In Praise of the Morning Routine [en]

[fr] Avoir une routine matinale à laquelle on se tient, ça aide (même quand on a eu une panne d'oreiller, comme moi ce matin!)

I have a morning routine. From wake-up to office, it takes roughly 90 minutes. I don’t hurry. I don’t look at the time. I just go through it.

It’s a way to start the day, a way to wake up before staring at my inbox or getting started with work. It also means that for 90 minutes at the start of the day, I don’t have to make any choices or take any decisions.

There are times when I’m not good at sticking to it. But in general, I’ve noticed that the days, weeks or months when I do tend to go better. Not confusing correlation with causation, here: I’m very well aware that if I have the leisure to not be in a rush in the morning and take those 90 minutes, it means I’m not running around putting out fires all the time. True too, though, that if I am putting out fires but do manage to preserve this morning time of mine, I am managing to firewall some downtime from the madness of the rest of the day. In this way, my morning routine is not just a health indicator of my life, but also a took I can use to influence it.

This morning, I overslept. I had blocked a full day of work in the office, and I woke up three hours later than I had planned. Normally, when that happens, I rush downstairs to the office as fast as I can and get on with my day. This morning, I had second thoughts:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/stephtara/status/98311606978625536″]

Well, I listend to Nicole’s (and others’) advice and followed my gut: stick with the morning routine. Waking up late is annoying enough without throwing “my time” out of the window on top of it. And if I needed to sleep 10 hours straight, well so be it.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/cncx/status/98312585681715200″]

I now have a new “rule”: stick with the morning routine. If I needed extra sleep, well, let that eat into work or evening time, not morning and “get going” time.

Consequences for today: I worked later than I’d initially planned, and decided to give up going to a barbecue in the evening. But I went through my day without feeling crap.

So, you’re wondering, what do I do during those 90 minutes? No big mystery. My morning routine intially crept up on me (result of too much unstructured life) and was fertilized by my discovery of FlyLady (who, amongst other things, insists on the importance of routines). My morning routine is pretty much what it was 2 years ago:

  • get up, straighten bed
  • neti pot if necessary, wash any leftover dishes (ideally)
  • hop into exercise clothes, do sit-ups, 30 minutes on the bike, stretch a bit
  • shower, get dressed, have breakfast
  • prepare my stuff and head out/downstairs

Not much to do for 90 minutes, see. I often also take a few minutes to check Twitter, or play a level of Plants vs. Zombies on my iPhone (warning: crack-addictive).

Do you have a morning routine? (Coffee drinkers, you do — even if you don’t think you do.)

 

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Slowing Down: About Cleaning, Laundry, Accounting, and Backlogs [en]

[fr] Il vaut mieux avoir un style de vie ou processus qui nous permet de faire les choses à mesure (compta, rangement, nettoyages, vaisselle...) que de courir et devoir s'arrêter pour s'occuper des désastres accumulés qui ont commencé à nous pourrir la vie.

I’ve just spent about 2 hours tidying up the flat and cleaning it. And yesterday, as I was about to head out to my concert, I couldn’t find my flashlight (which we need for one of the songs). It wasn’t where it was supposed to be, I couldn’t find it in the half-unpacked bag from our last concert two weeks ago, and basically lost 20 minutes turning the already messy flat upside down. (I found it finally. Hidden inside one of my concert t-shirts I’d taken out of the bag.)

This experience has allowed me to realise, after all these months of living a reasonably tidy and organized life (not too much, but enough to be functional), that it’s much easier to find something when the place is not in a mess *and* it’s nicer to clean/tidy as you go along rather than have to stop to do it (although I actually do like cleaning).

A year an a half ago I set off on a process which helped me crawl out of 10 years (maybe even a lifetime) of feeling overwhelmed by the mess in my living space (thanks, FlyLady). There’ve been ups and downs, but overall I have been living in a tidy flat for many months, doing my accounting, putting my laundry away instead of living in the laundry basket, and giving my flat a quick cleaning session once a week. I’ve been slacking these last few months though, probably because of calendar overload.

What’s the general teaching here? In the spirit of the “not running” and “doing things now” principles I detailed in my “Journey out of Procrastination” series, I’d say the following:

It’s better to go slower and have a process/lifestyle which allows you to deal with things as they come, rather than running around and having to stop to deal with the accumulated backlog once it starts impeding on your ability to live happily.

