The Importance of Workflow: How I make all this happen
I’m going to take a minute (MANY minutes, lets be real) to talk about my workflow. This may not apply to all of you but I have used a similar workflow for my work projects, school projects, this blog, and other personal projects. On one of my deployments I became obsessed with productivity and not wasting my time unnecessarily. After many years of working on this process, I’d like to share a little behind the scenes. I’m also interested in ways to make this process better and/or help you make your life more productive.
If you don’t really care about workflow, I would skip this post because this is going to be long. BUT, I wanted to get it down in a single place… If you want to know the process, stick with me! Lol
I’m going to take you from start to finish of a project of mine and everything starts with an idea. I equate these ideas to a “mission”. Basically, what is the goal of this trip? For this post I will talk about a trip I am going on around Thanksgiving.
See the final post HERE to see what the final product looks like.
I use Evernote to organize everything I do, and I will open a new folder in Evernote with a name for the trip. For this trip, I will call it the “Turkey Trip”, very original.
In this folder I will have several notes that equate to things I plan on doing for the trip. You can see below that I have a note about the Naval Air Museum and a restaurant, two locations that I plan on going to on the trip. You can also see that I have a packing list note and a note about the route. I keep all of these things on Evernote because I can access them wherever I am on any of my devices.
Next, I start creating the route and this starts in Google Earth with me dropping markers on the map where I want to go. There will be a marker for each National Forest that I want to go to, a marker where all of my family members are that I want to visit, and markers for those locations I want to see.
After getting all of the markers down I can look at everything I am trying to do and start working on the route and timeline.
For this trip I am able to leave around mid-day on Friday, November 16th and return sometime on Monday, November 26th. This gives me 11 days to accomplish what I want to do and I’ll start penciling in the plan on a calendar.
Back to the Route
After I think I have a good rough estimate of the plan, I’ll go back to Google Earth and start laying down some rough daily tracks.
This is where things start to get interesting to me as a planner. I have an idea of how far I want to go each day, per the rough plan, but putting together a route for that day is critical in making that total distance work out.
On my second day of travel, I am traversing almost the whole south-east US but also have planned to go through several National Forests along the way. Personally, I can spend an entire day looking at a forest map and seeing what trails I can explore but for this particular day, I know that I probably need to find a main road through the forest and not go exploring.
After thinking about the timeline, I am trying to keep, I lay down a detailed plan by tracing out all of the roads I plan on taking on Google Earth. This is a VERY time-consuming process and it takes me around an hour to map out about 160 miles of the trip. This Thanksgiving trip is about 2,900 miles so that equates to about 18 hours of work just to build the route.
This process has several benefits that make it worth the time. (1) In order for me to have a defined line to follow in GAIA GPS, I have to take the time to build the detailed routes. (2) I get a lot of time to study the route as I build it. I get to see if I am close to interesting landmarks by zooming way in while tracing the roads. (3) By doing this in such detail, I feel like I have already done the trip once before ever doing it. I know what to expect and I have a good idea of where I am the whole trip.
After completing the route in Google Earth, I upload it to the GAIA GPS website which is then synced to my iPad. Once on my iPad, I pull up the National Forest maps and download the sections that I will be travelling through. After downloading those, I swap to the street map layer and make sure I cover the rest route so that if I lose service, I have the offline maps available.
For the most part, this is the extent of the route planning and anything else that is done is done solely on the iPad in GAIA GPS.
After completing the planning, I move to vehicle prep. This encompasses a lot of things but here are the main questions I ask myself:
1. Is my vehicle ready to do this trip mechanically?
This involves things like the time until my next oil change, fluid levels, rattles that have been bothering me, alignment, tire condition, tire pressures, airbag pressure, and newer MODs that I should check for loose nuts and bolts. I really want to do a once over and make sure nothing is blatantly wrong.
