How I Keep My Lists in Order – Workflowy

Blogging, Business, Management, Software

Do you make lists? Do you use an orderly system on your computer or in a notebook; or do you scribble them out on sticky notes? In today’s information rich environment, the ability to keep lists, to-dos, projects and tasks in order is important, do you use lists for brainstorming, or shopping lists? Or how about packing lists? I’ve tried all types of productivity software, and those apps that shine are the often the simplest.

One of my favourites that holds a coveted space on my iPhone homescreen and work desktop is Workflowy. It doesn’t have a calendar and it doesn’t beep at you, but it does have an awesome search, tagging, the ability to mark notes as complete, and great export options.

With Workflowy you have one big list that has bullets and sub-bullets, technically it is what is called an outline or hierarchical outline.

Workflowy Screenshot

Workflowy is blazingly fast, works on all devices and allows almost infinite outline levels (or lists within lists). This is software that is simple and the developers are thoughtful as to additional features and attempting to keep things minimalist. Sign up for a free account and watch the tutorials to get started!

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Infrastructure Inspections and Awareness

Cities, Civil Engineering, Construction, Governance, Sustainability, Transportation

Or – Why Inspections are Fundamental to Asset Management

Two engineering departments in the City of Honolulu have very different approaches to the same problem.

The city does not have an inspection program for light poles, despite the fact that there are 51,000 street lights on the island. The city says it doesn’t have the money or staff to maintain one.”For us to stop funding other programs, like providing better lighting to fund pole inspections, is something that’s not going to be productive,” said Ross Sasamura, director of the Dept. of Facility Maintenance…

A different department, Transportation Services, takes care of the lights that are attached to traffic signals, like the one that fell on Atkinson. Director Mike Formby is asking for $180,000 in the budget to get his own inspection program off the ground.”What we’re trying to do right now is a systematic inspection program, where we go through the county and inspect all the traffic lights in this region and we move through the county,” he said.

via: KHON2 – City to inspect poles when replacing street lights

Considering that steel streetlight poles typically have a lifespan of around 20 years, (and even less in corrosive environments such as salt spray near beaches). A proactive inspection and replacement program would appear valuable to ensure that streetlights are kept in good condition.

Photo Credit: Kumaravel cc

Photo Credit: Kumaravel cc

What is Asset Management?

A pretty straight-forward definition of Asset Management comes from one of my favourite road organizations, Austroads

“…a comprehensive and structured approach to the long-term management of assets as tools for the efficient delivery of community benefits.” – Strategy for Improving Asset Management Practice, AUSTROADS.

It is impossible to manage assets that you know nothing about, so it is ironic that the director of facility maintenance has no money, or real interest in an inspection program to determine the condition of the assets. Comprehensive asset management programs are built on a foundation of data, and the more quality data you have, the easier it is to manage that asset class.

And Data Starts with Inspections

In most cases, better quality data only comes from inspections. General assumptions can be made regarding the age of an asset, but without inspection, the actual condition of an asset can only be assumed. Inspections don’t have to be extremely detailed as a first assessment, for instance, streetlight assessments could firstly be done using Google street-view to assess light standard types and “drive by” visual assessment. The next level would be a visual inspection of each pole, looking for rust, dents, missing bolts and soundness of installation. From this information, priority ranking could be determined for repair or replacement.

Prioritizing Asset Management

Effective management of infrastructure assets is a growing challenge for North American local governments. With aging infrastructure, an understanding of the required effort and financing to rehabilitate, renew, replace or abandon existing infrastructure, (even before considering the impacts of growth on asset inventory) is critical. This will inform funding requests at all levels of government and ensure consistency among departments, and build a culture of awareness of how to prevent the problem from recurring.

Simple and inexpensive tools and techniques exist to improve an organization’s infrastructure awareness – infrastructure inspection forms, policy templates, organizational asset maturity assessments, the International Infrastructure Management Manual, and NAMS Plus templates are great starting points.

Strong asset management practices take a proactive approach to the infrastructure deficit issue, and establishes business practices that support truly sustainable infrastructure. Neglecting inspections in an effort to focus on “problem areas” is dealing with the symptom, not the problem. There is no understanding of infrastructure deficit, future costs or planning on how to address these issues.


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What Have You Shipped?

