Tag Archive for: lifehack

Paper Ain’t The Answer

22 Jun 2007
June 22, 2007

Today I discovered a unique way to mess up my day. In fact, I was almost devastated. What did I do that was so horrible?

I left my notebook that has all my task lists and planning stuff at home on my desk. Words can’t completely convey how lost I was for the first hour or so at the office. I could barely remember what I should be doing!

As facetious as that sounds… it’s very close to the truth.

Is Paper King?

I recently read Mike Gunderloy’s “Where Paper is Still King” article and it caused me to do some thinking. No matter how many time I proudly proclaim I’m going back to paper, it never sticks. One to two months later I’m back to being chaotic and confused and skipping on towards the next program or method. I’m just not diligent or dogmatic enough to keep track of uncompleted tasks from 2 or more days ago.

I try, honest I do. I keep reading and re-reading many books, but nothing ever clicks beyond sometimes remembering to “carry forward” old and incomplete tasks. I think what it boils down to is that just writing something down isn’t enough. It needs to be looked at again. Re-written, compiled — processed. And when that processing is back to paper? I just lose the will to even bother with it for some reason.

I’m somewhat amused to realize I’ve been doing this cyclically for well over a decade! But until I started mentioning it on my blogs I’d never really noticed — until it became a matter of public record.

What Next

Earlier this week I came across the 7Breaths blog and the GTD with OneNote collected links article and was immediately intrigued. I’m a frequent user of OneNote — in fact, I’ve tried to make it work for me in the past as task tracker (with little success). I still use it constantly for notes and such though. I even have a handful of “shared notebooks” that both my laptop and work desktop can use.

Fact is, the 7Breaths stuff has opened my eyes a bit and helped me see some flexibility in OneNote that I’d not really explored before, especially related to managing project and context views. That, combined with forgetting my paper at home today, inspired me to make yet another leap into how I keep track of things and I dug into it this morning.

The paper will still be around — but only in the most transient of ways. Anything that goes on to paper has to go into “the system” or it just won’t be real. Heck, I have these nice little notebooks all over the place — no sense getting rid of ‘em.

So, I’m embarking on yet another adventure in trying to keep myself organized. Will this one stick? Who knows! But at least it never gets dull. Perhaps at the end of July I’ll have some updates to offer…

For now? I’m off to sit in front of the TV (Jame Bond marathon) with my pile of notebooks and the laptop and start dumping everything into OneNote.

Getting / Staying Organized

04 Jun 2007
June 4, 2007

First, I became quite fond of Zoho Planner. It worked well, but once I learned about Getting Things Done (GTD) I felt I had to move on. I then fell in love with Tracks. I enjoyed the relationship for several months, but (fickle guy that I am) soon transferred my affections to Vitalist.

I write about my organizational struggles frequently. Here are some from last year:

  1. Going back to (mostly) paper
  2. Another run at Task Management – Wallnote
  3. Task and Note Management – and a glance at Zoho Planner
  4. More Task Management
  5. Task Management – Part III

I cringe everytime I review those old articles. I see my excitement in finding a new tool… but with the benefit of hindsight, I know the happiness has never really lasted.

I’m mostly over the web-based stuff. Sure, ease of use of some of the apps and simple to access from multiple machines are huge pluses. But I’m not always online and sometimes between the time I’ve had a thought and the time the site loads… well, I’ve lost the thought.

I wonder if I should be looking for something that’ll run off a USB key?

For the past couple months, I’ve been back to paper. I kept getting all these 7×5″ hard covered notebooks with little pen holders, so I started using those to capture my thoughts, quick notes and tasks. Yep, good ol’ paper again.

Larger projects still get their own 8 1/2 x 11 notebook as described in my “Productivity Stack” article.

So really, what’s changed since that article? Not much, just that I’m paper for everything now.

I have some stuff in Google Notebook that I often use when doing support at WordPress (which has been less often lately — busy!). I have a lot of work stuff in OneNote shared between my desktop and laptop. Build sheets, long term documentation, stuff that should more properly be in the wiki… but for now, this is easier.

GTD Wannabe is starting a new quest to find a GTD friendly app. I’ll be watching, maybe I’ll see something new/exciting/interesting. But for now, I need to spend less time trying to re-organize around some spiffy tool and more time just getting stuff done. In hindsight, I’ve wasted a lot of time this past year moving from one app to another. That’s gotta stop!

Task Management – Part IV

13 Sep 2006
September 13, 2006

[continuing from Task Management – Part III]

zoho  planner logoLast time I wrote about Task Management I was struggling with finding something that I could use to apply my (admittedly odd) way of mixing Task Lists and Project Management. After much experimentation I found myself back to using OneNote for the particular project I was working on. I made the post here and moved on.

