Posts Tagged ‘Productivity’

What’s a textbook sign that you’re a classic over-doer? Geeking out to your todo list. Not the list itself, but specifically how you organize it. This here is my third post on the subject. I think I need to check myself in to Todo Lists Anonymous.

I fell behind, again. At one point my weekly task list had nearly 50 items. Once my list gets that long it becomes really hard to see what I need to do at a glance, and I sometimes miss critical details. Most of those tasks were cleaning related and not time sensitive. I wanted a way to mute my cleaning project so I could be sure I didn’t miss anything important while I got myself caught up. My chore app (todoist) doesn’t provide this functionality, so I needed a work around. I also wanted to make sure I knocked off a non trivial number of non-reoccuring tasks each week or I’ll never get on top of things. The solution I came up with works for both.

A little background: the todo list app I’m using is Todoist. It allows me to create sub projects, and sub tasks. I can color code projects, set individual task priority and (when I fall behind) reschedule everything with a single button push. The higher priority a task has, the more immediately it’s rescheduled, but todoist tries not to overload any one day. Let’s say it’s Monday, there’s 10 items due Tuesday, and the rest of the week is mostly unencumbered. Todoist will likely schedule the highest priority over due tasks on Wednesday and the lesser priority tasks later in the week.

Setting the priority flag for every non-cleaning task would be a little ridiculous, not to mention time consuming. Besides, it loses its meaning if everything in a given project is top priority. I needed a different solution.

Since Todoist relies on the priority flag when rescheduling tasks I like to reserve it for things that really shouldn’t be pushed back or could have a negative consequence. Failing to change filters could make appliances less efficient and shorten their life span. Forgetting to clean the washing machine could contribute to mold build up, but it’s less likely. There’s no harm in ignoring dust bunnies. By using the priority flag this way I’m sure I’ll still complete them in a reasonable manor.

Todoist let;s me set a color code for each project. I opted to use the same color – grey – to represent low priority sub projects. I created sub projects “reoccuring” under household, business and personal. Now when I look over my weekly todo list my eye naturally jumps over the less important grey tasks for the non-grey ones. I can also see the ratio of important non-reoccuring tasks to reoccuring tasks in my weekly productivity view.

This way I can be sure I’m making forward progress each week. If my weekly bar is mostly grey, I’m not. My goal is thirty tasks a week (todoist’s default goal setting), and as many non grey tasks as possible. It would be easier if I was better at sticking to my 5 minutes per task rule. Business related tasks like debugging especially usually end up taking a bit longer. Ah well, it’s still forward progress.

As an aside, I also have a weekly re-evaluate and organize my todo list. Definitely over kill. Don’t worry, it’s in a grey less important reoccuring project.

May 9, 2018

Bye Bye Productivity

The lack of sleep is starting to get to me. Most nights are usually split into two rounds of two to three hours each. As a result I feel myself being more and more sluggish as a slog through my todo list. I need to retool my approach, especially now that Dana is awake more during the day. More awake during the day means both fewer product hours on my phone while rocking her, and fewer productive hours while she’s napping in the crib. I try and reserve those few precious night time hours for what passes as sleep in this house.

I have a bit of a packing problem when it comes to tasks. During the day I have only pockets of free time, five or ten minutes here or there. In order to more easily find tasks that fit the time available I created a label for five, fifteen, and thirty minute tasks with a catchall “unknown” when it’s hard to estimate. I’m still trying to keep tasks short, but some just don’t fit the short mold. Now I have a “Quick and easy” filter for short tasks with either an approaching due date or no due date so I can knock out more. I can also find tasks that fit the blocks of free time I have.

As an aside, I now know I have approximately 28.6 hours worth of non reoccurring tasks on my plate, not including all the “unknown time” tasks or all the reoccurring cleaning, household and business management I need to be doing on a regular basis. No wonder I feel so perpetually behind.

For me, keeping things approachable is key to keeping up with the task list. That’s why I focus so much on short, micro tasks. The tasks list itself needs to be approachable too. I found if a project had 30 or more tasks, my eyes start to glaze over as I scan through the list, and some tasks fall off my radar. I have seven projects (personal, household, business, photography, etc) and created a variety of sub projects. I now have a “Datayze” sub-project under “Business” and a sub-sub-project for new features, as well as a sub-sub-project for bugs. Cleaning now has different sub projects for tasks specific to certain rooms (e.g. bathrooms). It may seem like organizational overkill, but it appears to be helping.

Secondly, not all tasks are created equal. Mess may stress me out, but cleaning is not a critical task. I can skip a round of dusting, or three. Clean bathrooms will not help my business grow, nor my kids grow. How important a task is depends partially on when it’s due, and what category it’s in. To help me find the critical tasks amount the less important, I made a filter based on project and due date. To help ensure my task list doesn’t remain gigantic forever, I made another filter for outstanding tasks that have been on my list for forever.