Blogging, Business, Productivity

Last week I received a report on our departmental progress, it was in effect, a reminder of what we’ve “shipped” over the past six months. Having a regular reminder of your progress seems like a good thing, and it is supported by research:

making headway on meaningful work brightens a person’s inner work life and boosts long-term progress. It isn’t monetary rewards and recognition that truly motivate us. It’s a sense that we are accomplishing something meaningful – day by day.

Why a ‘done’ list beats a to-do list

Tracking these things we’ve done makes sense, we should celebrate our accomplishments, and challenge ourselves on the work we are doing and what we are achieving. Seth Godin asked this question a couple of years ago, and the idea stuck with me…

But what have you shipped?

What have you done with your connection skills that has been worthy of criticism, that moved the dial and that changed the world?

Go, do that.

But what have you shipped? – Seth Godin

Photo Credit: lemonhalf cc

Photo Credit: lemonhalf cc

I’ve started making a note of the my done list. At the end of the day, I write down the things that I’ve shipped/done/achieved that day. For inspiration, the iDoneThis app‘s ebook suggests the following questions:

  1. What did you get done today?
  2. What did I make progress on today?
  3. What impacted your progress?
  4. What did you do today that you especially want to remember in the future?
  5. What good have I done today?
  6. What are 3 good things about today?

So… What have you shipped today?


Begbie Lake

Pressgram, Revelstoke

A rarely visited lake just off HWY23 south of Revelstoke. No real beach, but lots of rainbow trout waiting to be caught from a float tube. Note:It would be challenging to get a canoe down the trail from the hwy.

Begbie Lake

Begbie Lake

  • Camera: iPhone 5c
  • Taken: 21 June, 2014
  • Location: 50° 54′ 41.38″ N 118° 11′ 6.32″ W



Arrow Lakes Drawdown

Pressgram, Revelstoke

Columbia River looking across to Mt Begbie

This section of the Columbia River just below Revelstoke is known as the Arrow Lakes Drawdown. At the start of summer this area usually becomes flooded as BC Hydro fills the Arrow Lakes Reservoir for the summer. Many of Revelstoke’s recreation trails on the flats become submerged for a couple of months and areas we would walk or bike can be canoed over.

  • Camera: iPhone 5c
  • Taken: 21 June, 2014
  • Location: 50° 59′ 13.17″ N 118° 12′ 41.85″ W




Infrastructure, the Economy and Local Governments

BC, Canada, Community, Construction, Governance, Sustainability

Some of the greatest challenges that local governments face in Canada revolve around the concept of the “Infrastructure Deficit“. In Canada, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, (FCM) has a position statement on the infrastructure deficit:

All governments – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – must work together and with the private sector to make immediate infrastructure repairs to protect public health and safety. They must act now to establish a fully funded, long-term plan to build roads, water systems, community facilities and transportation systems Canada needs to support businesses and families, enrich our quality of life and maintain competitiveness in international markets.

Fully funded, long-term plans need to be developed in coordination with provincial and federal levels of government to ensure sustainable asset management. [click to continue…]

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62 Considerations for an Integrated Urban Design

Cities, Civil Engineering, Construction, Design, Stormwater, Subdivision Design, Sustainability, Transportation

As a civil engineer involved in municipal, development, and transportation; one of the most important concepts to remember is that of integrated urban design. Simplified, if just the traffic engineer was responsible for the design, roads might be large enough for the maximum projected traffic demand; if just the public works manager was responsible for the design, the roads might be as straight as possible for easy street sweeping and snow removal, if it was just up to the urban planner, the road might have parklets, a median, narrow driving lanes and wide sidewalks; if it was just up to the home owner on the road, there would be no traffic and the ability to park their car directly outside their house.

The main objective with considering an integrated design is acknowledging that there are competing demands, all of which may be valid and should be carefully considered before the final design is derived. The process for developing a design does become more complicated, but the outcome can be expected to be far superior to one that only considers one viewpoint.

From my experience the standard subdivision and servicing design bylaw does little to address these competing requirements or demands, but instead provides the base template to be used as the starting point, but to develop functional and interesting streetscapes, more detailed consideration is required. Below is a list of many of the considerations used when considering an integrated approach to urban design. [click to continue…]

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Canoeing the Columbia River

Pressgram, Revelstoke

We took a short May Long Weekend paddle down the Columbia River from Revelstoke. We averaged over fast and cold 8.5km/hr, so you had to keep your eyes open for snags!