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January 21, 2010

Posted 01-21-10 at 07:00 PM by Cacho
I just went for a run, and I decided to write this while I'm still feeling good.

I'm still procrastinating a little during the day, and I'm still keeping track of the time I spend every day. It feels like the more I track my time, and the more I actually review it, the more in control I feel of it.

My problem now is that some mornings I just feel like nothing makes sense. This morning I felt especially horrible. I felt like I won't succeed at anything ever, I had chances at success and blew them all due to my own stupidity, and that even if I succeeded, it wouldn't matter, since the world is a cold hard irrational and sad place.

This particular morning I did talk to my grandmother. Even though we live in different countries, I have always felt very close to her, and she just got back from the hospital. She might be dying and she is old. She has aged a lot lately. It is hard to watch, and this probably made my mood especially foul this morning.

I also tend to rehash my past. This can be good if you are learning from your past mistakes, but I just seem to dwell on my past mistakes and wish I could redo things, which I can't. I'm not quite sure what to do about this, since I have always ruminated over things for a very long time.

Writing things down has been helping me come to terms with some things in my life. Maybe I should write down the things I regret, and the things I am glad for, and whether I learned anything from each. Maybe if I get it all down on paper once, I can boot it out of my head. Anyway, I'm not quite ready to do this right now. But it seems like it could help.

To do lists
Using text files as to do lists has been working surprisingly well. I've been reviewing my list of tasks every day. And I've actually been getting stuff done.

The text files makes everything seem simpler. It's easy to print, backup, and edit. I've tried things like Outlook before, and I've always felt a little out of control of the data.

One thing that really helps is running occasional reports of how many things are in my to do list, and how many things I have done. They look like this:

Date ---- To do ---- Done
2010-01-19-22:01:09 ---- 53 ---- 10
2010-01-20-22:30:03 ---- 58 ---- 11
2010-01-21-14:29:54 ---- 59 ---- 13

So, even though my to do list sometimes feels long, I can see that I am getting more and more stuff done. This feels surprisingly good.

Sometimes I get this sudden feeling that I'm prioritizing everything wrong, or the wrong things are on my to do list, or that there are too few or too many things on it, but I've noticed that having a daily review of my to do list helps with this. It's not a long review, just a quick scan to make sure I've crossed off all the things I've done and to see if there's anything that needs to be changed.

Projects vs Operations
One thing that has always stopped me in the past from keeping a to do list is that I felt like my list didn't really reflect the things I did during the day.

There are all sorts of things I do, or want to do, every day, week, or month. Things like shave, exercise, vacuum, work, learn, etc. I felt I had this long to do list, but I kept doing all these repetitive things instead of the stuff on my list. Then I would try and write down "exercise" every day, and I just would not be able to keep track of re-writing the things and keeping track of the last time I did something. It's hard to explain, but it felt like I had a list, yet most of the things I did during the day were stored in my head... so why keep a list.

I finally separated my to do projects from my recurrent operations. So everything on my to do list are one time events. Then I have a list of things I do every day, once a week, and once a month. When I do one of my repetitive tasks, I write the date I did it on that line. If I skip something that I should have done, I put a big arrow next to it, so I know to do it the next chance I get. Like this I can see that I'm exercising, doing laundry, etc, regularly.

Especially for things that are weekly or monthly this works great for me, since I can't really keep track of when I've done laundry or vacuumed in my head. So seeing it on a list, and having the list separate from my "projects" seems to be really helpful.

I don't like having two lists, but I think I must. The nature of recurrent operations and one time projects and tasks makes it necessary. I know there are others who can track their operations in their projects list, since they are diligent about writing things in every day, but for me that just gets too confusing.

I've tried using Outlook to track recurrent tasks with automatically generated deadlines, but it was always a mess. Sometimes I wouldn't see the new deadline and I'd hit done 5 or 7 times in a row, putting the deadline weeks into the future for daily tasks.

  1. I've been in a foul mood lately.
  2. Separating out repeating tasks from one time tasks has helped me keep track of the things to do.
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