2. Is my vehicle interior setup to do this trip?
This question leads to things like the charging needed for all of my electronics and more importantly, my son’s electronics. Are my flip flops and my mud boots readily accessible? Is my recovery kit ready to go and accessible? Is the inside clean? Nothing bothers me more than starting out with a dirty interior in my Jeep.
I think you get the gist of this question. Moving on!
3. Do I have what I need to accomplish what I am trying to accomplish?
If it is cold out, this trip will be very cold, do I have the heater and propane? Do I have water? Do I have the tent with the sleeping bag? A lot of this list will be encompassed in the To-Do list but a lot of it is normally kept in cases that are ready to throw in the back and drive away. For those cases I tend to think about whether or not I need to replenish anything in those cases. Maybe I do but I plan on stopping somewhere along the way, No big deal. The idea is to go over everything so you know what you need before you NEED it… Like a lighter or toilet paper.
Looking over the vehicle and deciding what needs to be done leads to the building of the To-Do list. This may be things I need to still do, like uploading the route to GAIA, or things I need to grab on the trip, like bread and peanut butter. The point of this is that I have identified these things, written them down, checked some of them off, and know what still needs to be done. It helps me not forget anything, because I will if I don’t write it down.
Weather Check/Route Review
By the time I get to this point in the planning process, I am probably within a few days of going on the trip so it is a good time to look at the weather for the trip and make adjustments as necessary.
After checking the weather and making adjustments, I take a last look at the route and make sure everything looks good. I’m looking for things like possible flooded/snowed over/closed roads and maybe minor changes to the route to see or avoid something in particular. For the most part everything usually stays as planned but I like to take one last look.
Clean up and Set Out
At this point everything should be taken care of so the last thing to do is clean up the To-Do list so I make sure everything is covered and then it is time to hit the road!
On the Road
There are really two different mentalities I have when I am on the road.
The first is when I am just trying to get from point A to point B. When doing this kind of travelling, I am thinking about a few specific things.
- Gas Mileage – I’m always looking at my average mpg and looking at upcoming towns or cities so that I don’t pass an opportunity and risk running low on fuel.
- Vehicle Condition – I’m really paying attention to the condition of the vehicle during these times. Is it running smooth? How do the pressures look? Are there any new sounds that may need attention?
- Time – I’m always looking at timing while I’m doing this type of driving. This allows me to skip pieces or take shortcuts to make up time. It also allows me to do some more adventuring if I happen (not likely) to be ahead of schedule.
The second mentality I have is when I am on a trail. The main thing I think about on the trail is fuel and navigating the trail. My vehicle is also my daily driver so I think a lot about avoiding hazards to protect the vehicle.
I also think about mpg, timing, and the vehicle condition but far less than when I am on open road.
Something new I am always thinking about now is pictures for the blog and social media. Landscape photography is something that is particularly interesting to me so even if I am on a highway, I will take the time to pause, take a picture, and move on. I find that having this to focus on and always thinking about the light or the composition, really breaks up the trip and lets me travel longer than I would otherwise be able to without getting too tired.
Most of my trips end up with me being at some campground in a National Forest of State Park. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right campground or even the right spot. For this trip my son and I ended up trying out some night photography. We both had a great time and playing with light painting and long exposures was pretty interesting.
The process I go through every day on these trips is always the same. It is a loop of questions that I think about.
- Where am I? This is related to actual location as much as it is to get me to stop and really think about WHERE I am. I may be at “x” location but does “x” location offer anything that I did not plan? A good photo spot? How about an early meal? Coffee? Maybe a good place to stop and call it a day.
- What is the next objective? – This can be the next fuel stop, lunch, resupply location (Walmart), a planned photo spot, trail section, etc.
- How do I get to that objective? – Is it just over the next ridge? Three towns away? 20 miles? This helps me stay engaged and not miss things that I planned to do.
- What is the following/overall objective? – Thinking two steps ahead really brings in a large perspective as to what I want to accomplish in that particular day.
- Make a decision and press forward!
