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Thinking 'out loud' about keeping control of my system

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  • Thinking 'out loud' about keeping control of my system

    Okay... like many here, I've gotten the basic idea - have a system, keep ideas out of your head, trust that you'll see what's important. Now I'm having trouble with trying to control my three styles of projects:

    a few hard deadlined, major scale multi-step ones (i.e., 'Write Comparative Religion class midterm essay')

    dozens of small, easy, but vitally important routines (clean litterboxes, clean snake's tank liners, the sort of things that can wind up getting lost in the shuffle)

    a probably very typical laundry list of Someday/Maybe style nice ideas for sometime

    I'm trying to use a flat Palm, since I'm a geek and the kind of visibility I want doesn't come easily.

    A few weeks ago, I tried using a PigPog setup to help that !$% project - NA connection thing... and I ditched my SDMB list, merged it all together.

    Things didn't stand out any more, so I went back to my 'Life Balance will keep everything organized and in sight in its Outline' phase. That leads me off into 'my outline isn't *complete*'-itis. Too many little daily routines, and checking off a thirty second vitally important household task becomes as important and involved as actually taking the thirty seconds to *do* it.

    I know in my head that I could:
    1) make myself put every one-shot deadlined project in the calendar, with alarms, and use them as daily 'decide on NAs and record them' time;
    2) put all these routines into checklist Memos, with daily calendar repeats of the memo name as the 'review this list!' reminder;
    3) leave the ToDo entries as only the no-deadline 'improving life bit by bit' things;
    4) *THE BIG THING* and my big admission of oops: make a calendared appointment to Review things, and write a checklist where I can add checks to catch where I missed things previously.

    And as cheesy as it sounds, I think I just talked myself into a solution. (Not having any other place to express these thoughts, and being a rather verbal-style thinker, sometimes I just need to stop and talk things clear.)

    Anyone who thinks I'm out of line, my apologies for interrupting your other reading...

    Anyone who might have some advice for an admitted Palm fanatic who's terrified of losing track of critical routine things in the mass of other deadlines and Maybes, please! I'm all ears!

  • #2
    [dozens of small, easy, but vitally important routines (clean litterboxes, clean snake's tank liners, the sort of things that can wind up getting lost in the shuffle]

    Sciral Consistency [www.sciral.com] is a $25 shareware program (Mac/Windows) designed for tracking routine tasks like those above that have loose, but regular deadlines. It has a simple color-coded spreadsheet-like interface that serves as a "dashboard" for what you need to do now, what can wait, what you've put off too long. Whenver you click off a task as completed, the interval you've set for that task (e.g. every 5-7 days) is reset.

    The program was reviewed very favorably by Matt Neuberg, Ph.D. in TidBits.
    [http://db.tidbits.com/getbits.acgi?tbart=06932].

    A free demo version is available, limited to 5 tasks. Unfortunately, there's no Palm version.

    Having a separate bucket like this for the loose routines declutters the next actions lists, too.

    Splat

    Comment


    • #3
      IThanks for above. Ideaa I plan to implement described below. How do they sound?

      I will write the date I enter the project as active as part of its title and it will be athe entered data and the start date, as creating the n/a is its start. If I do have a n/a its a SDMB anyway or it needs redefining.

      After the date I will put a = sign and a number from 1 to 30, or 60, or a 90, indicating the time frame that I would hope to complete it within, that would make me happy and feel that the project is worth doing. A ! after that number will indicate a firm deadline. The problem is that, for me so far,deadlines have been written on the calendar and not retained as part of the project title. I just wish I could order the list by various dates.

      Any N/A that I think will take more than a certain amount of time I will note that after it. Not sure yet what that amount of time should be )maybe 10 minutes, but I want to be able to quickly see if I can commit to doing something.

      Already when I enter a N/A I put a # if it is related to a project with an established deadline. And, ## if it must be done today. These bring the items in Memo on the Palm to top of list. So for example, if we are out of milk and bread these get ## on my @Errands list. If I am planning on baking for an election day bake sale, flour gets a #. So by doing this, I know I have to make the trip but if the store is busy or I am in a hurry I don't have to do the whole list.

      Comment


      • #4
        I am another palm fanatic who has strugle with the system for long time...

        I am using now a program called ListPro, that let me create as meny list as I want, therefore I have...

        Projects...
        Someday/maybe
        Projects Complete
        Cleaning Duties Home
        Chores at work
        TRAVEL FOLDER
        Pleasure Trip
        Business Trip
        Golf Trip

        My opinion is create a list of Chores at home (mine is for day (mon-fri)) and make in LB the other things...