In practice, for me, that means I need to pay attention to build enough time into my days/weeks for:

  • unpacking bags
  • putting things away after I’ve used them
  • washing the dishes after the meal/snack
  • doing my accounting at least once a week
  • cleaning the flat roughly once a week
  • putting my laundry away the day after laundry day
  • taking things to the office

In summary: planning ahead enough so that I’m not in a rush. Added bonus: life is more enjoyable like that.

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The Art of Removing One's Socks [en]

[fr] Comment enlever ses chaussettes de façon à ce qu'elles ne nous pourissent pas la vie quand on les sort de la lessive. Je ne plaisante pas, ça a été une révélation pour moi, même si c'est super simple: les enlever sans les retourner.

Amongst other life-saving tips I learned from hanging around on the Flylady site, I learned how to remove my socks. Now, don’t laugh — it has been a life-changing revelation for me. It’s a very simple obvious trick, and when I read about it I could have kicked myself for not having figured it out on my own, and as a result struggling with bunched-up socks in my laundry for the last 20 years.

I’m a sharing person, so here’s the tip, lifted directly from Flylady’s site (it’s #4 on this page):

[Robert] also taught me to take my socks off, right side out. LOL Push them down over your heels and then pull the toes. Poof your socks are right side out. No more having to turn socks after they are washed.

Now, I imagine you’re all going to tell me that you’ve done this all your life and you never have trouble with socks in laundry, but trust me, I did not. I would remove my socks as they came, inside-out, all rolled up, and wash them like that, and then have to struggle to unbunch them so they could hang up and dry.

It’s one of those very simple things that takes no effort (or almost) to do and makes life much easier for the future you. I’ve been implementing a lot of these “good habits” over the last year or so, but the sock thing is the one example that really sticks out for me, and represents the spirit of dealing with things now rather than later.

And as I remove my socks every day, I’m reminded of my new way of doing things every day.

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Prune Your To-Do Lists, Mercilessly [en]

[fr] Plus tôt on admet que l'on ne fera pas une tâche, mieux c'est (avant qu'elle nous pourrisse la vie durant des mois avant de mourir de sa belle mort). Soyez donc sans merci en révisant vos listes de tâches. Posez-vous honnêtement la question: vais-je vraiment faire ça?

Yesterday, I opened Things for the first time in… a year, maybe, to see if the link to a video I wanted to watch was still in my old lists there. It wasn’t, but trawling through the state of my to-do lists from Going Solo times made me realize just how much stuff was in there that I never did. And I’m still alive.

I’ve known this for some time: a good way to make our lives miserable is to stack our to-do lists (or next action lists, if we’re GTD-enabled) with piles of tasks that we will end up not doing. Seeing all those old tasks I never got around to doing reminded me, once again, of how important it is to realize as early as possible if I am not going to do something.

I think the first time I really heard somebody talk about this explicitly was at the Going Solo conference in Lausanne, when Martin Roell gave his talk on “Self-Organisation for Effectiveness” (watch the whole video, but the moment in question is about 10 minutes in). He told us that, contrarily to some understanding of GTD (who is to say what’s right or wrong?), he recommended throwing out as much as possible from action lists. YANGTDI: You Are Not Going To Do It.

It’s a bit the same frame of mind as when you come back to your e-mail inbox after a holiday. You can usually safely ignore the stuff that’s marked URGENT in all caps, because chances are if it was urgent a week ago, it’s simply not relevant anymore.

I think that this is where lies the trap in GTD’s “Someday/Maybe” list. Also because we quickly forget one important step in the GTD process, which is that when we put a task on a next action list, it means we are fully committed to doing it. That, I have found, is simply just not the case most of the time for mere mortals like us struggling around with imperfect implementations of GTD in our lives.

So, here are some ideas. They’re not perfect, but they might help.

If you’ve been ignoring an item on your list for a long time, take a moment to look at it. First, make sure it’s a real next action and not a project in disguise, because that could be why you’re not getting around to doing it. Then, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, honestly, deep down inside in your heart of hearts, if you are really going to do it, or if you’re going to keep on procrastinating it until it disappears into a little puff of smoke, in which case you’d have been better off removing it from your list straight away and preventing it from adding to your stress.

