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Old 06-27-11, 01:28 AM
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turbo3ltr turbo3ltr is offline
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Some systems to get me through the day..

I rely heavily on web-based services to get me through the day. I've been adjusting and tweaking these systems for years to deal with (what I think is) untreated ADHD and I feel they've helped me so I figured I'd try to give back to this community and share them. Is the system perfect? Definitely not. But it's helped and hopefully it can help someone else. I have no affiliation with any of these services other than I happily use them every day. They are all free or have a free version.

The big problems I've identified in my life and tried to address:
  1. Ideas and thoughts always come at the wrong time. I found it's very important to be able to quickly capture those thoughts so they can be processed later, at the correct time.
  2. Remembering to do routine things.
  3. Knowing what I need to do next.
  4. Minimizing distractions to maintain focus


My brain is all over the place (thankfully it's still all inside my skull). I get a constant flow of random thoughts that doesn't really stop unless I'm in hyperfocus mode. Those thoughts, while important, aren't usually very applicable to what I am doing that instant. I don't necessarily forget, I just don't remember at the correct time. Thats where RTM comes in.

Remember The Milk
http://www.rememberthemilk.com

This service is really the heart of my organization. It allows you to create multiple todo lists online. For me, I have lists for the different companies I own/do work for, as well as a personal list. RTM allows you to create "smart lists" which allow you to make a dynamic list of tasks from all the other lists. So I have a "top priority" smart list, which shows me only the tasks that are marked with priority 1. This is my main todo list and I'll get to how I use it in a second.

Remembering to do recurring tasks
RTM also allows you to create recurring tasks, which I rely on heavily. If there is a task that needs to get done on any sort of recurring schedule, you can set it up so it automatically pops up on your todo list at the appropriate time. For me, things like filing sales tax every month, billing a consulting client, and filing the annual report so my corporation doesn't get dissolved because I didn't pay "the man" all get put in there and it's worked great.

Organizing the day
So at the beginning of my day, I look through my todo lists. I select one, maybe two (like an easy and a hard) tasks I'd like to get done from each list and I make it high priority. Now I can work off the single "Top Priority" todo list throughout the day. Sometimes I'll even take it a step further and assign times to each task throughout the day. This will cause an email to be generated at that time, which will act as a reminder to keep on track if you've wandered astray from your todo list.

If you don't get something done, it becomes "overdue" and naturally rises to the top of the list.

I'll admit, it's a challenge to remember to do this every morning. But you can set RTM to send you an email of the tasks due today, which I get around the time I get to the office, so that helps remind me. I even have a recurring task that pops up every day to "Do Morning Plan"...when it's 1pm and that task is still on my list, I know I did something wrong.

All in one place
The really nice feature I like about it is that they have iGoogle gadgets. I set lists up on iGoogle and that page is always open in my browser along with gmail and other services that all get opened automatically when I start the browser. As a matter of fact, that whole browser window gets it's own monitor. It's like "work central" for me.

Here's what my iGoogle page looks like:
http://www.digitaltuning.com/xd9/igoogle.png

When a random thought sneaks up

I always have my smartphone on me. Sure I could load up the RTM site and add the "important, but not important right now" task, but by the time I got the site up on my phone and logged in, I probably would have forgotten it already.

Enter Twitter.

I don't use Twitter, (or facebook for that matter I grew tired of social media really quickly) , but I do use Twitter for productivity. RTM has twitter integration, so once you connect your twitter account with your RTM account, you can privately tweet tasks to your RTM account. This alone doesn't do me any good as you'd need a access to a twitter client in order to do so. You might as well log into RTM direclty. But Twitter offers free SMS integration. With this, you can now send a text message via twitter which will add the task to your RTM! I find text messaging much easier and quicker to use. As an added bonus, you get text messaged a list of tasks due today at the start of the day to get reminded that you should look at your task list.

Simply send:

D RTM take out the garbage

And the task will appear in RTM. "D RTM" tells twitter to send a private message to RTM of "take out the garbage" and RTM will put that in your list.

I don't use it only for tasks, I use it for ideas or anything i need to remember, just not remember right now. I have a special list (like an inbox) where the messages from twitter go which I try to keep empty. When I sit down to organize my day, I also go through the list and move the new tasks to the appropriate list, or store the ideas in Evernote (See below).

Shortcomings / Breaking Tasks Down
One of the things I struggle with is this: Ok, RTM says I need to work on Project X. Great, now what? Project X is a multi-month project with many different aspects. Just because I know I need to work on a project doesn't help me know what I should do right now. This is a HUGE problem for me right now and it keeps me from getting stuff done...


One could keep breaking down projects into smaller tasks until they are bite size. But that would make RTM a complete mess with tasks all over the place. RTM just isn't made for that kind of granularity.

I have been experimenting with http://thn.gs which is similar to RTM, but allows you to create hierarchical tasks lists. I believe it's geared towards the "Getting Things Done" (GTD) way of doing things. The problem is it's missing the recurring tasks feature I so dearly rely on.

I also have a custom tool that gives me a 50000 ft view of product development status. It's a great tool, but unfortunately it doesn't do much good if nothing gets done.

Calendar
http://calendar.google.com

I use Google Calendar for events. I won't go too much into it, but it's another tab that automatically gets opened up when my browser starts. I have it set to default to send me a email and text 10 minutes before an event like a teleconference. If the event requires me to travel, I set the reminder to be sent however long it would take me to get ready and get there if I totally forgot that I had somewhere to be.



