Before that I was in a rebellious phase, I didn't believe in time management and plans. I thought they caused stress and inefficiency. I thought there was enough time for everything.
However, then I crashed and realized that professionalism and proper planning have their place. But I could not and cannot manage to adopt a system.
I tried org-mode, the to-do list on my phone, some calendar apps. I tried the flash card system from Cal Newport's book Focus. I managed to stick to it for a week, and actually got some work done.
Nowadays I don't plan ahead, if something needs my attention and needs to be done I write down a checklist for the task with minimum self-explanatory items on a piece of paper.
Most things that I perceive as tasks are either not important in the end, or they go away. The ones that remain receive my undivided honest attention and in the meantime I procrastinate.
I don't trust myself, so I don't plan ahead. If I plan, I don't think I'll stick to it. If a task has the potential to haunt me, make me anxious and rob me of my sleep, I try to be cautious with it and get it done ASAP. Other than these types of tasks, I don't force myself to do anything and simply pass the time.
I wish I could be an organized person, procrastinate less, tidy up, live healthier etc. But knowing from experience that it's quite unlikely that I'll do all that, I try to focus on the bare essentials and try to feel less guilt.
What made it "stick" for me was getting an Apple Watch. On one hand I can add a reminder trivially with Siri. On the other hand, I can put my tasks on my watch face so I'm constantly reminded to actually check and maintain my list. Obviously, YMMV, but for someone who has struggled with organization since I was a kid, that was a game changer.
As for the point about minor tasks: little tasks will often go away, but that doesn't meant here are no consequences. One of the things that made me get a formal task management system was my wife getting sick of me blowing off household todos. Not because I wasn't doing my fair share of the actual grunt work like cooking, etc., but because by blowing off all the little things I was by default making her do all the task management and planning.
Every honest organization system is trying to teach you that very point.
You can amass an infinite tasklist in finite time, but only the important things matter. It's much better to accomplish one important thing in a day than twenty inconsequential jobs.
...the difficulty is in discovering what isn't important.
1. Make yourself a very brief year plan
2. Every month refer to year plan and go into detail as needed for that month.
3. At the beginning of every week, make a plan while referring to the month plan.
4. In the morning give yourself a daily plan or keep notes to help stay on track.
I really like having to go back and forth between time scales, it helps me keep track of what I'm doing and also answers the question I've also had with previous note taking apps: how does what I'm doing today fit into the rest of my life?
Hint: if you're interested in learning about bullet journaling, stay away from Instagram, pintrist, and tumblr - people have a tendency to turn this amazing productivity tool into an art contest, and it only gives the illusion that the barrier to entry is higher than it really is
This is exceptionally good advice for any kind of organizational system. It's really easy for me to get down on myself for not creating these robust, beautiful pieces of art that memorialize my experiences and help me work. I used to have a tendency to view organizational systems as much more difficult than they are. Now, I use a very basic task list that's on my computer and phones, that is organized by due dates and projects. I don't let myself get down when I miss a due date, or I forget to document everything for a couple days. I just hop back on and keep working.
It's just a damn mess of scribbles and dots, to be honest. But it works great.
No fancy color pens, no washi tape, no artwork, no clean handwriting, no tabs. Just pen, paper, page numbers.
Just for information, did you pick up bullet journal after using any other (paper or web) tools? Were there any advantages compared to the other tools?
Having said that, my problem is more about following the systems religiously rather than starting them. For example, creating a morning ritual to plan my day/month/etc. has been a difficult task because most of the times I plainly forget about it. :(
I use Evernote quite a bit, but it was a bit restrictive for me when I tried to do my planning in either using my phone or the desktop/web application. I like to doodle and make quick tables - basically just using a pen and paper. Evernote ended up being too slow for me as well, now I have a notebook with some bookmark ribbons to switch between my yearly and weekly planning sheets. That is difficult to do with Evernote IMO.
