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Ask HN: How do you manage your daily non-work related tasks?
38 points by yotamoron 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments

I let them pile up into a big anxious horror too repulsive to even approach until absolutely necessary, at which point I sloppily and with great frustration do the very least I can to somehow postpone the ever-escalating disaster that will be my personal undoing.

You mean you think there's another way?

Thank you, my big anxious horror was relieved by knowing I'm not the only one.

Shit. I did not think I was the only one, but I have many people around me who make it seem like 'it is just something you do in between' and was worried that was reality. Thank you for formulating that.

To say it in less poetic English than OP; I just don't do them (well, a bit, but could've just as well not've done them) in the end. But do stress about them first.

The same way I attend to the tasks I'm delegated at work: do the bare minimum necessary to get the product out the door while the maintenance and housecleaning pile up to the point I can't ignore it and then do the bare minimum necessary to control that bit of chaos.

This is also how I approach the relationship with my life-in partner.

With enough caffeine, and the bare minimum of sleep, I believe we can, collectively, run the planet like this till the wheels fall off. Or, at least, that does seem to be human's modus operandi.

I like how this thread is supposed to be for good advice, but you just described 90% of the people here.

I also am a huge fan of Seven Habits of Highly Defective People! It changed my life.

Great description of a typical project managament environment. You need to add something in regards of demotivation etc.

just delete the spreadsheet

oh good, its not just me then...

Trello. My wife uses it as well. It sounds silly at first to use something so engineering/workplace minded in a relationship, but it actually works really well for us because my wife and I have two very different styles of task management (and as newlyweds, we needed to quickly figure out a workable system!)

Her strategy is to break all tasks into little manageable chunks and complete them over a period of weeks. My strategy is to sort all tasks into a giant priority queue and then complete each task in one non-stop session as late as possible but early enough that is still gets done. For those who are deadline-averse, my strategy is clearly anxiety inducing, so Trello allows to us pick dates for each other that we would like tasks to be completed by. So far, this has eliminated all difficulties and confusion involved in getting stuff done.

The next step is establishing a shared calendar so we can track events, but I haven't found one I like yet.

Very similar story here. We got married a month ago. We did everything ourselves (plus friends & family), and we started too late.

We started using Asana so that we could stop having nervous breakdowns every week. It worked. Now we use it for stuff like coordinating anything that doesn't fit on a notecard. Shopping lists generally are just on a kitchen whiteboard and you take a pic before you leave.

That's awesome! Do you use any of the premium features as well?

No, that hasn't really become necessary yet. We'll see once we do a house remodel. :)

Nice! We use something similar, also a famous often-used shopping checklist on a card.

Any details on how granular those tasks become? Mostly talking about recurring ones.

I recently started using GTD. It's a system with three main principles:

1. You need to get all "open loops"—anything you think you need to do or want to do—out of your head and written down. You naturally get rid of these whenever you find yourself mulling over them and distracting from your main task.

2. They should be put in a trusted system that is both complete and has no duplication. Usually this should be separated by context (things to do at work, at home, etc). You should have just this one system, and not jump around between several ad hoc systems (an email inbox here, a list on the fridge there).

3. Each item needs a defined next physical action. So you can't just have something like "plan vacation." You need that to have an attached next action, such as "google hotels in Miami and make a list of options." And then when that's done you replace it with the next physical action and so on, until "plan vacation" is done.

I combine this with a homespun version of pomodoro (where I both work on tasks in 25 minute chunks and block my internet access with apps like Freedom and Stayfocusd for that amount of time). I also review my lists during break periods to get confident I'm doing the right thing. In just a few months I've cleared out a lot of my backlog and removed a lot of the background anxiety that had been plaguing my free time.

I work from home and do the 60 work 15 no work. For those that never heard of this practice you spend a certain amount of time doing work then take a short break. I spend at least 60 min working no matter the pain and suffering or any other distractions that may come my way. Then I spend 15 min doing something else that doesn't involve sitting at my computer. Those 15 min are typically spent on cleaning something around the house like throwing in a load of laundry, vacuuming the floor, and such. You be surprise how more productive you are taking a short break from time to time, and how much you can get done in a short break.

I keep a physical compact notebook and add tasks for the following day from the previous day. I make sure to only add tasks that I feel I am capable of completing the next day, taking into account tasks I didn't have time to finish the current day. I also use it for general ideas, thoughts, etc. It keeps me from cycling everything in my mind and building anxiety. The book remembers for me, so when I run out of stuff to do, I flip it open and see what else I thought I should finish that day. The completion of small tasks and checking them off is a psychological reward system for me and keeps me completing things and using the book. In the past, I would generalize and just remember that I had to work on some grand task or concept, and I would always be disappointed and frustrated. But by breaking them down into little daily tasks, I get a lot more done and I feel positive about it.