How do you know you’ve been ignoring a task for too long? Some systems have that built-in. For example, when I was in my notebook phase, once a page was filled with tasks-done-and-still-to-do, I’d copy over to the next page all the tasks that still needed doing. Once you’ve copied over a task to the new page five times, you start to realize that you’re not doing it.

Yesterday, somebody told me of another method: at the beginning of the week, make a list of tasks you want to accomplish. Opposite that list, draw columns — one per day. Each day, ask yourself if you are committed enough to spend (say) an hour and a half on that task. If you are, draw a green dot on that task’s line. If you aren’t a red dot. At the end of the week, look at what you haven’t done, and look at the amount of red vs. green. The decisions to make are probably made, by that time.

Another trick I have is that I have a sub-heading, in my lists, which is called “Obviously I’m not doing this”. That’s where I send tasks off to die, when I’m clearly not doing them but don’t have the courage to get rid of them completely. A bit like the “Should throw away but can’t yet” box in your cellar.

A corollary to this “task pruning” attitude is to extract subsets of tasks for given time periods, like I started doing (and still am doing) when I plan my week. Or on a stressful day, when you feel swamped, select three things (or five!) and forget about all the rest.

But the main point here is: show no mercy for those idle tasks that just sit there, make your life miserable, and never get done.

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La technologie qui nous pousse à grandir [fr]

[en] I write a weekly column for Les Quotidiennes, which I republish here on CTTS for safekeeping.

Chroniques du monde connecté: cet article a été initialement publié dans Les Quotidiennes (voir l’original).

Depuis bientôt dix ans que je fréquente des blogueurs, j’en vois régulièrement qui succombent à la pression de leur lectorat. C’est ainsi qu’ils le présentent, en tous cas. Ils ne peuvent plus tenir le rythme de publication. Les commentaires de leurs lecteurs les minent. Leur public a des attentes, et ils n’arrivent pas ou plus à y répondre. Ils sont trop sollicités.

Alors ils arrêtent de bloguer, se fendant d’un long (ou très bref) billet explicatif.

Et à chaque fois, je lis, un peu médusée, et je peine à comprendre. Tout l’attrait du blog, pour moi, c’est la liberté qu’il confère à son auteur. Les seules contraintes sont celles que le blogueur s’impose. S’il cesse d’écrire à cause des attentes de son public, n’écrivait-il que pour celui-ci en premier lieu? N’avait-il pas peut-être lui aussi, des attentes peu réalistes (d’une certaine forme de reconnaissance, à tout hasard) pour son lectorat? Le problème est-il vraiment avec ses lecteurs, ou est-il plutôt entre lui et lui?

Ceci n’est qu’une situation parmi d’autres où je vois que les avancées technologiques nous offrent l’occasion de grandir en tant que personne — plutôt que d’en devenir l’esclave (à l’image des blogueurs dont il est question ci-dessus) ou de les rejeter un bloc (mouvement de retour de balancier, parfois).

Le téléphone mobile nous rend joignable en tous temps? On apprend à ne pas y répondre juste parce qu’il sonne. On le met sur silence. On l’éteint. On filtre les appels. On reprend le contrôle.

Le chat nous permettrait de bavarder à longueur de journée? On apprend à se discipliner, à mettre des priorités sur certaines activités (travailler, peut-être?), à dire gentiment mais fermement que l’on n’est pas disponible maintenant. A approcher les autres avec un peu de retenue, aussi.

Les e-mails arrivent dans notre boîte de réception à toute heure du jour et de la nuit? On apprend à filtrer, à ne pas répondre à tout dès que possible, à basculer vers un autre mode de communication lorsque c’est plus adéquat.

Le blog et la publication en ligne ont fait de nous un micro-célébrité? On apprend à voir plus loin que la satisfaction un peu compulsive de l’attention reçue, à reprendre contact avec les motivations profondes et saines qui nous poussent à faire ce que l’on fait, et à mettre des limites aux sollicitations quasi-infinies du monde extérieur.

