8static 34 - April 2013 Photos
So I have some catching up to do, so here are some photos from April!
April 13th, 2013…
So I figured I should put onto “paper” how I manage tasks, or at least control what tasks need to get completed. This all comes from the fact that for a large part my work is self directed. I am given tasks by many parties that I need to figure out their priority and get them completed.
The problem is that having a bunch of items thrown at you can give bring a feeling overwhelmed, and out of control. Also there are many interruptions throughout the day, that themselves bring tasks or just cause distractions. I find this process helps me feel grounded and get tasks completed.
This problems are NOT fixed by this.
There are a few problems any task management system will never fix,
- Being unmotivated about a task or in general
- Non-work Distractions (facebook, chirping birds, etc)
- Work Distractions (Phone calls, IMs, interruptions)
However, in some ways a Task Management system can enable these “problems” by giving you the breathing room to indulge these tendencies most people have but keeping the work load under control.
I have 3 main ways tasks end up on my list,
- Phone Calls / Instant Messages
All of these can generate one or more to-do items or whole projects that will need to be split up into multiple to do items. I find managing all of these inputs to be one of the most important pieces.
Email in General
There are a few thoughts about email that I have found that help it feel more manageable. First, New email sounds are evil it just creates a lot of noise and a pavlovian response with little gain. Also I have also disabled push email, receiving email as they are sent for the most part is not necessary, and causes more problems and distraction when it isn’t needed. Finally I don’t believe in true inbox zero, Items get lost in folders and so much to the shagrin for email admins i have a large inbox. There is a big place to delete messages, and “hide” the inbox (more later), but keeping more information so it is searchable and sequentially reference-able is quite important for me.
This all lead me to build we a process around tasks. The first part of my process is the 2 Minute rule. If the task takes less then 2 minuits then do it now. This usually means for example reply to that email, or make that short phone call. Next if not completed then item gets added to a to-do list then scheduled that may be a task for today, or later. Everything that that has a deliverable needs a date attached to it. Finally work on the items on my list for right now, ignore the items for later unless all items for now are completed.
Some of this familiar to people who have looked at GTD workflows, but i think slightly personalized for how I work. All of this get tossed into Applications to track and manage the lists of to-dos.
Applications and Programs
I use many apps to keep track of all the items that come in and need to be accomplished. Each one has a purpose and a way of being used that works best for the Application.
This is a core piece of my process if it has a Due date, takes longer then 2 mins can be put off to another date, I need to be reminded to run the roomba, pay a bill, just about every task that needs to occur.
There are 3 categories Today, Scheduled, Someday of scheduling. They are pretty straight forward. I’ll do 2 thing some time Today, on a Scheduled date (this could be next month or just tomorrow), or Someday in the future. You can also put items in the Inbox for later categorization.
I primarily use Today and Scheduled. I’ll create tasks in Today or the Inbox. Then I will determine if I’ll work ont he task today, or at a later time. If it’s a later time I’ll schedule it for a date. If there is a specific due date or deadline I will set that in the task and schedule it a few days before it is due.
Every morning, the list of schedule items will pop up and I’ll choose the items that are either deadline sensitive or I thing i can accomplish with along with the remaining items in Today.
This of course is not a perfect science and I do have items that linger in my Today. These tend to fall into the problems i mentioned earlier that this process does NOT cover.
Finally I to a bunch of tagging and use Areas, to help focus on work or personal items when needed, not too much detail here.
Mail.app (and server side rules)
This gets pretty complicated and were i tend to break form GTD methodology. My work uses Microsoft Exchange and I find Outlook to be bloated and a pain to work with so I have settled with Mail.app. My current usage of Mail.app was inspired by the following workflow and it would give some background and configuration information.
My first step is to avoid Inbox overload by creating rules to folder or label items that only need to be reviewed once a day or less often. These message do not see my Inbox and I tend to check them only at the beginning or end of my day.
Next I use Smart Folders, Flags and throwing things over the wall to manage what remains and get to virtual inbox zero. My generic Smart Mail boxes look like the following.
Most of my day is in Inbox Unread, this is where I triage message, where I respond to them right away, Flag for Follow Up, which may turn into Frag for Reference, these are 2 different colors of Flags, red and orange in my case. For longer term tasks I will throw the message over the “wall” to a task in Things. Finally if the message is of no future use just delete it.
This is my personal email, I keep separate from work email and it gets managed slightly differently. I have been working to adapt the Mail.app process here but of course it’s different. Stars stand in for flags, so a Star is both Reference and Follow Up since there is only one color for Stars. Then I turn on the Priority Inbox view. I still use rules to move reference email to Archived tags. There is where I receive a lot of mailing lists so they get ignored pretty often.
The iPhone Problem
So the problem with the above email processes is the iPhone. The Apple Mail app on the iPhone does not have all the crazy views and features the desktop apps do and I do not want to visit multiple apps to read my mail.
My work around here is to use Flags to Star them in Gmail or put in the in To Follow Up in Mail.app. Not to mention 2 min rule still applies here. I will not write extended or in-depth messages on here and the message can wait until I’m home to get a reply.
My calendar is one of the first few things I look at in the day. The only thing it tells me is when I have to be some place place or attend a meeting. I have found calendars are terrible for executable tasks and tend to be only good for creating new tasks or tell me when I wont’ be able to accomplish items on my to-do list.
The one general calendar I keep is the Life Template. This is a more or less idea routine for me, most of the time it will never work out in that way but we all need goals right?
I use this very sparsely and only for ephemeral tasks such call a person at a time. This is often just a reminder so that if I get busy working on something I will have a pop up to take an action on or around a specific time frame. Basically I use this items that don’t need reserved Calendar time, but may be time of day sensitive.
I have been using this as part of my interest in the quantified life, but I have found this a great tool for daily routines that I need to reinforce. Most personal health items such as getting to bed at a decent time, doing fo ra run or other fitness activities.
So thats how I keep things in order, it’s an imperfect science, and doesn’t always work and I have to remind my self to step back revisit my lists and figure out how to make the process better.
Cheap Dinosaurs Play Goblin Photos
This show is from last year, i’m just finally getting the images edited and posted