Analogue Organiser in a digital world

Yes I am still here and yes I still blog.

It’s been very busy since I passed confirmation; in the past month I’ve been to Perth, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane (although that’s my home town) and Melbourne – all in the name of furthering my research.

I thought I’d document what I was doing for my organiser these days. I find my most personally productive time is when I keep lists of things and just keep crossing them off. Earlier in the year I had a to-do list book that I lived and died by – and that was very good. I was very productive, and it was just as well as I had to be.

However the book was a bit unwieldy. So I borrowed an idea from teh internetz and started to keep my to-dos on index cards. Yes it’s scratchy, yes it’s lots of pieces of paper and manually rewriting things, but it forces me to engage with my task list and deal with it instead of copy-dumping and getting 300 things that I am never going to do on it.

So let’s take a look at my analogue solution:

Notice how I bought a 2010 leatherette diary for about $10 and tossed away the ‘diary’ bit. A rubber band keeps everything in place.

In this photo you can see how I cleverly laminated my business card into the inside pocket (OK, it’s covered by sticky tape). In the pockets are yellow index cards (7 x 10cm or so). Yellow index cards are for projects, which is where tasks go when they aren’t scheduled for a specific bringup date. These cards go in the middle of the pile (there’s a someday/maybe card, an errands card, a reference card with some coded PINs – not financial ones!). The white cards are the bringup cards by date order, and I just write on a day when I need to do a task. When that day is done I cross items off the list or move it to the next card (or bringup date). As I have spare white cards I can do this wherever I like.

A benefit of analogue is no boot up time!

When I’ve finished with the tasks (they’re ‘completed’, ‘abandoned’, ‘delegated’ or ‘moved to another list’) I can tick both sides of the card and move it to the back of the pile. Every week I remove the previous week -1’s cards and put them in an index card holder. That way I have an analogue record of everything I’ve done and when I did it, and I have the previous week’s record of tasks done easily at hand – the prior work is all filed away chronologically. As project cards fill up or get completed, they go into the index box as well – alphabetically and by date completed.

The bulldog clip keeps the cards all together, and the benefit is I can have my pencil easily tucked away. Nobody’s laughed at this arrangement yet, at least not as much as they laugh when they see me reading Twilight…

In a pinch I can always take notes with a few of the index cards – they’re only a few dollars for 250 or so. So an instant folio.

The practice I am working on (but not being very successful at) is reviewing the buff index cards for my projects once a week and assigning them to bringups so I don’t forget them. But it’s getting better.

I have tried Thinking Rock quite a bit over the years, and it’s very good for reporting – excellent – and portability. However it encourages me to fiddle, because there’s so much tweaking to be done. And frankly I need to just do stuff. I don’t need more delaying tactics.

So what I use is a bastardisation of GTD, sure, but it generally works for me. However, it does tend to make you focus on the adrenaline rush of crossing something off the list rather than doing the important stuff, but at least stuff is being done and it usually makes it to a list if it’s important in my case. I still find that every now and again you have to ignore the to-dos and focus on the ‘big picture’ stuff if you want to achieve anything, so I try and schedule a block of the day to a major project (or even a whole day) and don’t do anything bar the barest minimum administrivia that I need to do.

So, that’s my blog post on how I keep my to-dos. Riveting, ain’t it.