Un fil rouge, ici: être au clair de ses attentes, connaître ses besoins et ses limites, les faire poliment respecter lorsque c’est nécessaire. Dans le monde ultra-connecté qui devient le nôtre aujourd’hui, les compétences que l’on regroupe souvent sous l’expression un peu réductrice “savoir dire non” sont une question de survie. Et ce n’est pas plus mal.

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Just do it [en]

[fr] Parfois, on fait les choses même quand on n'en a pas vraiment envie.

“Just do it” is the answer many of us poor procrastinators get when asking for support from our non-procrastinating friends. And usually, it doesn’t help.

However, I’ve learned that there are situations where “just do it” is the answer. Years ago, I realized that I had become trapped in an excessive “what do I feel like doing” state of mind. I would wait until I felt like doing something to do it. I thought that I needed to feel like doing things to do them, and expected that at some point I would always feel like doing the things I had to do.

Probably too many childhood and teenage years what I wanted and what I felt like were not given enough place in my life, but let’s not dwell on that.

The important realization was when I understood that sometimes you don’t feel like doing things, and you still do them. You don’t feel like doing the washing-up, but you do it because you’ve decided that you wanted to live with a reasonably clean kitchen and clean dishes for your next meal. You don’t really feel like eating anything in particular, or maybe chocolate, but you make a salad, cut some bread, and put a piece of meat in the pan because you’ve decided it was important to have a balanced diet, even when you didn’t really feel like it.

And sometimes you work, or study, because you have an end goal in mind, or need to earn a living, even if you don’t always feel like it.

This is not to say you should ignore your feelings. But sometimes, for some people, listening to them too much can get in the way of living.

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My Journey Out of Procrastination: Doing Things Now [en]

[fr] Une clé pour procrastiner moins: faire les choses à mesure. Evident, bien sûr, mais important. Pour pouvoir faire les choses à mesure, ralentir, prendre le temps. Comprendre au fond de soi et pas juste dans sa tête qu'une tâche effectuée maintenant ne sera pas à faire plus tard.

This is the fifth post in my ongoing series about procrastination. Check out the previous ones: Five Principles, Perfectionism, Starting, and Stopping, Getting Thrown Off and Getting Unstuck, and Not Running (Firewalls and iPhone alarms).

Obviously, doing things now (as opposed to later) is the remedy against procrastination. If you do things now, then you can’t procrastinate them, right?

Now that the obvious is out of the way, let’s dig a little. Doing things now is both the result of not procrastinating and part of the cure against procrastination. This means that if we understand what’s going on, and manage to make a habit of doing certain things immediately, we have a key to easing the accumulation of incoming tasks on the procrastination list.

At one point in my life (the “when” is a little fuzzy here) I really understood (deep down inside) that if I did something now, then it meant that I wouldn’t have to do it afterwards. I’m sorry for stating the obvious. Everybody knows this. But between knowing it in your head and knowing it in your gut, there is a difference. The procrastinator’s gut believes that if you don’t do it now, with a bit of luck you’ll be able to continue ignoring it safely until the end of time.

So read this again: if you do something you need to do now, you will not have to do it later.

I know that one decisive “aha!” moment in that respect was when I reached the “2-minute rule” part of GTD. Here’s what this rule is about: when you’re in the “processing” phase of GTD, going systematically through a pile of stuff and deciding what you need to do about each item — but not actually doing it, just making decisions and putting tasks in the system for later — well, there is one situation where you do what needs to be done instead of putting your next action in the system, and that’s when it takes less than 2 minutes to deal with the task. The logic behind this is that putting a task in the system and retrieving it later is going to take two minutes or so — so you’ll actually spend less time if you just do it now. Also, a 2-minute interruption in your processing is not the end of the world.

The trick here is to use a timer — if the timer goes off and you haven’t finished what you thought would be done in 2 minutes, then you stop, put the task on the right list, and continue processing.

Now, I’m not saying that this is where I got the “do it now” revelation, but it’s definitely one blow of the hammer that helped drive that particular nail in.