        Comment


        • #5
          Another thought

          I keep a weekly checklist in Word for the routine once or multiple times a week things organized by context (Home, Office, etc.). Then in my weekly review I just copy and paste them into Outlook as tasks.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Thinking 'out loud' about keeping control of my system

            Originally posted by zen_tiggr
            Now I'm having trouble with trying to control my three styles of projects:
            zen_tiggr, I'm not clear as to what your problem is. The main point of a "system" is to know what all your commitments are. Are you forgetting your most important commitments, despite keeping them in your system? Or are you failing to put them in your system, or what?

            Originally posted by zen_tiggr
            A few weeks ago, I tried using a PigPog setup to help that !$% project - NA connection thing... and I ditched my SDMB list, merged it all together.

            Things didn't stand out any more, so I went back to my 'Life Balance will keep everything organized and in sight in its Outline' phase.
            First of all, why would you ditch your Someday/Maybe? By definition, these are things that don't have to be done right away, or at all. So why clutter your other lists with them?

            Secondly, the outline is an extremely useful structure in Life Balance, but not for keeping things "in sight." Really, the outline is for review; the Place lists are your runway-level to-dos.

            Originally posted by zen_tiggr
            That leads me off into 'my outline isn't *complete*'-itis. Too many little daily routines, and checking off a thirty second vitally important household task becomes as important and involved as actually taking the thirty seconds to *do* it.
            As a Life Balance user and tech-geek, I offer this tip from my experience. Resist the impulse to "set up" or maintain a perfect outline (or perfect system). Elegant hierarchical structures are not for real life. Eschew elegance and completeness for pure utility. If there is a thirty-second task you are likely to forget, and it is vitally important, put it in your system! And check it off. The overhead of putting it in and checking it off should be outweighed by the importance of not forgetting it.

            I have lots of little tasks at home that need to get done but are hardly ever urgent. My first Life Balance outlines had elaborate long sections of these home maintenance items. It was a pain to check them off, and to adhere too rigidly to a routine. I realized that I didn't need most of the items in the outline: they were right in front of my face, so I wasn't going to forget them. Remember DA's point in the book about how physical work is much harder to forget, because you can see it? So I got rid of dozens of routine tasks and replaced them with "Do AM chores" and "Do PM chores." Each morning or evening I look around and instinctively do what most needs attention. I still maintain routine items for things I might forget, or forget when to do, such as feeding plants. If I want to feed them every 2 weeks, it's hard for me to remember when it's time, so Life Balance does that for me, beautifully. The overhead of checking it off is outweighed by the usefulness of the timely reminder.

            Originally posted by zen_tiggr
            . . .make a calendared appointment to Review things, and write a checklist where I can add checks to catch where I missed things previously.
            You already know this, but no system will work without appropriate review.


            Originally posted by zen_tiggr
            1) make myself put every one-shot deadlined project in the calendar, with alarms, and use them as daily 'decide on NAs and record them' time;
            It sounds like you want to put a project such as writing a paper as a calendar item every day. Writing papers is hard. Are you forgetting all about it, or avoiding and procrastinating?

            I write papers all the time (working on my dissertation now), and in my opinion, no matter how well you try to define NAs, sometimes you are going to have to stare at that blank white piece of paper (or computer screen), knowing you need to write, but not know what to write. Defining NAs is still useful, but sometimes it's easy to define an NA that makes you feel like you're busily working on it (e.g., "Check Amazon for books about X"), while still avoiding the hardest tasks that will contribute most to getting the thing done. There are a bunch of steps in the writing process, but several of them are "Write." I never forget that I need to, so I can't blame the system if I don't get the writing done.

            If you want to get a paper written, you will have to find a way to get yourself to sit down for periods of time and just write. I rely on a bunch of strategies to, uh, encourage myself to do this. (This is a topic for entire books, that's how hard it can be.) Two tips here: 1) Focus on starting a thirty-minute session. 2) Don't finish the session until you have defined a next action and put it in your system. Include extensive notes about what to do next. This will help you start your next session.

            Hope this helps.

            -andersons

            Comment


            • #7
              Thanks to everyone for your thoughts

              splat: thank you for the reference - there are some things at work that might fit in there (we use spreadsheets for bug tracking etc.)

              Jamie: sounds like a good system for when the starting dates are important. What I just set up, in the process of this change, was two categories of dated items:
              deadline items are DateBook entries on the due date, with a time set only if needed; these get an advance alarm set back as many hours/days as I need to remind myself to generate and record NAs for them (only the "Outcome" goes in the DateBook entry)
              'won't start before xx/xx/xxxx' items go in a ToDo, with the Due Date set as needed, and the Hide option keeping them out of sight until they're relevant. That's only for the NAs, though... the project is a Memo.

              apinaud: I've seen ListPro recommended many times... I have yet to give it a look, but will keep it on my Someday/Maybe list.