I'm using Things 3 for the moment. It's nice because it integrates also with Gmail Calendar and iCal.

Truth is, I'm cycling between to-do list productivity tools every few months. OmniFocus could do anything you want, but can get quite complicated too. Things and Todoist are simple and straightforward, but are missing some essential (advanced) things. I can't seem to find the tool with that right sweet spot. I guess I love procrastinating with fiddling for the best tool configuration.

That said, I also often fallback to using pen&paper, and writing in the morning the 5 things that really should be completed today, and that seems to work very well too.

I have my own set of tools to try to help me in that regard. I keep iterating on it to try to find a flexible solution that covers as much as possible, long term goals, short term goals, projects, etc. I use https://everydaycheck.com to list all the things I want to work on every day, and https://multikanban.com to manage my multiple personal projects. In the end, one divides to conquer, while the other helps me sure I conquer at least one task a day!

I've been doing something similar to your everydaycheck app, but manually using google sheets for about a year now. Works great for me too. Your app looks pretty neat!

Does it get much interest from others, or are you the main user?

A rule of piles - pile up things you don't know how to sort in one place but keep the rest of the space clean. This can be applied to room cleaning but also to your tasks. There a todo list can serve as a 'mental' pile for tasks. This helps immensely to keep your mind from multitasking between actually doing some work or resting and self-reflection on the things you haven't sorted yet.

I outsource them to my spouse. I pay with her rage.

But seriously: I routinize. Saturday is cleaning day, every four days I go get groceries(our fridge is rather small).

Combination of Todoist [1] and Google Calendar. To make up for my poor memory, I've started to put everything I have to do in them.

For example, I have annually recurring tasks in Todoist to get Father's/Mother's Day gifts two weeks before the actual days and then separate tasks to call my parents on the actual days.

While it has been very effective for me, it might be leading to a Google-like effect [2] where my memory seems to be getting worse because I know I have a crutch.

I am also trying to maintain a daily routine (to make sure I do important things like exercise) and to finish unpleasant tasks in the morning before all the fun stuff.

[1] https://todoist.com/

[2] http://www.yalescientific.org/2013/05/is-google-ruining-your...

There was an article last week out there about people with bad memory, for it not being bad, but rather a sign that they focus and find alot of things - not important enough to remember.

I can't find it right now, the Google results show alot of well-ranked SEO-optimised sites instead about Alzheimer.

I can't do any of the todo-list stuff after work, for the basic reason that it also feels like work when done this way. Also I usually spend too much energy at work so afterwards I don't have any left to motivate myself etc. Ergo: Zero effort or it won't be done.

So the first thing I do is I put reminders where I see them. For instance there's a contract for a telephone provider I need to quit. The box connected to the provider is laying right there next to the computer I'm typing this on. This way it gets into my head and if I don't have higher priority tasks I will think about it regularly, without ever actually pushing myself to it.

Then instead of already resolving the issue (which in itself would cost energy) I procrastinate by planning or doing simple steps toward the goal. In this case it may be checking out on the website of the company how their quitting process works. After that I feel like I achieved something and successfully avoided doing actual work at the same time. That's the best reward for doing part of the job, feeling like you cheated your boss (in this case your inner moral guard).

And when there's really not anything left it most often means that the last step really isn't any effort anymore. So when I have everything prepared I just need to write a short text, and send it to the company, and be done with it. Because everything was planned out and prepped already.

Last but not least, if I really can't convince myself to even do a small step like googling the website of the company, then it probably means I'm too exhausted and instead of doing any serious tasks I really should take a walk and a nap, which I then also have motivation for since it also avoids doing the painful highest prio task.

Yeah, it's a slow process, but it actually hacks your brain into doing real work while it thinks it's procastinating, instead of the other way around.

A real whiteboard! Easy to edit and organize. With colors too!

I use an app called 2Do (obviously, a task manager). It's where I centralise my work and non-work tasks (for work tasks I create specific projects and tasks out of the user stories I'm working on). Also I "outsource" tasks to my partner, when I can (and she does the same) :)

I don't manage them. Managing tasks doesn't change the likelihood of them being done; it only changes the order in which they'll get done, if they get done at all. Changing the way you plan won't magically motivate you to do stuff.

