How to Get Things Done Regardless of Your App or System

How to Get Things Done Regardless of Your App or System

Get things done by establishing good habits using these free resourcesDaniel Gold guest posts today. I’m a fan for several reasons. First, his wife homeschools and Daniel thinks moms are the busiest people on earth. Second, he is the author of a book on Springpad that I absolutely love, and finally, because he has a way writing about productivity that makes it all seem simple. Be sure to pick up a copy of the free resources he’s created!

Every January, we resolve to make this year the best year ever. We resolve to lose an extra five pounds, go to the gym more, and of course, be more productive by finding the perfect app and system to keep us on track. Not surprisingly, weight loss centers, gyms, and office supply stores love our new found commitments and resolutions. But, something happens to most of us come February (for some of us, much sooner) – we recoil and settle back to our old ways, declaring that we’re just fine and life is too busy for us to continue and you will start it back up when things get slower. But we don’t, and life never slows down.

You might think that these long-term personal goals have nothing to do with how we get things done with our daily tasks and with the appointments we keep in our busy lives, but they are so very much interconnected.

Think of our lives like climbing Mount Everest. Our everyday action items are like the base camp at the bottom of the mountain (i.e., “Call Bob”, “Buy milk”, “Email Susie”, “Write a new blog post”), and as we climb up the mountain, we get to our higher levels of commitments in our lives (i.e., Go to the gym; Where do I want to be personally and professionally at this time next year, and the next 3-5 years). I liken reaching the summit peak of the mountain to being able to answer the ultimate question: what is the purpose of my life? Why do I exist? The unfortunate reality is that, we find every reason not to put action items into our weekly calendar to work on these. So, how do we get off the base camp and get to the summit peak?

It starts with our intentions and ends with our desire to really do something about truly wanting to change. Therefore, this might surprise you, but it just doesn’t matter what app you use or what notebook you buy, and it most certainly doesn’t matter whether you GTD, ZTD, GSD, 1MTD, Eisenhower, Kanban, or believe in Emotion-based Contexts. What matters is how you think about your goals, projects, and tasks. For any one of us to change a behavior, we must want to change that behavior and truly believe that the reason we resolved to commit to a project or a goal is because there’s a purpose. This is something that no system and app can do for any of us.

I propose two things that we can all do to commit to getting things done better, both at the base camp and at the summit peak of the mountain: writing it all down and reviewing it often.

Writing it all down

Take a moment offline and write down every commitment you can think of until your brain hurts! Then write down everything you’d like to commit yourself to; whether they be big projects, chairing an event at your child’s school, planning a vacation, or (and, this is something I really encourage you to do) answering the big question about why you think you exist and what your purpose is here in life. Then, with your projects and goals, write down every action item you can possibly think of that would need to go right in order for you to accomplish these items. The key here is to ensure that, every week and every month, you are assigning yourself tasks that will help you get these things done. Tens of thousands have looked to me on how to do it in Evernote and Springpad, but truth be told, you could buy a fancy notebook, or even a .99 1-subject notebook you buy at the pharmacy. The point is to get it all down, and know that this is where you will go to capture, organize, review, and look to do when doing everything in your life.

To help with creating long lasting and sustainable habits in our lives, I created a free workbook called Creating Successful Habits TODAY!, which will help you commit to 3 to 5 new habits. Simply write these down, and each day that you do it, you simply put a check mark by that day. At the end of the week, you write down your reflections about what went right and where you had challenges. After doing this for four weeks, I can tell you that you will be well on your way to being successful with this new habit.

Review often

I’m a big believer in performing daily, weekly, and monthly sweeps of my action items and project lists. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to do when you wake up in the morning or walk into the office, you’ve already lost the battle. Create a list the night before, or at least before you check your e-mail first thing in the morning with the most important tasks you need to do for that day. I created another free download, something I like to call a “Morning Map” that lists out 3 to 5 things that you must absolutely get done that day, in order for your day to be successful. Having it right in front of you like this in big bold fonts and bright red colors reminds you to not only fill it out, but stares right at you to ensure you stay on track.

At the end of every week, look back at your commitments, at open loops which you will need to close during the week ahead. Did you accomplish everything you set out to do? If so, that is awesome. If not, perhaps take a moment to reflect on what could go better next week. Then, write down everything you want to get done in the week ahead. But, be certain to include tasks that will move you forward to your 1, 3-5, and life goals. Again, writing them down is one thing; but, you must find ways throughout the month to take action on them or it was for naught. Finally, at the end of every month, perform the same kind of sweep you did at the end of each week. This time, look at it with a different prism; look inwardly at who you were this past month, what you accomplished, and what you could do better at in order to achieve your bigger goals in life. Be certain to plan for your month ahead with the same vigor as you were doing for each week.

