View Full Version : Simplifying and organizing life


Jacksper
03-29-13, 06:05 AM
I want to talk about living a simple and organized life, something that is becoming more and more of a reality in my life. When I say simple, I do not mean a life of few activities or things, but one with few unnecessary things and no unnecessarily energy and time losses due to some great source of inefficiency. Of course this source is great in us, with our internal difficulty to organize things and to focus. So, I think that something that is external is required, and that does not depend too much on our ability to focus on that moment.

So, I am currently reading "getting things done" by David Allen, probably a lot of you have heard that title. It talks about designing a system to do your work (in the broad sense: work included everything from writing a birthday card to a friend to preparing a meeting with colleagues) and then using that system, well, systematically. The goal is to prevent that you become overwhelmed by everything that you (think) that you have to do, even when you are not that busy. He writes that people have a limited memory for reminding stuff that you have to do (like RAM in a computer) and that an external system is required to cope with life nowadays.
Here is an image of his idea:
http://universalprinciples.se/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/getting-things-done-diagram1.jpg

Well we know about the difficulty to live in this time, about being overwhelmed and always struggling to stay on top of things.
I think the strength of this idea lies in that the only thing that you have to do at first is to collect all your tasks. You don't need to organize them right away, although you can do that if you want. So, you just need another moment to organize all the tasks that came in. And then you go through the flowchart (on paper or in your mind) and you can decide what you will do and when. This system relies on those habits to be built, but on the same time it takes a lot of pressure from us; we don't have to trust our memory as much, we free our minds in this way and this can lead to less stress, we may get in less trouble because we consciously decide when we do things, or we can decide to delegate this when we think of them later, we don't have to decide everything right way. I think this is very powerful.

Since am struggling with all those things (in retrospect mostly silly problems, but I think the fact that I could not organize myself was an important cause), I decided that I am not only reading this book, but I am putting it in practice as I am reading it. I already made an inbox drawer and I have a notebook where I write every task that comes to mind. So, now I should resist the urge to tell people "oh I will write that down later, I will remember that", because I won't. Sure, it'll stay on my mind, but not on the moments that I need it.

I am also getting rid of a lot of loose ends by using this system: all the stuff that I have borrowed, that is unorganized, that I have said to do, or ideas that I said to myself I would do. I already wanted this point for more than 5 years and have already been working for a year to get to this point (will let you know when I am there! ;) ). Anyways, I am almost there! I think it's a matter of days or weeks before I have sorted 99%, which is close enough to decide it is finished. Of course, I do not count the biggest task that I have now; finishing my studies. The challenge is to manage all the other things as good and easy as possible so I can focus on my studies.

Today I hope to move from 90% finished to 95% or so. That is quite a big step and life is already a lot easier now that I don't have to worry about silly things such as bills that I might have forgotten to pay that become way to expensive or just living in a supermessy room that I try and fail to organize every week or so.

I really recommend designing a simple and realistic system and applying it with as few exceptions as possible so you can free your mind!

amberwillow
03-29-13, 08:13 AM
Congrats on your progress. Thats fantastic news to hear.

Please keep us posted.

jeaniebug
03-29-13, 08:50 AM
This is fantastic! Thanks for the post and the reference! :)

malaka
03-29-13, 09:06 AM
interesting, it looks like some kind of algorithm

i still think it'd be hard for me to think that way or perhaps i'd have to pratice a lot :scratch:

meadd823
03-29-13, 09:27 AM
Even the explanation looks hard - Too hard before my first cup of coffee. Then again every thing looks hard before my first cup of coffee!

someothertime
03-29-13, 09:48 AM
Love practical threads on solutions!!! Thanks for your concise, advise Jacksper :)

Your point about removing unnecessary things cannot be understated!!!

Now to go clean out my closet :)


Interestingly, I was thinking about flow charts today........ I never remember 99% of what I read so I'm summarising books into flow charts based on techniques from "Use both sides of your brain" and I organise based on "the one minute to do list" which is a simplified method of what you have above. I think combining a simple task management methodology and a more spiritual / holistic method ( which is more person specific - read "chemistry of joy" ) can be just as important as the meds. I also noted that I maintained a lot of these behaviors when I came off meds while tapering, albeit in a more scattered capacity.

keliza
03-29-13, 11:18 AM
Thanks for this post! I'll come back to it for reference. Right now just looking at the flow chart makes my brain shut down. Too early in the morning. :)

dvdnvwls
03-29-13, 12:32 PM
I already do exactly this. Every item goes into either "Defer" or "Incubate". The filing system is: "Defer" items go on the floor, "Incubate" items go on the floor. Your system doesn't work, by the way. :)

MellyFishButt
03-29-13, 01:01 PM
I use Do, Delegate, Ditch! :) And sometimes I just ignore something so long that it no longer needs to be done. Hahaha

Jacksper
03-30-13, 04:39 AM
I had a good day of working yesterday. I think I did most of what I planned to do and some other things. This morning (and the rest of this weekend) I will continue working to cut out unnecessary things in my life and start/reinforce some good habits.

