Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Getting Things Done - New strategies for a better year

I'm still in recovery mode from last year. As part of that, I am looking for new ways to streamline and reduce stress. I've started with the typical places - work out, do yoga, eat healthy. But such practices need a framework if they are to survive the less than ideal conditions of the school year.

One practice that I have become particularly interested in is David Allen's "Getting Things Done" method. The target goal with this method is to reduce stress and increase productivity. I read the book last February with the intention of using it for the meetings. However, I think the meetings pretty much overwhelmed my feeble attempts at the GTD system. Perhaps if I had started sooner. Perhaps if I had done a thousand things differently, it would not have been so bad. But it was.

I'm re-reading GTD now, and actually taking the time to implement the practices, instead of try and sort things as they come. Earlier this summer I tried KonMari (some success) and a capsule wardrobe (great success) as methods for reducing the stress I felt at home. We still could declutter more. The 38 item wardrobe (I forgot a piece was at the dry cleaners and decided to leave it in the rotation) is working pretty well. More on this in the next post.

I'm pairing the GTD method with two systems - Trello (referral link) and You Need a Budget (YNAB).  Both are online and app based, and work across multiple platforms. I have each on my home computer, my travel laptop, and my android phone. Each handle a different part of my life - Trello captures, processes, and organizes everything except money, and YNAB handles money.

First YNAB. I had no idea how much I needed this until I had it. I'm a convert! I'm also enjoying the amount of plan aheadness it gives me and the perspective. I was so busy I let a lot of things go, and now, seeing what busyness cost me is shocking. I am still in the "this is stressful" early period of getting set up and in the habit, but we're seeing small positive changes already. Totally worth the $60 to sign up.

Trello. Trello is a cross platform software that functions like a series of boards, using the kanban technique. Lifehacker has a great review here. Basically, it shows the flow of production within each board. I've set it up so that each major facet has its own board (Home, Teaching, Major Research Project, Writing, Lab). Inside each board, cards are color coded to individual projects (for example each individual grant or manuscript on the "Writing" board. Things with deadlines (such as revisions) are assigned deadlines. Deadlines sync to my calendar. Within each board, I start with a "to do today" column - these are the pressing things that must get done today. I then have the subheadings as needed as groupings within: next, in progress, waiting for, done. It is set so that cards "age" that is, if I let things go for too long, the card starts to fade, the edges crumble etc, so I am visually reminded that I let something slide. Instead of my current system, which is to remember months later that I forgot to do something like write a chapter or review a book.

Hopefully, this system will withstand the chaos of a new semester and keep me GTD!