As for following it religiously, I miss weeks as well, and I don't really note my days as much as I probably should. What I do make sure to keep consistent is a weekly plan, and right now I'm able to get one week done in about 5 minutes - enough for a cup of coffee on Sunday morning. I think the secret is to keep it as short and sweet as possible. I used to take 30 minutes or more, but that ended up being overkill and I didn't look forward to creating my layouts. Now planning my week is easy and I look forward to it
Write down big life goals for 6 months, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and 30 years. Every month, re-read/revise your list. This allows your subconscious to calibrate what truly matters to you. When I say every month, it's loose, everytime you feel you can't remember the essence of your life goals, you should read them again and think if they still relate to you.
Every morning, choose to get started on one and only one action that moves you forward to one of your long term life goals. Try to get started on it that day. Always remember patience is key, and focus only on trying to get the smallest amount of progress done that day. If you do more, so be it, as long as it wasn't effortful. If you've done any progress, feel good, and really allow yourself to relax, do whatever lazy or fun things of the moment you feel like doing, and know you're making progress and that things are going to workout for you.
This is based on these assumptions:
1) We always overestimate what can be accomplished in a month, but underestimate what can be accomplished in a year.
2) Productivity is not about getting lots of things done, but getting the most important things done, without wasting time on the things that provide little lasting value.
3) Most things we want to accomplish we do not because we want to, but because we feel we need too. When thats the case, no amount of planning will help, since you're true subconscious lacks the needed motivation. Therefore it is better to focus on accomplishing what you truly want.
4) Most people don't have that many things they truly want to accomplish.
Can't help but think that I'll probably be close to dying in 30 years, so I'm not sure what my goal can be, other than "be able not to forget who I am, have some money to live, and not shit my pants"
If you are very ambitious, you can think of things that would take close to 30 years to achieve like any kind of scientific discovery, or becoming a senator, or president, or coach to a professional sports team, etc.
I'm not that ambitious, so I have goals that relate more towards the legacy I want to leave behind and the environment I'd want for myself when I'm old. Examples would be things like: I have children who think of me positively, I'm inspiring to others (could specify in what way if you want), I've lived a life of honesty, I've been fair to others, I'm retired, I'm as healthy as can be, I live in the company of loved ones, I have an active social life, I have more then 5 friends I still talk to regularly, I have the means to sustain myself, I'm still active in a hobby, I have no regret, etc.
The 30 year goal basically forces you to define for yourself what it means to have a great and successful life. When I did it, I realized that for me, having real strong meaningful relationships was most important, I couldn't think that 30 years from now anything else would matter to me. So maybe in 10 years I want to become a Principal engineer, but in 30 years I won't care if I did or not, but I'd care if I lost all my friends and sabotaged my social life.
Its toughest to come up with the 30 year goals, but the exercise is worth it I think.
Seems like those deserve a place in all of the 6 months, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and 30 years goals. At least one of them is achievable? Right?
I have a legal pad, one day per sheet, taking notes throughout the day. Anything requiring follow up gets an asterisk.
End of the day, tear off the sheet, write out the asterisked things for the next day.
Granted, this is definitely not the ticket to work-life balance if that's what you're looking for.
The only thing that works for me is, when I wake up, brew a cup of coffee and sit with a paper notepad, and write down my tasks. During the day I'll think of something I need to do for tomorrow and I'll write it down.
Better yet, keep your notepad with you, especially when going to bed. At that time, you might have one of those "oh shit!" moments, when you forgot to do something important. Write it down. No need to fiddle about with any app.
Also, pro tip: accept the fact that you'll never finish all the tasks for the day. There'll always be something you forgot/didn't have the energy to do. It's OK.
If applicable, my tip is to allow yourself to enjoy the evening without thinking too much about work, so you feel rested and refreshed to tackle the next day.
I really liked this video by Scott Hanselmann (https://youtu.be/FS1mnISoG7U?t=8m2s) about scaling yourself and I liked this video that came out recently (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO1mTELoj6o) about behaviours that maximize your misery.