Another moment I remember is when clicking around on a few links on the FlyLady site brought me to Bratland. I like this metaphor of the “inner brat”, the part of you who finishes the toilet roll but doesn’t put a new one on for the next person (who, if you live alone, is going to be you). The brat who spills the milk and doesn’t clean up, so it ends up caking the kitchen counter and it takes you 5 minutes to get rid of it instead of 30 seconds. I started keeping a kind but firm parental eye open for my inner brat, and that is something that helped me not create more work for myself by letting things drag along.

One area I managed to put this in practice rather well is e-mail. If an e-mail comes in my inbox, and I answer and/or archive it straight away, it won’t be sitting there looking at me next time I go into my inbox. I know this goes against the “deal with your e-mail only twice a day” (or whatever) rules — I’ll write more about why I think my way of dealing with e-mail works, though.

But clearly, if you are the kind of people for whom tasks tend to go onto todo lists to die or weigh on your conscience for months, there is a decisive advantage to not letting them get on the list in the first place.

Related, but not exactly in the “doing things now” department: I have a trick I use when people ask me if I can do something for them (I’m usually tempted to say yes, because I want to be helpful and I want people to like me, and then I feel horrible because I let things drag along and don’t do them). I ask the person to send me an e-mail to remind me about it. This has three advantages:

  • if the person doesn’t really need me to do this for them, they won’t e-mail
  • I don’t have to answer right away
  • I have a “physical” reminder already in my system (I know that I am going to deal with stuff that reaches my inbox), that I will answer when I have the brain space to do so, and if necessary, can politely steer to “sorry, have other commitments” or “this is stuff I get paid for” or even “so sorry, I know I said yes, but actually, to be honest, I just can’t because xyz”.

One important element to be able to start doing things that need it “right away” (you do not want to be putting things like cleaning up spilled milk on your to-do list) is to slow down, run less. If you’re trying to run out the door because you’re late for an appointment, you’re not going to clean up the spilled milk. You’re not going to do the washing up right after your meal. You’re not going to put the laundry away today if you haven’t planned that you need time for that. Yes, household chores, but it’s the same thing with work-related stuff: accounting, invoicing, getting back to prospective clients. You need wiggle space in your days, and that will not happen if you’re running from morning to evening.

I had forgotten about this when I wrote my previous post in this procrastination series, but one thing that helped me break out of the vicious running cycle was heading up into the mountains with no internet for a few days, in summer 2008. Up in the mountains, with nothing to do but eat, sleep, walk, and read a bit, I slowed down. I started taking the time to do things. And I kept a taste of this when I came back to my work-life.

I’ve found that, in the spirit of incremental changes, it’s no use deciding “from now on, I’m going to do all the regular stuff I should be doing as it comes in, à mesure“. Picking an area or two where you stick to it, on the other hand, is helpful. It’s helpful because it means one area where you will be accumulating less procrastinable material, and one area where you can experience the change, the slowing down, the “less backlog”, and get a taste of what it can be like to encourage yourself to make these changes in other areas of your life too.

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Weekly Planning: Weekly Routine? [en]

[fr] Je réfléchis à un rythme pour mes semaines. Même si elles se suivent sans se ressembler, certaines choses se répètent de semaine en semaine. J'en suis ici: lundi, courte journée consacrée essentiellement à m'organiser et à planifier la semaine, et à faire un sort à autant de tâches routinières que possible. Mardi, journée bureau. Mercredi, journée bureau ou meetings suivant les besoins. Jeudi après-midi, workshops ou meetings. Vendredi pour m'occuper de ce qui a passé entre les gouttes durant la semaine et faire des tâches "légères" (annoncer et promouvoir Bloggy Fridays et autres p'tits déjs, mettre le blog de l'eclau à jour, compta, paperasse, socialiser en ligne, mettre à jour ma présence sur les réseaux sociaux, etc...)

Attempting to plan my weeks has left me wondering if I should try to settle into some kind of weekly routine — especially when a week like last week comes up, where I realize that I have only one office day planned for the whole week, and on a Friday.

One thing I need to do in advance is plan my office and meeting days. Sometimes they are decided for me: a client wants me to come and give a talk on this or that day — well, that makes it a meeting day. But most of the time, I get to choose. So, which choice is best? What are the best days of the week for me to stay in the office, and what are the best days for me to be running around or seeing people all day?

