Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Time management for the chronically overcommitted

Susan asks for an explanation of a Twitter entry forwarded to Facebook; here ya go.

I'm a longstanding user of the 43 Folders system. I can't immediately find the ur-post from that blog that explains the system (anybody else got it bookmarked?), but it's basically that you set up a hardcopy file folder for each day of the month (31 folders) and for each month of the year (12 more), and you file stuff in them so that you find what you need when you need it. Each day you check the appropriate folder(s). A great time hack. If this sounds new to you, browse the 43 folders blog; your time won't be wasted.

David Allen GTD junkies also espouse hardcopy planners, esp. of the DIY variety. I'm not there, probably never will be, as far as calendars go. Google Calendar is all I'll ever need.

But tracking a to-do list is an ongoing challenge and obsession for me, simply because I'm always profoundly overcommitted, hence always trying to find the best way to get as much as possible of it done. (I'm also still practicing the word "no," but it just sounds so wrong!)

A second problem with to-do lists is that I'm always trying to use them to discipline myself, to make myself do all the things that I think I should do every day--in order to earn my Wonder Woman badge for Girl Scouts, I suppose. It's hard for me to use the to-do list only for things that actually have to get done. The merit badge stuff just seems to creep in, especially when I'm using an electronic to-do list (Todoist, for example) that allows you to just add and add and add and add.

So what I've done is set up 43 index cards, 5x8, on the 43 folders principle. And I'm using Post-it notes to make lists on each of those cards. I don't want to write directly on the card, because deadlines change and to-dos move accordingly. (Besides, Post-it notes are purty.) Index cards, even the big 5x8s, fill up, felicitously discouraging me from scripting every dang thang I can possibly think of. I can lay the cards out any way I want, and somehow the physical handling and the IRL scanning makes my tasks - well, makes them more real. (The relays between material and virtual text is itself a matter of ongoing fascination for me. The most recent thing I've read, and one that wonderfully intersects with my interests in authorship history, is this highly recommended essay: Mandell, Laura. "What Is the Matter? Or, What Literary Theory Neither Hears nor Sees." New Literary History 38 (2007): 755-776.)

Now we'll see how long it works for me. Stay tuned for moment-to-moment bulletins.


HB Hessler said...

Here's the Getting Started w/GTD link I've used in the past:

Natch I have more than one GTD site bookmarked. I was hoping for a GTD merit badge myself ;-) Love the 5X8 card idea.

Rebecca Moore Howard said...

Kewl—tx. The 5x8 IS a great idea, but it's not working for me. Too much paper-shuffling and fiddling. ::sigh:: Back to Todoist, where I must exercise restraint and stifle my Wonder Woman urges. I spose that's simpler than the Post-its. Just not as purty nor as much fun.

Saffista said...

I would love to see pictures of your cards!