Here is my Stunning Epiphany About my task-planning obsession

Here is a stunning epiphany. You might recognize it - you might have had this insight about yourself.

I am obsessed with organized compartments. And yet I am a messy pack-rat slob.

I invent a new filing system every year, if not every month.

I get obsessed with the perfect waist-pack, the perfect desk, the perfect notebook dividers.

All of these things ultimately bring me back to the question I keep asking myself: "What are the mental categories that I can use to organize my thoughts? How can I pick a set of categories that work in the present, and will continue to work for at least five weeks?"

It's not that any set of boxes, or any set of folders, or any tickler schedule has special magic. It's that my *mind* is cluttered with thoughts, and writing them down on paper is just a coping mechanism.

I suspect at least 50% of the people reading this post have already had a corresponding insight.

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Sounds Familiar

Hey Rick. I have read through a few of your recent posts. Everything you say sounds familiar to me. The good news is that you have come to the right place. Many of us here at DIY Planner enjoy playing with the tools more than actually getting any work done.

I also love 3 x 5 notecards, and have tried to build a system around them. That system failed. Not because it was flawed, but because I moved on to something else.

I am like a puppy sniffing down the planning trail, getting closer to the treats. Wait! Is that a squirrel over there?! Let's go see! And so it goes...

My "home base" is a classic size FC day planner. I carry a shirt pocket briefcase filled with notecards for capture on the fly. Good ideas make it to home base. Most cards get tossed out or placed in my notecard panorama (a discontinued Levenger item that is like a single tier of bleachers) where I can store two parallel rows of notecards that I use as reminders. It works for me, but it took years to get here.

Good luck on your journey.

RN

Actions over things

Some years ago I had a similar ephiphany and realised that I was spending all my time fiddling with planning gadgets, gizmos and processes ... and not actually doing anything.

I made myself a list of 100 things to do in 6 months and made myself do them all. To achieve that I made a deal with my husband - if I didn't get the 100 things done he would go on vacation alone and I'd miss out.

That broke the back of my "ooh sparkly things" planning addiction and reduced it to a "ooh sparkly thing that looks pretty but I don't need now" admiration for planning things :)

Now, I use extremely minimalist tools that cost me as little money as possible. I find cheap, imperfect things are easier to use and not play with.

My planning system is a A5 notebook for work tasks and projects, a credit card sized diary for my personal appointments with a small A6 (about quarter letter) sized notebook for personal tasks and an ongoing list of 100 things to do for the year, outlook for work (a workplace requirement), and a family calendar onto which I copy major appointments that can't be missed by other family members.

As for filing, I only keep what's legally required or essential for business or family harmony (transferring birthday dates etc between diaries). Otherwise, it's all thrown out at the end of the month/year

organizing

I have a small Rolla that is for my bills, a large one for Disney planning, use 3 x 5 cards for daily lists, a small notebook by the bed to list things to remember to do before work (get clothes off line, put mail out) and I'm working on a planner that will have only medical/dental/eye info in it for me and the kids.

"Meddle not in the affairs of dragons for you are crunchy and good with ketchup"

Small, Fold-Over Planner, from Barnes & Noble?

Would you tell us what and where that is? Glad of your help, Steve

My inputs

I have grappled with the same issue for some time, and for me my detailed weekly review (though painful initially) helped in categorizing my thoughts over time into the following categories: Projects/Tasks- Work; Projects/Tasks- Personal (which would include Home/Errands/Personal Finance/Family); My Goals. For me almost everything (whether ideas or problems or recreation goals fall under these categories).
I was having a problem getting bogged down by all the should- do Projects and Tasks and not finding enough time for going after the Goals that I want to achieve for enriching my life. Because of this, I decided to include actions towards at least one Goal during every weekly review. And that really helped.

Once my thoughts became more focussed on the above basis, it became so much easier to really feel connected with the planners and stationery that I have 'invested' in. A lot of the 'accessories' in fact became irrelevant and I have used them for other purposes ever since. Currently, my junior size Circa planner is categorized the same way: Inbox- Work & Inbox- Personal (which at the end of the week or during course of the week will get into one of the remaining categories); Calendar; Projects/ Tasks - Work; Projects/ Tasks - Personal (with further sub-categories as metnioned above); Goals; Weekly To do (which includes at least one action towards one Goal for each day of the week and slots in projects/tasks for work and personal) a Weekly Review procedure list (which is a reference sheet and does not change); Ideas (which would be a medley of various thoughts and ideas which crop up put down usually as a mindmap which at the end of the week will go into evolving into either a work or personal project or a goal or otherwise into an action for any of the foregoing- or becomes like a reference point for future problem solving (more on that later)- otherwise I just scratch it out or 'delete' it from my mind (if not written down) to streamline my thoughts).

