This means I do keep a list of the things I need to get done, so whenever I've got free time, I take a look at the list and see what I'm most in the mood to do.
Of course, this is the real world -- sometimes something has a firm deadline so you have no choice (so of course you do things you aren't in the mood for).
But I want to run errands when I'm in the mood to go outside. I want to go to them gym when I'm feeling energetic. I want to wash dishes or clean my apartment when my brain is conked out anyways. I want to work on a hobby when I'm feeling creative. I want to read a book when I'm feeling relaxed.
Or at work, I might be in the mood for writing e-mails, or working on a presentation, or chatting about a project, or catching up on reading. They'll all get done eventually, but why not do the one you'll most enjoy at the moment, as long as you can?
And I know myself well enough to know I never have any idea what I'm going to feel when. Will I be feeling energetic or creative or conked out tonight after work? Tomorrow when I wake up? The day after on my lunch break? Who knows!
Scheduling time to do my things is a disaster for my happiness. I'm sure it can work for other people, but it's not for everyone.
That's a sure-fire recipe for never doing most things one needs to do, because most of those things are not things that one looks forward to anyway.
Even for the core work someone does (e.g. writing for a writer), people mention time and again that setting up times in advance and committing to them works better than getting in the mood.
I used to hate scheduling, now I swear by it. The change was entirely in my understanding what "scheduling" means. I used to treat this as iron-strong commitments. Those made me dislike scheduling because I felt I'm losing autonomy over my own life. Now, I treat scheduling in advance as my best-effort plan for efficiently doing what I want, subject to revision at any point I deem necessary. I found allowing myself to shuffle the schedule around as I need made it feel liberating, and my worries about losing autonomy pretty much disappeared.
For me, a better approach has been to consciously force myself to do things I don't feel like doing. I push through low energy, distractions, or boredom and just get it done.
You might expect this to lead to sub-optimal performance or suffering through unenjoyable tasks. Sometimes it does, but in my experience, a more common result is the good feeling of having pushed through a barrier and found a second, or third wind.
If it's something actually important I'll do it eventually. If it's something I truly dread, I might do it at the last possible moment, but I'll do it.
I've found that my moods are fairly cyclic. I'm high energy in the a.m., start to trail off in the afternoon and then catch a second wind after dinner. To the extent I'm able I structure my day around these cycles, reserving the high-concentration/creativity tasks for the a.m. and the more mindless/mundane for the afternoon. Evening's a free-for-all depending on whether I still have work to do or not.
The first and only ironclad law of productivity is "Do what works."
- Writing down all the things in my mind (i.e. mind dump) - tremendously reduces my stress and clears my head; a good mind dump makes my mind feel temporary empty, unburdened. After doing that I usually quickly review what I wrote down and make a conscious decision about what to do with each item (e.g. put it on a TODO list, ignore it, shoot a mail about it and forget), so that those things don't start immediately cluttering my head again.
- Big todo lists - mostly useful to keep track of random errands that I'd otherwise have to remember. I'm e.g. happy to tell that I don't remember when my rent is due, or when I have to remind a friend about sending me the details of a project - but I'm confident that my todo list will remind me at the appropriate moment.
- Improvised, throwaway todo lists - help me focus on a difficult task through the process of breaking it down into steps small enough I can execute them one-by-one without getting a panic attack.
- Scheduling - works for me if I schedule blocks dedicated to particular task or project - like "work", "project X", "random", "HN break". Helps me focus without triggering my otherwise usual anxiety attacks. Also I make sure to schedule "random / shallow work" blocks regularly, which exist to ensure I do process my todo lists, that would otherwise go stale.
"When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep!"
I feel using a TODO list with time estimates would give the benefits from the article was also letting you schedule flexibly as you feel like it. By putting the time estimates in it makes it easier to say no to tasks that don't have to be done.
It's a term I came up with as I observed myself making todo lists, completing them, feeling good about it, but realizing that I'm not getting from A to B on important projects. It's (comparatively) easy to make todo items like 'buy milk', 'get haircut', 'go on date with X', 'read 1 chapter of <book>', but these are what I call trivial accomplishments. Having a todo list 100% made up of these is a good way to fool yourself, because you will feel good about yourself (for a while), because that's just how we work, the illusion of progress fools the brain.