Resolve to Create a Better Version of You Every Day

The whole idea here is to keep yourself accountable to yourself! Like our New Year’s resolutions, they will never get done unless we make it our true intention to do so. I can assure you that with the right mindset, focus, and desire to look at our action list, project list, and life goals in this way, we can make a positive difference not only in the here and now, but in your future as well! Positivity begets more positivity, and you will become an even bigger source of inspiration to your family, friends, and colleagues!

Daniel Gold is a productivity consultant, keynote speaker, author, and co-host of the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast. Daniel authored Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, Simplify Your Life with Springpad, and Make it Happen! You can read Daniel’s posts on the official DEG Consulting website, Lifehack, and Attorney at Work. You can follow Daniel on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
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Can a Resistance List Help You Get More Done?

Can a Resistance List Help You Get More Done?

productivity, GTD, to do list, get organizedThis is Week 43 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether a Resistance List could help me make better use of my time when I didn’t feel like working. I used Laza Lists to track tasks. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for a full explanation. 

How a Resistance List Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Made me feel like less obvious tasks would get done. I enjoyed thinking of tasks to add to this list, beyond reading and internet stuff. I imagined that I would actually do them once they were written done, and I felt great about that.

 

How a Resistance List Made Me Crazy This Week

  • I didn’t use it. And that isn’t because I didn’t experience resistance. I had a LOT of it this week. It’s just that when I’m resistant, I resist lists, period. I gravitated toward all the activities I had intentionally not put on my resistance list: reading and internet stuff and chatting.
  • I didn’t need it. I realized that I already have a resistance list built into my ToDoist list. For example, a friend suggested I check out a website today. I added that to tomorrow’s list. When I resist doing important tasks, I will naturally seek to check that task off. It will be easy, quick, and fun, yet will keep me working in my to-do list.

Did a Resistance List Help Me Get More Done?

Not at all.  I think even the idea that I needed it threw me off course. The comments I received to last week’s post suggested this would happen. At least I know that my low-resistance tasks have to be a part of my main list.

**UPDATE**

I’ve never even considered using this again.

time tracking, get organized, productivityThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 44

This week I’ll be testing time tracking. I have used a number of different apps to meticulously track my time over the years with marginal benefit. If you’ve never tracked your time, it’s a good place to start. This week I’ll be moving on to tracking time in terms of routine using the HomeRoutines app. But scroll down for some other great options.

The concept. Even though I know better, I tend to try to make numerous habit changes at once. Despite FLYLady‘s warning to me years ago to start with just one habit at a time (shining your sink), I tried to perform her whole evening routine. I wasn’t even content to get that down before I tried to take on her morning and weekly routines, too.

Research suggests that one reason we fail to create multiple new habits at once is that we run out of willpower. If I don’t have the habit of getting up early, for example, and think I will also start working out first thing and skipping soda in the afternoon, I’m very likely to fail and forget about all three habits because I just don’t have the will to carry through. Much better to establish one new habit such that it requires no willpower at all.

Since it makes sense to take on one new habit at a time, it also makes sense to see what I’m actually doing now. Tracking my time minute by minute honestly drove me nuts. I invariably forgot to switch activities and I would end up with a timer showing that I’d been in the bathroom for ten hours. Even when I did a reasonable job of tracking my time, I didn’t know what to make of the results. Was I really spending too much time online when that’s a big part of what I do as a blogger and even as a family member and friend?

The House That Cleans Itself taught me the important principle of working with what you’re already doing. So did heatmapping. I would like to know what I’m actually doing as a part of my routine, so I can make one small change at a time or simply rearrange activities to where they fit better. I decided to track for two weeks since unusual circumstances could skew my results. Next week will be my second week.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Watch this Quantified Self video on using Google Calendar to track time. Decide if you’ll use a digital or paper method to track your time. You could just use a notebook to write down what you do. I’m not as concerned with how much time I spend doing things as the order I do them in, but you might be. Just observe your behavior without trying to change it.

Click here to see how time tracking worked for me.

I look forward to hearing what you learn about how you’re spending time.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

Week 40: Little and Often

Week 41: Problem Solving Approach

Week 42: Inbox Zero

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Can Inbox Zero Help You Get More Done?