What I took from these two videos is that goals are important and in order to reach these goals, you need to find a way to keep yourself accountable without creating goals that are vague or unattainable.
I have just started writing a bunch of to-do lists on Google Keep and then I try to group various tasks and assign 3 per day. The goal is to focus on 3 things per day that build into 3 major areas of focus for the week which fuels 3 goals for the month... and so forth.
With that said, I missed some of the to-do's for a couple of days for this last week, but I prioritized other items that had come up spontaneously and completed the majority of the to-do's. At the very least, when I fail, I can at least look at what I had accomplished and not feel as bad.
Hope this helps.
I find the physicality of cards is highly useful. I could use a better set of categories for specific activities, but that requires some changes to working space and desk.
I'm coming to rebel against a tremendous amount of electronic and online tools, as well as find the merits of not only pen-and-paper based systems, but of the critical utility of a dedicated office and work space.
Not that I'm fully there yet, but the highly-mobile, transitory, digital, and ephemeral mode (which I've attempted, for several decades) simply isn't suited to in-depth work.
Which becomes patently obvious when reading much of that written by those who espouse that.
Some other way, different from a "30-day challenge" must be used to introduce the habit, because this method does not work (or at least does not work 100% of the time).
Each task gets a Trello card and goes in one of four columns: Backlog, Ready, Doing, Done. I also have a bunch of labels (which Trello colour-codes) for things like "house", "blog posts", "projects" etc so I can see at a glance what type of task a card represents.
If I have a random idea for a project or something I might get to when I have some free time I stick it in Backlog so I remember it and can add notes etc. Things that need doing like "Mow the lawn", "Put down a batch of home brew", "Get the car serviced", "Call X about Y" go into Ready in rough order of priority. If something has a hard deadline I can add that to the card.
When a project or a blog post idea is at a point where I'm ready to start it I move it from Backlog to Ready, also roughly prioritised amongst the other cards. When I start a task I move it from Ready to Doing. As is generally the goal with kanban I try not to have too many tasks in Doing at once. Try to finish one thing before starting the next.
When I finish a task I move it to Done. Very satisfying...:)
Trello is free, has a great web interface and an excellent mobile app that will give you notifications when deadlines are coming or if other users comment on your board (if it's shared).
I was experimenting with it a couple of days and here's a quick brief.
How: All I used was Apple Notes on my phone to plan out the whole of next day the previous night. I would break the sections into "Morning", "Afternoon", "Evening", "Night" and add multiple checkboxes that act as to-dos for each part of the day.
Did it work?
Yes, and I would really recommend it. It feels great and gives you superpowers since you already know what to do during the day, and that you don't have to randomly find things to work on as your day progresses. This majorly improved my morning schedule which I would otherwise spend on checking emails, partially reading HN & Medium, oscillate between applications and be distracted. This also improved my productivity and I felt I should be checking off items one by one. The balance from the day would move to the next day, if applicable.
Why did I pause: The same reason OP started this thread for. I wanted to have a better way to handle the habits, and get an idea on how I perform and my completeness ratio. There are certain habits that get replicated across days. Notes is just meant to be a note-taking app. I wanted to try Trello with lists for each part of the day, but again, the completeness part is what I am really interested in.
I've logged virtually everything I've done in the past three years into Google Calendar. This is a way to get feedback on my actions, rather than listing my intentions.
If it's a task I need to do daily, I build it into my morning or nightly routine. For example, my "sit down at desk" routine is to review and block out my time for the day in gcal. If it's not important enough that I don't remember it, don't have an automatic email reminder or it's not already on my calendar, than it's not important enough for me to think about.
I also have built a habit of "frontloading" work, and doing necessary but distracting (domestic) things as soon as possible so they are off of my plate.
Giving full concentration to tasks in my brain requires multi day thinking, so I have to sort of 'soak' in the project context. For concrete deliverable based tasks in development I'll use whichever PMS is appropriate and block/log my time appropriately.
