In my last post (“Landmarks on the Road of Progress“), I mentioned the challenge of being discriminating with my time. I approach this challenge by thinking on two different levels. The first is the very short term, no more than a few days out, with a focus on what can reasonably be accomplished in a day or a few days. The second is the long term. On this level, the incremental passage of time really isn’t considered. I approach it like a infinite function in calculus. With infinite amounts of time, we can accomplish all things. We never reach infinity but we can approach infinity.
Practically this means I consider all things I would like to do and record them appropriately, prioritizing and arranging until I come up with the list of things I can do in the next day or so given the limitations of time and wakefulness.
Being someone who loves technology, I’ve tried using various tools to assist me in this process. I’ve tried using Wunderlist and later WunderKit for much of this work, but with their scalability problems, I’ve stopped using them because of their unreliability. I’d heard about Workflowy from someone I follow on Twitter and have found it to be a great tool for working out tasks. It’s a very simple tool that allows me to create a topic and then drill-down on the component tasks. I use tags to sort the tasks around a particular theme, including the “#now” tag to keep an eye on priorities, but also topical tags like a course number or due date. I found it was best to put all the tags at the very top level so I can easily filter and show across the entire list. Having Workflowy available on any device that connects to the Internet means I have my to do list with me wherever I go.
But for the short term, I still needed something that kept me very focused on just what needed to be done that minute, hour, or day. For this, I keep coming back to Do It Tomorrow, also a very simple app that allows me to create tasks for just today and tomorrow. Any undone tasks roll-over to the next day. It has an aesthetically pleasing interface and limited functionality, which is all I need for this type of focused planning.
Whatever tools I use (and that changes depending on what I’m doing), fundamentally what I’m doing is ensuring my day to day tasks are synchronized to my larger goals by constantly moving back and forth between my short term tasks and my long term goals. Otherwise I could easily accomplish many tasks but have ended up not doing anything at all, or have many laudable goals, but no concrete steps towards realizing them. Neither is particularly appealing to me.
Please feel free to share any of your thoughts on how you stay organized or tools you use. I’d love to hear what others have to say.