I’ve been allowing myself to get disorganised again. I’ve tried a few different ways of organising my life over the years. Some have worked, but I’ve let myself fall of the wagon. Some I’ve just resisted right from the offset. At the end of the day, we are all different, so whilst, for example, GTD or the Franklin-Covey system may work for some people, it won’t work for everyone.
I’m going to start from scratch again and sort out a system for keeping my life under control.
Over the coming weeks I am going to look at what my particular requirements are, before looking at how I can meet those requirements. I may take a deeper look at systems I have used in the past, such as GTD and why they didn’t work for me. I’ll look at what tools I can use to look after my system and then finally I will trial the system and report back on how it is going.
Why Do I Need A System
There are many aspects to my life:
- Jobs around the house
- Looking after this website
- Social Life
It may not sound like a lot, but keeping track of all my different to-dos is an added stress that I don’t need. Especially when I’m out at work for 9-10 hours a day. I need the ability to see at a glance what I need to do and to be able to jump between different jobs, in different areas of my life, whilst still maintaining momentum. David Allen describes this as “Mind Like Water”.
Then, just taking the sheer number of things to remember. Every day tasks such as cleaning, washing, ironing; work tasks such as writing reports, preparing agendas for meetings, running that quick analysis that you said you would do for your boss; jobs around the house, such as all those DIY tasks you have spotted, putting various items you want to get rid of on eBay, trimming the hedges; website tasks like writing this week’s article, promoting posts in order to build links to the site, responding to comments, tweaking the design; and finally social life tasks, such as picking up a birthday card, arranging a get together with friends you haven’t seen in a while etc. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Keeping that many tasks in your head just adds to the stress. You expend energy just remembering it all, let along trying to do it. Our brains aren’t designed for that.
I’d like to build a system where I can keep all my tasks and lists in one place. A place that I can reference whenever I want, wherever I am.
Defining the Moon on a Stick
In the past I have just jumped in head first into systems like GTD, based on inspiring articles I’ve read, exciting new tools I’ve seen or just what looks cool. This time round though, I’m going to approach it like I would any Engineering problem and start by defining the problem and the requirements. Only then can I evaluate tools and define a system that meets my needs.
I need to be able to access my system wherever I am. I could really split my locations down into 3 areas:
- Out and About
Each location has different quirks that I will need to consider:
Work: Regular access to a computer, but very limited on what can be installed on it. Also, incredibly limited internet access. Data access on my phone is variable, but most of the time data access is only GSM, so slow.
Home: Internet access is fine 99% of the time. But I’m not sat at a computer all day, so viewing my list on a computer means turning a computer on, which is an added obstacle. I don’t always want to carry my phone with me around the house, but I do have a tablet that tends to be lying around downstairs.
Out and About: Internet access is unpredictable. Around cities its fine, but in the towns and villages around where we live, it can be very sketchy. I definitely won’t have a computer with me and it’s not very likely I will have my tablet with me. I am more likely to have my phone with me though.
When I say inboxes, I bet 75% of you are thinking I am referring to e-mail. However, in this instance, I am referring to any channel that brings information into my life. In this instance, the inboxes I currently have are:
- Work E-mail
- Personal E-mail
- Website E-mail
- Work telephone
- Mobile telephone – voice
- Mobile Telephone – text
- Face to face
I also have my own information that I need to put somewhere. For instance, research I carry out on the internet, notes from meetings or training courses, ideas I may have throughout the day. I need to be able collect all these together and put them into my system somehow.
There are certain lists that fall outside of the usual to-do lists. And some of those lists have further requirements:
Shopping: A list of all products that we need to buy for our weekly shop. I need to be able to share this with my wife so that we can both add to it and either of us can use it to pick up the shopping.
Wish lists: A list of items that I am thinking about buying
Packing Lists: When we are going away, it is often easier to write a list of things to take before actually starting to pack. I can refer back to older lists when packing for similar trips in the future also.
Things to do: A List of places I’d like to go and things to do. I’m always seeing things I’d like to do. Having a list of these in one place would be good, so I don’t forget about them. Almost a bucket list, but not quite.
I’d like to have all my information in one place. The only exception I’d have to this would be that I am happy to separate out my work system from my personal system.
Backup is also important. If I lose, or forget whatever medium I have my system in (phone, paper etc), if that should get damaged, I need to be able to get back up to speed as fast as possible.
Speed of getting items into my system is important. If something is to tedious or too slow, that will be a resistance to me, so I will likely stop using it (as has happened in the past).
Access of information should be as efficient as possible. I need to be able to see at a glance what I need to do and what the most appropriate task I should be doing is.
So going on from here, I will start to evaluate my requirements and brainstorming/researching options to help me meet my requirements. I’ve tried, where I can, to separate out the requirements from the potential solution in order to remain impartial.
Then I will start to evaluate each solution and build my system from there.
If you have any questions or suggestions then please add them to the comments below.