Saturday, 28 June 2014

set-up tweaks – modifying how I cope with ‘to-do’

After blundering around in the dark for a while, I have tweaked my set-up. I wasn’t using my filofax very efficiently (um, at all) and I was struck by a post on Philofaxy about people not using their filofax when they were really busy/reaching burn-out and so on. I have been ridiculously busy recently and horrendously disorganised and I have hardly been even looking at my diary, never mind the weekly and monthly plans. In fact, when I finally sat down to do a weekly plan, I realised it had been 6 weeks since I last had and that all of my weekly planning pages were empty and/or had things on them that should have been done that week but which had been ignored and not done. Half of these weekly pages weren’t even IN my filofax and the ‘current’ month list was for April – everything was still in my holding-filofax. [I did this sort-out about two weeks ago!]

I needed to think about why I wasn’t using my filofax so much and what might make me start again and realised one of my main issues was with To-Do lists – I either have everything in front of me and then get annoyed if I have to rewrite anything not done, into the next week pages or, I realise I won’t get it all done and put it on a separate list that I then don’t look at (because it’s not in front of me). At this time of the year, my to-do lists can also terrify me with their colossus-like dimensions!

I have three kinds of tasks to do:
  1. things that are advancing projects (‘next actions’)
  2. things that are known about well in advance, that need to be done at particular times but which are not linked to a project (birthdays, car-insurance renewal, meter readings and so on)
  3. things that are neither of the above but are things that need to be done (usually sooner rather than later)

The problems arise like this:
Most of my projects seem to be big projects and even breaking them down into smaller things to manage them better, the time for them is elastic. For example, I want to finish the first draft of book 6 before I go away on holiday, but I don’t quite know how many scenes I still need to write. I have a rough idea, but not an absolute nailed down one. Even if I did know that I had exactly 8 more scenes to write, some days it flows well and some days it just doesn’t. As a consequence, a ‘next action’ can sit on my to-do list for days or even weeks. Do I have them on a separate Post-It note and keep moving them from week to week? That feels like failure. Do I keep them on a separate list and refer to it when I have time? That would then suffer from the “it isn’t in front of me so it doesn’t exist” issue I have where, despite quite a lot of education, I seem almost totally unable to turn a page to look at what is behind it.

Category 2 is okay as long as I look at my planner – these are all transcribed onto ‘do this week’ sheets and if I look at those sheets, I do them. And there’s the rub! IF I look at them. Often I don’t.

Category 3 can be an ever-increasing list of ‘stuff’ which can end up swamping the important things. I need to do a brain-dump into a to-do list to clear my head sometimes, but there is then a danger that the list turns scary!

I haven’t cracked any of these problems completely, really. What I have done is to have one giant to-do sheet at the very front of my planner, rather than on the weekly pages (since I don’t really have many appointments at the moment).  Everything is going on it. To get around the “it isn’t in front of me so it doesn’t exist” issue, I have added “next-actions” on my to-do list in bold (so I see something that might prompt me to turn to the page behind which lists the next actions!), added the weekly tasks to the to-do list from the weekly sheets (which I have given up on) and added the ever-increasing small to-do things as and when they occur. The hope is that I can see it all (or at least see a prompt to turn the page and look at it, oh over-educated one) and can try and limit how many ‘mosquito tasks’ get added to the list.

I have ‘next actions’ in black at the top, then weekly things in blue, then ‘other stuff’ in pencil underneath. Because there is now a danger of me not actually looking at the diary pages, I also have added any appointments I have for the week to the bottom of the list, in red.

the list!

At the bottom of the page (please don’t laugh) I have a reminder to turn over and look at the next page/reverse of the to-do list so that, although I have run out of space, there may still be things lurking on the other side of the page that I must get on with. Yes, I have a first class honours degree and a PhD and I need a reminder to turn the page. I know my limitations!!

On the next page, I have the next-actions for my current projects (colour-coded).

Next actions

I’m really hoping that this set-up with the to-do at the front, will keep me organised! I’ll let you know!

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