              Katmandu: my personal preference - I avoid Word and Outlook when possible, from past professional issues. (I prefer Mozilla tools, in general, as I tend to work at home on Linux machines.) I've seen a fwe people use flat Word outlines as their system, and it worked fine, for a while, but then I got my Palm, and the desktop is only a backup for it now.

              Thank you all

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Thinking 'out loud' about keeping control of my system

                Originally posted by andersons
                Originally posted by zen_tiggr
                Now I'm having trouble with trying to control my three styles of projects:
                zen_tiggr, I'm not clear as to what your problem is. The main point of a "system" is to know what all your commitments are. Are you forgetting your most important commitments, despite keeping them in your system? Or are you failing to put them in your system, or what?
                My biggest issue at this point is trying to keep other NAs from getting swamped under tons of little routinely's... see below, though
                Originally posted by andersons
                Originally posted by zen_tiggr
                A few weeks ago, I tried using a PigPog setup to help that !$% project - NA connection thing... and I ditched my SDMB list, merged it all together.

                Things didn't stand out any more, so I went back to my 'Life Balance will keep everything organized and in sight in its Outline' phase.
                First of all, why would you ditch your Someday/Maybe? By definition, these are things that don't have to be done right away, or at all. So why clutter your other lists with them?
                I thought I might manage everything under LB; I see I wasn't clear. I only meant that my SDMB projects went as lower importance subtask under the main role TLIs in LB, instead of being a separate outline section.
                Originally posted by andersons

                Secondly, the outline is an extremely useful structure in Life Balance, but not for keeping things "in sight." Really, the outline is for review; the Place lists are your runway-level to-dos.
                Yep
                Originally posted by andersons

                Originally posted by zen_tiggr
                That leads me off into 'my outline isn't *complete*'-itis. Too many little daily routines, and checking off a thirty second vitally important household task becomes as important and involved as actually taking the thirty seconds to *do* it.
                As a Life Balance user and tech-geek, I offer this tip from my experience. Resist the impulse to "set up" or maintain a perfect outline (or perfect system). Elegant hierarchical structures are not for real life. Eschew elegance and completeness for pure utility. If there is a thirty-second task you are likely to forget, and it is vitally important, put it in your system! And check it off. The overhead of putting it in and checking it off should be outweighed by the importance of not forgetting it.

                I have lots of little tasks at home that need to get done but are hardly ever urgent. My first Life Balance outlines had elaborate long sections of these home maintenance items. It was a pain to check them off, and to adhere too rigidly to a routine. I realized that I didn't need most of the items in the outline: they were right in front of my face, so I wasn't going to forget them. Remember DA's point in the book about how physical work is much harder to forget, because you can see it? So I got rid of dozens of routine tasks and replaced them with "Do AM chores" and "Do PM chores." Each morning or evening I look around and instinctively do what most needs attention. I still maintain routine items for things I might forget, or forget when to do, such as feeding plants. If I want to feed them every 2 weeks, it's hard for me to remember when it's time, so Life Balance does that for me, beautifully. The overhead of checking it off is outweighed by the usefulness of the timely reminder.
                *This* is a gem... thank you I needed to realize that I didn't need that complete life inventory and system - just the minimum reminders so I wouldn't let things slip.

                Now I have a small number of Memo lists with two or three word questions to jog my memory, for Daily, Weekly, Monthly. I'll use them as ticklers and make NAs when I know I want to do something, but just not now.

                No more repeating entries clogging the calendar or ToDo list. Yeah!
                Originally posted by andersons

                Originally posted by zen_tiggr
                . . .make a calendared appointment to Review things, and write a checklist where I can add checks to catch where I missed things previously.
                You already know this, but no system will work without appropriate review.
                (sigh.)
                Originally posted by andersons

                Originally posted by zen_tiggr
                1) make myself put every one-shot deadlined project in the calendar, with alarms, and use them as daily 'decide on NAs and record them' time;
                It sounds like you want to put a project such as writing a paper as a calendar item every day. Writing papers is hard. Are you forgetting all about it, or avoiding and procrastinating?
                Not really... I just want the no-sound, vibrating 9AM alarm to catch me while I'm on break at work, or feeding the animals on the weekends, and nudge me to make NA todos if I need to, or bump the alarm forward to when I next want to care about that deadline. Nothing more than that. I'm realizing that I want my Palm items to be just placeholders, like DA always said.
                Originally posted by andersons

                I write papers all the time (working on my dissertation now), and in my opinion, no matter how well you try to define NAs, sometimes you are going to have to stare at that blank white piece of paper (or computer screen), knowing you need to write, but not know what to write. Defining NAs is still useful, but sometimes it's easy to define an NA that makes you feel like you're busily working on it (e.g., "Check Amazon for books about X"), while still avoiding the hardest tasks that will contribute most to getting the thing done. There are a bunch of steps in the writing process, but several of them are "Write." I never forget that I need to, so I can't blame the system if I don't get the writing done.

