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The Importance of a Central Project List

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The Importance of a Central Project List

I can’t escape the fact that having a real centralized project list for the things I’m doing is helping. I want to believe that I have tons of excess capacity in my brain. I want to think that I remember everything I’ve got on the go. But I don’t. And maybe you don’t, either.

I’ve recently started using the Mac program iGTD as a central repository. It does a great job of sorting out contexts and projects such that I can sort things by project or context and get whatever done that I can. I’m sure you can recommend the PC or LINUX equivalent in the comments section, right? But to me, it’s not about the software. It’s about the way one uses the product to create a workflow. Here’s what I’ve been experimenting with:

30 Minutes in the Morning

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I wish I could use less time to do this, but I find that if I give the first 30 minutes of my morning towards wiping out my inbox and either turning the mail into projects or acting immediately, it goes a long way on improving my day. So that’s what I do.

  • Open email
  • Process mail into a project –> add to iGTD or
  • Act on mail immediately: respond in a way that closes the loop with the other person.
  • Close email and try to forget for an hour.
  • Try to nail some action on a project, hopefully in order of deadline.

Nothing magical here, but getting into the rhythm of it is where the power comes in. I’m starting to come to my iGTD project list to look for what needs doing. And when I identify that something’s not there, I put it on to add it to my active queue.

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Perform Project “Blasts”

Instead of focusing on any one project, I scroll through my project list and try working on closing out the ones due next, and/or the ones I think I can complete in short order. I try to do a mix of these and a few swipes at tasks on REALLY BIG projects. Because I’ve got this set up as projects with tasks underneath, it’s as easy as working on Next Actions. This requires discipline. I find that if I don’t break a project into tasks, then I don’t dig in as quickly to take a next action on something.

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Daily Review

I do a weekly review, but I also do a daily endcap to see if I’ve moved the ball forward on enough of my projects. Because my particular work is almost always scattershot, I look to see that what I’ve done has had any impact on a daily basis. Thus, I can try and influence my next day more.

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Your Thoughts and Improvements

This is the system I’m using to manage my workload right now. How are YOU working? What are you doing differently? Have you tried a program that you like more than iGTD? Talk about it. We’d love to hear.

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Chris Brogan blogs at [chrisbrogan.com]

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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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