Can Inbox Zero Help You Get More Done?

productivity, inbox zero, GTDThis is Week 42 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether Inbox Zero (with the help of Sanebox) could help me get more done. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post to see exactly what I did. One addition I made was to use Boxer on my iPhone which integrates with Sanebox.

How Inbox Zero Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Saved me time . Sanebox sent me an email telling me how many minutes I had saved by using their service. I honestly didn’t need the email to see that. Wow. I was amazed by the difference an empty inbox made. I did not have to filter individual emails or even bother unsubscribing for email that I didn’t care to look at. It was all in folders I could quickly scan.
  • Prevented important emails from going unread. I mentioned last week that one of the problems I have had with filtering is that I never look at the filtered emails. Sanebox’s reminder to look at my folders of various emails to see if any should be in my inbox solved that problem. Not only did I look at them, but I was able to scan them so quickly when my important emails weren’t mixed into the bunch.

How Inbox Zero Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Surprised and a little depressed. I really couldn’t believe I had that few “real” emails. I kept reloading my email and searching through the folders to be sure. When I really was sure, I was disappointed that I didn’t have more. That may be pathetic, but it’s true!
  • I didn’t need many of the options Sanebox includes. I did not use the service to snooze emails. I also found that the various folders such as “bulk” and “black hole” weren’t really necessary for me. The “Later” folder did the job as well as any. I also found that the fee for these extra folders and services was more than I would be willing to pay.

Did Inbox Zero Help Me Get More Done?

Yes!  I am delighted that I no longer have to waste my time sorting and filtering my email. So yes, I have decided to subscribe to the Sanebox Snack Plan which is $49/year. The time savings is very much worth it to me, even though I feel a bit lonelier. 😉 If you’d like a free option for doing this, consider turning on Gmail Tabs. The difference is you will have more tabs and will not be reminded to check the emails in your tabs. There is not yet an Android app for viewing tabs, though the Gmail iOS app will enable you to view email this way.

**UPDATE**

I am still using Sanebox and am saving myself tons of time. I enjoy Sanebox even more now that I’m using the @blackhole folder for things I don’t want to see again. It’s so quick and hassle-free. I highly recommend it!

You may also find this article by HubSpot on four different ways of achieving inbox zero useful.

productivity, GTD, to do list, get organizedThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 43

This week I’ll be testing a resistance list. This article from Lifehack gave me the idea that it might be effective to have a list of tasks ready for when you don’t feel like working. I will be adding my tasks to Laza Lists, a free iTunes app.

The concept. We all have times when we just don’t feel like working. That time would be now for me. It would be great if we could still manage to get things (anything!) done during periods of resistance. Heatmapping helped me a lot with this. Getting Things Done would have us create a low energy context for such tasks. The problems I have with that is I tend not to want to even look at my main list when I’m resisting and I don’t put a lot of good low resistance tasks on my list anyway.

I am interested to see if I can get through my high resistance times by doing productive tasks I’ve added to a separate list. I think any kind of list could work, but I’m choosing Laza Lists because of its ability to randomly choose a task on a list. I think this introduces a gamification aspect that could help.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read 12 Ways to Still Be Productive When You Don’t Feel Like Working. Choose a list approach. Spend some time adding low-resistance tasks to your list and continue adding them as you think of them. Use your list when you don’t feel like working.

To see how a resistance list worked for me, click here.

I would love it if you’d comment or share this post. It helps me get past resistance.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

Week 40: Little and Often

Week 41: Problem Solving Approach

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Can a Problem Solving Approach Help You Get More Done?

Can a Problem Solving Approach Help You Get More Done?

problem solving approach, GTDThis is Week 41 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether  Scott Young’s idea of writing to solve personal problems would help me get things done. I intended just to write about them, but ended up working on and answering a series of guided questions instead. I don’t yet have this approach finalized, but when I do, I will share it with my Facebook fans and subscribers. Scroll to the end of last week’s post for details.

How a Problem Solving Approach Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Gave me perspective . One of the problems I’ve been having concerns the kids’ chores. Writing the answers to questions about this problem reminded me of my purpose: to teach my children. If they aren’t doing a good job cleaning, it isn’t because they’d like to drive me nuts, but because they need to be taught. I found my stress level was reduced after writing, which in turn enabled me to focus on my work.
  • Helped me make tough choices. Another problem I wrote about concerned my membership in a paper scrapbooking club. I love these monthly kits, but I’m not keeping up with them. I’m sad about that, but writing helped me realize that right now, ending my membership is the right decision.
  • Advice sparked my creativity. With the kids’ cleaning issue, I decided to get advice by searching online. One of the things I read resonated with me: kids desire novelty when it comes to chores. Lately my kids have complained that they have to do X chore too often, even though they’re rotated. That gave me the idea to create a system for randomly assigning chores that the kids are liking. I’ll be sharing a template with subscribers for this as well.

