Blogging, Morning Pages, Goals, Habits, and Accounting [en]

[fr] Petite réflexion sur ma difficulté à bloguer régulièrement, une prise de conscience sur le type d'activité que j'arrive à faire régulièrement (comparé aux projets long-terme devant lesquels je me décourage), et peut-être une clé pour exploiter l'un afin de me réconcilier avec l'autre. Ayant avec succès fait de bonnes avancées dans ma compta (en souffrance permanente) après avoir décidé de bloquer trois heures par semaine pour ça, je vais tenter de faire ça avec le blog. C'est trop de temps, me direz-vous, et vous avez raison: mais j'ai d'autres occupations "B" pour remplir la plage de temps si je n'en ai pas besoin en entier.

I am not blogging as much as I would like. This has been a constant over the last years and you’re probably tired of hearing me say it. Trust me, I’m even more tired of living it.

I have tons of things to write about. But I’m also stressed about “more important” things I feel I have to do before I blog (like work; or accounting). And then my post ideas turn into Big Ideas and I don’t dare start writing because I fear I’ll end up writing for hours. And then time passes, and I haven’t blogged, and the more time passes, the more I pressure myself to produce something, and the less I start writing — because blogging for me is about responding to an impulse to share.

So, this is an ongoing struggle.

Boats

Why bother? Blogging is important to me because it holds meaning. For my life, I mean. I guess it’s a bit tacky or commonplace in the era of social media (or are we post-social-media yet?) but writing in public is one of the main ways I try to contribute to the world.

Here are two ideas. I can directly link their existence to the fact I started doing Morning Pages.

The first is that I should give myself a rule. It would like something like this: “If I haven’t posted an article in the last 10 days, I will write an article about anything, just to get an article out.”

A few comments about this.

  • This is what I’m doing now. For weeks, “write blog post” has been scurrying around in my task lists. But I never get around to it. I have a list of things to write about, which means I can’t decide which one to start with, adding another reason not to write. Tonight, I just thought “OMG, I just need to write something to reset the clock and remove the pressure”.
  • I don’t like the idea of “filler” blogging. You see it on high-volume blogs, mainly: fluffy articles that are obviously there so that something could be published today. I’m making the bet that because my non-writing is not related to “not enough to say”, I will not fall into that trap. Another difference, I think, is that I’m “producing content” (ack) for me (to help myself blog) rather than to reach some kind of objective, or for others.
  • Morning Pages have shown me that I can write about anything for three pages. I don’t suffer from writer’s block much (though… maybe this thing I’m struggling with is blogger’s block), but even so, it gives me the confidence that if I open a new blog post I will have things to write about.

Vidy automne

The second idea is more something that I have understood about myself, while doing Morning Pages. You see, I’ve often wondered why although I see myself as somebody who has trouble working on things long-term (writing a book, fear) I am usually very good at sticking with something once I decide to do it. In that way, I am disciplined. I have been doing judo for over twenty years. Blogging for sixteen. On a smaller scale, when I start doing something I very often stick with it for quite some time. I’m not the person who signs up at the gym and goes twice.

Morning Pages is another example: I took up the exercise to see if it worked for me, but it was pretty clear I was going to be sticking with it for at least weeks (more like months) to try it out.

I realised that there is a common denominator to these activities that I stick with: they are repetitive. Small chunks of activity that I repeat again and again and again. Writing a book feels like one big activity that you need to slice up to get through it. Writing morning pages or blogging is a collection of little activities that end up coming together to become a big one.

This gave me a key: turn long-term activities or projects into a small-scale form that I can repeat regularly and stick to.

This probably sounds trivial to you. Of course the way to approach a big project is to slice it up into manageable chunks. I knew that too. But I think the missing piece is the idea to turn the objective into a habit, not just into a series of sub-objectives.

Earlier this year, Jean-Christophe Aubry gave a workshop on goal setting at eclau. I am not exaggerating by saying it was life-changing for me. I am still digesting some of the things I learned and will write about it in the future. (I actually followed the workshop a second time as Elisabeth and I invited Jean-Christophe to hold it during our career development workshop series for musicians.)

One of my first take-aways was the distinction between mastery and performance/results goals. Mastery goals are much more motivating and tend to be those that end up working. So the trick is to transform your initial goal (often performance or result) into a mastery goal. James Clear has written about similar stuff. A very rough summary would be to focus on building habits rather than setting goals.

Anyway, all this coalesced for me a few months ago. My ongoing yearly pain as a solopreneur is my accounting. Each year, I find myself with piles of unsorted receipts and expenses and a rather tight stressful deadline to get everything done for my accountant so I can avoid getting in trouble with our tax service. Each year, I vow to do things differently next year, and keep my accounting up-to-date. Each year, I fail.

I had a brainwave one morning whilst doing my Morning Pages: what if I firewalled time to work on my accounting, a little each week? I had too much stuff going on to drop everything and do my accounting for three days straight, but I could afford to set aside three hours a week to chip at the block.

