One checklist item when starting my new job was setting up a new Things installation. (I have separate work and home installations, with the home one synced to my iPhone.) And, most of a couple of months in, the differences between the two are pretty striking: my Next Action list at work is a lot shorter than my Next Action list at home.
Much of that is due to how new my work setup is: my Playdom Next Action list got to be significantly longer over my time there than my Sumo Logic one currently is. And part of it is the nature of the tasks: at work, I generally have one large project that I’m focusing on at any given time (which I break up into multiple tasks, of course), with only a few side tasks, while at home, there are a bunch of different areas that I want to be working on.
Still, I like the feel of my Next Action list at work much much more than the feel of my home list. And I’m clearly misusing my home Someday/Maybe list: the age of several of my Next Action items strongly suggests that I’m not treating them as next actions, that I’m in fact treating them as someday items, just someday items that I wish I could wave a magic wand at and have them be done. Also, I’m pretty sure that the rarity with which I move something from my Someday/Maybe list onto my Next Action list is another sign that I’m doing things wrong.
Another piece of the puzzle is Kanban. (In its software development form, as developed by David Anderson, not its manufacturing form.) I’ve been following the kanbandev mailing list for the last year or so and read the book earlier this year, and while I need to get more hands-on experience with the methodology (which I hope will happen at work soon), it makes enough sense to me that it’s my default way of thinking about organizing software production. And, viewed in a Kanban light, I’m clearly managing my personal tasks wrong: I don’t have a pretense of Work in Progress limits, and I have no control over my cycle time.
And it’s not like there aren’t new things that I’d like to do but that haven’t made it onto my Next Action list, either: in fact, right now, my brain seems to be particularly good at thinking of new programming projects to undertake! But there’s no point in doing a half-hearted stab at a bunch of projects: that won’t make me feel any better.
Which means I need to get things under control. Part of that means looking at my Next Action list, and moving some of the stuff there to Someday/Maybe. And part of that means recognizing that a lot of the stuff there is things that is genuinely important to do but that I don’t enjoy doing, and I just have to suck it up and do it. For example, I haven’t done a weeding of financial records for more than a two years; the drawers are getting full, that stuff isn’t going to go away if I don’t spend time on it.
So I’m trying to spend more time driving the list down. Once I’ve done that, I’ll consider putting a work in progress limit in place, but right now I’m just trying to remove items more quickly than I add them for a bit. And it’s not that hard to do so once I put my mind to it: for example, I can easily knock off an hour-long item every evening if I just get it out of the way before reading blogs instead of reading blogs and noting that it’s 9:45 and I’ll be getting ready to go to bed in half an hour or so, and putzing away the remaining time.
I would warn that all this means that I may well not end up blogging as much here for the next couple of months. Honestly, though, that seems unlikely: doubtless going through those backlog items will turn into blog posts, too (and, indeed, several of the current backlog items are to write posts on various topics). And I’ve written ten posts here in the last two weeks even though I’ve been nibbling away at my Next Action list, which is noticeably higher than my average. The contents might change somewhat, though: in particular, I’m not planning to start any new video games for a little while. (But I’ll keep on playing Minecraft and Rock Band 3, and both of those will certainly lead to posts on my other blog and probably here as well.)
I don’t blog here nearly as often about organization stuff as I used to, but that’s not a sign that I don’t think it’s a good idea: it’s more a sign that I’ve internalized a lot of the ideas. For the record, then:
- Agile: still awesome.
- Lean: still awesome.
- GTD: still awesome.
- Inbox Zero: still awesome.
- Checklists / Standard Work: still awesome.
- Kanban: looks awesome.
- Pomodoro Technique: Has a few good ideas that I’ve brought into my practice, and I occasionally turn on my pomodoro timer when I need extra help focusing, but I don’t follow it in general.
But my GTD practice is definitely a bit chipped and tarnished (and should be better informed by Kanban); time to sharpen it up a bit.
This post has not been revised since publication.