Tools I use

Some of the tools I use to manage my tasks (life) are the following:

Toodledo

The toodledo.com website is a task management system based around the GTD technique. It’s great because you don’t have to use a particular technique if you don’t want to. For example, I use the “tags” feature to assign tags to all of my tasks for organization. It also have a handy feature where you can create tasks by sending an email to a special email address. This is handy when used in combination with a “send email widget” you can install on your phone to quickly send an email. Whenever I send an email, it’s automatically “starred” so during my weekly review, I know what to turn into actionable tasks. You can assign due dates, priorities, contexts, etc. The only thing I feel it doesn’t or can’t capture very well are files and research. You can upload files, but it requires a more expensive plan to store data. I just use evernote for this, but evernote also has limits. It has a calendar, which I use heavily and I can sort things any way I want. I currently use onenote and also Instapaper. I looked around at a lot of different task management systems (including stuff like Jira), but I have found nothing better. It can create goals, store outlines and notes among other things as well, but I find the notes are better captured in the tasks themselves or with Evernote.

Pomodoro

Using a pomodoro app is useful to doing 30 minute or 50 minute sprints. You can use an ordinary timer, but there are other apps you can use on your phone, which is easier to use if you’re at a coffee shop or something. These are very helpful so you can timebox your tasks so you don’t go overboard. It has many benefits, such as forcing you to get as much done as you can in 30 minutes, so you concentrate more. It prevents you from working too much on one task so you don’t waste time and you don’t get get burnt out on that one task.

Physical Inbox

The physical inbox is for clutter. It’s just like an email inbox, but it’s for physical things such as mail, magazines you want to read, stuff to put away, bills to pay, notes, flashlights with dead batteries, anything like that.

SMART goals

S.M.A.R.T. technique is similar to GTD but it helps you to create good goals and tasks. It allows you to create actionable goals basically. If you want to get your car fixed, don’t create a task called “get car fix” because it’s not actionable. Actionable goals are ones in which you create actionable tasks that cause you to move toward you goal. As long as you do these tasks, you’re making progress. Each action is meant to be small and quick, if possible. For example you might make tasks like this: “call auto mechanic” “ask about tune up” “schedule appointment” “make arrangements to drop off vehicle” “drop off vehicle”…

Pencil + Small notebook

This is used to write down quick notes anytime and anywhere. I like this because picking up your phone while someone is talking to you is rude. But picking up a pencil and notebook means you’re interested and what they have to say is important to you. You can also use other things such a dictation devices and other note taking devices, if you’re driving for example. It’s important to review these on a weekly basis and create actionable tasks out of them, or goals/projects.

Evernote

Evernote is a cloud based system where you can take notes and store them and sync them across devices. You can have several notebooks and take notes for organization. For example you can use it as a journal, to store notes, or to organize all your notes and research documents on a projects. I use it heavily. Very heavily. For example, I use toodledo to organize things to do, but I use Evernote to organize the research and other things that toodledo references for a project. Or just simple things like recipes. Recipes aren’t tasks or projects, so they go into Evernote.

OneNote

I have decided I hate evernote with all the ads. So I moved everything over to OneNote. It’s fairly heavyweight, but I can add things from my phone quickly, there are no ads, and it costs nothing. I essentially use it as a replacement for evernote.

Beeminder

Beeminder is a goal system that prevents procrastination. It works by you “ponying up” so dough when you derail. Actually you only pay if you derail and then attempt to get back on track again. You can set your limits to whatever amount you want, but I sometimes derail a lot so I keep my amounts around 5 or 10 dollars. It has definitely helped me so that don’t fall behind and I always make progress. For example, I want to work about 3 hours on my book per week. It can help me with that and it sends reminders and all sorts of stuff. Apparently a lot of people use it to lose weight, which is awesome.

Blog + Website

This website is used as a note taking device. I can tag things and write useful information for others. In other words, it’s just like Evernote, but the difference is that with Evernote, everything is private. (You can share stuff if you want) But with WordPress or some other website, I make my notes public. They are organized and contain bits of information I feel others could use but it’s also for my own records. For example, I might write an article about a special vim shortcut key used to do “x”. I might forget how to do “x” later, but I remember I stored it on my website. This is great. I just go to my own website and look it up. If someone finds that article useful, great, if not, so what. It’s main for me anyways. A side note, I host my website on a raspberry pi server so it costs substantially less than a hosting service. It’s a little slow, but you can install extensions to cache certain things, since my webpages are practically all static anyways, it doesn’t matter.

Generally, I tend to work in week long sprints. I only schedule a maximum of one week in advance. I frequently overload myself because I’m too ambitious (which is also bad), so I find that week long sprints for me are good because it provides a lot of flexibility because I’m constantly changing what I’m doing anyways.

Next time I’ll discuss how I go about using Toodledo to schedule and organize.

 

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