GTD, Life Balance, Lotus Notes, OneNote!!!!
I only work part-time and have been struggling to find a way to manage my time, it’s been a long process and has so fair failed to control overload.
I started off using a traditional task list in Lotus Notes, this failed miserably as it seemed impossible to visualise the mass of tasks in a way that allowed me to make sensible decisions.
Next I tried OneNote, but this didn’t help, just another way to get confused
Then I tried Life Balance along with the GTD methodology. This was better, as careful adjustment of the importance of each task relative to its parent objectives allows you to balance all areas of your life. Unfortunately Life Balance has no robust concept of work content, parallel activities, progress etc. As a result have found I have gradually accumulated activities and become hopelessly over-committed. Life-balance had shielded me from this by showing me the priority activity to work on each day and by hiding next actions until the current action is completed.
So after probably 9 months of trying different approaches I am now able to state my needs clearly:
- I need a way of visualising the work content of the tasks, and scheduling them out over time, so that they fit within the limited time I have available to do them
- I need a way of visualising progress, so that I can see if I can meet my deadlines
- I need a way of reviewing my whole task list
- I need a good way of modelling dependencies between tasks, and in fact in my work their are many tasks for one customer that build on similar tasks for another, which implies a sequence
- I need a way of fitting in all of the small tasks effectively around the big ones
- I need a good experience on my Treo and my desktop
- Ideally I would like to be able to visualise my tasks as a mind map during reviews
As I read through this list the answer became surprisingly clear:
- I need to partition my time. 4 hours a day will be dedicated to project work. Project work will be defined and tracked in MS project. This takes care of requirements 1, 2 and 4
- I have added a whole range of extra columns to Project so that I can simulate GTD and also create useful views. These include Context, Priority and Status. This takes care of requirement 3
- I will leave 1 – 2 hours a day for “other tasks” and I will continue to manage these in Life Balance, because of it’s great auto prioritisation and handling of routine tasks, like washing the bedding, weeding, exercising etc. This takes care of requirements 5
- I will use Project@Hand to replicate project to my Treo. The usability seems excellent and will be even better if my Treo 650 ever arrives from work. This takes care of requirements 6
- If I need to do a review I can sync my plan with Mind Manager which takes care of requirements 7
I have now transferred my Projects to MS Project and found:
- 3 of my current projects are 2–3 weeks late
- I have firm commitments out to September, rather than July as I had previously thought
- For the first time I have confidence that I can actually deliver my tasks, rather than confidence that I would not loose them!
- prior to working part-time life used to be a lot easier, I just worked the hours that were needed to get the job done, this seems a much better option
Inspiration from this approach came from David Pollards posts about implementing GTD with a spreadsheet, Project is in many ways like a spreadsheet on steroids.