It wasn’t 2 days later that I realized OneNote just wasn’t the answer to all my prayers. Don’t get me wrong, I find it very powerful and perpetually underrated — it truly can be many things to many people. But aside from my one desire to blend task and project management, everything else I do with it is rather similar to swatting a fly with a buick. Overkill. And sharing my OneNote files over a VPN got to be a bit tedious.

Two weeks later, I realize I’ve been spending most of my time in ZohoPlanner. Right where I was before my “big switch” back to OneNote. Blogger, thy name is fickle… But yeah, it just works.

I have multiple pages set up for various purposes. A page for general work stuff with a “Do it Soon” task list, a “Someday would be nice” task list and a section for random notes. Each client gets a Page with, at a minimum a task list. The ability to email files in to become attachments is quite nice too (each planner page has its own email address, sweet!). I have some pages for assorted in-house projects as well.

Wish List Item 1: I’d love to be able to organize pages a bit more than I can. There’s no page “hierarchy”. Would be nice to have a “Client” page and then have sub-pages of projects (for example) underneath. Tagging pages helps, to an extent I suppose, but I’m not quite sold on it.

Wish List Item 2: Be able to attach files is awesome. Would love to see some tighter integration with the other Zoho Office products… like a simple way to add a zoho sheet to that attached files list. Embedding would really rock! Today’s zoho blog post has me hoping for it.

I also have pages set up for Home stuff (aka the “honey do” list items, reminders, etc) and for my blogging. Notes for article ideas or fragments. Task lists to remind me to take care of various things. Oh, and one last page with just notes for some quick copy/paste of commonly asked WordPress Support questions. Eventually, that’s stuff I’d blend into the codex, but for now this helps.

At first I was nervous about having tasks in (sometimes multiple) lists on all those pages. But I’m now in the habit of putting due dates on the ones that need them. Each morning I just check the built in “Reminder List” and see what’s coming due. [updated for clarity: that’s under “To Do’s Overview” and is a slick little calendar view] On the more critical tasks I add a reminder and get an email notification ahead of time.

So there you have it. I think I’ve settled on my “main” organizer. I’ll still use a bit of OneNote from time to time I imagine, but in general, this one’s working out quite well.

Previous Articles in this thread

  1. Going back to (mostly) paper
  2. Another run at Task Management – Wallnote
  3. Task and Note Management – and a glance at Zoho Planner
  4. More Task Management
  5. Task Management – Part III

Apparently this is something often on my mind!

Task Management – Part III

30 Aug 2006
August 30, 2006

[continuing from “More Task Management” of earlier this week]

Zoho Planner logo After my testing and experimenting earlier this week, I thought that Zoho Planner was going to be just the ticket for my task management needs. Flexible, easy to use and it allowed me to lay out tasks in an outline form — my way of indicating task dependencies or sub-tasks. I eagerly spent an hour the other morning moving everything over from my wiki and started off on the project’s tasks.

When I completed the first task I realized I may have made a mistake. By the time I checked off the third task, I knew this was going to be a disaster.

You see, each time you check off a task in Zoho Planner, the task moves out of the main list down to a bottom area. Thus, I quickly had a pile of oddly indented and unrelated tasks down there just mucking up the joint. No real way to relate them back to the “section” from whence they came. Nuts.

The wiki was the closest to what I wanted, but faking the checkboxes (“[ ]”) is tedious and editing through the wiki markup is tedious on a big list. The other task management programs just didn’t really do what I want for the outline format and some also automatically shuffle closed tasks to the bottom of the list.

I should take a moment and point out that normally I’d be all about that sort of behavior. In fact, the fact that Netvibe’s task list doesn’t send completed tasks to the bottom is a bit of an annoyance! Marvel at the irony of this paragraph in the context of the rest of this article for a moment…

OneNote Extreme example Where was I? Oh yeah — the latest solution. Back to Microsoft OneNote! It easily does outlines. It easily can convert lines in the outline to proper “checkable” checkboxes. The checkboxes don’t go anywhere when checked.

See the picture to the right. See the indentation. See how not everything has to be a checkbox? I love that. Plus easy “wysiwyg” formatting and simple to use. For the moment, I’ve solved my multiple machine concerns via the wonders of the VPN between home and office. We’ll see how it works out.

Feels a bit odd to go back to a desktop based solution, but so far I just can’t seem to find what I’m after in the online world.  And to be fair, this is commercial software that I’m comparing to free online stuff…