I hate paper and I love paper.
I love paper. I still have a stack of fancy notebooks purchased in the previous decade, sitting in a box, waiting for me to actually need them.
I have terrible penmanship but I love pens. I buy mine from overseas, because there's one brand of ballpoint pen that just flows and writing with anything else seems clunky. Also, it comes in brown, so I feel like Ye Olde Magistrate when I scribble something illegible on a form.
I love stickers. I have stickers left over from when I was in highschool, a period of my life so long past it feels like it happened to someone else. I had penpals, then. Penpals I could communicate with through a combination of laboriously inscribed teenage insights, carefully curated sticker montages and 40 cent postage stamps.
But. I hate paper.
Every few months, I have to give up a few hours of my weekend to laboriously sift through it. Oh, look, an expired voucher. Huh, I seem to have written a new story idea down here... but I can't read anything other than "but he secretly is a candy-induced hallucination". Oooh, I'd better scan that receipt in case I need it in the next two years...
My paper management system leaves something to be desired, but when it comes to digital management? All over that. Last week, one of my party members on HabitRPG (more on that later) asked what tools people used to manage their tasks as a whole. Here's my current system, which is constantly evolving but generally serves me pretty well.
Recording tasks and supporting information
Before you can start actioning tasks, you need a bucket to drop them in. I have three main buckets. One important factor for me is that I can access these buckets via my mobile phone, so that I can add to them at any moment. If something doesn't make it into my task system, I'll probably never do it.
I use Todoist
as my main task storing site. It has just the right level of complexity while keeping rapid task entry relatively simple.
Tasks can be assigned to projects, tagged, assigned priorities, and assigned due dates.
My tasks are grouped by project as my default view. I use projects to define broad areas of my life that are important to me - if the task can't relate back to one of those, what's the point of doing it?
Here is my project structure in Todoist:
For those without image viewing capabilities, the main Project sections are: "Learning", "Creating", "Socialising & communicating", "Organising & planning", "Experiencing & doing", "Career & earning").
Due dates - who needs them?
I actually do not use due dates much within this system, except for recurring task reminders, and I'm actually thinking of removing all recurring tasks and transferring them into Google Calendar instead (an example of such a task would be: book haircut appointment).
I find setting priorities works much better for me than setting due dates. Due dates can become meaningless as priorities shift and unplanned events change your schedule. I used to religiously assign all my tasks specific due dates, but honestly, most of the time it is not worth the investment of mental energy. Priorities allow me to filter tasks based on how important they are to my life, and are much easier to re-assign than specific dates.
And if something has to be done within the next couple days, it does not go into the Todoist bucket, it goes into my routine managing system, HabitRPG.
I try to avoid placing ideas for future creative projects directly into Todoist (the entries in Todoist are to do with projects already underway). For storing ideas and planning for pieces of creative work, whether a story, film idea or game idea, I prefer to use Evernote
as I can store a much richer collection of inter-related information for an idea.
I also reference Evernote from Todoist, so I might have a task that reads "Complete Chapter 5 of Raast's Tale: Evernote -> Raast" (Raast
being the Evernote tag that will pull up all the notes and plans I have written for this character/story).
Evernote also lets me rapidly clip reference material from the web into a main inbox to review and label later, which forms part of my routine, although I do need to get more disciplined about reviewing this inbox of interesting clippings more regularly.
My goals bucket has two functions:
- It gives me a place to focus around my higher level goals without muddying my task systems with them
- It gives me a place to easily dump my wishlist without it cluttering Evernote or Todoist
I like my goals to be clear, easy to manage and brief. For me, Workflowy
does this well.
Workflowy is essentially a list freed from the restrictions of paper. Sub-sections of the list are collapsible, list items can be tagged (I've never gotten around to using that feature though) and you can add notes or URLs to your dot points.
I've collapsed my 2014 specifc goals as some are quite personal, but here's an overview of the goal-related list dot-points. You can see I've also listed some values I want to keep in mind as I think about my goals in each area.
