07 December 2016

Reader Questions: Keeping track of so many things?

We sometimes receive emails in the Philofaxy in-box that are a little bit more than a simple question that could go in to a FFAF or FFAT post as a comment. 

As you can imagine someone with a similar question is going to struggle to find the relevant comment several weeks or months later. 

So I thought this message from Paul was suitable for a post in its own right. 

Hi everyone

I’m Paul from Sydney & have been a Filofax user on and off for decades.

For the past year, I have been using my Personal size with Filofax One Day on Two Pages Calendar, in which the right hand page is a ToDo list.

I keep a MasterList in which I dump everything from my head onto, and then pick tasks from the list & write them on the RH side pages under “Priorities”.

This has served me well during this time and is not overwhelming to look at.  I have now found myself in a position to care for a family member at their home and I live at my home with my family.

With this comes extra pressure, responsibilities and tasks and I feel that my current system will not handle it all for the following reasons. I have these areas in my life that need tracking:

  • Work (I work for myself),
  • the person I am caring for (chores inside & outside the house, grocery shopping, chemist, online medical purchases, house bills, etc),
  • my personal life (chores similar to those in the last brackets),
  • my partner,
  • family,
  • friends, etc.

How do I keep track of it all in a paper based system so I can easily see what priorities need doing? I tried the following GTD system but it is so labour intensive:

Projects Page:
- eg. Christmas PRJ_XMS001   (just a code made up to identify this project)
  1. Buy Cards   @Shops    (showing that Task #1 is on the @Shops context page)

Contexts:
- @Shops (context page)
 Buy cards PRJ_XMS001/1     (Referencing back to the Christmas project/ Task#1)

As you can see, this is far too time consuming, so I feel like going back to OmniFocus which will handle it, but I don’t want a computerised system as I am trying to get away from technology

  1. Back in the 1980s how did professionals using the Filofax system keep track of multiple projects?
  2. Does anyone here have or know of a system that is Not labour intensive?
  3. Will the book “ ‘A’ Time” or “Start Time Forward” by James Noon answer this?

Is this at all possible on paper?

Hope the help that I receive will help others as well.

Best Regards,
Paul

So people can we help Paul, pop your suggestions in to the comments below and even if you only know of part solutions I'm sure they will be helpful. 

27 comments:

  1. There has been several systems designed for people with complicated lives. They usual focus on dividing your life into "key areas" - as you've already done - and numbering them. Time Manager suggests 9 key areas, Filofax Time Management was 7. Make numbered tabs for your organiser and keep all pages for each key area in the correct section. This enables you to focus on overview, tasks and activities for each key area, rather than get overwhelmed by the huge number of diverse demands on you.

    I've followed the Time Manager key areas concept for over 30 years and still find it's the only way to ensure that work, family, friends, home and "me" all get the attention needed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tim. Thanks for your reply. I value your input as I have been following your Guest Posts such as "Guest Post by Tim Edwards PART 1 & 2 - Time management systems in the 1980’s" & often refer them. Love them! Please do more. You mention 9 tabs for key areas of my life. Within the past week I have created Top Tabs, under my "Projects" tab. These are: Work, Finances, Health, People, Home, Leisure/Hobbies. So from what your saying, I am pretty much doing it the way you mention, but just using contexts as well. I'm so glad I'm not too far off the mark of "doing it right".

      Many thanks again,
      Regards,
      Paul

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  2. Well Paul, your points are very pertinent, to most Filofax users I believe, be they intensive or only occasional users. I can't help you, because I have the same problems, which I see as being weighed down down by the very system that should be helping, but I hope that some of our many readers and users will come up with their own smart ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Steve. There have been so many replies & each one has been so helpful. I really hope the replies help you as much as they help me.