Though my professional activities vary a lot for week to week, my personal ones are pretty regular. I finish early on Mondays and Fridays to go to judo. My Monday mornings and Thursday mornings are usually booked. I sing on Wednesday nights, or go sailing in summer. People from the coworking space often go out to eat together on Wednesdays.

There are also professional activities that I do or want to do each week: plan my week, for one. I’m the editor for a couple of blogs, and I have the choice between scheduling publications for the whole week at one moment, or publishing day-by-day. I write my column every week (on Sunday, so far). I want to write a few blogs posts every work, do some research, work on my business development, keep up with administrivia, and of course do my client work.

So, with all these different activities, and different types of days, maybe there is an optimal way of organizing my week.

Here’s my thinking so far (and many thanks to Suw who patiently listened to me thinking all this out loud over IM).

Planning my week is something, I realized, which can take upto half a day (scary!) because I’m still learning how to do it. It often involves rethinking priorities, doing a mind sweep (or an inbox sweep) to capture stray tasks that have slipped through the cracks, and sometimes dealing with actual emergencies. As I write this, I realise that my “plan my week” moments have a little “GTD weekly review” ring to them. They aren’t the weekly review, I’m aware of that, but there is some kinship.

I guess in an ideal world I would plan the next week on Friday afternoon, and make that a proper weekly review too. Unfortunately things do tend to crop up during the week-end, and I’m usually pretty tired by my week on Fridays, so I’m not in an optimal state of mind to be doing something new and a bit challenging.

As my Monday mornings are spent out of the office, and my Monday afternoons are pretty short, “Monday” actually turns out to be a good day for me to plan and get organized. Of course, if it doesn’t take the whole afternoon (which I hope!) I will get other things done — but I’ve learned it’s better to plan larger time slots than tight ones.

So, there goes my Monday.

Friday is another interesting day in the week: business is slow on that day, and meetings tend to happen earlier in the week. I’m tired (everybody is). Traditionally for me it’s an office day, and a rather quiet one: not many phone calls, not many incoming e-mails. If my brain is still functional it’s a good day to get things done, but most of the time it’s just not that productive. It’s useful to have it as an office day rather than a day full of meetings or errands, though, because it serves as a safety net to catch any emergencies that might not have been dealt with during the week. When I plan my week, I don’t usually *plan* to do much on Friday, apart from do the stuff I didn’t manage to do during the week.

Ten days ago, I was thinking about the type of activity that would be suitable for a low-energy day like Friday, and actually came up with quite a few ideas:

  • announcing events and promoting them (Bloggy Friday, eclau breakfasts and apéros, etc…)
  • updating blogs, mailing-lists, Facebook presence for my various projects
  • social media gardening: LinkedIn, Facebook, and all the rest
  • uploading photos
  • updating WordPress and plugins
  • trying out new toys or services (light research)
  • pruning my task lists (another hint of “weekly review”)
  • dealing with administrivia and filing paperwork
  • catching up with the week’s invoicing, accounting, and payments
  • getting back to people and socializing online.

A lot of these activities are actually more important than they might seem at first glance, and therefore they tend to slip through the cracks, grow hair and legs, and turn into scary emergency-monsters after a few weeks or months.

So, let’s say I declare Friday a “casual office” day, to catch up on the leftovers of the week and do the above. That leaves me with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Tuesday is a great office day. I have nothing planned in the evening, so it really gives me a clear day to just get on with work. Wednesday is also a good office day when I’m singing, as I can hang around until 7pm, though not so great when I’m sailing, as I’m likely to head out around 4pm. Thursday is usually only half a day, but will turn into a complete day similar to Tuesday in a few months’ time.

So, for the moment, it looks like I’m going to declare Tuesday a regular office day, Thursday afternoon a regular meeting/workshop time, and Wednesday will be office or meetings, depending on whether I have more “office” client work or more “meetings” client work.

Mondays are there to plan the week and get as much of my regular tasks out of the way. Friday is there to catch up on the “overflow”, deal with emergencies, and “casual” stuff. I’ll continue writing my column on Sundays.

What’s important to note though is that this is the framework. Many of my weeks will not work out like this — just like my days don’t always follow my daily routine. But having this framework is going to allow me to plan ahead better, I think.

Do you have some kind of weekly routine, or do you just go from week to week and deal with them as they show up?