How a Problem Solving Approach Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Takes time. I found I kept putting the writing off. When I started, I realized why. Problem solving takes time. Even though it can save time in the long run, it can feel impossible to step back from it all long enough to find solutions. Once I started the process, I became so engrossed in it that I missed my dentist appointment (even after getting my iPhone reminder!). I then found myself reluctant to return to it because it was a time suck.
  • Can be a little scary. I know one of my issues was a minor one, but I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t have time for the monthly scrapbooking kits I’m receiving. If you have bigger issues to address, I can see where it could be threatening.
  • Can be overwhelming. In my clinical practice, I would have people do a brain dump of all their worries and it was quite effective. But I discovered if you’re going to truly problem solve, addressing multiple problems is too much. After this week, I think writing down every problem can be cathartic, but really tackling more than one is ineffective. I did discover that many issues could be grouped into one, however.

Did Problem Solving Help Me Get More Done?

Yes, but peace of mind is the most important benefit I noted. I would need a longer test period to determine effectiveness of the solutions I’m testing. While asking people for advice has been very useful to me in the past, I’ve learned that the internet is chock full of advice if you’re short on time.

**UPDATE**

I still use a problem solving approach, but I still need reminders to do so. It’s so easy to just keep flailing around, trying different things or submitting to hopelessness.

productivity, inbox zero, GTDThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 42

This week I’ll be testing Inbox Zero. The new approach I’m using to control email is Sanebox which will limit the number of emails that are in my inbox, while providing me a reminder to read the rest.

The concept. Prior to reading Getting Things Done for the first time, I was drowning in thousands of emails. I was constantly forgetting to reply to important email because it was mixed in among all the sales mail and Yahoo group emails (remember those?). I was spending gobs of time processing them, too. David Allen helped me realize that I had to get email out of my inbox into folders based on whether I needed to take action or was waiting on information, for example.

Since then, I’ve reduced my email significantly with a number of different approaches I’ve tried: Goodtodo, Active Inbox, IQTell, and most recently ToDoist (with their Gmail extension). Using Gmail, I’ve also been careful to unsubscribe from unnecessary email. I do not use Gmail’s new tabs for sorting email because I already have so many filters set up. But that’s the problem. I can’t keep up with the new senders. Either the unsub option doesn’t work or the sender cleverly changes the “send from” email to bypass my filters. The result is I spend way more time than I should managing my email.

There are other options for automatically filtering email, but I like that Sanebox will send me an email reminding me to review my filtered emails. For me, out of sight is out of mind. Once I filter something, I don’t look at it again, which isn’t good when an important email gets filtered. Sanebox is supposed to get “smarter” by remembering which emails you move from the inbox to “Later” and vice versa.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Decide on a method for managing your email. If you want inspiration for achieving Inbox Zero, read this. If you want some options for achieving it, read this Mashable post.   Of course, feel free to try Sanebox, too. It offers a free trial which is what I will be using.

To see how I did with Inbox Zero, click here.

I’d love to connect on the Productivity Community on Google+, but maybe don’t email me this week. 😉

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

Week 40: Little and Often

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Can Little and Often Help You Get More Done?

Can Little and Often Help You Get More Done?

GTD, Mark Forster, DITThis is Week 40 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether Mark Forster’s concept of Little and Often could help me get more done. I used this concept in conjunction with Do it Tomorrow and Routines, deleting tasks more than 3 days past due.

How Little & Often Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Enabled me to finish projects I’d put off . I cleared my backlog of a project I’ve felt guilty about not doing for over a year. Where the Guilt Hour failed, Little and Often succeeded. There’s something about having to do the smallest thing to move a project forward that works like magic on my procrastination.
  • Prevented future overwhelm. I’m amazed by how many things I finished well ahead of time that normally came down to the wire. As I keep moving projects forward little by little, well before they are due, I know my stress level will remain low into the future.
  • Helped me establish new habits. I learned I was avoiding some of my routine tasks (especially in the evening), because I felt they had to be done completely or perfectly to count. This week, I gave myself a gold star on my HomeRoutines app if I did anything at all toward that task. The great thing is, of course, that once I started, I usually did more than one little thing. The big surprise for me is that all of these benefits made me feel better about my time usage and put me in a great mood.

