We’re all busy people; how do you manage?
I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one with a hectic lifestyle. I have university work to do, Thunderbolt to run and write for, Clan Recruiter to rebuild, a magazine to help design and manage, a social life and various other commitments. With all this stuff going on, learning how to keep it all in balance has been a major preoccupation of mine. I’ve now settled with a system which allows me to keep track of everything and I thought it might be interesting to share a few tips and ideas.
I don’t know what I would do without iCal. Pretty much everything I do is in it, from lecture times and society meetings to Thunderbolt stuff and TV schedules. Any appointment or meeting that I have goes straight in it and I sync it with my phone so that I know what I’m doing on the move.
A calendar is pretty much essential to staying organised and I’m sure that most of you use one to one degree or another. Keeping them up to date can be a pain, but the more you rely on them, the more useful they become. The neat thing about computerised calendars is that you can separate different topics from one another, which makes it really easy to understand the context of your day, week or month.
I’m not sure about you, but I have quite a few email accounts. The amount of messages I receive each day isn’t too bad, but the number of accounts I have could make it infeasable to keep track of it all. However, there’s a wonderful application called Mailplane here to help. Essentially, it’s a desktop viewer for Gmail. It looks and functions almost exactly the same as using Gmail through a brower, but it makes switching between accounts extremely easy. A draw on the right shows you total unread messages for each account, which you can switch to by clicking on it.
You could always forward all your mail to one account and sort it that way, but I prefer keeping mail separated into various accounts. That way, when you reply, the address you’re sending from is always consistent. Email can often be overwhelming if left untended, so tools like this are a great help.
The third and final thing I organise is tasks. You know, things like “write a Halo 4 review” or “go and pick up the laundry”. To-do lists are great for keeping track of these kind of tasks, but you might find that you have a huge list of unordered items with no real context. This is where applications like Things come in.
Things is basically an advanced to-do list that is based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) idea. I read the book on the theory by David Allen and to be honest, I couldn’t find a reliable way to get it to work. Things is the first program that I’ve been able to implement it effectively with, so I’m pretty pleased with it.
Essentially, the idea is that you record every task that comes into your head, then organise them into different groups. You have tasks that you’re doing today, or ones that are next up, or items which are postphoned. You can also group these by projects or areas of responsibility. It seems complicated, but it works surprisingly well once you get used to it.
In practice, getting organised can be a hit and miss process. It’s easy to forget that you need to write things done or put them into a program, but the busier your life gets, the more neccessary it is. Unless you have an amazing memory, remembering to do everything can be almost impossible. However, with a bit of research and curiosity, you can get to a stage where you don’t have to worry about forgetting and you can spend more time on living your life.
What do you think? How do you keep track of life?