Way out: Separate todo lists into trivial and non-trivial, eg. I have a separate Trello list for each. Make sure your non-trivial list is not empty and you make progress on it. Hard items are writing/output versus reading/input. Another good way to identify them is if they're about Deliberate Practice.
Great observation. I get the feeling scheduling is something that MBAs are taught, where "time is the restriction". What about JIT scheduling? In my view, adding dates to every task is another BS and unnecessary task. Here's an alternative restriction, tasks per day. "Ivy Ledbetter Lee" (business productivity guru 100 years ago) had another approach. Spend 15min at end of day doing the following:
* specify six tasks you need to finish
* prioritise them one to six
* do each task, in order, till finished
* work your arse off
* left-over tasks are added to tomorrows list
The restriction here is how many tasks I NEED to do TODAY. Read more about "Ivy Ledbetter Lee" below.
Having a todo list at hand to write these things down means I don't lose them, even if I don't look at them again for weeks or months.
Not sure where you'd put this on a Calendar.
This is same thing someone (can't remember) said that TODO lists get done only if you also put a time and place to each TODO Task.
It splits the difference between flexibility and awareness of time limitations.
Then on a summer weekend my sister asked me to help her renovate her apartment, specifically I was tasked with the removal of all the wallpapers. I said sure, give me the key and I'll get going over the weekend and actually dropped by Friday after work...by chance I had my Pomodoro timer in my work backpack. I looked around and came to the conclusion that I had absolutely no idea how long it would take me to tear everything down. So I guessed how much I could do in 25 minutes, set the timer (25 minutes) and went to work. I got less done than expected and I suppose you could say I started a Bayesian process of sorts updating my priors but most importantly I realized that knowing how much time something roughly takes is extremely valuable in scheduling work.
I went on to calculate roughly how many tomatoes it would take to get each room done and since there wasn't much time left on the Friday figured I could get one of the tiny ones done. It worked, the estimation was fairly accurate and I actually caught myself trying to beat my estimates. On Saturday I had a great plan and a firm goal (get the living room and one extra room done). I eventually settled in on 2 tomatoes followed by a 15 minute break. Worked great.
tl;dr: Ever since that I get more done whenever I know how long it'll roughly take. That means exploring is very valuable. For new tasks I estimate in tomatoes, draw a circle for each and get going. When it takes longer I add squares and once the task is done I update my mental image of how long it'll take in the future.
Whenever I don't know how long something might take I tend to procrastinate a lot until I force myself to timebox it. I think most interesting tasks tend to fall in this category.
Any time someone says they have "the secret," they are selling you something. And more often than not, there's a good amount of snake oil in that bottle.
For me, todo lists in the form of a Kanban board with columns that hold longer term "need to remember" tasks really help so I don't forget those things. And when I am sitting idle wondering what to do next, I have a list ready (unless something else pops up that is higher priority).
I think over scheduling might lead to its own inflexibility and paralysis as well. But it might work great for some people!
There. I saved you a bit of time so now you too can go be more "most successful".
You can't be the Pinball Wizard when the job requires you to be the pinball.
I'm in a similar situation. This is what works for me. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of what I'm working on currently and my progress so far. I don't update it all the time - probably something like every 3 to 4 days. sometimes it's as simple as adding a line to say "Emailed Phil with my recommendations, waiting to hear back from him - call him if no word by 23rd".
I'm constantly having to jump between various projects. This is the only way I've found to keep track of status of various things. Sometimes I'll be out on plant dealing with an issue all day or supervising a trial or tied up with meetings etc. Before I adopted this system it was a nightmare picking things up again after a few days away from my desk.
Personally though I always need a back burner / ice box (think agile) but in part its handling for the fact that I have bad memory and then can relax a little more that I won't forget it.
I'm reluctantly using Things, and the closest thing it has is due dates and "hide this task until that date".
