I'm hosting a workshop at Support Driven Expo in Portland, June 21 and 22!

My colleague Shannon and I will be hosting a workshop at Support Driven Expo in Portland in a few weeks. We'll be sharing tips and best practices around creating an incident response plan, to help you and your team communicate with customers when things go wrong. 

More information on SDX here: https://www.supportdriven.com/expo/

The Day I Went To Prison

Originally posted on Medium: https://medium.com/@badaja_/the-day-i-went-to-prison-429c626612aa

How I Used Trello to Organize an Apartment Search

Originally published January 13, 2016 on Medium

Moving sucks. Sure, it’s exciting… but the actual task of finding a place to live, packing your stuff, unpacking your stuff, and all the other tasks that come along with moving… these things are not that fun.

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The housing search can be stressful (but damn it feels good when it’s done!). Many questions need to be answered. “Which neighborhood should I live in?”, “How is the crime in the area?”, “How close is this place to work/to a grocery store?”, “Is there a parking spot?”, “What utilities are included?”.

Throw another person into the mix — a roommate, or in my case, my girlfriend — and now not one, but two people need to come to agreement on where to live. Yikes!

While this can be a daunting task, it doesn’t need to be hard. In fact, with the right tools and processes in place, it can be quite enjoyable. Staying organized usually makes everything a little easier.

First, I need to give a shoutout to the StatusPage.io team for helping make my apartment search in Denver easy. They’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive throughout this endeavor — thank you team!

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I spent five days in Denver on this great hunt… my girlfriend didn’t arrive until the last two days. This meant the pressure was on me to find some good options before she got there. Here’s how we approached this.

Define Requirements

Before you start looking, you need to know what you’re looking for. One bedroom? 2 bedroom? Indoor pool? Helicopter pad? This part of the process really came down to communication between the two of us. We determined our budget, the features/offerings we wanted/needed, nice-to-haves, etc.

This phase also involved a little bit of research to learn about the rental market and see which requirements were reasonable— checking listings, talking to real estate agents, and speaking with locals. Once we gathered that information, it was time to start the hunt.

Craigslist & PadMapper

There’s no question that — especially in major cities — Craigslist is the best tool for finding an apartment to rent. Using mostly Craigslist and a little bit of PadMapper, we began our search for the perfect apartment.

What we did from here is the important part. There are a lot of options out there — thousands of units available at any given time. So how do you share that information with each other? Do you email it, save it in a spread sheet, text it, write it down?

Trello

We created a Trello board and dropped each apartment we found that matched our requirements into a list called “Options”.

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If you’re not familiar with Trello — it is a great way to organize projects & tasks, and collaborate/communicate with others.

Since I was in Denver and she was still in Chicago (she arrived a few days after I did), we used this Trello board for communicating back and forth about each unit. As more “Options” were added, we applied labels to some of them to signify strong interest/disinterest and other information.

 Labels helped us organize the listing

Labels helped us organize the listing

As we applied labels and commented back and forth on each card, I started booking viewings. This typically involved sending an email or making a phone call. Once I reached out to a landlord/agent about a specific unit, I would move the Trello card into “Contacted”. This way, we both knew that I attempted to contact the landlord/agent about the unit… and once a viewing was confirmed, I moved the card into the “Viewing Scheduled” list.

 Confirmed viewings went into a list.

Confirmed viewings went into a list.

Google Calendar

Once a viewing was confirmed, I scheduled the appointment in Google Calendar. In the description, I included the contact name/number as well as a link to the original listing and the address. I also invited my girlfriend to each calendar event.

Google Calendar helped me make sure I was heading to the right location, knew who I was talking to, and I had access to the listing so I could pull that up and ask questions while I was there. Many of these viewings were back to back — using Google Calendar really helped make sure I wasn’t missing meetings or showing up late.

It also helped my girlfriend by knowing exactly when I was viewing each unit (you have to move quickly on these things — if you find the perfect place, you don’t want to lose your chance of getting it!).