Toggl

http://www.toggl.com

If you looked at the iGoogle screenshot above, you saw a Toggl window. If you do any consulting or time-based billing, Toggle is awesome. I won't get too much into it as it's not really ADHD related, but it allows you to keep track of the time you spend on different projects. It lets you easily start a timer for a new task or switch between tasks and keeps track of the time. Could be useful if you ever ask yourself "where did all my time go" as I do often. You can see they too have an iGoogle Gadget which makes 'work central' even better. No need to have a bunch of tabs open.


Evernote
http://www.evernote.com

Someone recently brought up Evernote and I wrote some stuff about it which I won't repeat here, but you can read here:

http://www.addforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=104811

Bottom line is it's an awesome way to organize *and recall* (because that's really the important part, right?) a plethora of information gathered in our daily lives.


Bills, Banking and Mail
So this isn't really a service as much as techniques I've found useful. For the LONGEST time I never paid bills on time. They would sit on my desk unopened, and by the time I opened them, they'd be overdue. I'd never reconcile accounts regularly. Though I always eventually did it, usually I found some mistake or it would literally take me 2 full days of work to get through all the transactions to find and correct the errors. I finally said "that's it, I got to do something".

The something I did is rather simple, so I'm not sure it will work for everyone (or you may already do it), but I haven't been late with a single bill since.

I have a recurring task set for every monday to "Do Accounting". It is the very first thing I do when I get into work. (I work for myself so I get the "luxury" of paying personal bills and company bills at the same time). I don't do anything until I get my accounting done. I have a checklist of all the things I need to do.
  1. Open mail
  2. Reconcile the accounts
  3. Pay bills
  4. Budget money

Mail
When I get the mail, I don't open it. It's a distraction. I simply put it on the desk I do the accounting on. Opening the mail every monday assures me that I will never leave a bill unopened long enough to be late.

Balance the Checkbook
If I reconcile the accounts every week. You might think that reconciling accounts every week is overkill, but it's MUCH easier to find an error in 10-20 transactions than 400. I could easily waste twice the time it takes to reconcile a few transactions tracking down an error in 4 weeks worth of transactions.

Paying Bills
I pay bills weekly, or at least plan when I will pay. I know if the due date is before next monday, I *MUST* pay the bill TODAY because I won't look at the bills again until then. Weekly bill paying pretty much assures you that you will not be late on any bill.

Budgeting Money
I use a custom budget spreadsheet I made to budget money. It's loosely based off the methods used in YNAB (www.ynab.com) where every dollar is given a job. I just came up with it in Jan and I can't tell you how great it's been working.

I have multiple income streams (it sounds better than it is heh). Some come in daily, and larger chunks come in twice a month. None of them are the same every month, so it is imperative that I plan for upcoming expenses. Before I was using this method, I would end up getting surprised by a bill and realize I sent too much money to the credit card and didn't have anything left to pay the surprise bill. No more surprises anymore.

If anyone is interested, let me know. It's probably not very user friendly, but I'm willing to share and help you get started.

During this time I also do related and recurring tasks such as pay taxes or invoice customers that pop up on RTM on mondays.

Once I'm done with all this accounting, then I allow myself to go on with the rest of my day.


Distractions
Two things I did that really helped.
1: I turned off email notifications on my phone and computer. It wasn't easy, I'm an email addict. I have to know the instant an email comes in. But it goes a long way to minimizing distractions, especially with how much work email I get.

I've tried turning off email completely, at least part of the day and unfortunately it just didn't work out. It wasn't really that I couldn't do it, it's that email is the primary method of communication between me and my clients so not having email really hurts my ability to do my job. It was really nice though when I did do it, I highly suggest you give it a whirl.


2: Put the phone on "do not disturb". So I got mixed results with this. I put my customer line on DND. This works great since the phone doesn't even ring and I don't get pulled off a task to answer long winded questions. It doesn't seem to bother people as long as they get a call back. The message encourages people to use email but some leave a message, and thats fine, because I can call them back when I'm not in the middle of a task.

Now I tried this with my clients and that didn't work out so well. They called that line and they would hang up and try the other line which does ring my office. If I ignored that, they would call my cell. I'd answer it "The building better be on fire"..

Now one could argue that the internet is the biggest distraction of them all, and they would probably be right. I've read a lot of suggestions to stay away from the internet altogether if you don't want to be distracted. I just couldn't imagine my life without these tools though.

Conclusion
Please don't get the wrong idea, I don't claim these are 100% foolproof or I 'got it all figured out' because I assure you I don't at all. Sure I sit down on Mondays to do bills, but it doesn't stop me from getting sidetracked as I walk into the other room to grab something I need to pay the bills. Many times I find its 2pm and I still didn't get my accounting done (which should only take about an hour) because it's been one distraction after another. But it's still better than getting hit with late fees or worse.

I still struggle staying focused, or even getting motivated to start the list of tasks that are right in front of me. I'll just sit there staring at the screen with no drive to do the work I should do. I'm really hoping meds will help this. It's easy to get distracted by email, youtube, or even this site. But the idea is the more structure you have in place, the more likely you will get the things you need to do, done.
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Old 06-27-11, 03:10 AM
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Kaimei Kaimei is offline
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Re: Some systems to get me through the day..

Hey, as far as I'm concerned, any tool that works for one of us is worth being checked out. Especially with technology and the Web - it's such a prevalent part of most cultures. Thanks for taking the time to post it all out for us!
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I am not forgetful - I have Inappropriate Recall Timing. I never forget anything - but I remember it at the wrong time.
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