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My Next Attempt at Organization

This month, I’m trying a new life organization technique, inspired by a dear friend and some thoughts from Getting Things Done. I’m getting things I need to do out of my head and onto post-it notes, a calendar, and a list on my wall. I used to try solely electronic methods, but for some reason they never worked long-term for me. So, as Olivia Newton-John once said, Let’s Get Physical.

(Like I said last post, I’ll need the weekend to collect my thoughts on critiques. Until then, here’s an unrelated post.)

Click on photo to see entire wall

I have three parts to that wall (which you need to click on to see):

  • My short-term To Do List, small things that need addressing
  • My long-term Projects and Ongoing Tasks (like chores and reminding myself to do stuff like reading for myself).
  • My calendar

The calendar is the key, here. I’m using it to track the last time I touched a project, touched a chore, and touched a vice (as I’m starting to monitor my intake of things like soda, alcohol, eating out, etc). As I move a post-it, I’ll mark where it was moved from that it was there, so I can say “Okay, I worked on Vicious Crucible four days this month, and last time was two weeks ago.” This will help me understand what projects I’m neglecting, and think about if they’re worth keeping on.

You’ll see I have a fuckton of post-its. On the long-term list, unassigned post-its haven’t been touched since I started this on the 7th (with a few I’ve back-logged this month). Most of the post-its are projects, but of varying priorities. My Master Plan Podcast is, for instance, a project post-it.

There is a reward cycle moment in moving a post-it right now, and it keeps my head from having to contain this sort of information, which David Allen talks about as a burden in Getting Things Done. (I haven’t incorporated more of the process yet.)

I’m also using the calendar to track things like my weight, finances, appointments, things like that. The top-left corner is where I have “I should be getting on these motherfuckers right now” post-its. The top-right is “I need to hear back from someone about this” — and there’s a couple from my board that I now get to move to there.

This is a new process, so I’m still figuring out how I’m going to handle it. But one thing is clear: I want to slay the fuck out of some of these post-its before I take on new ones (or even address some of them I’m intentionally back-burnering, like Gun n Fuck & Master Plan). I want to crumple post-its in my hands and throw them at my cat so he can bat them around. Hell yes, I will. I will Finish Them.

Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated.

– Ryan

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10 Responses to My Next Attempt at Organization

  1. Rob Donoghue says:

    That looks pretty sweet – definitely an excellent project dashboard, and I especially like how it handles recurring items. So it of course inspires questions:

    1 – Considered color coding? Either different colored post its or different color pens?

    2 – When are you doing this? Once a day, same time every day? Occasionally?

    3 – Do you have a takealong element? Something you keep on hand to work as a remote terminal 9so to speak)

    4 – I see dots in the top center of the post its. Letters indicating type? Something else.

    Good luck with this, man. It looks promising.

    -Rob D.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Rob,

      1- Yes, but I didn’t have multiple colors of small post-its at the time, and didn’t want to lost the moment I said “fuck it” and started this. I’ve had the calendar since mid-January and was sitting on it. (Because I couldn’t find my hammer and nails.)

      2- I should set a time. Right now, at moment-of-movement, but I think I’m going to make it a morning & nightly ritual, with breaks in that to celebrate a milestone. Mornings are when I’m weighing myself.

      3- Not yet. Pondering how to deal with that. I have a to-do app on my iPhone that might be the majordomo to my calendar’s general.

      4- Yeah. P for Projects, C for Chores, V for Vices, O for Other. Which is where color-coding could come in. And maybe two different colors for projects: front-burner & back-burner.

      Thanks!

      – Ryan

  2. Shannon R says:

    I know you’re mostly looking at physical, IRL organization, but recently I revamped my electronic organization and it’s been really, really good. Mostly it’s thanks to Springpad: http://springpadit.com. I’ve fallen totally in love with it, it’s great for my purposes, way better than evernote or some of the other notebook-type things I’ve tried. And, what’s more, since they’re growing, they do seem to be making an active effort to improve it as they go, instead of a lot of services where you just sit there thinking “gee, it sure would be nice if they…” and nothing ever, ever changes. This plus using different calendars (color-coded, ’cause that’s how I roll) in google calendars has helped me streamline a lot. But it’s all about optimizing for your own usage, I realize color-coding isn’t for everyone, but I’m really visual.

    For electronic organization, it’s about making sure you can’t avoid it/ignore it/file it away to never look at it again. This is way easier to accomplish with physical organization, but you can still ignore physical stuff.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Shannon,

      I will totally check it out! I want to stabilize my process right now, rather than add too many changes at once, but this is now on my radar. \m/

      You’ve hit the nail on the head as to why the electronic ones I’ve tried haven’t worked for me in the past. Since I also work & socialize on my computer, its easy to bury stuff unintentionally.

      – Ryan

  3. jessecoombs says:

    I’ve been struggling with productivity and my own hack of getting things done for a bit now. My only advice that seems to last for all the different ways I’ve done it is: Don’t worry about trying to make a perfect system or getting mired in “productivity porn”. The best thing to do is move forward with your work. Hindsight is for fixing things.

  4. Guy says:

    I think the main reason to go with this over the computerized tools, of which I have both online and offline is simple… you see these. The computer had been made to be accessible, comfortable, easy.

    It’s too easy to shut something away on the computer, to make it so you don’t see it, and thus it doesn’t bother you…

    I really need some books on those topics, and kick my butt.

  5. Jon Edwards says:

    It looks like a cool setup. My thoughts:

    1. I also prefer physical boards at home and work. It’s a pain, but at work I often maintain both a physical and an electronic forms. They have different strengths and weaknesses.

    2. Nah… that’s not an exceptional amount of post-its. I chew threw them fast and have big stacks. I also find it useful to use multiple colors. You can also orient them the other way to indicate type – probably works better on the larger square ones than the small rectangular ones. I put all kinds of info on the post-its like fixed due dates, start dates, etc. I may stick post-its on corners of post-its to show things like when work “blocked.”

    3. Tools in my project management tool box include prioritized todo lists, use of schedule time boxes (e.g., milestones) for sets of deliverables, and mapping out workflows for types of work (e.g., spec, implement, test, etc.) and tracking progress of work items on “Kanban” boards. The tools I’ll use depends on the situation. It’s helped me to: 1) focus on sets of deliverables to complete in short time horizons; and 2) limit “work-in-progress” (WIP). Unemployed now, limiting WIP is helping me a lot. I haven’t set fixed WIP limits, but I’m much more focused on completing stuff before I put a bunch of new things on my plate and start them.

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check out “Getting Things Done.”