I have a dev-journal.org for things I want to remember or side project tangents I'll want to go down later, as well as tracking arcane bash commands I rarely use etc.
I used to use iCal (I find it superior to gcal for many reasons) until I moved to using Debian full time.
I just can't imagine using a mobile/web app to replace that part of my workflow.
I tried this when I was in uni and it didn't work at all --too many different assignments and I was trying to schedule out my whole day rather than 9:30am-6:30pm.
Note that I've not tried doing this for a day when I've got a bunch of little tasks to push through.
The point of it is more to encourage habit formation; I don't microplan my day, I try to do the same things every day. Wake up, meditate, exercise, code for several hours. When you have a strong routine established, deviating from it feels strange.
I have found limiting recreational internet use to be as important or moreso than any kind of planning for being productive.
nb. I just rewrote the whole frontend so apologies if anything is broken.
I keep a bullet journal, which is mainly for journaling and long-term planning.
Some days I write a list of tasks on a piece of paper.
I put events with a definite time in my calendar (add with Fantastical, review with Calendar app, Week Cal + Fantastical on iPhone, Calendars 5 on iPad).
I put "someday" tasks and tasks that have a definite due date in Things on Mac and iOS (the new version is one of the best pieces of software I've ever used). The new Things also integrates calendar events into the "Today" view, which is quite useful. But I don't look at it every day.
Previously I used "2do" with "smart lists" corresponding to a priority matrix ("important urgent", "important not urgent", "not important urgent", "not important not urgent.") It was a bit too complicated and I switched to Things when the new version came out a couple months ago.
I also used to have a daily checklist in 2do, but after it became habit, I found I didn't need it anymore. I highly recommend a daily checklist for anyone recovering from burn-out, depression, or similar.
I've just switched to doing high-level planning in a "Master Plan" document in Quip. It's already quite detailed and covers most aspect of my life.
Otherwise lately I organize my days into 3 or 4 timed 1-2 hour focused work "zones", with as much ceremony as time affords, to the point of making special drinks, listening to specific music depending on the theme, and lighting candles.
I'm also experimenting with 3 10-minute open-ended thinking periods per day, for which I have alarms set in my phone.
The latter two habits have been very effective. I'd tried Pomodoro in the past, but I find that ceremony is important.
That sounds pretty exotic, but the major insight from the past 10 years of trying things is that finding the one right system is a fool's errand. Trying many different systems – the simpler the better – and letting them evolve naturally works best for me.
My tools: https://github.com/galfarragem/hamster-gtd
Edit: changed horrific to strange. if my wife and I lived by todo lists on Alexa we would never have any fun.
My wife still uses pencil and pen so maybe someone will upvote me for that. Silly me thinking this was a tech audience.
That's a strange way to put it; assuming you're right, I'd have thought that was a win for Amazon - up-selling people to what I presume is the more profitable product.
Electronic PIMs have never worked for me, not even org mode.
The great feeling you get when the task completed is strikethrough when you press the tickmark.
For work my team uses JIRA in a SCRUM fashion. So the sprint is loaded with tickets that have priorities but the team chooses what they're doing each day.
- Devonthink for Notes and meeting summaries
- adhoc notebooks made out of waste paper
- Due for routine deadlines (file your expenses, etc)
The key is to get your stuff as done as it needs to be and be able to shut off work when you leave. Don't fetishize capturing every task. Delegate tasks as soon as possible to others.
Start simple, as a to-do list, then add complexity if you need it. The documentation is sufficient. Tagging, projects, and priorities are all interesting/useful.
As for specific todo lists, I use either a notebook for longer lists or Google Keep app to hold shorter todo lists.
On a week to week or month to month (and longer term) basis, I have rough notes sketched out in a plaintext file.
Perhaps once or twice a month, I can actually execute a day planned the afternoon before, so I have largely given up and reverted to a slightly demoralizing reactive mode.