Tag Archives: Productivity

Changing Your Mind 101

If I have any regular readers, they’ll notice something is missing. I deleted the 4 posts in my series on task management.

I struggled with the idea of deleting something I published but I think it needed to be done. I started the series because I’m trying to find the best way to handle the tasks and projects in my life but after 3 or 4 rather weak posts, I realize I had it all wrong.

The only thing you need is a system you trust. That’s it.

Do pen and paper lists work for you? Awesome. Do you prefer your work in projects and manageable tasks? Do that.

The first mistake I made was thinking the GTD system — which makes a lot of sense to me — works for everyone. This just isn’t true. Some people work best from simple lists and some people plan their work months in advance. All you have to do is figure out what your brain prefers.

So I deleted my posts but it’s not a big loss, they were fluff anyway. Maybe I’ll dig a bit deeper into this subject later or maybe I won’t. Sometimes digging for a system is a form of procrastination and I’m trying to avoid that.

Here’s to getting work done.

My Task Manager Wishlist

I spend an embarrassing amount of time researching how people get things done. It’s almost as if I expect their habits to wear off on me and of course, they don’t. Lately I’ve been using Wunderlist and while it’s close to what I need, it’s not quite perfect. Here’s what I’m looking for in a task management product:

Projects

This is super important. Anything that requires more than one step is a project and I have a lot of things that fit this description. If a task manager doesn’t allow you to define a project and set the tasks to complete the project, it’s pretty much useless.

Tasks

Tasks can be standalone or part of a project but this is something no checklist app misses. Of all the apps I have installed on my phone and Macbook, none of them are missing the task element. The one area that is lacking in a lot of apps is reoccurring tasks. I use this function to remind me to change my oil, cut my hair, or replace my furnace filter. If an app is missing standalone tasks, sub-tasks (for projects), or reoccurring tasks, I have no use for it.

Start Dates

A project should have a start date. If I need to start a project on Jan 1st 2014, I don’t want to see it until then. I don’t own OmniFocus but from what I hear, this is pretty much the only app that handles start dates in this manner.

Due Dates

Anything worth doing needs a due date right? OK that’s a bit of a stretch but if this task manager is going to handle my personal and work life, it must have due dates.

Notifications/Reminders

The things I listed earlier as reoccurring tasks section are prime examples of items I want reminders for. What I really want in an app is the ability to set the reminder for any interval. The Reminders app allows for monthly or yearly reminders but nothing in between. This means my reminder to check the furnace filter needs to be ignored 2 months out of 3 because I can’t set it for a more useful interval.

Quick Capture

If I can’t capture a task quickly, what’s the point? I don’t care if this involves using Drafts with an x-callback-url or if the app itself opens to the entry box, I need a way to get tasks into the system easily.

Good Sync

Syncing is key these days and I’d rather it be something I control. If I had my way, the perfect app would use Dropbox to sync but the few that use this method lack push notifications. I’ll settle on a syncing solution that is reliable which it seems Wunderlist hasn’t figured out yet.

Filters/Views

I want to be able to filter my tasks in a few ways. Maybe I want to see today’s tasks, maybe I want to see this month. Either way, the filters need to be configurable and flexible.

Calendar Integration

Not everything ends up in my calendar but items that fall on a specific date and require a specific action should. Whether this means integration with the existing system calendar, or using a built-in calendar, it’s a must.

Future/Someday

We all have tasks that won’t be starting any time soon and you need a place to file those. These could be standalone tasks, or full blown projects so this area needs to be flexible. These tasks and projects won’t have dates so they won’t show up in filters or views unless I specifically want them to.

I don’t practice Getting Things Done but this list has a pretty obviously slant in that direction. I’ve been slowly melding the ideas from GTD into a system that fits my life and this is the system I feel will help me actually accomplish my tasks.

I’m fairly certain OmniFocus meets almost every one of these needs but they seem to lack a trial version for OS X so I have no way of knowing before forking out a pretty substantial wad of cash. One of these days I’ll grow tired of waiting and drop the $$ on the OS X and iOS clients and maybe then I’ll be happy.

Taking Time to Think

I have a 37 mile commute each way to work every day and about a year ago, I started filling those minutes with podcasts. The more I think of it, I’m not sure this was the best idea.

Here’s my basic itinerary on a normal workday:

  • Wake up, get ready for work, sit in a car listening to random podcast.
  • Arrive at work, put on headphones, listen to music.
  • Go to lunch, listen to podcast.
  • Back at work, more music.
  • Drive home, listen to podcast.

That’s a pretty sweet schedule right? Except I realize I haven’t set time aside to think. Work isn’t the place to spend time with my thoughts, I’m busy working and the 45 minutes in my car each way would be golden opportunity but I’m too busy listening to Myke Hurley or Dan Benjamin. When I get home, I have 2 dogs and a wife competing for my attention so any chance to delve into my thoughts is long gone. I’m not complaining, my girls are the best things in my life but I simply don’t spend enough time internalizing my thoughts. I don’t spend any time figuring out what I truly feel about anything because I purposely bury any chance of quiet time.

The takeaway is simple, take some time from your day to devote to your own thoughts. Don’t fill your ears with music or voices, set aside time to ruminate on things. You don’t have to be Socrates but the more time you’re concentrating on outside stimuli, the less you can spend thinking.

“Thinking: The talking of the soul with itself” – Plato

It’s easy to discount our thoughts as silly but time spent in introspection is beneficial to our brains. Don’t spend all your time in someone else’s world, spend some between your own ears.