My daily log is currently a single text document, new each morning, copied from the previous day’s document. The document contains four lists, with items moving between the lists as tasks are completed.
The document is everything I’d like to have in my head during the day, if only I could actually keep track of it all up there.
I feel I should be able to view one page of information and tell roughly the quantity of stuff in all my piles. If I can read the titles and short notes about all of the things, then all the things feel containable. This visualization is a delicate balance, but it is the difference between a system that is clean and productive and one that is a stressful, depressing mess.
The lists I use are:
- DONE: At the top of the page, the list of things that have been completed today. Showing completed items at the top of the page gives me a greater feeling of accomplishment.
- FOLLOW UP: A list of things that are important, in-progress, but are long-running and require check-up. These are a small list of things that should be scanned every day and moved back to DOING when appropriate. This list must remain small.
- BACKLOG: In the middle of the page, this is the list of things that will soon be important. Groom this frequently; these are items-in-waiting, either to be moved into DOING or moved to a storage backlog outside of this document.
- DOING: The list of things that that are currently being worked. This must remain very short, perhaps two or three long. These are in flux throughout the day, and having them at the bottom allows me to associate random notes at the bottom of the page with them.
Everything in a single document is a bit of a compromise in the interest of visibility, but I have been able to sustain a clean, groomed daily log document for a few years. It works for me; its clarity directly impacts my stress level. Everything else (email inbox, project notebooks, personal backlogs, RSS feeds, etc.) can be a mess, but so long as my daily log is neat everything feels manageable.
There are many nuggets of information in the universe. More are created every moment.
You have a temporal window of attention, limited by brain capacity. Yours is a finite window, sliding through time, with only a certain number of slots for information nuggets. You have finite space.
Each of your information slots is precious. You are only aware of the ones in your sliding window, but they are all important. They define the experience that is your life.
How are you going to spend your attention window?
Staying on task for me takes a system, and is continually evolving. At its simplest, this involves:
- Things I am currently working on,
- Things I need and would like to work on in the future,
- Things I have finished,
- Nuggets of information related to all of the above.
I have tried a few tools to keep this organized, and for the past few years I have stuck with Evernote. OneNote is a beautiful tool that just hasn’t fit into my personal workflow.
Ambition will kill the best of intentions
If you try to hard to get organized, you will fail. If you overthink your system, you will fail. Regardless of how perfect the system is in theory, in practice it must work without much effort. It must feel natural to you almost immediately, or it won’t work. Rather, you won’t work with it, so it won’t serve you.
I’ll follow this up with my current system of keeping a daily log, and my current attempts at organizing the rest of the noise around that.
From “A Democracy can die from too many lies”, a speech by Bill Moyers on why modern commercial media journalism is shit:
In my documentaries… I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.
Bill Maher, Gary Hart, Walter Cronkite, David Mamet, John Cusack, Mike Nichols, and a bunch of other celebrities and journalists have been invited and are contributing to an intelligent blog collection at Arianna Huffington’s new site. Recommended.
My mom visited last week, and I’ve almost made her promise to come back in a month or so (it had been two years since her previous visit). I had a spontaneous chromatic color idea for the cheap little bathroom box shelves in which I so happily display my DVDs, and she was sweet enough to spend a day or two actually painting the damn things for me. Luckily she didn’t bother herself with any other hard work while she was here, and left the unpacking to me.
I thought it cute that she named my upstairs neighbor “Shrek”. I’m not sure if it’s my neighbor or just bad construction to blame, but my vents and windows consistently rattle when they rush to the bathroom.
My nephew and his support crew were also able to visit last weekend, and I was able to grab some footage off of their new camcorder to play with iMovie and iDVD. I have to say iMovie is the real jewel in the iLife series, but DV footage can fill up a laptop hard drive in a heartbeat, and MPEG2 encoding for the DVD is an overnight ordeal.
I hate staining furniture, but my tables are looking pretty sweet. I also hate shopping for furniture, but I’m pretty sensitive to my envrironment, so I’m trying to put a little effort into things (I need a bed frame, but I’ve currently limited purchases to a living room chair and a bookcase). Once I go through a few more boxes and rearrange a few things, this apartment will be offiically moved into. Seriously, those of you who know me probably won’t believe I live here when I’m done.
I believe at least half of the comfort and stability I feel from “house and home” is simply having 24/7 access to a functioning washer and dryer. The other half probably involves being able to lounge about without tall stacks of boxes scattered about, but I will continue to address that for another few days.
No surprise, but the Tivo refuses to adapt to the Charlotte programming schedule over my Vonage service.
I will soon have room for all of the music equipment I have left at the Jones home for the last year. I’ll also be able to fit all my CDs in a single location, as soon as my rack extension arrives.
Always particularly insightful, Dave has published a discussion on a trend in thirtysomething midlife events. Miyamoto Mushashi, Neal Stephenson, and Vizzini all make appearances, and I find it all particularly relevant to me at the moment.
Many things are happening for me, and almost all of them are good.
I get the key to my new apartment tomorrow. I’m having a blast at work these first two weeks, and will soon have much to post with regards to C# .NET development with Visual Studio 2003. I’ve developed a very nice semi-addiction to Red Bull.
I haven’t posted anything about the hell week I had before leaving for Colorado, since I’m waiting to post this one particular picture I have on my linux machine in Raleigh.
I’ve had a few great runs over the past few weeks, and am looking forward to a 16-miler this Saturday in Raleigh. My dorkly Garmin is quite amazing.
I’m slowly listening to Rand’s The Fountainhead as I drive back and forth across North Carolina. I’ve never been much of a Rand fan with regard to ethics, but the book is, so far, mostly enjoyable.
More to come later. I hope to have sufficiently mastered Winforms programming by this afternoon.
In the latest “Hell freezes over” news:
- new rumors of a two-button Apple mouse
- I own a Playstation 2 (so tiny! how can I enjoy Gran Turismo so much, yet suck so bad?)
- I now live in Charlotte, and I’ve found a great apartment directly across the street from work! Runs at lunchtime!