      Regards,
      Paul

      Delete
  3. In the book "Managing Time", Peter Green recounts some advice given by a management consultant to a steel magnate, for which the consultant was paid over $400,000 in today's money:
    1. Make a daily To Do list
    2. Number tasks in order of priority
    3. Start on the most important first
    4. Work until finished
    5. Start on the second most important and work until finished and so on
    This approach, pulling together the elements from the separated areas Tim mentions each day, would be one to consider.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi. Yes, I will make daily ToDo lists in my Daily ToDo Diary pages, prioritise & do as you mentioned, one thing at a time until finished.

      Many thanks.

      Regards,
      Paul

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  4. Although I don't use one myself, I wonder if this would be an occasion when a bullet journal system would help? You'd still obviously have to keep the different sections in your planner but when you pull the items onto your to-do list perhaps you could try giving them a special symbol to signify which area of your life you'll be working on? I've seen lots of blogs, You Tube and Instagram posts for bullet journals and they all seem to use circles, triangles, squares etc to show what type of task each to-do is - you could try adapting that especially as you're going to have some tasks which apply to both your own household and the person you're caring for so it would be more relevant to show in your planner who's Christmas cards you're buying, for example.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sharon. Thanks for the idea. I will look into it on youtube
      Regards,
      Paul

      Delete
  5. I think you have the right system already, you just had a big shift in your life. I would keep your master task list but make a section for each (work, caregiver, personal, partner, family, friends) so that you can see each on its own. Continue taking from your master task list and dropping them onto your DO2P just like you have been. You will have to sit down weekly and read through everything just to keep yourself on top of it to keep things from falling through the cracks. I have used Franklin Covey's system for 22 years and it has never failed me no matter how big my life has gotten. Your already doing it, just don't let the big picture overwhelm you-one day at a time and remember sometimes you just have to put yourself first and take a timeout before you reach the breaking point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cassandra. Thank you so much for your input & support. I have been using the above mentioned system of Getting Things Done for the last week, but in a A5 Filofax, where I have "Dad" as a "Project" & using various contexts as well (e.g. @errands, @ dads, etc). So far with this system, I have been getting a lot of things done which need to be & also feel very happy & "chilled" with it so far, but I do write out a Daily To Do list on Post Its from the contexts so I know what I have to concentrate on & not to feel overwhelmed by all of the items on my lists. In future, I will put the Daily ToDo lists on my Daily Diary pages.

      Many thanks again,
      Paul

      Delete
  6. Hi Paul, I have a seperate to do list for each area and use highlighter stickers in order to mark the priority tasks in each. Once that thing is done I move the highlighter sticker to the next important task in that category. It's very simple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tina. That's an excellent idea! I can do that on my Daily To Do Diary Pages. It's great for me as I have a short attention span & will drift from doing one thing to another before finishing each one. Will keep me on track.
      Regards,
      Paul

      Delete
  7. I am suggesting to have a look into the bullet Journal System that is adaptable to the individual needs. I use this system in a nearA5 size notebook with grid paper together with my EDC-Filofax (month on two pages) plus an A5 planner with vertical week view for proper time allocation of my weekly task list. With the Bullet Journal method, you'll be working with a FutureLog (I have 6 months on two pages) an current monthly overview on the left hand side with adjoined monthly task list to the right. From the monthly task list, you can migrate the tasks either in a weekly overview and/or allocate them to a spécifique day of the week ahead. You mark off all completed tasks/attended appointments and migrate/or allocate the open tasks to another day, week, month. The bullet system might look overwhelming at first but is easy be leaned and great in keeping control over the otherwise loose ends in very busy times. Good luck with your journey and best results with your multiple project management.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Feld. Great idea.
      Thanks for the detailed overview of your systems workings. Very interesting.
      Regards,
      Paul

      Delete
  8. Having routines can help a lot. If you can find out a "usual" schedule, you don't have to think too much on those tasks. Take a piece of paper, and write those chores out. Shopping - is it possible to do once a week? For your family AND for the other person together? If you create a weekly schedule for these tasks you have to think on the changing stuff only. Batching tasks are also useful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Zsuzsa. Yes routines is something that I have not got a grasp on yet & thanks for bring it up. I will put a post in FFAT of FFAF asking how people keep track of these including marking them off

      Regards,
      Paul

      Delete
    2. Hi Paul, just wanted to add, I also use my Bullet Journal for tracking my chores plus social life with a monthly tracking grid, which you can find other examples online. Just Google Bullet Journal and tracker and you'll find plenty of pictures. Some put a tracker in their week view and others do it for a month. The latter is what I préfère as I like the bigger picture for a better overview and controlling Base.

