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Keeping Track of the Busy Life

Keeping Track of the Busy Life

Life Is Chaotic

Have you ever had a good day, where things were going great and then, all-of-a-sudden, you realize "I don't know what I even need to be doing?"  Or have you ever just kept yourself busy with emails and instant messages just so you can say you've been working?  This is called the busy-trap, making problems just so you can say you did/solved something.

Organize a Little (Not Too Much)

The common solution to these busy-trap problems is a to-do list.  The ephemeral sheet of paper with all of the outstanding things you want to accomplish today, or tomorrow, or next week, or whenever you get some more time...  You get the point.

There are a few problems with the old fashioned to-do list though.

  • There isn't always an easy way to keep it with you
  • Re-arranging priorities is messy and guilt-ridden
  • Bringing family, friends or coworkers into the picture is basically impossible
  • Going through previous tasks is time consuming and feels archaic.

Use An App...

My personal favorite app to help with cross-platform organization is Wunderlist. It has the option for several lists with parent folders and simple sharing on their free plans.  There are recurring tasks, attachments, and reminder options.  Of course there are premium (paid) plans, but I have yet to give them a try.  It is able to sync across their web-based platform, mobile devices and dedicated computer applications.  You are easily able to share the list with friends and family, as having a single login would allow for an infinite number of editors.  Sharing with coworkers is a little more complicated, as any more than 2 people on a list requires a premium version of the app.

Another app that has widespread recognition is todoist.  It is very similar to Wunderlist in that it is cross-platform, enables free and premium sharing, has a minimalist design, and allows for labeling/sorting tasks.  The big difference with todoist is the productivity analysis tools to visualize how productive you've been in certain kinds of tasks.

Both of these apps are solid options (and there are many more that I didn't mention), but sometimes an old, tried-and-true method works best.

... Or Take a Simple Approach

A simple, old-school method to staying productive on a day-to-day basis is to write the single most important task that needs done the night before.  Along with this single task often times an ultimate goal is written, hopefully which is correlated with the single important task.  For example, as an engineer in research and development I may write "Write New Patent for _____ Mechanism" as my important task, and below that write "Renowned Inventor" for my ultimate goal.  Some days the single task won't line up with your ultimate goal, or you may have more than one ultimate goal.  As an example, the other day I wrote "Build Swingset Platform" with the second note being "Be A Good Father."

Find What Works For You

There is no absolutely correct way to stay organized, and the methods written here might just end up being worse than any current method you're using!  The best thing to do is just try, try, and try again until you find what works best for you.

Stress as an Engineer

Stress as an Engineer