New Year, Newly Organized

Last week on Twitter a sort-of related discussion evolved into a discussion about how people keep their ideas, concepts, and projects organized. Everyone’s got their own system, of course.  Here’s the issue: not everyone’s system works for everyone else.

Confession that I believe I’ve made before, both on the blog and on Twitter:  I have failed pretty much every list-based organization system out there.  Remember the Milk is great if you do to-do lists well. Same for Todoist. I failed Remember the Milk before it was even super-cool.

If you’re a bit like me and are frustrated that you can’t seem to get systems that work for everyone else to work, I have a helper for you.  Carson Tate is a Very Smart Woman who identified productivity styles amongst people she coached, and she has a free on-line assessment.  I took her assessment a couple of years ago and it was mostly helpful because it allowed me to stop wasting my time on organization systems that are more linear and structured; it turns out that I am a Visualizer, according to her descriptions. We won’t discuss those bits in there about “spontaneity and impulsiveness” and “hasn’t seen the surface of their desk in years.” What I do know is that identifying my visualizer tendencies, putting my projects on a Personal Kanban white board using color-coded Post-its for different domains, and keeping my somewhat notorious Case of Markers close by has been undeniably useful.  I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone (especially not the “kill me now” section of the Kanban board!), but for me, it’s effective, and far moreso than any other system I’ve identified. And for day-to-day as a place to store almost any of my crazy ideas, either short or long term, I’ve become a huge fan of Bear– and I want to believe I’ve converted a few of my Apple-using friends to it as well. I mostly love that I can use it on my MacBook, my iPad, or my iPhone, and I keep both personal (list of things that need to be done in the new house prior to move-in) and work (notes for my upcoming talk at the Wyoming/ Montana/ Idaho ACS Chapter meeting) in it. I’m also in the process of a trial of Lifetick- stay tuned on that one.  It may be a little too organized and linear for me, but time will tell.

I hope that those of you who have a successful organization system will share ideas, either here or on Twitter.  Or if you’ve failed one or more systems, please share that too. I’m hopeful we can all learn a bit from each other to start our new year off.


Apps and other life hacks, December 2015 edition

I’ll admit that I’m sharing some of this in hopes that readers will share their favorite apps and life hacks that they are using with me- I am always eager to learn in this area!  Disclaimer:  Apple bias coming your way.  Sorry not sorry.

So, what are my current favorites?

  • If you’re looking for an excellent meditation app/ program, check out Headspace. And yes, I was using it prior to reading this piece in the New Yorker about its founder.
  • Need a white noise app when you’re staying in a hotel room with lots of outdoor noise?  Sleep Pillow has been a lifesaver for me with some of my recent travels that have included generous amounts of ambient hotel noise.
  • As much as I hate admitting that we have an air quality issue in Utah, we often do.  The Utah Air app is great for my asthmatic self when I’m trying to decide if it’s okay for me to run outdoors or if I instead have a hot date with the treadmill.  Fortunately, I haven’t been faced with those issues yet this winter- unlike last year.
  • I’ve never been wild about the iCal in terms of user-friendliness.  Enter Fantastical, which I am completely smitten with for its natural language scheduling abilities.  I have it for the Mac and the iPhone.
  • And my last e-tip for you is Sanebox, which I know I’ve mentioned before.  It has integrated seamlessly with my University email account, and I love that it is “trainable” and now presorts 85% or more of my email based upon priority status.  Sane BlackHole may be the best feature EVER, particularly for all of those annoying emails from predatory open access publishers.

And my non-electronic life hack?

Blue Apron, of course.  It’s not dirt-cheap, but I know I waste less food with my subscription that I used to without it. Most importantly, it’s made both my mom and me slightly more adventurous cooks, encouraging us to try our hands at things we NEVER would have made otherwise.  We still do have to do the food prep, but I love that the grocery shopping and sourcing piece is done for us.  Note:  I have some free meals to share if you want to give it a go.


So, what life hacks and electronic helpers are rocking your world right now?  Teach me something!

Eating the frog

(And other practical tips for “simple”)

Last week I participated in a webinar that included Andrew Mellen, who I would describe as an organizational guru, or as an unstuffer of stuff.  I was interested for two key reasons:

1.  I am not in “stuff equilibrium.”  I openly admit there’s some clutter in this house, and some things I seriously need to consider rehoming.  And no, we will not discuss my shoe “situation” right now.

2.  I’m always looking for great ideas on how to better manage my stuff/ time/ life in a way that keeps space in there for the joy but doesn’t require me to swim through a sea of much to get there.  Really, I’m seeking simplicity in the midst of a completely crazy life.

Statistic he started out with, and that opened my eyes:  80% of the information that we keep we never use.  80%.  (((SIGH)))

Subsequently he moved to referring to clutter as “deferred decisions” (who told on me and my procrastination?!?) and differentiated uncluttering into the categories of managing historic accumulation and preventing it going forward.

The time management discussion helped to reinforce something I started doing a couple of months ago- I’m using the Timeful app to put tasks into my schedule so that my to-do lists don’t become a dead letter office.  Somehow, I’m much more accountable for going to yoga or working on that manuscript if it appears on my schedule.  I get that it’s a mind game, but it’s one that helps me to stay on task.  I also learned about toggl, which helps with time tracking.  I’m playing with toggl a bit right now, trying to learn how to interface it with the rest of my time management, but it appears it will be a great way for me to get some realistic estimates of how long tasks are taking me.

Confession:  I’m a procrastinator at times.  Not about everything- there are tasks that I dive into with relish because they are things that I’m really passionate about.  But yes, I can be a procrastinator, deferring things until they are forced.  Today was a great example of this overall- while I was on time for my 3 meetings and did get an errand run in a timely fashion, I didn’t make the progress I intended on a manuscript, nor did I finish grading the OSCEs from my last student group.  I did, however, cook a lovely dinner for myself, and I got a good workout in.  And, of course, I’m blogging.  I’m doing the “fun” things that make me feel good, and I’m not eating the frog- or doing the task-y, unglamorous stuff that I don’t want to do today (said in my best whiny voice).  I’ll admit that I set myself up for failure this morning because I scheduled in 30 minutes for the manuscript, and didn’t actually put the OSCE grading on my schedule…then when I sat down to do it, decided instead to set up my new wireless keyboard and track pad.  And load Office 2011 onto my home office Mac.  Yes, anything but getting work done, it seems.

For tomorrow, I’ve already “eaten the frog” as far as managing my tasks into my schedule.  I won’t get to start with the stuff in optimal time slots; I need to pick up Christmas tamales, and I’m doing that at 8 am to beat the rush later in the day.  But it’s all got a home, and just for tomorrow I’m not going to move things around and see how that goes.  Oh, and I’ll be done working by 1230 so I can go to yoga.

I’ll let you know how it goes.