In Part 1, I addressed a few time and task management concepts. They were:
- “The System” does not exist, “a system” is critical
- You must be able to safely forget about future events
- Email management – delete a lot of it and keep your inbox clutter down
- Multitasking is a lie
- Simple is best
I’ll show you in Part 3 how my system, which primarily uses Google Calendar, is sort of a mish-mash of both systems and concepts. I tweak my system fairly regularly – but only slightly.
Below are some systems that have informed my current time and task management.
The Franklin Planner
My old boss at Wellpoint/Blue Cross of California LOVED the technical solutions I created. She hated my often fragmented mode of operation.
She bought me a Franklin Planner and sent me to their day long time and task management course. I LOVED IT! I still do. They taught me about moving tasks and information forward on your calendar so that you could forget about it until you needed to.
It was also the first true time management system I had used and I learned the value of having a system in place. Even if they might have taught that they have “The System.”
I don’t use a Franklin Planner any more. But much of what I do is still based on what they taught me.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is about intense focus on a given activity. If we stick to what they teach, 25 minute increments, the idea is this…. typically, most people experience maximum productivity early in the day. It generally tapers off over the course of the day.
Also, tons of external influences – text messages, emails, social media, etc. distract us during project activity.
The Pomodoro Technique has you focus on intense, uninterrupted (all distractions off) activity for 25 minutes at a time. Then you take a break – 5 minutes. In a sense this serves as a reset, keeping your mind fresh.
I don’t adhere to this precisely – when I get into a morning writing zone, I may write for 2 hours straight. When I get into that writer’s trance, I don’t want to break that zone.
But, taking a break – completely – from intense activity and then coming to it new for a limited duration tricks your mind into that sort of morning focus. Limiting the time of those periods reduces burnout.
Try it. They sell Pomodoro timers on the Pomodoro site, but I use my Android’s timer.
43 Folders and Getting Things Done
Merlin Mann gets mentioned twice (See: Inbox Zero below). His site 43Folders.com covers life-hacking, creativity, technology, projects, etc.
43 Folders is largely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
The idea is this. 43 folders –
- 12 month folders – 1 folder for each month
- 31 day folders – 1 folder for each day of the month
At the start of a given month, let’s say June…. the June folder is in the front and it contains all 31 day folders. (Yes. I know that June only has 30 days). As a given piece of paper or task comes across your desk, you determine where it goes. If it requires action, you put it into the date on which that action must start.
If that is June 10th, you drop it into June 10th. It will remind you to start taking care of that project on that day. If something is a task you must start in a later month, drop it into one of the later month folders.
As days pass, you move each day of the month to the next month’s folder. At the end of the current month, the next month’s folder will contain all 31 day folders.
For instance, today is June 9th. So July’s folder would have days 1-8. At the end of today, I’d move the folder for day 9 into July’s folder.
It really is simple and if that sounds interesting (and even if it doesn’t) you should consider David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done.”
Inbox Zero more completely
I already mentioned Merlin Mann in Part 1 and 43 folders above. I’m sort of a fan, I guess.
The idea is that every day your inbox should be down to zero items. No unread messages. Everything is handled in one of the following ways.
- delete (archive)
Watch the video for more details.
Some other ideas he presents are:
- You can delete many more emails than you believe you can. Learn to do that quickly and save your sanity.
- Avoid complicated taxonomy: don’t create a bunch of email folders. Simple archive those you need to keep. You’ll find them through searches more effectively.
- Use filters if you MUST have complicated taxonomy/folders.
- Complicated to do and project systems are probably over-kill. Text files can work wonders (or Google docs as we’ll find out).
This isn’t an exhaustive list of systems or big concepts; but these ideas definitely show up in my time and task management system.
Do you have a favorite system or systems? Let me know in the comments.