But what would happen once I had caught up with the backlog? Three hours a week is way too much for accounting (even if you add on invoicing and paying bills). I’d wanted to build a habit around accounting previously, but weekly seemed too often and monthly… well, monthly is just too abstract. The rhythm in my life is weeks and seasons. Months only exist in the calendar.

I decided that I would use any leftover time in those three hours (once I was up-to-date) to work on a creative project – something I never feel like I can allow myself to do. I’m not there yet (2016 backlog now) but the idea is extremely motivating.

Grue vidy

After this digression, about Morning Pages, habits, sticking to stuff, accounting, let’s get back to blogging. My success with accounting is encouraging me to try to convert other things to a “weekly habit”. Things like blogging. I’d like to make it daily, of course, but let’s be real. If I were writing one or two posts a week regularly I’d be a very happy blogger. And I’m pretty sure that writing more often would encourage me to write shorter posts. (Sorry. And thanks if you’re still reading me.)

So that is my second idea. I don’t have the solution yet, but I’ve been tossing ideas around (during my Morning Pages mainly). Should I blog in the morning or at the end of the workday? End seems more logical, but by the end of the day I am generally spent. Plus I often have stuff in the evenings (judo, workshops, conferences, board meetings, you name it).

I have thought of stopping work at 5pm and blogging then on the days I don’t have to leave. But today, right now, writing this blog post, I think I should follow the lead of my accounting success and firewall a 9-12 for my blog. I have a backlog of things to do like import my old Open Ears posts, cross-post my newsletters, etc. – more than enough to keep me busy for whatever time is left once I’ve finished writing. It’ll also give me a slot to catch up with my week-end newsletters if I’m running late, as I often am.

See, this is one of the reasons I blog. Like so many other long-running bloggers, I do it because it helps me think. And if in the process it can help somebody else or simply be of interest, all the better!

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Getting Meals Back Under Control [en]

[fr] Quand j'attends d'avoir trop faim pour me demander ce que je mange, ça se passe mal. Au programme: réfléchir aux repas du lendemain chaque soir.

Many years ago, but still late in life, I realised how big an impact food and meals had on my mood and general ability to function. Looking back, I wonder how I managed to stay in denial so long. For the better part of my adult life, I thought eating was just a matter of calming the feeling of hunger, and the rest would take care of itself. Now, I know better.

Gratin de côtes de bettes

First, when I’m hungry, I do not function well. I disfunction, even. Some people can be hungry and just go along as if they weren’t — not me. My ability to think clearly drowns inside the pain in my stomach (yes, it hurts when I’m hungry, I know it’s not the case for everyone). I have trouble making choices. I become irritable. I get stuck in the rut of whatever it is I’m trying to do, or set off in a frantic search for food.

Second, what I eat matters. It’s not just a question of filling up. I’m not religious about any diet, my belief being simply that you should strive to have a balanced diet — carbs, meat, fat, veggies, grains, mix it all up.

Panier de légumes 2013-10-31

A couple of years ago I started “inverting” my meals. (Thanks, Julien.) You know what they say: have breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king, dinner like a beggar. It makes sense, I think: when do you need your energy, during the day or at night when you’re sleeping? The way I do this is have a “normal” meal in the morning. As I type this, around 8:30am, I’m eating past and a salad. Nope, I have no trouble doing it. And when you had a light meal in the evening, trust me, you’re hungry enough in the morning to eat more than a croissant. It’s also a question of habit, I guess.

Where does it go wrong? As my life has little routine in it, I easily fall into the trap of waiting until I’m hungry to wonder about food (what will I eat? what’s in the fridge?). By the time I get moving I’m starving, which usually results in a suboptimal meal.

Racines au four

What I’m going to do now to get out of this is:

  • not wait until I’m hungry to start preparing food (use the clock instead)
  • plan my meals for the next day the evening before so I don’t have to make decisions on the spot.

Started today! That was a nice breakfast. Now I’m off to ski 🙂

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The Freelancer and The Open-Ended Projects [en]

[fr] Les projets à long terme et assez ouverts peuvent être un piège pour l'indépendant, quand la charge de travail augmente soudainement pour plusieurs projets menés en parallèle.

Business has been good this year. 2007-2008 was pretty disastrous, 2009 saw me get back on my feet, and 2010 is really taking off. I’m happy.

With business taking off come more challenges for the freelancer. One of them is open-ended projects, which are especially tricky for the time-management-challenged soloist.

Often, these projects are exciting in nature, having a wider scope than more time-limited projects like “give a talk” or “a day of training”. They’re also interesting financially because they allow the freelancer to secure larger sums of money with a single client, or offer a monthly retainer (something anybody with monthly bills can appreciate).

But they can contain a trap — trap I’ve found myself caught in. The trap is double.

