Starting to get started

Recently I have found myself spinning through my day without feeling that much real “stuff” was getting done. You know how when you do things, for example, during the workday and when the day is over you feel like nothing got accomplished?

That is where I have been for some time. The jar, as some people who write about productivity, was full of sand and the rocks were sitting on the table like WTF?

Color me shocked

For some reason, this happens a lot - maybe it is the desire to get things done every time someone asks me for help - in the “drop what you are doing” kind of way. This also leads to internal frustration when I cannot do that (and when others cannot or will not do that for me -> not their issue or their fault).

This is not new, I have had this trouble for years and it comes and goes from time to time, but mostly hangs around and gets in my way. This leads me to be frustrated with my situation and even blame external sources for the shit currently swimming around in my head - read “Me getting in my own way”.

What can I do about this?

I have read books and blog posts on productivity and how to keep things moving, but up until now I think my brain was in some kind of “it will just work if I get the concept” mode… surprise! this does not work. At all. I like the ideas presented in Getting Things Done - and am surprised I cannot quote the entire book from memory - I have read it a few times over the years and always pick up some new twist on the things presented, or at least clear the cobwebs for a bit.

Besides, the idea of keeping lists for things I need to get done that are focused on contexts that make sense for these things - buy lightbulbs at a store of some kind and for my home rather than a long assed single list of junk I need to get to sometime when I have a minute. I never have a minute. This is a realization that while time is what you make of it, there is always something willing to fill your time. Hint - usually Facebook or Netflix (or other streams) are willing to fill every available minute.

To help me get on track and hopefully stay on track I took it upon myself to learn how to really use the task manager of choice - OmniFocus. This is something I have been seeking for a while, and I know that it is a Cadillac of an app with blank slate mentality - use it however you want and it will keep up.

The problem is that I was always curious about twisting the app to do some new cool thing. This wasn’t using it in a way that works for me - it was tinkering.

Note: Sometimes tinkering is ok if there is a new feature or new item worth trying, but it is best when minimized.

I decided to really use OmniFocus (iPad only) to put my tasks in a workable set of lists only for me. Sure they are tracked in a KanBan board and backlog for work items, but taking the extra effort to write them on my lists next to the other things going on has been worth it so far. Taking a bit of time to review my lists against the kanban every day when I start work helps me see all my things every day - and get them cleaned up in both places.

Apps do not GSD

Omnifocus and Kanban are tools - they do not do work. They show me work available and allow me to chunk it up in ways that make sense. I can see in-flight items and keep them separate from backlog items to do sometime. Keeping the Hot items separate from even the in-progress work has been great. But again - the apps are just tools - they record data so I don’t need it in my head and present it when I ask. For me, keeping things in my head is a terrible idea - I forget things ALL THE TIME! Except for useless trivia, I seem to remember that as if it were the most important stuff ever - weird I know. Omnifocus or Drafts are great for just jotting things down.

This is something that I have found of the utmost importance. write it down somewhere and worry about processing later. Usually at the end of the day for a couple minutes and for about 30 minutes every morning is what works for me. I can get items into OF as actions/projects and see if I have completed items to check off. I also have a notebook around - this is primarily for in-person meetings, which do not exist right now in 2020. So it has been all-digital, but I carry a notebook which helps me write things down and not look like I am playing with my phone during a meeting. People tend to assume you are not paying attention when you use digital for notes. Unfair? Yep, but that is the way of the world. I think the Millenials and those that follow them might fix that, but using paper in a meeting is kind of nice anyhow.

How has it been going?

Sadly - it has only been a week so maybe this post is early, but it has been amazing. Holy cow, I feel like I got lots of things moved forward this week. Keeping the big rocks at work to about 2 per week and the biggest of them getting a huge amount of work/time for progress. Am I perfect or a pro at this yet? NOPE. Not even close. But I am working on it and going to do my best to stay the course. Even if I need a sticky note on my screen to ensure I review my tasks daily.

I am learning that slow and steady wins the race - this stuff is no exception. Work on one thing per day. And start again tomorrow. That is it. Just keep going and eventually there will be nothing without the system and I will feel like a wizard.

Written on June 20, 2020