Photo by: pshutterbug
As I mentioned in a long review, I've been using Todoist since August. I'll have you know that Todoist and I are still doing quite well. So well in fact that I recently started forking over $3/month for the premium membership. I'll share my thoughts on that another day.
Today, however, I want to share my experiences of halfway getting my hipster on. What? Well, basically, on top of keeping my entire list of projects, their associated next actions, and some notes on them on Todoist, I've started carrying around a 3x5 notecard for the day in my pocket with a list of the 1-3 most important tasks for the day, along with other little notes for myself (calendar items, small tasks that come up throughout the day, etc.).
Why carry a notecard for the day?
Despite being a GTD fan, I've been a firm believer in priorities for a long time. I think the priority differences between tasks should be the number one factor in deciding where to spend your time. That said, I found that having Todoist up, with all of my tasks, including a lot of low priority smaller tasks was unnecessary and frankly distracting. As I've said before, high priority tasks are often long and difficult, and when you're grinding through the trenches of these tasks, you're extremely vulnerable to distractions that take you out of the trench, which, if you finished digging, would help you tremendously in the longterm. These tasks are the research papers, the final papers, the essential background reading, the revising of a long proposal, etc. They are tasks that, if you got them and only them done today, you would go to sleep content. Conversely, they are tasks that if you leave them hanging while getting 15 other tasks done, you will still go to sleep agitated.
How many tasks should go on the notecard?
I think one, ideally, and no more than three. But it's up to you. Leo on zenhabits says he uses three. Alan Lakein in his old and famous book advocates a similar number for your A tasks. You can put more on there if you want, just don't feel disappointed when you aren't crossing them all off most of the time. Obviously if you finish one you can look back on your master list for another. In the end it really depends on the kind of work you do and how long your most important tasks usually take. I'm a graduate student in the sciences, so my most important tasks are long: many hours of experiments looking for certain data; many hours of reviewing papers and comparing to my results on a specific subject; many hours of data processing, thinking and (hopefully) concluding. So for me, dedicating an entire day to one of these tasks is useful, I usually end the day having made significant progress. Also, these thinking intensive, or equipment intensive tasks are often done much more efficiently in fewer sittings as train of thought and setup of equipment are vital, which makes stopping and re-starting really time intensive. Some days when I have shorter tasks that are the most important I use more than one.
What about all the annoying small tasks?
I do them somewhere in the afternoon energy slump. They are usually written on the bottom of my notecard, or on my "today/overdue" screen of Todoist. I try to do all of these for a given day at once. This idea of batch processing small tasks is one of the oldest tricks of the trade and if I linked to everyone that has advocated it, this post would get too long.
Why not use a full hipster PDA or moleskine?
Because I frankly don't want to carry around all that crap in my pocket. I don't carry my bag around to talks, or meetings, or class, so carrying a clipped stack of notecards or moleskine with every last thing I need to do just seems like too much. Not to mention the whole point of the notecard of the day is to focus solely on the task(s) for the day and not all the other stuff. Secondly, Todoist rocks: It's digital; it doesn't get heavy; you can add entire emails to it with the click of a button (okay, maybe a few); I could go on, but there are many things about it that I don't think I can replace with other tools.
Only the notecard?!
Lastly, I should mention that of course the notecard of the day can be used as a complement to any long list of tasks in any format, not just Todoist. Also, it can be used by itself. If you aren't a fan of long lists of all projects and associated next actions, or if you're just starting out in this productivity/organization thing, just keeping one notecard in your pocket every day and transferring remaining tasks to the next day's card is a great start.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Photo by: pshutterbug