                If you want to get a paper written, you will have to find a way to get yourself to sit down for periods of time and just write. I rely on a bunch of strategies to, uh, encourage myself to do this. (This is a topic for entire books, that's how hard it can be.) Two tips here: 1) Focus on starting a thirty-minute session. 2) Don't finish the session until you have defined a next action and put it in your system. Include extensive notes about what to do next. This will help you start your next session.

                Hope this helps.

                -andersons
                Yeah, with three online college courses this semester, any paper writing and studying tips are gratefully accepted

                Thanks for the counterpoints - reading your thoughts and mulling over my reactions focused me on just whay and what I wanted this Palm re-organiztion to accomplish. Now I have a mostly unobtrusive collection of reminders of what I had in mind... and that's all I ever needed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I always appreciate "thinking out loud" as well as thoughtful replies.

                  It's the thinking-through where I am most likely to overcomplicate things, and it helps to have experienced people (or sometimes just somebody other than me) cut through the mind clutter to the essence of what to do, what needs to happen, what's important.

                  FWIW

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    For hard deadlines, I put those in my calendar with advance notice as a tickler (e.g., Smith: Appellate Brief Due). I also will typically add a next action to my context lists (e.g., Smith: Research law for first point of appellate brief). In addition, for some projects, particularly projects that require concentrated blocks of time, I may need to take an extra step and plan how much time the project will take and set aside the time as an appointment with myself to work on the project. I work backwards from the deadline and jot in some appointments based upon my time estimates, working around my daily routines (including working off my next action lists). Generally, I need to set aside enough time in my day to work off my next action lists and things will get done timely. But for certain tasks that require larger blocks of time, I find scheduling them to be extremely helpful.

                    For routine tasks like cleaning, I find the Handyshopper program to be extremely useful. This keeps my calendar and next action lists streamlined. I create checklists in Handyshopper and put a next action to review my checklists at the appropriate intervals. I have checklists for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual intervals. The same result could be achieved by using checklists on paper, but the Handyshopper program is, well, handy...



                    I find the Someday/Maybe lists to be invaluable. I can park an item there and forget about it knowing that I will come back to it at the appropriate time. However, sometimes it's helpful to break down the Someday/Maybe lists for easier review. You can do this by creating more than one Someday/Maybe category or by using priorities to differentiate items to be done in the near future from items to be done farther down the road. I may not necessarily want to look at the Someday/Maybe item "Travel to Europe" at every weekly review if I don't plan to go for a few years. If you are really comfortable with your Someday/Maybe list, you can shorten your next action lists by moving some items to Someday/Maybe.

                    For all of the above items, the weekly review is the glue that holds things together. You won't miss deadlines if you consistently review your calendar. You won't worry about routine tasks being overlooked if you have a place that you can scan quickly to remind you of what needs to be done. You don't have to fear missed opportunities or forgotten ideas if you review your Someday/Maybe lists on a regular basis.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Even more lightbulbs going off

                      There are a number of details there, jmarkey, that I've incorporated or am doing in slightly different ways. Writing out the couple of long posts in this thread gave me the clarity to see the difficulties I was having.

                      I'm trying to keep my system as self-contained on my Palm as I can. Because it's just another checklist in the Checklists Memo category, I've realized that I can work through my "System Review" checklist in any time windows I have - it doesn't have to be a rarely available single huge block of time. If I expect to take many time slices to get through it, I can make an "Anywhere" ToDo to bookmark my progress.

                      One huge help in getting through a review in separate time slots is that my projects are Memos, and therefore alphabetized. I can put a "Review: @Someday N" to remind me that I've gotten through part of my @Someday list, and just where I need to pick up without duplicating effort.

                      I'm also picking up on the idea that it's ok to have a Memo in @Active for the project outcome, AND a DateBook entry on the due date, with a tickler alarm, AND a ToDo about the project, that I wrote when the alarm went off once before. The effort of writing the multiple entries is so much less than what I spent with addons and tweaking...*sigh...*

                      It just took me a while to put together the right combination that shows me everything I need to see, and holds aside anything I've decided I don't need right now.

                      I think I'm a light year closer to black belt now And my wife is starting to ask me if I've written down whatever it was we just talked about. I like to think that means we both realize how helpful this system, and my Palm, has been to clearing up my head.

                      Comment

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