Here is an example of how I use this process:
- I am driving by a sign that says something about cliffs. I stop and think about where I am. I’m in a parking lot with a trail system that leads to some cliffs somewhere. Part of step 1 is looking deeper and I begin to imagine the pictures I may be able to get and the hike I could benefit from.
- My next objective is a town further down the mountain where a Podcast I listen to is based.
- This one is easy, I just need to keep driving to get to my next objective.
- My overall objective is to get home at the end of the day before my wife and son get home.
- I now have all the facts and when I weigh out everything, I decide to take the hiking trip and I got some “meh” pictures but the hike was good and I still got home in time.
I go through this process constantly throughout the trip and it really keeps me engaged and aware of where I am in relation to accomplishing what I want to accomplish.
Here is where all the fun begins… sometimes, sometimes not.
When I get home, I take a day to decompress before doing ANYTHING. I need this time to do the things that I miss from being home. Things like the occasional video game and spending time with the wife and kiddo when they don’t go with me.
In this step I get everything out of the Jeep and give it a good once-over. Since all of my gear is mostly in weatherproof cases, I grab the cases out of the back of the Jeep and move them about 10 feet to where I store them in the garage.
I clean out all the trash, dirty clothes, and unused firewood from the trasharoo, take off and store the tent, clean out my camera gear and electronics and, BAM! Back to normal Jeep.
Now its time to pop out all the memory cards, sync the files, and save them in a manner of which they are easy to access again. Here is an example of my file structure:
I use a primary external hard drive and a secondary as a backup. I do most of my work on a laptop and Velcro them to the back so I have easy access to them.
I back up the primary to the backup as regularly as I think about losing lots of info…
Syncing files normally involves making sure GAIA is uploaded to their site and downloading all of those trails and waypoints so they can be manipulated in Google Earth.
For picture editing I mainly use Adobe’s Lightroom program because I can use it over many platforms, it has a cloud service that syncs everything, and it is an amazing product, especially for editing photos shot in RAW.
Now I have a set of edited photos to pick from when writing posts, uploading to Instagram, making the site header images, gallery posts, etc.
The only thing left is to sort the edited photos into the appropriate folders and press on! Sometimes I take pictures on the road that are for other posts. A good example of this may be something like interior pictures of the roof-top tent for a later review.
The Blog Post
When writing the blog, I’m trying to convey the purpose of the post. Maybe it’s the story of the trip, maybe it’s an informational post, like this one. I write everything in Microsoft Word because I can work without internet access and it pastes easily into WordPress.
As I write, I also plan where I want to insert images like this:
This allows me to just type away and work on the images later on.
I also know that I am really bad about rambling on so something I’m working on is getting the message across and moving on.
Like right now… MOVING ON
After having the post complete and places set aside that need images, I go searching for those images. Sometimes this is an image from the trip that I already have in mind and sometimes I have to make them by using screenshots and Corel PaintShop Pro. It is a knockoff of Photoshop but I grew up using it and I am very comfortable with it, so I stick with it.
Once I have all the images ready to go, I create an image for the header of the post in PaintShop pro with some old-fashioned text that I try to keep consistent.
Before sending everything to the site, I compress all of the images so they load faster on the site and don’t cause lag for you, the viewer. I use compressjpeg.com and have been very happy with the outcome. Once I upload and compress them, they are ready to upload to the site.
This is the easy part. I get to copy and paste the prepared post and drag the compressed images into the post. I then decide when I want the post to go live, what tags apply to the post, where I want it shared, and it is done. Finished. That is what you are looking at now, process complete!
This process can be time consuming and take a while to get through, like days… This creates some interesting conversations with the extended family who think I am routinely on the road and never home. Lol. The truth is that I go on trips, create a lot of content, have some great experiences, and slowly release that content as I complete it. There you go, the cat is out of the bag!
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think of the process. I’m always trying to get more efficient and hearing your process may help in a big way.