How Little & Often Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Uncertainty about deleting tasks. I wasn’t completely sure how I would handle deleting (and reinstating) routine tasks when I hadn’t done them in 3 days. I didn’t know if I missed a daily chore if I had to spend three times as much time on it or if doing it once out of the three days counted. Not knowing made me anxious. I ended up failing to do any of the special chores I have assigned to Saturdays before they were more than three days overdue. I deleted them. But then I wondered what to do with them? I decided that as long as I have done a daily chore at least once within that 3 day overdue time frame, it can stay on my list. Special chores assigned to a certain day can be reassigned to the day you actually move them forward. This rule will apply to tasks deleted from my ToDoist list. If a task gets deleted, I can add it to tomorrow’s list if I do at least something on it today (which I will have to do just by remembering to do it). If I work on my deleted Saturday tasks on Sunday, I can add them to that days’ list. My rationale is that this will add tasks to the list on days when they are most likely to be done. Further, taking action should be rewarded by allowing a project to be added back to the list.
  • Can feel scattered. A little and often approach means I am juggling lots and lots of balls. Sometimes that felt a little scary. I kept waiting for something to fall. It didn’t. While I didn’t get to spend as much time focused on singular pursuits, for my lifestyle, this is a benefit. I don’t have just one hobby with a very defined job. Little and often in that situation could be quite crazy-making. But if that were my lifestyle, I wouldn’t be doing this series!

Did Little and Often Help Me Get More Done?

YES! Of all the approaches I’ve tested so far, this one has made the most significant impact on my productivity. What’s more, I love it. Applying little and often to my routine tasks has helped me get control of that aspect of my life, too. When I start to expect too much of myself, deleting tasks seems capable of keeping my life in balance. I get up every day excited to see what I need to do to move things forward and keep projects from the chopping block.

problem solving approach, GTDThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 41

This week I’ll be testing a problem-solving approach. I’ll primarily use Scott Young’s idea of writing to solve personal problems. If that doesn’t work, I’ll work through Mind Tools’ productive thinking model.

The concept. We all have unique problems to solve with respect to our productivity. Unless those specific issues are addressed, changing apps or to-do lists are unlikely to succeed in improving your time management. In fact, much of our time is wasted pondering these problems, which may have little to do with work itself. If we have a relationship problem, we may keep rereading the same paragraphs over and over as we fixate on what so-and-so said. If unrealistic demands are being made of you, using Google Calendar won’t fix things right up.

Using a problem-solving approach takes it out of the realm of the personal and the emotional. When I was in practice, I often had my clients write down everything that was bothering them. Adjacent to each problem, I would have them write down a potential action to take. Even if no action was taken, the process of writing out the problems often freed my clients up from related anxiety. My approach was similar to Scott Young’s, except he advises us to write until we feel like we have a solution. MindTools, on the other hand, would have us treat problems in a very objective way. One of the most helpful steps in their process is to get input from others. Problems that seem impossible to solve because of our connection to them, may offer easy solutions to others.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Keep track of personal and professional problems you are having. Take Scott Young’s approach and write about them until you feel like you have an answer. As a Christian, I prefer to combine this process with prayer. If you are still struggling, work through Mind Tools’ steps, taking advantage of many of the helps they offer. If you’d like a fresh perspective on the area where you’re struggling, feel free to comment here, on the Facebook Page, or on Google+, referencing me with +Melanie Wilson. I’ll be looking for advice for areas I feel stuck  in as well.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

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Can Project Management Help You Get More Done?

Can Project Management Help You Get More Done?

Enjoy a Saner Christmas This YearThis is Week 39 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether a project management approach, specifically the Christmas Countdown Planner, could help me get more done. For details, scroll to the bottom of last week’s post.

How a Project Management Approach Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me feel in control. Just getting started on my Christmas planning relieved stress. I even enjoying talking with the kids about what they’d like to eat over the holidays. In the past, it was a rushed process with little input from them.
  • Will save time. I haven’t had a chance to put it into practice yet, but I do a lot of online shopping on Black Friday (beginning Thanksgiving night). I realized I can use one of the forms in the planner to plan my online shopping. I will make note of the must-visit websites, the items I want (with prices in case I find a better deal) and discount codes. I’m surprised I’ve never done this before, but again, I didn’t approach Christmas as a project before now.
  • Excellent memory aid. One of the reasons I haven’t used a project approach for Christmas is because I think I can remember everything. Well, I can’t! I’m really looking forward to next Christmas with these forms because I’ll remember what gifts I gave, how many strands of lights I need, and what activities we want to be sure and include.