Why I spoke about the reference for problem solving is because so many thoughts of ours contain valuable insights from our own experiences or from watching others or reading a book or watching the news, which I think through at the end of the week and actually categorise. Even at the risk of sounding completely insane, I have over time developed reference checklists (it's an ongoing process) for various aspects of life especially in which I have little experience so that they come in handy one day. This aspect of my planning you may completely ignore, in which case, ignoring such insights and ideas to start with (instead relying on the fact that they will rise to the surface from the depths of memory at an opportune moment) would be helpful in keeping the flow of thoughts streamlined.

In fact, each person's system would be different. I have just shared with you my personal system. If there is something, on the basis of the above, that I would recommend- it's this- first have a system evolved in your mind which you can put down as a mindmap (devote at least a week to this because it will become clear only at the end of a week as to what facets of activity your life consists of really)which will consist of what are the activity areas for your life (e.g. Projects or Goals or anything else that works for you) and corresponding to each what recording system, if any, do you need to have- then see what recording tools do you need on a regular basis to keep the system working like clockwork without additionally taxing your mind- this would be not only for recording what you need to do but also for prompting when to take action and what action you need to take (e.g. a Weekly To-do system after a weekly review as in my case/ Calendar;etc) and then use whatever stationery equipment you need (and feel free to buy the fanciest) to put in place the entire recording system; then(this is really important as also mentioned above by Katrina) commit to a timeline for finishing all the outstanding to-dos (whether it's three months or six months) and also have a timeline for the Goals if that's a category u opt for; and last do a weekly review of some sort on a Sat/Sun to review how it's going (it may even help to maintain a list of Projects/ Tasks Completed). The filing for which I too had all sorts of gadgets and accessories fell automatically into place, since it's strictly on a need to have basis and all floating papers are filed on such basis at the end of every week, so I no longer buy stationery without knowing exactly which part of my mindmap it will work for which was not already systematically in place.

I don't think I have put the above in too much of a clear language, but I sincerely hope it helps in some way in your quest.

Debbie

Committment

I agree totally. You've explained that so much better that I could Debbie.

then(this is really important as also mentioned above by Katrina) commit to a timeline for finishing all the outstanding to-dos (whether it's three months or six months) and also have a timeline for the Goals if that's a category u opt for

And you may want to make some or all of your personal goals or tasks public as I did. If it's important then it's worth your friends' and family nagging you
*cough* ... I mean encouraging you. ;)

I think the key is simplfiying and not feeling guilty.

I first came to D.I.Y because none of the off the shelf organizers set ups work for me.

I was very hopeful when Julie Morgenstern came up with her own planner setup.
I love her books.

However, the planner has run of the mill templates and forms, not what I want.

On this forum, I discovered many GTD and Circa enthusiasts as tempted as I was to try the methods, I just didn't take the plunge.

I found that I like ring binders, loose leaf paper, and electronic aids.

I have a punch for ring binders so no new investment necessary when I get my Field Journal Notebook which I will fill with mostly blank paper and some essential D.I.Y templates.

I still am an office supplies "enthusiast", well, I have to watch myself closely when I am anywhere near stationery, even at the grocery store.

I was having a problem


I was having a problem getting bogged down by all the should- do Projects and Tasks and not finding enough time for going after the Goals that I want to achieve for enriching my life. Because of this, I decided to include actions towards at least one Goal during every weekly review. And that really helped.

I have tried different variations on incorporating goals into weekly reviews. That is still a work in progress for me. The two temptations are too much thinking and too little.

Too much thinking means that the weekly review takes about twelve hours on Saturday and eight on Sunday.

Too little thinking leads to blowing off the review and either saying, "I can do no wrong - everything I did put me closer to my goals," or "I did nothing right this week, start over next week."

copy that. wish there was a

copy that.
wish there was a org system that automatically cleans my room, lol.

Anything worth doing is

Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Therefore, most things are not worth doing.

My method? Accept the OCD. TRY to accept that the system will NEVER be perfect, but it still needs to be done. Make a list of what you want to track/plan. Put them on stickies of varying (or boxes in a graphic program) sizes and arrange them on paper till it fits. Design up a sheet and try it out.

Same goes for waist pack and desks. Make some must have and must not have lists and go from there. As long as it falls within criteria, give it a try. Perfect is a place that we'll never reach.

Make some must have and must not have lists and go from there.

I thought I had hit nirvana with a notebook small enough to fit in my pocket, but already the design has shown some obvious room for improvement, and I've started a larger version that is too large for a normal pocket.

I need to make a flickr account and post some pictures.

Agree

Hi yourfriendrick
I think you have some great insights here which help me too. Maybe instead of being in constant search of the perfect planner, we ought to work a bit harder to make the one we have work for us.