As Mikko pointed out in the comment section for “Stress, Pressure, Assholes – Problems in Organizational Culture“ managing your day-to-day work and tasks can be stressful and things change all the time. Luckily it’s a well known and documented problem and there are plenty of resources for tackling it.
GTD / Handling tasks
Getting Things Done (Copyright David Allen & Co 2012) is a work-life management system. The point is to empty your mind of tasks so that you can focus on the most important things.
The process includes the following:
- Capture anything and everything that has your attention and concern
- Define actionable things into concrete next steps and successful outcomes
- Organize information in the most streamlined way, in appropriate categories, based on how and when you need to access it
- Keep current and “ahead of the game” with appropriately frequent reviews
- Keep track of the bigger picture while managing the small details
- Make trusted choices about what to do in any given moment
This means that everything worthwhile is written down and organized. It makes your mind let go of the things you should be doing and let’s you focus on what you are actually doing. Every time you notice thinking “I should do XYZ..” write it down and process it later.
For capturing everything, you can use an electronic device (Omnifocus, Things, text files..) or paper (hipster pda, notebooks).
GTD is not a simple system and hence it’s impossible to go through all the aspects in one blog post. That’s why I recommend reading the book if you’re at least preliminary interested.
My current workflow is pretty much this:
- Capture everything to Gadgets (iPhone, iPad, Mac)
- Process everything in the morning
- Decide what to do today
- Add tags (context), areas, project info to todos
- Schedule tasks to be done later
- Remove tasks you won’t be doing
- Start doing stuff! :)
Every other week I go through all my scheduled tasks and those in my “someday maybe” folder.
Simple. But I can’t tell you how much work and discipline it has taken to make it a habit. For GTD to work, you must actually use it. All the time.
Inbox Zero / Handling email
Process inbox a few times a day (but don’t look into it all the time and disable notifications)
After you process your inbox it should be empty
Go through each email with these rules:
- If you don’t need to do anything -> archive
- If it takes less than 5 minutes to answer or complete the task -> do it
- If it takes more than 5 minutes-> create a todo
Main point: Don’t use your inbox as a todo system, which it is not. Todos should be elsewhere. In email other people control what’s in it. It’s way too easy to break your workflow and mess up your priorities when anyone can put stuff into your todo inbox.
Did I mention that Inbox Zero feels so good?
Pomodoro / End of procrastination
Ever had a problem with starting on a task/project? Yep. Me too. I know Pomodoro is not for everyone and I don’t use it very often, but it can help you get going with a project.
The method is really simple (yet people have written books about it): break your work into 25 minute sessions, followed by a short break (5-10 minutes).
That’s it. 25 minutes is so short that it’s easy to maintain focus on your task and get you going. Some of the pomodoro apps actually restrict your network activity so that you can’t visit Facebook/Twitter while on a pomodoro sprint.
These are the tools that work best for me. When I use them, I feel (and am) more relaxed, more productive and more in control of what is happening.
Now you need to figure out which ones work for you. Just keep in mind that tools can be a great source of procrastination. Who wouldn’t like tinkering their tools and processes instead of actually doing stuff?