How a Project Management Approach Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Focusing on the forms. When I focused on the details of the planner that I would change, it kept me from enjoying its benefits. No planner is perfect for you, but most can be modified to serve you. The great thing about a digital planner is you can leave off pages you don’t need and print extras of those you need more of. If you realize you need a form that isn’t there, make one!

Did a Project Management Approach Help Me Get More Done?

Yes, though the real benefits of it have yet to be realized. Planning ahead and keeping necessary information and materials together has been helping me get more done with blogging, too.

**UPDATE**

I do use project management for curriculum writing and blogging and I like it. However, I do most of my work using one system –ToDoist and Skedpal.

can little and often help you get more done?, time management, organized, productivityThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 40

This week I’ll be testing little and often, as espoused by Mark Forster. I’ll be combining little and often with another of Mark Forster’s approaches I’ve tested previously: Do it Tomorrow. Every incoming task (that doesn’t already have an assigned day for completion) will be given a due date of “tomorrow.” When I do anything to move a task along, but it isn’t completed, it will be redated for the following day. Furthermore, I’ll be applying little and often to my routine tasks, too.

The concept. I was first exposed to little and often when Mark created the rules for Autofocus (AF). The idea was to write down everything you wanted to do, including recreational tasks. Scanning the list, you worked on the first task that stood out to you for as long as you wanted and kept working on a page until nothing stood out. Tasks that were worked on, even a little, were crossed off and re-entered at the end of the list. Pages had to be worked on in order. When you came to a page where nothing stood out, the whole thing was “dismissed.” The problem I had with the system (though I really enjoyed it) is my list became enormous. It was taking me many days to get through the whole list to the recent tasks that really needed to be addressed. (Note that several iterations of Autofocus were created to deal with this issue).

Little and often, regardless of implementation, has the potential to overcome the fear and perfectionism that create procrastination. Example: For some reason, I hate snail mailing things. If all I have to do is get an envelope, look up an address, find a stamp, or put something in my car to go to the post office, I can get myself to do it. Often, I will do more, but even if I don’t, the next time I come to this task, it’s easier to do because I’ve already started.

Little and often is also designed to help you get projects done early. That being the case, even projects which aren’t due for a few months should be added to the list to start on tomorrow. If you have a task or project that doesn’t make sense to begin immediately or that you aren’t sure you want or need to do, this can be added to a Someday/Maybe list that can be reviewed weekly. Alternately, a tickler or future review due date could be added to these items. I am currently using SmartPad for this purpose.

Explanation of the DIT/AF Approach (Scroll down if you just want to get to this week’s assignment)

My approach, which is very much a hybrid of DIT and AF, has the advantage of not letting the list become too big. Current items (typically being those that were entered yesterday) can be worked on at any time during the day. The pressure to get things worked on before they are more than 3 days overdue gives enough grace time to allow for “busy days,” with a consequence for not working on them that is entirely appropriate: tasks that you haven’t touched at all in that period of time get deleted from the list. I don’t allow myself to add these tasks back to the list, so that I have to rely on memory only. If I have a planned absence, it’s my responsibility to make sure I will have no tasks more than 3 days overdue on that day. If I were ill or unexpectedly detained for a day or two, I would put off deleting tasks for that period of time.

I have already been using this approach for a number of weeks and want to apply little and often to one of the problems with it that has cropped up. My DIT / AF approach focuses my attention on the tasks appearing on my ToDoist list, leaving routine tasks that I keep in my HomeRoutines app (mostly cleaning tasks) neglected. I have determined some reasons for this. First, there is no “do or delete” deadline for routine tasks and there should be. Going three days without completing my routine means that I need to delete something from it, because I obviously can’t keep up with it. Second, I need to apply the same little and often principle to routine tasks. Rather than having to clean my whole bathroom on Monday to mark it complete, I just need to do something.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Mark Forster’s explanation of Little and Often. You could choose to complete his assignment which is to choose the project with the furthest deadline and begin working on it little and often every day. Or, you could try my approach of giving everything a deadline of tomorrow and working on each task or project to completion or using little and often as desired. If you try this approach and also deleting items more than 3 days overdue, I’d love to hear how you get on with it.

To see if little and often worked for me, click here.

Are you on Google+? Circle me here. I also participate in Mark Forster’s General Forum.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

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