I suppose if I continue reduce my task list by choosing to do less. My blog has been really hurting lately. I used to write posts while rocking Dana, but now rocking time has become brain storming time for my business. Many posts sit half edited on my phone. I suppose of all the things I’m doing these days, journaling is the least important. I don’t have to go back and finish them. But I enjoy going back over old entries and reliving old memories (even the bad ones). It’s kind of like how I feel about Facebook. For now I’m going to try and keep up with it, even if that means back posting.

I know I can’t keep up this fevered pace forever. Nor would I want to. Things should start to get easier once we have more sleep in this house.

March 17, 2018

Micromanaging Myself

I feel like I’ve been more productive in the last couple of days than I have in the last couple of months.

To aid in my micro tasking endeavour (and because the lack of sleep has punched even more holes into my already leaky memory) I decided to try a productivity app. It started simple enough – import my chore list and business todo list into one centralized location. And then I remembered I wanted to put new cleaning tablets in the toilets. And, oh, the refrigerators new filter arrived weeks ago. And my list grew and grew and grew. And so did the number of check marks. I added a reoccurring task to return Nicole’s library book every Wednesday since I had forgotten a few times, to pay the daycare bill every Monday, lists of photos I want to take, home improvement projects I want to tackle some day. All my desperate lists are now organized into one, color coded master list. The list is now almost 200 items long, but rather than feel intimidated I’m feeling empowered.

The key for me was to keep tasks short, and easily achievable whenever possible. I’m sure there’s research on how short is best, but for me I try and target under 5 minutes. If that means a separate task for whipping off the counters in each bathroom, so be it. This isn’t always possible, especially for business related tasks where I don’t yet know all the intermediate steps. I add tasks for anything I need help remembering, or motivation to do. I’m the kind of person that once a doctors appointment is scheduled I ted keep it, but I rarely find time to schedule that appointment. So I make the task for the mentally “hard” part: scheduling, and not the physical “hard” part: going.

This also means being liberal with quantifying “tasks.” If it’s something I’ve made a mental note of, but have somehow not managed to do during the day day, I add it as a task, no matter how small. One of my tasks was to hang a photo over the mantel. After getting it up I noticed it still had some fibers from the packing styrofoam. I needed to dust it off, but the duster was in the garage and the kids were outside calling for me so I figured I’d do it later. I must have walked past that picture half a dozen times, each time thinking “I really need to deal with that styrofoam.” Making a checkbox for it was the extra little motivation I needed to just do it.

Two features that have been helping? Filters and labels. I have labels for “quick” tasks, for days I’m running behind on my daily target and need to knock out a few more before bed, a label for tasks that can’t be done at night when the kids are sleeping. I then create filter lists so I easily see what I can do from my phone while rocking Dana, or what needs to be done before the kids’ bedtime.

The next big thing for me was the ability to auto schedule anything that needs to reoccur: cleaning, periodic testing of datayze, etc. It’s helping me maintain a tidy baseline so I can avoid the pre-playdate panic mode. Let’s face it, mom of 3 doesn’t need anything else to worry about. Yes, please takes some of the mental load off me.

The app I’m using is Todoist for the curious.

February 23, 2018

Renewed Focus

Someone once told me after having kids you become highly efficient with your time. You’re less inclined to waste it by checking Facebook at work. Instead, you’re all about getting your work done so you have you’re evenings free to be with the babes. I didn’t notice any changes in my efficiency after my first two, but boy do I now that I’m a mom of three!

I’m thriving right now on micro tasks and multi tasks.

Micro tasks are short easy tasks that involve very little mental effort. Putting the laundry away is a daunting chore, especially when there’s been so little sleep the past couple of nights. Getting the bathroom towels out of the laundry basket and rehanging them is not, especially if I’m on my way upstairs anyway. It’s much easier to find the energy to do little micro tasks than full on chores. There’s also something highly motivating about crossing off something on my todo list, no matter how small. The more micro tasks I complete, the more on top of things I feel, the more motivated I become. It’s a feedback cycle that works for me.

During the day I make a mental note of micro tasks I should do in the evening. Things like put the nail polish away, or the bed time stories we read the previous night back on the shelf. Once all the kids are asleep I spend a half hour to an hour getting things done. It feels great, and doesn’t eat up much time so I can still get a reasonable amount of sleep. Reasonable being relative of course.

My phone has gone from a fun time waster, to a useful multitasking tool. I’m shopping on the phone, something I rarely ever did before, typing up notes for blog posts or website edits, and editing photos with snapseed. Snapseed, by the way, is amazingly powerful. I have one photo where I manage to change the direction of the light source using nothing more than the exposure brush.

Where was this ability to get things done when I was supposed to be nesting and didn’t also have a newborn to care for?