The Slack of Scheduling

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I’ve been a productivity geek for a while now. One of the suggestions that is often made is to create a schedule for your day.

The trouble is I am more of a slack geek than a productivity geek. So, I have always balked at the idea of being tied to a schedule.

Recently though, I have been working with a coach, and he too has made this suggestion to me. So, I finally swallowed my objections and went for it.

I now schedule out, literally every second of my day. It has been an eye opening experience in several ways.

First, holy crap do I get more done!

It’s pretty obnoxious actually. Over the last week I have found myself routinely having days where I get three, or fours times the number of things I used to get done. I am also poking away at long standing projects that are very non-critical, but still present. My plate is squeaky clean most days, and my pantry of projects is getting that way too! It’s awesome.

Second, I had some wrong headedness about schedules that it took me trying one out to see.

This complaint that I had been holding on to went something like, “Schedule? No way! I worked hard to get out of an office gig! Ain’t no way I am going to let someone tell me when I need to do what!” You see the problem there? By scheduling myself, I am the one telling me when I need to do what. It’s a beautiful thing. I get to plug work time in when I know I have my most productive hours. I get to schedule in reading time too! I am getting so caught up on my reading it’s ridiculous! When you schedule yourself, you don’t have to hold to anyone else’s expectations. Want to tackle that blog piece at 2am? Go for it! It’s your schedule!

Third, I get to schedule in more than just work.

Meditation time, exercise time, super ample amounts of sleep, and did I mention reading? The reading part is pretty great. I also have a special part of my schedule for the evenings. I put in blocks labeled, “Fuck it.” These are times when I do whatever comes to mind. Catching up on video games, or TV series, or more reading, or catching a movie with a friend, or whatever. I am a big fan of the work of John C. Parkin, and his book, F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way.

Fourth, and this rolls into the whole “fuck it” thing, I find an enormous freedom and relief in my body, mind, and soul at the end of the day.

Having had a day where I know I achieved things, and where I know I am set to do the same the next day, I get to let go and really relax and do whatever. It’s a subtle, but powerful feeling.

There are a couple of tricks that go into the way I run my schedule which might be helpful.

To begin, every single moment is scheduled. However, this is not so that I have to be stuck doing X at time Y, no matter what! Rather, these are time blocks I have chosen to dedicate to a certain activity, and that activity dominates my effort during that time. I allow for transition time by making the blocks ample in size. If interruptions come in, that’s fine, I just get back to the scheduled task as quickly as possible.

Next, I include an hour for “breakdown” at the end of the “work day.” This time is for seeing to anything that got pushed aside during the day, or for anything I missed (due to an earlier thing running over, or whatever.) This way I don’t have to freak out if the day goes off the rails. I can always put in the effort during the breakdown slot. Mostly I don’t find myself needing to do that, so on those days my breakdown becomes time for a nap, or more reading. (Reading is cool!)

Towards the end of the day I put in a half hour slot for “Review & Gratitude.” During this time I write a daily gratitude list, then I review how the day went in terms of my schedule. How many things did I say I would do? How many did I not do when I said I would do them? What did I do instead? Did those things that missed their time get done at all? (Like, during the breakdown.)

I schedule the next day while going through my “review & gratitude” block so I have a fresh idea of what is working, and what needs adjusting. Early on I found my mornings were a bit too crammed, and being not the morning person I am, things slipped a bit. After two days it became clear an adjustment was needed. The review period allowed me to see that clearly.

In order to keep my work flow on track, and my projects seen to, I use WorkFlowy. If you haven’t tried WorkFlowy, I highly recommend it! You can check it out at, workflowy.com. It’s everything you could want a to-do list and project management tool to be! The tutorials are easy to follow, and it’s terribly easy to use. Best of all, the free version is more than adequate to my purposes. (If you’d like to lend me a hand you can use my affiliate link https://workflowy.com/?ref=122a2725. That way, both you and I will get an extra 250 new items allowed per month. Thanks!)

In my schedule I put in half hour blocks to check on email. I put those right before my work blocks, and I pop to-do’s into WorkFlowy as I go through my email. Then, when the work block starts, I can easily see (and track) what needs doing.