To answer the question whether this is hard or not, I would say this is easier, because the two components, being on hand collecting your incoming tasks and organising them some other time with the flowchart is easier, because you don't have to remember everything you can have to do and on the moment you want to work, it's useful to organise your tasks, so you have a logical order in which you do them, which is often easier.

By the way, the flowchart may look complicated, but if you just start using this method I suggest you print the flowchart (to get the same but different looking flowcharts just google: getting things done flowchart) and hang in in the place where you do the organising. Here is another one:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/97/364558457_69074c9315.jpg

The most benefits I get from the collecting part, to get some sort of unorganised task list of all the tasks I can think of. Because I can work all the time (no lectures in the eastern weekend) and they are all the same type of tasks with the same goal (getting rid of loose ends), I only group tasks together "on the computer", "in the city center" and "in my room".

I use a program called "Things" on my Mac, but I think the low-tech version (just using a notebook) is often superior, because you can carry it around everywhere. This might be solved by acquiring a smartphone or tablet, but before I would even consider that I want to first make this method a habit with simple and cheap resources. Getting more electronics and more debt is the opposite of what my goal of simplifying life is about.

TagEHeuer
03-30-13, 02:47 PM
I love it! I haven't read anything by David Allen, but I'll be sure to now. I hope he has e-books... thank you again!

Jacksper
04-01-13, 05:34 PM
Well, it's about week ago when I started integrating this method, so it's time for an update! And I have some good news, I think I may just have hit a gold vein here (is that a correct expression in English?)!

The method is really working for me, it's making me more productive and more relaxed at the same time, as the writer promises.

Well let's describe what I did so far: I made 3 collection points (for incoming tasks); a drawer, a notebook that I carry around all the time and a computer program. Everything flows that direction, so everything eventually ends up in the computer program. All places must be emptied at least once every 3-4 days.
I did not use the rest of the method, because I did not read that part of the book yet and I'd like to take it slow, although I think I may already be doing an important part.

Collection all ideas, promises, appointments, agreements, repeating tasks, etc without exception is really working. This is because I know that I won't forget stuff anymore. Also, I know exactly how much work I have before me, and I see that it's really not that much (and most of the stuff is not urgent). In my head I can make these things look so much bigger, almost infinite. And it's just rewarding to be able to click "done" a few times per day and see the list shrinking. This makes me want to work harder, not just because of the clicking but because of the feedback; I can see a list of what I did on a day and it makes me want to try more or at least the same the next day.

This way I am building some confidence, which I still need because I have failed much in life as a student the last 7 years, mostly in ways you guys must recognize. In fact, I was really stuck and was often lacking any hope of improvement and thinking of way out, which I did not see. That is why I am so happy now to see that I am making so much progress in organizing my life, finding ways which work for me, see that I can be meaningful for the people around me and find meaning for myself again; I think the future is bright.

So, I hope this method will keep working this well and I can let you know in a week that I have integrated another part of this GTD. But now, the collection system is finished and I can really recommend something like this for all of you! It may seem to be a burden, but really it's taking a huge burden away from you, because you don't have to put pressure on your brains in this way, which must be a relief because they get enough pressure already from us trying to fit in this NT world!

JanelleC
04-03-13, 09:19 AM
Collection all ideas, promises, appointments, agreements, repeating tasks, etc without exception is really working. This is because I know that I won't forget stuff anymore. Also, I know exactly how much work I have before me, and I see that it's really not that much (and most of the stuff is not urgent). In my head I can make these things look so much bigger, almost infinite. And it's just rewarding to be able to click "done" a few times per day and see the list shrinking. This makes me want to work harder, not just because of the clicking but because of the feedback; I can see a list of what I did on a day and it makes me want to try more or at least the same the next day.

I stand in awe.... I want to be just like you when I grow up. It's great that you found something that works (AND STICKS)! that's my problem. I find lots of great plans, but I never can seem to stick to them for more than a month.

Jacksper
04-03-13, 05:08 PM
Trust me I am still battling this too. Nothing sticks. I hope this does, because itīs really good.

And if you can manage to stick with something for even a few weeks that means that youīre doing better than I did much time. I would say thatīs pretty neat! And that you have so many great plans, and probably often try new things. Those are good qualities that come very hard for other people. If you just keep trying things, enjoying the time and try to keep the best things (so not everything) you'll be fine! ;)

adrenalinfriend
04-03-13, 07:39 PM
I tried GTD for a while but abandoned it after some time, it's too overwhelming to keep up to date with. I loved David Allen books and I believe there is allot to take away from them but I find that his entire process a bit to much. I created my own organization system where I have a folder with 2 papers in it. One paper is labeled "Now" and this is where I record any actions I need to complete within the next 1-3 days. For example I might write down today's date "4/3/2013" followed by the action "do laundry" and the date it needs to be completed by "4/4/2013". The point is these "Now" actions are on my 1-3 day radar. As for the other paper it's labeled "Not Now". Here I write down actions that don't fall into my 1-3 day radar. For example I'd write down today's date "4/3/2013" followed by the action "get groceries" and the date it needs to be completed by "4/12/2013". When the time comes where it falls into my 1-3 day radar I then transfer the action over to my "Now" paper. O I also have a reference folder where I keep any important papers I may need for my "now" actions, like a grocery list. I'm not sure how well I explained that but hopefully I did a decent job. Anyways this seems to work for me, especially when I break big task down into actions I can complete in the "Now"