Surely, it wouldn't be that hard to implement a daily planner view that brings up your day's calendar in the right pane, a list of upcoming tasks in the left one, and lets you drag them across ?
I feel orphaned ever since Google acqui-hired then shut down the only app that really nailed this workflow : Timeful. Its AI-based autoscheduling was only a bonus, the UI was marvelous.
See https://gmail.googleblog.com/2015/05/time-is-on-your-sidewel... or for some background info: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2014/08...
Parts of Timeful have been added to the Google Calendar app but it's lacking, and nowhere near as close to a complete, magical and satisfying system as Timeful was.
More than a year later, I'm still desperately looking for good alternatives. "Plan" (https://getplan.co/) looks promising but not quite polished enough, and "Skedpal" seems overkill.
Anyone else in this situation ?
Yes, I have been looking for a split pane drag and drop solution too. No dice. Regardless, IQTELL is so powerful though that no matter when I find an elegant solution, it falls short in other areas anyway.
I get asked for advice on improving productivity so much so that I’ve packaged most of it into an online seminar that I call Insanely More Productive."
Why is an advertisement for a $59 online seminar on the front page of HN? Nice title aside, I'm flagging this.
This works well for me; I have weekly timesheet and billing to do, and it keeps track of where I am in the workflow. An automated job on my server mails me the weekly tasks required in the subject, and I delete each mail as the task is complete. For example my weekly automated tasks are
TODO: create invoice
TODO: add invoice to finance spreadsheet
TODO: complete timesheet
TODO: save approved timesheet
TODO: mail invoice and timesheet to customer
TODO: confirm scheduled payment received
TODO: perform weekly backup
TODO: CAR1 check oil
TODO: CAR1 tyre pressures
TODO: CAR1 water jet reservoir
TODO: CAR2 check oil
TODO: CAR2 tyre pressures
TODO: CAR2 water jet reservoir
http://www.dueapp lets you put a time to be reminded and that has really clear snooze functionality. So I procrastinate a lot (snooze) but I'm always aware of it in case I have a deadline, and I don't have to worry about remember it.
(I'm unaffiliated with Due I just love the product)
Only problem is that it's tedious and time consuming to actually schedule each item.
I created Focuster (http://focuster.com) to solve this problem by automatically scheduling your to dos for you.
An extra bonus is that it reschedules based on cancellations and new appointments.
Would love any feedback you guys might have!
I think these matters vary enormously for each person. Using a tool badly doesn't make it a bad tool.
Pretty much the opposite!
David Allen is against scheduling anything other than hard deadlines. The ones which if you miss, you really miss! The examples in the article are the ones he tells you never to put in the calendar (groceries, date night, etc). Anything that you can delay means it does not belong in there.
He does have a tickler file, but that's merely for reminding you, and only at the day granularity.
When I saw the title I was surprised. And my experiences are quite the opposite of what I'm reading in the article. My life improved a lot by using lists.
The problem of having to guess how long stuff takes and the cascading effect of constantly having to reschedule everything was very depressing for me.
Nowadays I'm doing the important stuff from the Next Actions list and do something from the Someday/Maybe list for fun. And my calendar and reminders make sure I do the time critical stuff at the time it needs to be done.
This article sounds insane to me.
That being said, the biggest reason my GTD practice fails is I rarely spend time getting things done, but instead end up grooming an ever-growing to-do list. Assigning datetimes to trigger reminders is tempting...
Instead, let your list go a little wild, and put the stuff you truly don't need to do in that "Someday" pile and don't look at it until you've gotten a few projects done from the pile you've determined is important.
I'm wondering if a schedule without times but only durations would be an upgrade from the ToDo list, showing how much can be accomplished in a day, or how long it will take to complete a list.
Did I just describe a personal Gantt chart?
Just like pretty much every to-do list suggests you do.
Wow, talk about a spectacular exaggeration.
Request for disproof: Any successful people here make to-do lists?
I'm less so a todo-list person, but I do use them help to clear my headspace, more so than to run my day. I plan to experiment with more scheduling to enhance my productivity. I don't think I'm the sort that wants to go to the extreme with it, but I think I may find it helpful.
Got me through college x 3.