A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Organization Arsenal

The New Year is always a great time for me to really focus on my organization system (or lack thereof). I enjoy organizing things and BEING organized, and if I feel disorganized I get stressed. When our previous house was on the market, it was completely free of clutter, and it really helped in the stress department (the stress of trying to sell your house in a buyer’s market is another story!).

Over the past couple of years, a great source of frustration for me has been that my former time management system doesn’t work any longer. I used to be an avid Franklin Covey Planner user. I took it with me everywhere, used it constantly, and felt like I had everything under control. But at some point it stopped working.

I kept trying to use it again to no avail. I tried a PDA a number of years back, but at the time I liked writing things down on paper better. Eventually I came across David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, and I thought that I was finally onto something. For those who don’t know, Getting Things Done (GTD) is based on organizing your tasks by context instead of the ABC approach (A = Things that must get done today, B = Would like to get done, etc.). In GTD, one context might be “@Computer”, so you would assign the to-dos that you can only do at your computer. That way, when you’re at your computer, you can quickly look at your Computer To-Do list and start getting things done. You don’t want to be looking at all the stuff you have to do “@Home” if you’re at work, right? Makes sense to me.

You also can make out a master list of Projects that you want to accomplish, break them down into tasks and put them in the right context. So say your project is Remodeling the Kitchen. You might think that Design layout for kitchen is one task, but there’s more to it than that. You need to define actions for it, some of which might be

  • Measure space (goes on your @Home list)
  • Make appointment with kitchen designer (@Phone list), or
  • Research design software (@Computer)

The good thing about it is that there is no one “right” way to do GTD — they give suggestions and lay out the principles, but it comes down to whatever system works best for you. I must admit that it is taking me a while to figure out how it fits best for me, and it’s still a work in progress but I think I’m making headway. If you’re interested in learning about it, a good site to visit is 43folders.com.

Mindy at Fixer-Upper, a fellow organization-enthusiast, also posted a while back on getting motivated to work on your to-do list with some great information.

I tried to reuse my nice leather Franklin binder and adapt it to the GTD approach with blank pages and dividers, but I ended up carrying it back and forth to work and didn’t even open it. So now I’m trying the computer approach since I seem to be attached to my laptop for the majority of the day. First I tried Ghost Action, a GTD-like application for Mac. It was simple and worked well, but I haven’t used it much lately.

Part of the problem may be that I don’t have my computer with me at all times. So if I have some to-do lists on my computer but others on paper, then I’ll start to feel disorganized. The one thing that I can have with me at all times is my iPhone. So I’ve been trying out a couple of web-based applications that work with any browser and are also optimized for iPhone and other mobile devices. More on those tomorrow….

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