dvdnvwls
04-04-13, 04:20 AM
I tried GTD for a while but abandoned it after some time, it's too overwhelming to keep up to date with. I loved David Allen books and I believe there is allot to take away from them but I find that his entire process a bit to much. I created my own organization system where I have a folder with 2 papers in it. One paper is labeled "Now" and this is where I record any actions I need to complete within the next 1-3 days. For example I might write down today's date "4/3/2013" followed by the action "do laundry" and the date it needs to be completed by "4/4/2013". The point is these "Now" actions are on my 1-3 day radar. As for the other paper it's labeled "Not Now". Here I write down actions that don't fall into my 1-3 day radar. For example I'd write down today's date "4/3/2013" followed by the action "get groceries" and the date it needs to be completed by "4/12/2013". When the time comes where it falls into my 1-3 day radar I then transfer the action over to my "Now" paper. O I also have a reference folder where I keep any important papers I may need for my "now" actions, like a grocery list. I'm not sure how well I explained that but hopefully I did a decent job. Anyways this seems to work for me, especially when I break big task down into actions I can complete in the "Now"

:) Did you plan this based on a quotation from Hallowell, or did you come up with it independently? Either way, it's great! Inspired modification!

(Hallowell often says something like "For people with ADHD, only two times exist: Now, and Not Now.")

all_faltering
04-12-13, 04:34 AM
I've been working through an ADHD guide book that teaches organizational skills among dealing with other things ADHD related. It's similar to OP's book he's reading, but very focused on strategies proven to be successful with people who have ADHD. I work on it in conjunction with a therapist lead ADHD CBT support group offered for free through my local hospital. I have had some huge results in terms of organizational structure improvements in my life in only a few short weeks since using it. The strategies aren't full habits yet, but I'll take any progress I can get.

If one is not offered in your city, maybe you could buy the book and get a great therapist to help you work on it?

The book:
Mastering Your Adult ADHD: A Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Program Client Workbook

by: Steven A. Safren (Author), Susan Sprich (Author), Carol A. Perlman (Author), Michael W. Otto (Author)

Jacksper
04-13-13, 06:23 PM
Interesting, all_faltering, that your ADHD book teaches the same thing. Thanks for the suggestion! :) I've looked for the book on a dutch booksite, found it there, and put the task "buy book" in my digital inbox (that I just emptied today, which I hope to do every Saturday). Ha I'm describing this in much detail here, but it's just to show that I'm practicing what I preach.

Guys, I really believe I'm on to something here! This method is really working for me (I tried it for two weeks now). It really helps to keep track on things.

Three unusual situations:
- If I forgot my money / bank card at university, or it doesn't work, which happened three times this week, I can borrow money with confidence that I will pay back soon. I just ask friends their bank account number and stuff and tell them that I pay all my digital bills once or twice per week. Sounds complicated, but I can do it really quickly and people like to see that I make an effort in assuring that I pay them back. And I paid everything back, which feels really good. It also saves me from that nagging feeling that I might owe someone something but I don't remember.
- I emptied my digital inbox partly a few times this week and fully today, meaning I made a decision for every thing that popped up to do it either on a certain day / next or someday and I put a lot of things in different project folders. These folders might be "Hydraulics (course)", but I also have "telephone", "at home", "in the city center" and "computer", which are very useful, because when I decide I for example want to go to the city center, I have all the ideas/tasks/etc on a specific list together so I can do them all at once instead of having to cycle multiple times or things getting done months later because I didn't remember them at the right time!
- when working, I usually pick a project to work on and start working with the list of tasks before me. This saves time and energy to remember where I was. I add new tasks as I think of them. Sometimes I copy the things from the (digital) list and make a tasklist for the day out of it, just because writing helps to think it over. However, I wasn't superproductive due to being a bit ill this week and having worthless concentration, but I still managed to do quite a bit. And this part of needs some tweaking, for example I don't have a way to make sure I pay enough attention to every (school) project and to monitor every project. I think an agenda may solve the first problem and a (bi)weekly project overview moment the second. But I am sure the book will get into this.

I understand the system more and more becoming natural. I really follow the book, I believe I can rely on his experience (he's already coached thousands of people with this stuff and his book is widely known, but what he says also just makes a lot of sense). As I've said in another thread, I bought an iPad mini because I believe that, as I like to do things digital (on Mac), it's the best medium to keep track of appointments and tasks on-the-go. Thus far this has been a good choice, it feels very natural to me (I already got used to many of the apps on my macbook).