The way I get tasks done is by doing them immediately I see that they need doing. If you can develop that habit then tasks won't even need managing, you won't need to set time aside to do things, and you'll always be on top of things. Sometimes it's really hard work to keep at it but your future self will thank you.

> Changing the way you plan won't magically motivate you to do stuff.

Don't assume that the way something is for you is the way it is for everyone. People's brains work very differently.

If most people could do it that way they simply would do it and we wouldn't have a thread like this one.

For one off items with no clear date, "People that I owe something" and "People who owe me something" lists, managed in apple's todo apps.

For things that have a clear deadline - calendar entries blocking time to go work on whatever it is (i.e. "Research deals for fall vacation").

I've found that writing things into either of those categories clarifies things a bit. Personal tasks end up being in the "I owe" lists, with my own name next to them.

taskwarrior on Linux shell, but also for work. I'm kind of meditating every day over it for a while, doing some adjustments, until I get myself to do something.

+1 for taskwarrior on Linux shell for work and personal tasks

+1 for daily meditation (and task list reflection)

I use Omnifocus and a physical notebook.

Omnifocus: I throw everything that comes to mind to the inbox, whenever it occurs to me. Usually on weekends or whenever I panic about feeling things are spinning out of control, I'll go through and organize it, grouping things and adding dates. In the morning while waking up, I browse a bit, deciding what needs to happen.

Two things that work well for me about it:

- the geolocation context stuff is a godsend for remembering random things I need to pick up.

- The fact that uncompleted tasks don't automatically roll forward means I don't constantly have 647 overdue items, and makes me think about what I'm actually, really going to get done.

Notebook: Paper still works best for me for a lot of things. I still make lists there, sketch box diagrams when thinking through things, sketch ideas for stuff to make, collect random info, things that amuse me, etc. Also, it serves as a binder for loose paper/receipts/etc that are still in-flight. I trained myself to write the date and location on every page, and to write out sufficient context for even throwaway notes to actually remember what a given thing is later. This makes them very useful after they're full - I have years of full notebooks on my shelf and reference them more than you might think.

Some not-strictly-related things that reduce the cognitive load of existence for me:

- Once I got to a financial place where I could, I forced myself to start paying every bill the minute it came in. Not having to mentally keep track of due dates and all of that leaves room for worrying about a bunch of other stuff. Nobody gets auto-withdrawl permission, but doing things this way offers the same effect and is trivially easy now that everything is online.

- I scan any paper artifact that doesn't need to be paper. Organizing it is still tedious, but the payoff of actually being able to find something when I need it seems magic. Things tend to build up until I spend a couple hours on it, and then in to the shredder they go. Make sure your backup regimen is solid.

- A little, slightly hokey thing that nonetheless is useful for me: I started writing my (nonwork) goals on a whiteboard in my home office. Just whatever is important right now. Having it physically on the wall seems to provide a little bit of focus, something I frequently need.

I recently wrote about how I handle pretty much everything related with work here[1]. It can easily be applied outside of work. hope it helps

I personally just use evernote and list everything there.

[1] https://medium.com/@jmrocela/an-organized-chaos-5c844f8a9c82

I like to keep track of all things: shopping list, payments, projects, appointments and so on. In doing so I know when I'm way behind as there is a pile of items in "pending".

So I use Trello (most tasks, projects) integrated with Calendar (appointments, due dates) and Google Sheets (all payments, due dates).

I put it on a calendar app that allows floating tasks that can automatically move/carry over to the next day. Helps when I have to get something done over a week.

Currently using pocket informant, I'm sure there's others too.

This is neat, it looks similar to Fantastical. Have you used that before, and how does it compare if so?

Calendar for time-sensitive tasks, reminders for everything else including location-sensitive tasks. I also meet with my wife every Sunday night to review everything four weeks out, so we know who's doing what.

Pen and paper.

I try to routine-ize as many of them as possible so it's on autopilot. Sunday afternoons get time scheduled in the calendar to take care of one off items.

Same way I managed my work related tasks, KanBan board.

Google Keep -- when I think of something that needs done, I write it down and set a reminder for the next available non-work time.

Reminders app.

This, Mac OS Reminders app.

GTD 4 life

Piece of paper, and a pen, and tackle them on the weekends.....

work and "non-work" are the same thing to me. it all goes into trello or jira, then synced with a time management tool. so i track the amount of time i spend doing everything.

Todoist and Calendar. Mostly on mac and ios but also win/lin.

Org in Emacs, synced to my phone's calendar with Radicale.

Google Keep runs my life.

Trello + Google Calendar

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