If you are like me, this level of planning might seem a bit intimidating. I totally identify with that feeling! However, once you actually start doing it, it moves along quite well. As I mentioned before, I am now being much more productive, and I find myself feeling much freer and less emotionally burdened. Especially during my nightly “fuck it” slots!

Give it a try! I think you’ll like it! And, please do let me know how it works for you in the comments.

If you are already an experienced scheduler, I would love to hear from you too! Leave any tips and tricks in the comments so everyone can benefit.

Cheers!

Hiveminder – A Great Oranizational Tool

Lately I have re-dug into my (seemingly) eternal quest to be more organized, and keep myself on track for my various personal projects and goals.  Years ago I came across David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and had some level of success incorporating the principle of the GTD system into my life.  My “devotion” to the system (read: consistent use) waked and waned fairly chaotically.  The issue was finding a good online solution that answered my needs.  One of the core principles of GTD is keeping your next-actions and ticklers (GTDese for to-dos and reminders) in a place you can trust.

A couple of months back I came across Hiveminder.  It seems to be doing the trick quite nicely.

First, it’s free.  Hard to beat that.  There is a pro account upgrade for $30 a year, but the features offered are more geared to group management endeavors.  That’s something I do not currently need.  If in the future I get a group blog running, or something like that, I may explore the pro account as a task/project management system.  For now though, the freebie level is more than enough.

Second, along with functionality to support the GTD system, it also has some of the points I love about the Bit Literacy school of thought by Mark Hurst. Namely, Hiveminder incorporates the idea of hiding tasks from view until a later date so that you get the task out of your head until it’s time to take action on it.

Hiveminder also incorporates a very painless review process.  Clicking the “task review” button takes you to a cheery page which reads:

Buckle up, because you’re about to head into the “Review” process.

We’re going to show you every task in this list. All 15 of them. We’ll start with the newest stuff – things you haven’t even looked at yet – then we’ll go through everything that’s due soon or that you haven’t looked at in a while. To make sure things get done, we’re going to give you very few options:

  • Comment on the task
  • Say you’re already done
  • Say you want somebody else to do it (and pick [on] them).
  • Say you’ll do it today
  • Ask not to see it until Saturday, until Monday, or for a month.

Once you start the review, it’s a bit like a broken VCR – you can’t stop, fast-forward, or rewind. You have to work through the review, one task at a time, until you’re done. When you’re done though, the pain stops, and you’re that much closer to being an effective human bee-ing.

This process goes fairly quickly, and painlessly.  Like it says, there’s no turning back.   Once done you will have a much shorter list of just the things you would like to do today.

Hiveminder also handles projects and next actions brilliantly.  In GTD the idea is to take a look at any outstanding to-do item, or project, and see what the next possible action you could do is to advance the item.  In the case of a single to-do the next action may be the completion.  In the case of a project the next action will likely lead to another next action.

For me this was one of the sticking points when I originally learned the GTD methodology.  It was simple enough to determine what the next action for something might be, but I sort of felt that I had to know what all the “next” actions were going to be before diving in.  Hiveminder handles that silly assumption for me.  I can create a task which is a project completion, like “Publish book X.”  Then I open up the edit screen for that item and at the bottom is a handy “but first…” section.  I pop the next action in there (say, “Write an outline”) and the dependent item (“Publish book X”) is hidden from view until I complete the next action.  When the project action (“Publish book X”) reappears I can go back in and add another dependent next action.  I can also start in the middle of a project with an action.  Then I can add a “but first..” item and a “and then…” item to start creating an easy to manage logical thread of steps.  This particular aspect is pretty much the single reason for me take a look back at GTD.

Hiveminder also has all the bells and whistles of current hot to-do managers out there.  You can email in tasks, and you can prep a variety of different email addresses with filters for incoming actions.  You can set tags for project specific (or for GTD context specific) tasks.  You can also set “hide until” dates, as well as a host of other functions.

Hiveminder’s primary thrust though is managing groups engaged jointly in a project.  As I mentioned previously I don’t have much use for that at the moment.  But, if anyone reading this has given that side of Hiveminder a try I would love to hear about it in the comment section.

To wrap up: I heartedly recommend Hiveminder as a task/project management tool.

Cheers!

(And, now I can mark that to do off. ;) )