Getting thing done is a constant struggle and to be honest, I've spent way to much time thinking about how to try and catalog all the things I want to do, rather than just doing the blasted things that need to be done. So, to share what wisdom I've got (if any) on this topic, I thought I'd pass along the details of all my efforts how I try and keep track of my self and what I'm trying to do. And how I've tried to stop obsessing about my todo lists and just do something (this post may be part of my therapy on that front).

My Tools

Both my tools are online, at this point in my life, it's where I live, so it seems to make sense to me try and keep myself organied online as well.

  • Online Calendar That syncs to my mobile phone (Google Calendar)
  • Online Email accessible via my mobile(Gmail)

Separating Work and The Rest of My Life

I don't bother. I'm just one person, work is part of my life. So, there's just one calendar and one todo list, and one log book email with everything in it. For me, the simplicity of just having one place to look for things far out weighs the bummer of looking at work tasks when I glance at my to do list on the weekend.

How my System Works (or tries to)


Everything that has an actual time (think meetings) or due date (think reports) hits the calendar. And that's where it lives. This provides the hard landscape (borrowed from GTD) for my life. So, that's pretty simple. I get an agenda sent every day to my email and I try and survey the weeks events fairly regularly so that I see the big trouble coming a little before it arrives.

The To Do List

I've tried plenty of online stuff that is pretty fancy (and feature-full) but I always end up neglecting it and then getting disorganized, so I've resorted to a draft email. I seperate my tasks by project in the email and then write the tasks as a bullet list. If I'm waiting for something I put a note in the list that I'm waiting for this from someone and when I started waiting for it.

The Log Book

Being trained as an engineer, I have it drilled into me that a log book is crucial to success, you NEED to be able to see what was done and when. Being incredibly forgetful when it comes to things that happen in day-to-day life (especially with dates) this is even more important for me. So my log book has become an add on to the end of my draft email to do list. Once I finish anything, I copy that item from my to do list to the bottom of my draft email and tag them with the project that they're for and list them underneath the date I completed it. At the end of the week, I copy all these paste these finished tasks into a new email and send it to myself. Then I archive it and when the time comes that I really need to recall what I've done, three weeks from now, I'll call it up and look at it, curse myself a little for not leaving better notes and thank my lucky stars that I left any notes at all.

The Daily Habit

All this stuff only works if you buy into the system 100%, I'm trying to buy in 100% and review my calendar and to-do list daily. During my daily review I find a few items that I really want/NEED to get done during the day and write them on a separate piece of paper that I try and put somewhere VERY prominent. Throughout the day, the really quick tasks (5 minutes or less) I do right away and then longer jobs I put on the to do list. Then I just try not to get distracted by youtube, google reader, wikipedia, my own navel and facebook and get those few items on my list for the day completed.