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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: mr.mongoose on June 18, 2018, 03:08:28 PM

Title: Getting organized
Post by: mr.mongoose on June 18, 2018, 03:08:28 PM
Hello fellow mustachians. With newfound responsibilities I have found myself in a situation where I can no longer keep everything in my head. I have tried making lists, using calendars (both paper and electronic), and folders. None of these have i been able to keep using long enough to make a habit of using them before they get forgotten in a corner. Anyone have an idea how to go about this?
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: LifeHappens on June 18, 2018, 03:18:15 PM
Many, many too busy people have found the book Getting Things Done by David Allen to be helpful. This article ( is a summary of the system and should give you enough background to decide if the book would resonate with you.
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: Lady SA on June 18, 2018, 03:49:28 PM
Try a kanban board with a "backlog" of to-do items.

Essentially, you have 3 columns: to-do, doing, and done. To-do is your to-do list, or your list of backlogged items to work on.

every day/week/month/whatever, sit down and add what you know you need to do to your backlog. If something comes up at 2pm on a Tuesday, add it to your backlog. Things like "Call Doctor" "pay cc bill" "sign Suzy up for swimming" "email bill about X" "do the dishes" etc.
Then comes the tricky part: prioritize your to-do list! What is most urgent/time-sensitive/important?

Then, in your "doing" column, you are limited to only work on 2-3 items at a time. This promotes focus! Pick from the top of your priorities as much as possible.

Then, once you are done with an item, it moves to the "done" column. And you get a free dopamine hit for feeling accomplished!

You can use a free tool like Trello to do this (highly recommend!)

The trick to to visit and refine every day. Otherwise things fall off track and it is too overwhelming to pick it back up again. But visiting it every day means you have smaller moves/bites to take.
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: abhe8 on June 18, 2018, 04:06:04 PM
I'm working in this too! Or rather attempting to dig myself out of many months of falling behind. I deleted many 1000s of emails today and am considering options to help me get to a zero inbox. I have Evernote, but I must be missing something, because I don't find it that helpful. I am also trying ToDoist which I like so far. I would love some help getting my Gmail in order. Any experience out there?
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: Bracken_Joy on June 18, 2018, 04:59:59 PM
Google Inbox has actually helped me a ton. I can snooze emails or reminders until certain dates and times. They then pop up like they're "new" at the relevant time. This, coupled with a paper calendar for appointments and work shifts, works well for me. For recurrent weekly reminders ("water the plants") I use the reminder function of my phone- an easy "remind me every week..." saves a lot of time.

The biggest thing though is finding a system that works for YOU. I do better with paper for planning my schedule- I've used these for over a decade now, it's pretty entrenched. But someone who is very digitally oriented might do better with an online version. But I think it's- know yourself. Pick a system. Stick with it long enough to give it a good try. NO new system will be easily and instantly adopted. They all take work to implement.
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: red_pill on June 18, 2018, 08:27:11 PM
Just like you canít organize a cluttered house, you canít organize a cluttered schedule.  My boss used to say, if everything is classified as important than really nothing is important. ďBusyĒ is a choice (usually).  Take a hatchet to your work load and obligation.  Slash it.  And then enjoy.
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: PrinsKheldar on June 18, 2018, 11:34:23 PM
Just like you canít organize a cluttered house, you canít organize a cluttered schedule.  My boss used to say, if everything is classified as important than really nothing is important. ďBusyĒ is a choice (usually).  Take a hatchet to your work load and obligation.  Slash it.  And then enjoy.

Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: catccc on June 19, 2018, 08:44:54 AM
Eliminate anything that is non-essential, then try evernote.
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: Noodle on June 19, 2018, 11:24:59 AM
I agree with the recommendation for the David Allen book. Make sure you get the new edition, the first one was written when people were still relying heavily on paper and phones. See if you think that will work for you.

In terms of keeping your lists of things to do, I like a tool that you can access everywhere--on your devices or at your computer. I use Workflowy myself, because you can expand or collapse items and hide or show completed objects. (I think there is also a paid version where teams can see each other's lists.) Evernote and Microsoft's OneNote have similar functions, and you can also collect text, images, weblinks etc.

I also find it easier to function with a clear inbox (I only keep items that need action in there). If you want to try it, and have a backlog, try dumping everything currently in your inbox into an "Archive" folder and then start fresh with filters and folders to sort into. The key is to unsubscribe from mass mailings that you don't need, filter mass mailings that you might want to look at some point into a folder that doesn't clog up your inbox, and try to keep your inbox to actual work. I also turned off email notifications awhile back and it did wonders for my productivity. I do check every hour or so, but it cut back on distractions when I was in the middle of something.
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: mr.mongoose on June 19, 2018, 01:46:58 PM
Thanks for the input so far!

My email is not so much the problem as all the various projects from work, SSSB (see Mongoose's journal thread) and home need to be organized/reorganized in some sort of dynamic order so I don't lose an important task. Right now I'm in full-bore putting out fires constantly and I'm missing/forgetting other important tasks.

This has been something of a problem for me over the last 20+ years. I just can't seem to find something that works that I can keep using for more than a few days and then dropping as I get into firefighting mode.

I have the David Allen book and have tried his techniques, but I have so much stuff to do that are all urgent and important...
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: red_pill on June 19, 2018, 06:42:19 PM
Itís be great to see a list of what you are classifying as ďurgent and importantĒ, because this doesnít sound like an organization problem. Sounds like this is a volume problem.  Also, what has changed from before to now that you can no longe manage? 

I try not to grade things on a priority scale - priority 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.  Inevitably the 2ís become 1ís, the 3ís become 2ís and so on

I now work on a binary system. It either important and I do it. Or itís not important and I totally ignore it.  Thatís it.  Saying no is liberating AF.

All that ďimportantĒ shit is stuff you chose to take on.  And you can chose to not take it on. 

My suggestion is to forget about systems and start thinking about inputs with a view of reducing them. Dramatically if you can. 
Title: Re: Getting organized
Post by: Moustachienne on June 20, 2018, 02:05:55 PM
I agree with red_pill that the starting point is to declutter the obligations, reduce the inputs, and feel the joy of saying "no".  None of us can do it "all" whatever that is, and most of us can realistically only do "some".  One way to handle the overwhelmed feeling:

1. do a "dump" of all the should do's that are weighing on you in order to capture everything
(this is core Getting Things Done territory)

2. separate them on the Time Management Grid -
(popularized by Covey)

3. focus your energies on Q1 Important & Urgent activities to clear the decks
Edited:  if everything seems Urgent & Important to you, rank the activities in this Q.  Figuring out your ranking order will be illuminating.  Since you can't do everything, better figure out which things are really at the top.  Pro tip - the answer isn't "everything".  What is really important to you and why?

4. make sure to block time for Q2 - Not Urgent & Important - high value activities; this is where you want to spend most of your time eventually

5. pretty much ignore Q3 and Q4 - Q4 is very seductive as easy "wins" are here

6. review your lists in each Q periodically to make sure activities  are still in the right Q - or should be removed entirely
(regular review is a GTD cornerstone for peace of mind)

7. do regular dumps to make sure you're capturing anything that's weighing on you

8. reduce the amount of things you're trying to pay attention to or accomplish.  Less is more.

And from the MMM archives -