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Getting Daily Business Out of the Way [en]

[fr] Je ressens généralement le besoin d'être à jour avec les "affaires courantes" avant d'attaquer le travail "proprement dit", comme lorsque j'avais besoin de ranger ma chambre ou mon appart avant de commencer à étudier pour mes examens, lorsque j'étais étudiante. Je ne suis pas sûre si c'est une bonne ou une mauvaise chose.

Over the last months, I’ve noticed how important it is for me to keep more or less up-to-date with daily business before dealing with “proper work”. Like when I was a student, and I needed to clean the flat before getting to work on my exams.

Non-done daily business floats about in your brain and distracts you. It’s the stuff you might forget to add to your next action lists because you do them pretty regularly all the time, like checking e-mail, responding to the easy ones, writing down expenses, keeping your desk clean, getting back to people who leave voicemail, writing a blog post.

This is the stuff that I’ve got in the habit of dealing with pretty much as soon as it comes in.

Maybe it should go on my lists too (in pure GTD terms, it should probably).

I’m not sure if this is a good or a bad thing.

It is linked, in a way I don’t quite grasp yet, to what I’m going to talk about in the next post of my procrastination series: getting into the habit of doing certain things immediately.

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Weekly Planning After the Winter Break [en]

[fr] Après Paris, la pause hivernale, et la reprise un peu chaotique, le planning hebdomadaire a un peu de mal. Mais on s'encourage et on tient bon!

After the two busy weeks of Paris and post-Paris came two weeks of winter break non-planning, and two weeks of “getting back into it” semi-planning (including the one that is ending now). The two-week winter break allowed me to understand that I need a certain amount of structure in my time to feel good — long unending days of “whatever” don’t sit that well with me.

A consequence of the winter break was that I came back to the office for a week packed with workshops and talks (well, not completely packed, but more packed than is comfy), a rather long list of e-mails and incoming calls to prioritize, and a pile of urgent things “to do”. I good exercise in disruption, if you ask me.

What I’ve learnt is that it takes much more time than I expect to:

  • get organized
  • catch up on daily business backlogs.

So, basically I spent my first week running a little (nothing so bad as what it was in the past, though), ended up exhausted and not having done a pile of things I expected to be able to, and spent this week drilling down my inbox, calling back prospective clients, doing client work, and dealing with a hundred little things that needed dealing with. This makes for days which seem horribly unproductive, because the “big stuff” that’s on my conscience is not getting done, but which are in fact quite productive because all these annoying little things (like emptying one’s inbox) do need to be done.

So, where’s the weekly planning with all that? Answer: in difficulty.

One thing I’ve kept up is keeping my various lists more or less in order. Evernote is always open or just one click away, and I seem to now have the automatic discipline of adding things in my lists whenever I think of them.

I’ve kept my list of week days and placed the urgent/important tasks on days where I had a chance to do them, but as I’ve been running a bit too much, I ended up pushing back the day I’d “plan my week” and end up doing it on Wednesday, because Monday and Tuesday would be taken up by doing “urgent things”.

Clearly, one of my issues now is when to plan my week and how long it takes. I’d like to do it on Friday afternoon but I’m often too exhausted. Monday morning sounds nice but I’m out most of it for judo, and so planning tends to take up the whole afternoon too. Maybe I need to write Monday off as a “planning and administrivia day”. I really do not want to be planning my work week on week-ends, though I might end up looking at what’s in store for me and doing some light pre-planning on Sunday (I do write my column on Sundays).

I’m also realising how hard it is for me to stick to including seemingly “not vital” tasks in my planning: business development and research/writing, specially when I’m a bit under pressure from too much “paid work” stuff to do. (Please don’t understand this at me wanting less paid work. I’m very happy to have more paid work. I just struggle a bit at times to balance what I spend my time doing.)

Next week only contains one office day (eeeek) so I’ll spend the first four days of the week running from one place to another on errands. Ugh, not really happy with myself for taking bites out of what were my office days for various errands. But I’ll live. Thankfully I have three office days the next week to make up for it. I will take whatever free time I have on Monday to plan, and report back on my progress by the end of the month.

Wish me luck! Hopefully things will be “back to normal” by February.

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