While I was viewing the unit, I would capture photos/videos and upload them to the Trello card shortly after so my girlfriend could see them. After viewing each unit, the card would get moved into “Dig It” (“I think this could work”) or “Not feeling it” (“this isn’t a place for us”).

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My goal was to see several options, and once my girlfriend arrived in Denver, we would see our favorite units together and make a final decision. This worked really well… eventually, we had a few units in the “Dig It” list.

Google Maps

After we had our four finalists in the “Dig It” list, I created a Google Map showing the exact location of each unit and the proximity to different things (grocery stores, yoga studios, bars/restaurants, etc). Since my girlfriend wasn’t with me during the first round of viewings, this helped visualize certain things and gain an understanding of what exactly we’re looking at. It also helped me view things in a way that made sense geographically.

At this point, I scheduled second viewings so we could see the units together.

Saturday morning, we woke up and headed to our first appointment. I had already seen the unit and we had both felt strongly about it (me from already seeing it, and her from seeing photos/videos etc). Lucky for me, my girlfriend is a simple gal — we left that viewing on the same page, feeling excited about it… it felt right. I cancelled the remaining 3 appointments and we proceeded to sign a lease!

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Is This All Necessary?

Absolutely not. In fact, going about all of this the same way we did here could quite possibly cause more stress, time, and work for many people. We all work differently though. As a previous project manager, I like to introduce a little organization, communication, and collaboration into these types of things. Besides, I can only store so much information in my brain and this approach actually helped me work smarter, not harder. I actually enjoyed the process.

Closing Thoughts

With the tools and processes I outlined above, we stayed organized, in-sync, arrived to appointments on time, and most importantly… we accomplished our goal: finding an apartment to rent!

There are a ton of tools out there you can use to stay organized. Trello happens to be one of my favorites. If you’re tackling a housing search, or planning a party, or building a website… try using Trello to help bring a little organization into the chaos.

Throw it Away: My Path to Simple Living

Originally published July 2, 2013

For as long as I can recall, I’ve been a simple guy. I believe this minimalist energy has always been a part of me, but in the last couple years, I’ve seen it drastically influence my way of living in very positive ways.

Life is more enjoyable with less. There’s less to worry about, less to clean, less to move, less to fix, less to think about… and there’s more time, space and energy to enjoy life. It’s not that I can’t afford these things — it’s that I don’t want these things. Here are some things I’ve given up in the last several years:

Drinking Soda

I stopped drinking drinking soda in 2005. It wasn’t hard, I felt better from doing it, and found a deep love for high quality H20.

Checking Baggage

I don’t fly as much as many people, really only a handful of times a year, but I haven’t checked a bag in 3 years. In fact, I spent 17 days traveling Europe recently with only a carry-on backpack. It was liberating and much more efficient for getting around.

Facebook

I left Facebook in October 2012 and haven’t looked back. Communication with friends and family has reverted to the old fashioned telephone call (imagine that), and emails. My relationships seem less artificial and more real, and there’s much less social noise and distraction in my life.

My Car

I sold my car a year and a half ago and replaced it with a single speed 1970’s Schwinn bicycle. As a drummer, this was a bit nerve racking, but I’ve gotten by just fine. Commuting by bike is exhilarating — especially in downtown Chicago — and my bike allows me freedom and convenience.

Cable

TV I haven’t had a paid TV service since 2010. I grew up without cable and will likely grow old without it as well. TV is not necessary for me — I find myself filling my time with much more useful things like creating music, biking, reading, and exploring the areas around me.

Having a lot of Stuff

I moved to Chicago on January 1 of 2012 and immediately drove to a storage unit and unloaded the contents of the last 4 years of my life. It was painful — I hated every step I took in that place. Not needing or having room for many of these items, they sat in the storage unit for a year. In December of 2012, I donated 75% of the contents and closed out my account. Storage units are like cancer to a minimalist. Never. Again.

Thanks for reading,
-jake