One thing that I’ve learned in my attempt at getting organized is that whatever works today may stop working after a while. But even more deadly than fleeting fads is the woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’ effect in which you set out with good intentions but…
Here’s what I know: if an organizing approach is painful I am just not likely to keep it up. And by painful I mean even a tiny bit. The problem is, it really is easier to just coast, to let things pile up… of course if it weren’t I wouldn’t need organization ideas in the first place. So, I look for the least painful solutions I can find.
Clearly what is needed is a set of sustainable activities that are not unpleasant and that are easy and fast. Here are a few that I use today. They are working well for me.
1. Pomodoro – The Pomodoro technique is absurdly rigid and arbitrary… and works far better than anything I’ve tried before. A full description of the technique is available as a free pdf, but the essence can be summarized quickly: work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, don’t allow any distractions during the work time. Watch your productivity skyrocket.
2. Getting Things Done. The book is more than worth reading, but I can summarize the entire approach in one sentence: Get all your tasks out of your head, and into a system you trust. The rest is commentary.
3. Toodledo – Toodledo serves as the central clearinghouse for all my tasks, coordinating the task list among TaskAngel (see below) and the task lists on my phones (see below). Even if I don’t log into Toodledo directly, it performs a tremendous service for me, and the UI for the online site is easy to work with.
4. TaskAngel – The huge benefit of TaskAngel as a task manager for Windows is that it works and plays well with Toodledo, (see above) allowing me to synchronize tasks among my phones and my desktop.
5. To do lists on my phone. I use ToDo on my Windows Phone, 2Do on my iPhone and if I can resuscitate my Android I’ll let you know what I use on that! I have three requirements of a phone-based task system:
- Synchronize cleanly with Toodledo
- Alarms to remind me of tasks coming due
- Easy to enter, prioritize and classify new tasks
6. Reminders on my phone. In addition to using task lists on my phones I also use various programs for jotting down notes and being reminded to look at them. Note2Self is a big winner for this on Windows Phone.
7. Email – I have tried a variety of ways of handling email. In the end, I don’t find having myriad folders for incoming mail all that helpful, and a number of emails were being missed as they weren’t in my Inbox. Now I sort into two categories: reading lists (sorted by list) and inbox (everything else). Everything that goes into my inbox is copied to Read so that I can delete without worrying about losing anything. Read is then cleaned out periodically and automatically.
8. One place for all notes, sorted on the way out –The ability to throw notes in without categorizing, and then instantly find them based on search criteria is the sine qua non of a good note application. I’m still struggling with Evernote vs. OneNote. I prefer OneNote but I have over 1500 notes in Evernote and I don’t see a way to migrate them.
9. Pen and Paper where that’s better – Some notes are just easier to take with pen and paper. The criterion for me is that I have only one sheet in use at a time, and the life of that sheet is less than a day. Anything else goes into the computer.