For those without image viewing capability, the goal categories are:
And for each category there are three dot points for values around that category, for example my Personal values I want to focus my 2014 goals around are: Attentive, Adaptable, Communicative.
I'm not sure why I feel this way, but I don't
like having things I want to buy in my main to-do lists.
I think it has something to do with the fact that these are all "wants" and not "needs", so in the end, if I don't do these, it doesn't matter. Also I use this list as a "cooling down" period - if I see something I want, I make myself add it to the list and let it sit there a while before I consider making an actual purchase. Plus, I'm then forced to look at all the other things I want and consider where my want-of-the-moment fits with all of those. It's one technique I use to try and be a little more frugal.
Here's a brief snapshot of the wants list:
The Todoist, Evernote and Workflowy buckets then inform the place I store my daily routine, upcoming tasks and habit/rewards management system; HabitRPG.
I manage my routine in HabitRPG
, which uses RPG metaphors and incentives to encourage members of the site to stick to their habits, complete their tasks and follow a useful daily routine.
In a nutshell HabitRPG lets a player create an avatar, and go on quests in order to gain new abilities and rewards. Completing tasks etc earns you experience points, allowing your avatar to gain new abilities, and you earn gold and treasures. In HabitRPG, you can use the gold you earn with your good habits to either "buy" new things for your avatar, or you can use it to "buy" real-world rewards for yourself.
A habit can be positive or negative, and I have examples of both in my list.
Here is a habit I discourage myself from doing:
If I perform this bad habit, I click the "minus" symbol, and the health of my avatar worsens. If my health reaches zero, my avatar temporarily dies, and I lose a special item or ability I had previously earned for my good habits.
Here is a positive habit I wish to form:
Any time I perform an activity that I think has contributed to increasing my career capital or resilience, such as studying for a qualification or making a new networking contact, I press the "+" symbol and the website rewards me with gold and experience.
Items on your "Dailies" are like habits, but they mustbe performed every day. If you fail to check off a daily, your avatar's health will decrease. I use dailies to help me create a regular routine. You can set dailies to apply every day, or only on set days of the week.
Here is one of my daily habits:
As I am tracking my calories, I have set as a daily task that I need to log my meals (in a different system) every day. If I fail to do this, my avatar loses health points.
Finally, tasks. They work much like the above examples, but once you check off the task, it disappears from your list, as it is not a "habit" but a once-off activity.
If I have a task that must be done in the very near future, I skip Todoist and place it straight into HabitRPG. As the task list there grows shorter, I'll then visit Todoist to pull out my highest priority tasks to become new tasks to manage in HabitRPG.Here's an example task:
It has turned red as I have been putting off this task for a while...
Incentives for getting things done
HabitRPG's equivalent to the stickers you can stick on a chore chart are "rewards", which you can buy with gold earned by completing positive habits, dailies and tasks.
Here is a reward I will buy myself when I have earned 90 gold pieces:
This was at the top of my Workflowy "wants" list, so I have placed it into HabitRPG as my next reward to myself for getting a lot of tasks done.
So by performing good habits and completing tasks, I am slowly building up towards rewarding myself with tickets to Gary Numan's show next month! Again, making myself "earn" these wishlist items helps me be a little more frugal than I might otherwise be.
I can also spend gold on virtual rewards, such as special items for my avatar.
Here is an example of a virtual reward to personalise my avatar:
You can see below my avatar, which I have indeed used some gold on in order to personalise it. I have decided to go for the "oompah loompah" look by buying orange and green items with gold I've earned for tasks:
Staying motivated via support from HabitRPG guilds and party groupsMembers of HabitRPG can join together for shared "challenges" (such as writing 50,000 words in their novel or finding a new job) via a Guild, to help encourage each other to continue to succeed.
They can even tie their fates together by joining a Party to go on quests - if your friend fails to do her workout for the day, you both lose health points - so you are extra motivated to encourage your friend to work hard!There is no single system that will meet every need for organising your life, but I hope that my combined approach is useful to some of you trying to work out how to keep yourself on-track and motivated.