I like to organize my time using low-tech tools. I got off on the “Chandler Project” software for a while. I talked about that in a previous post. It was my one excursion from paper-based organizing, and it was OK, but ultimately frustrating.
The hardest side effect of moving to a digital organization scheme was that I tended to ‘orbit’ my computer to make sure I was not forgetting something. I like computers, so that was quite natural, but it added more distractions (there’s a reminder? Ooh – I wonder what’s on the internets!).
My preferred organizer is actually a combination of my own interpretation of Covey’s planner and my favorite Moleskine. The Moleskine is really my favorite part. They come in packs of three, the paper really takes the ink, and it means I always have a place to write any idea. I print out a weekly day planner in a size that will fit, folded, in the middle. I keep a page set aside for the week’s ‘bucket’ in which I write all the reminders that come to mind. Just in case my phone runs out of batteries, I have a lit of important numbers. Between that, a little pen, a pocket knife and and key chain light, I’m amazingly well prepared without carrying around much at all. The Moleskine even has a little pocket for receipts and such.
I started using the Chandler Project a while back and I really liked it. It gives you tickler alarms for things you need to do plus a space for notes. So instead of a calendar where once the date is past, the event is gone, it’s a recurring reminder. It’s like a Jack Russel Terrrier, always jumping around and wanting attention. And every little thing can get recorded in its entries so when the reminder goes off, the appropriate info is at your fingertips. It’s based around the GTD model, which sounded interesting.
Alas, the software is still too slow for me. It’s open source and free, so I can’t complain. And the design is slick, so I hope they continue to refine it. But I can’t wait 8 seconds between when I click and when it responds. I could rifle through a paper cabinet in that amount of time. If you have a fast machine, it’s worth checking out.
But it did get me interested in the GTD mentality. That seemed interesting. I have not read the books yet, but they seem to me to be pretty common sense. There’s a lot there about how to ‘climb the ladder’ efficiently, but I’m not sure it goes as deeply into making sure that the ladder is against the right wall .
Here are a couple of the take-home usefuls from my experience with chandler:
1. Make a home for all tasks and make it a habit to put stuff in there. Be it an inbox, a moleskine notebook, a hipster or a PDA, there needs to be a central trusted place where tasks go. If you are spending mental cycles keeping track of what is going on tomorrow, next week, and this year, you can’t be fully involved in the task at hand. Call this the “bucket”.
2. Weekly, but not much more frequently than weekly, go through and decide what the priorities and goals of the next little while should be about. Don’t waste time on thing that are just urgent, make sure that they are also important. Consider the big picture. Go through the incubator.
3. Make a routine of de-cluttering your bucket. Whenever you hit a lull, (i.e. after a meeting, after a class, whatever) go through the bucket. Delegate those you can delegate. Perform the 2-min tasks that are important. Delete things that are not important. Schedule the important things that have a particular day/time into some device that will beep at you when it’s time. Finally, collapse all projects (open loops) into one, immediate, manageable task (plus a note to determine the next one after that). If there are other things concerning that project that are not next but need to be noted, file them with the rest of the notes on that task. If there’s something long-term that is not a task, file it in an incubator file. Everything that is not a next task on some open loop (project) should be gone. That’s brainspace you don’t need to be taking up.
4. Go to the top of the bucket again. Do that thing.
Sometimes you won’t feel like doing that thing. We’ll address that tomorrow.