      Delete
  9. To be honest, I haven't found (yet) a better way than putting everything in OmniFocus, and then putting the content of my day in my planner (tasks and meetings/appointments). And you could even use only OmniFocus and iCal (I know, I know, blasphemy... I write in a planner because writing has vertues, but honestly I know that digital only system used to work for me.) Now if I go back to the late 90's when I had a Filofax and no digital planning system, I would use a one page per day system, put appointments in it, and for tasks I would write them down on the day before they needed to be completed. The issue with this is that, if you need several days to complete a task, you might miss it if you're not looking farther in your agenda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marie. I also have OmniFocus, but have not used for a few years now as I'm trying to minimise my computer/phone/ipad use if possible as time just goes so quickly while on them & I get distracted with the internet. Good idea though using OmniFocus & transferring tasks to Filofax.

      Regards,
      Paul

      Delete
  10. I was taught in 'managing multiple priorities' training, for overloaded multitaskers, to use a neverending list [like your single to do list] and each day to categorise if items are urgent, important, or both - you have to be zen about your list being forever long - I was taught to never cross things off, just highlight them when done. Then each day you block in your personal responsibilities first [say using a diary page with time slots] This avoids burn out and is important if you have caring responsibilities. In the time remaining you pick 'to do' items off your neverending list by grading ABC by gut instinct in reponse to urgent or important - trying to grade for importance before things become urgent. Picking important but not urgent items is a thing you have to train yourself to do - but having graded things in writing makes the habit of only doing urgent things apparent. In short time slots, or when you need to thaw out some brain freeze you can knock out some small c grade things before they fester, when you can focus you do A grade tasks in order of importance till you finish each, if you're lucky you get to move to B grade tasks [never happens to me].

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi. My Never Ending List is my Masterlist. Highlight & not cross off is interesting. Must be some reason for it. On a side note: My Exercise Physiologist has told me that I must tick-off/check items within 20 minutes of completing them. Studies have showed that it increases dopamine/serotonin levels, the feel-good chemicals. Anyway getting back on track, Blocking in Personal Responsibilities is a great idea as I always think work comes first, but that is only one part of a balanced life.
      Prioritising is great too.
      Franklin Covey uses the Time Management Matrix
      Q1=Urgent & Important
      Q2=Not Urgent & Important
      Q3=Urgent & Not Important
      Q4=Not Urgent & Not Important
      I often use FC's 1,2,3,4 to prioritise. He states that we should aim to use quadrant 2 & not to even do anything from 4. Unfortunately quadrant 1 gets a lot of use!

      Thanks for helping too.

      Regards,
      Paul

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  12. What I would like to do later is to show you what system I have settled on & to explain & show you the workings of it. I think it would be great if others did the same too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Also interested to see how David Popely's system is going since ditching GTD

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    Replies
    1. Hi Paul, and thank you for the question! I am trying to move back towards a more top-down system sUchida ad Tim's key areas based setup, which I also used for many years prior to movince to GTD. I still find that to be the best way of running what is still a busyear life. I've LSouthan@alderking.com been impressed by the thinking behind the Franklin Planner and Stephen Covey'so books, especially Firest Things First, and am trying to incorporate that thinking into my practice.

      I am trying to stay in Personal size if at all possible as I find portability outweighs page space in importance to me - and especially as I have two binders with 30mm rings!

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    2. Hi David. I always look forward to seeing your setup as I learn a lot from them. I too think that the "Key Areas" mentioned by Tim is the way to go. Also, I will have to get myself a copy of "First Things First" by Stephen Covey. Many thanks for the reply too.

      Regards,
      Paul

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