Day 199: Checklists and productivity

Here’s where I’ve landed on the productivity thing: I’m going to be cloning my work system, but on per-project basis. Checklists and productivity work well together for me. And since I have a lot of me-only projects, and I don’t have a lot of dependencies, checklists work. I don’t have to keep track of what other people are doing, mostly.

Productivity Alchemy isn’t available on Stitcher (yet?), so I haven’t been listening to it as much as I’d like. I have one podcast app. It’s one of the things that keeps my life a little more streamlined. So if I’m missing out on some podcasts, so it goes. My choice.

The aforementioned Productivity Alchemy is being discussed on MetaFilter, which has all sorts’a interesting productivity methods in that thread. Ctrl-F “Aggravations List” for a really cool approach to the problem. Here’s mine.

Checklists and productivity and portability, oh my!

At work, I use Sublime Text and a package called PlainTasks to create todo lists. There’s a bunch of things I like about this combination of things…

  • It’s super simple, easy to read, easy to follow.
  • Sublime has folding features, so I can collapse up tasks that have subtasks associated with them.
  • File sizes and load times are teeny tiny.
  • It’s easy to mark things as done, and then they turn grey and are struck through with the time you marked them as done written right next to them. Good psychologically, and also for tracking.

So my general methodology is to have a daily to-do list. As I move through the day, I zero my inbox by adding things to it. I tick things off as they get done. Almost no task is too small to be added, unless it’s really a less-than-one-minute thing.

Every morning, I write today’s date, copy yesterday’s list, paste it up under the new date. Then I delete all the done items. Catch up on overnight email and add new tasks to the list.

One of the things I like about this is that it makes a very long, searchable text. So if I’m wondering about a project’s status, I can search for it, and see (usually) a hand-off task on my end and when it was done.

So I’m trying to implement this at home. I’m thinking it might be best to tackle it as a document per project, rather than one total intimidating to-do list. That way, when time allows, I can peck away at any of a number of things instead of living in a constant feeling of overwhelmed panic.


Day 159: Into the Soup

Big day today, on a lot of fronts. I don’t like to get into the particulars of my job, but there’s an annual event that requires my input, as well as a huge week-long project launching next Tuesday. We’re mid-project on another massive endeavour. And I just got clearance yesterday to start another major project. Into the soup!

The big thing for me today is going to be orienting for a lot of this stuff. Take a step back, look at time allocation, and then start managing up. Because the problem is, this is going to be stressful. I can see the stress train a’comin’. The lights are clanging and those stripey arm things are coming down. So what I need to do, right now, is take about an hour to make sure I’m not standing on the tracks.

Into the soup, and into upward-facing management.

Work life isn’t something I talk much about here, but it’s something that obviously has a direct impact on my whole life. And “managing up” is something that I’ve been working at getting better at for years now. It’s hard. It disrupts the whole ‘boss – employee’ relationship we’re trained to model things after.

But to stay on top of stress, and in turn on top of sleep and diet and ultimately sobriety, I have to stay on top of work.

So at times like this, it’s important that I start talking to my boss more, not less. And the key word is “talk,” not “complain.” “I have too much to do and I can’t get it all done” is not a conversation starter. “I have conflicting priorities and I’d like your guidance on which one to escalate” is a way better opener.

So that’s the morning gig. It’s not about complaining, it’s about honesty asking for advice. The side effect of asking for that advice is you get buy-in and complicity on the things that don’t get done first, because you’ve been advised on what should get done first. So: into the soup! But with well insulated gloves and goggles firmly in place.