Great email from Frank R. - read the whole thing, there's good insights here.
A month later, I'd say I've become at least somewhat more productive, mostly in terms of my working environment.
I read GTD cover-to-cover and was able to implement most of the principles so that everything I need to do is being captured somewhere. One challenge I'm finding is not knowing how organized to keep my list. I use My Life Organized and categorize based on Home Actions, Work Actions, and then break them down further by category. So for work, this would be each customer name as a category, for home, it would be each category (such as Finance, Fitness, Interpersonal, etc.) Under these categories would either be subcategories (so Taxes and Banking for Finance, Diet and Training for Fitness, etc) and then Next Actions. I'm wondering how far I should go in terms of categorizing things into categories/subcategories - do you have a similar system?
I noticing I'm referring to the list often - sometimes 5-10 times an hour - and a lot of the items get stuck. As in, no action is happening because I'm putting the same things off over and over again; a classic case of procrastination. My solution to this was to make a next action as specific as possible. So if a next action had said, "Fix the application from crashing", I'd change it to, "Modify the whatever module with error trapping." This technique has worked well in most cases.
Just thought I'd give you some kind of update. Keep up the great work - your blog is truly inspiring.
By the way, if you use multiple computers, I've found it invaluable to combine My Life Organized with DropBox. I just save my .ML file in a DropBox folder and it automatically syncs every time I update my list.
The point about Dropbox syncing across computers is potentially really valuable.
This line was excellent if you're having a hard time with the next steps of a project - "...a classic case of procrastination. My solution to this was to make a next action as specific as possible. So if a next action had said, "Fix the application from crashing", I'd change it to, "Modify the whatever module with error trapping." This technique has worked well in most cases."
My reply to Frank's questions -
When I first built out my tracking and to-do's, I did it exactly the same way - categories, sub-categories, sometimes sub-sub-categories...
The problem is, sometimes I'd never go into a relevant category. These days, I keep it much simpler. My to-do list is basically divided into "Important Short-Term To-Do" and "General Do whenever" type stuff. I also have projects and such, but having a list of "this needs to get done" and "this is stuff I can do whenever" is nice. It simplifies things a lot.
But it really does depend on where you're at and how many balls you're juggling. I would say be careful not to spend more time categorizing and tagging and referencing stuff than helps you. The idea is that your tracking/to-do should serve you instead of you serving it.
If your system ever gets unwieldly, you might want to start a new MLO and gradually add the old items to it. When my computer died and I got a new one, I did that and it was nice to start from a cleaner slate.
Thanks for letting me put this up, Frank - really good insights. I love the part on beating procrastination, and the technical tip with Dropbox is useful too.
Yes, definitely make sure you're getting actual value out of your to-do/organizing system - it's easy to spend time re-arranging how your organizing system instead of actually doing work. There is value in building it out more effectively, but make sure it doesn't get more complex than it is valuable.
Great email, thanks for letting me share those insights with everyone :)
Your point about making sure your system serves you and not the other way around is right on. A task management system or app is supposed to save you time. If it ends up being a net loss of time, it might be time to look for something else.
One of the things I've gotten tremendous amounts of mileage out of it is tracking my time, habits, and life each day.
To put it simply - I now realize it's impossible to understand how your life is going without some careful observation. There's a lot of time each day, and knowing where that time goes, what you ate, what you did and didn't do... it's almost impossible to get a good picture of your life without some kind of measuring.
I'm going to you my newest tracking template, and then I'll give some analysis. Before I start though, I'd like to share a quote -
“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.” -John Gall
Thus, if you want to track your time, please do not attempt to track 20 things at once, because it's unlikely to work. I started very simply, as I described in "The Evolution of My Time/Habit/Life Tracking" - I'd recommend you read that post if you want to do something like this.
I've always liked the idea of a bucket list. However, it seems that for so many people a bucket list is simply a collection of things they think would be cool; a fantasy list. I want to avoid the idea that my goals are something that I would like to do but may never get around to accomplishing. I intend to complete everything on this list, whether that's within the next year or before I die.
I asked my Facebook friends for their suggestions on what to call my non-bucket list. I liked all the ideas, but Dan wins the prize for most comical with "pail plan" and Kel wins for most meaningful with "experiences yet to be had."
I've settled on calling my non-bucket list the Past:Present:Future list to emphasize that each of my goals is something that I've already accomplished, something that I am currently actively pursuing or something that I will actively pursue in the future. Nothing on the list is simply a dream.
Accepting that my goals will change, the list found on this page will remain untouched and serve as an interesting comparison to any future version of the list. The constantly evolving list can be found here and is organized by past, present and future: Past:Present:Future