drizzle
Bring the stock and water to a boil in a medium sauce pan and add the herbs, garlic, and salt. Heat to a gentle boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf from the pan. Taste and add more salt if needed.
With a fork, whisk the egg, egg yolks, cheese, and pepper together in a bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil, beating all the time. Very slowly, while continuing to beat the pommade, add a large ladleful of the broth to heat the eggs. If you do this or the next step too fast, the broth will break (it won't look pretty, but still tastes ok). While whisking continuously, add the contents of the bowl into the garlic broth. Keep stirring until the broth thickens slightly. If the soup doesn't thicken within a few seconds, turn the heat back on medium and keep stirring.
Place a handful of fresh croutons (that would be in my old life) or torn bread chunks (what I do now) into the bottom of each bowl and pour the soup over the bread. Finish with a sprinkle of cheese and a drizzle of oil. Serve immediately.
I have put all of the baby's toys back in her toy basket and she is busy unloading them again which should give me 5-10 minutes to write. I am kneeling at the coffee table where I can see the whole living room, though she likes to crawl around the back of the couch where I can't see her to mail her toys into the boxes there that haven't made it all the way to the garage yet which renders this vantage somewhat wasted. There's a cat on the couch over my right shoulder, snuggled up next to my camera, and a tea cup with the sticky remains of lemon tea that I drank a while ago by my left hand. Strewn across the surface of the table around my laptop are the the parent end of the baby monitor, a crumpled tissue, two sippy cups, a plastic toy car, the cover for my iPad which is in the other room on the charger, a DVD from someone's stocking, a travel book for the trip we are planning, a handful of Trader Joe's Sesame Sticks, and my iPhone. I crave tidy surfaces, full attention to words, clear sinuses. None of which I have right now. Instead, I snack on Sesame Sticks and kneel at the coffee table pecking out the best words I can find right now, which I know are not very good.
This is the heavy part of the afternoon when the remaining day feels like forever. Back when I was working in an office, this was the same part of the day that my energy would flag and I would head for the vending machine. The baby is bored. I am bored. When the weather was good this was when I would head out the door for a walk, but it is cold out there and frankly I don't have the energy. I have made all the silly faces that I have in me today, read all the books (twice), and retrieved her from trying to put toys in the toilet and investigating the litter box more times than I can count. I despair of what we do between now and bedtime, now that the toy basket is empty and she's here at my side again looking for Grandpa inside my computer screen.
Mamas, what do you do to get through the draggy part of the afternoon?
This afternoon the wind pushed the morning's grey blanket back across half the brilliant blue winter sky until it ran from one horizon to the other in a crumpled pile. Where it met the ocean at one end, as the sun sank, it looked like this.
As one year ends and another one begins, I am choosing to turn into the wide open blue and away the muzzled, muted grey.