They go on and on

By definition, open-ended projects are open. They might have an end, but if it’s many months in the future, they might as well not have one. This means there is always something to do. They don’t have the comforting “after date X in the near future (next week), this is over”. It’s not a bad thing as such, but it can be stress-inducing.

They have variable workload

The workload for open-ended projects is spread over weeks or months, but it is not always constant. It might be light for a few weeks, and then suddenly require 30 hours of work in a week. This can easily conflict with other work engagements, especially if they are also open-ended, unless the freelancer plans very carefully.

A third trap?

I almost want to add a third trap to these projects: they are often ill-defined and subject to scope creep. Again, careful planning can limit those problems, but is your typical freelancer in love with careful planning?

I’ve discovered that having one or two open-ended projects going on at the same time is roughly as much as I can handle. Maybe three, depending on the degree of open-endedness. At one point this year, I had five in parallel, and that was just impossible.

So, with more work opportunities comes the obligation to start choosing better, and managing a balance between regular gigs, which give some financial security, and short-term ones, which are usually more interesting from a return-on-time-invested perspective.

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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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Income Map Template [en]

[fr] J'ai préparé un tableau pour m'aider à avoir une meilleure visibilité de quand je gagne de l'argent, par semaine et par mois. Il est à disposition si jamais quelqu'un d'autre le trouve utile.

One of the things I want to start doing in 2010 (now that my accounting is in order for 2009, thanks to Buxfer and my brother) is start tracking when I spend time doing “paid work”. Accounting helps me track when I get paid, but not when I am actually spending time doing the work — and in the light of my weekly planning experiments, I want to gain more visibility about how my weeks and months are structured.

After torturing my brain quite a bit, I’ve come up with this Income Map Template for 2010. I’ve made it publicly available as a Google Spreadsheet so you may copy it and use it if you wish (feel free to adapt it and let us know what works for you in the comments).

Income Map Template 2010

The challenge here is that some of my income arrives monthly (retainers), some of it is a project package (one price for a certain amount of work spread over a certain time) and some of it is one-off (giving a talk, or half a day of WordPress training). What I’m really interested in is seeing when I’m doing work that I get paid for, weekly.

This is not about cash flow, although it deals with money (Buxfer takes care of the cash flow), but about time management.

With the help of this spreadsheet, I hope to be able to easily answer the following kinds of questions in 2010:

  • how much paid work do I do in a given month?
  • how much of my income is one-off gigs, compared to regular clients (retainers or long-term projects)?
  • does my weekly income (one-off gigs, aside from retainers and long-term projects) vary a lot from week to week?
  • where should I set the limit to the number of engagements I take in a given week/month?

So, to freelancers out there, who are not clocking time all week: are these questions also interesting to you? Does this make sense? Do you do this kind of “money-earning time-tracking”?

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Two Weeks With (Almost) No Planning [en]

[fr] Pas tellement de planning hebdomadaire ces deux dernières semaines, entre LeWeb'09, la récupération après mon voyage parisien, et la compta 2008 à boucler en catastrophe. On reprend le 4 janvier!

These two weeks went by really fast! The first was spent between TEDx Geneva and LeWeb’09 in Paris, busy blogging (as you can see) and being social and doing things one does when one attends conferences. As for the second, it was spent recovering (major sleep deficit + cold) and dealing with (OMG!) finishing my accounting for my 2008 tax report (no comment).

Although I didn’t really plan the work I still had to do during those two weeks, I didn’t completely give up on it (indeed, this week was spent going “oh, tomorrow I really have to plan my week”) and did manage to place a few of the most important things I was forbidden to forget in my “weekly planning” Evernote note.

I’ve looked at TeuxDeux and it’s pretty, but has a big disadvantage: it’s outside of Evernote. But who knows, I might try it out in the future and adopt it. Sometimes life is full of surprises.

Next week is Christmas week, and the week after is New Year’s week. I’m going to spend them relaxing and writing, so there will only be minimal planning involved until the week of the 4th. However, I have noticed that I remain in a “look forward longer than a day” frame of mind even when I’m not actively planning my weeks, which is a good thing.

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Weekly Planning, Two Weeks [en]

[fr] Après deux semaines de planning hebdomadaire, je vois que j'ai été un peu trop ambitieuse cette semaine. Ça va s'arranger!

So here I am, at the end of my second “planned” week. As I suspected, I was a little ambitious this time around. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • writing a blog post for a client takes up the better part of half a day; sometimes it’s way less, but I mustn’t count on it
  • sorting through 300+ photos also takes up the better part of half a day
  • I need to remember that days with judo are short, as I need to leave the office around 5pm

As I planned “too much”, I ended up giving priority to client work and things others were expecting from me over my personal projects. It sucks, but it’s kind of normal. If I have too much stuff to do “for others” in a week, it means that

  • either I have been saying “yes” too easily
  • or I have not done enough of it over the previous weeks (lack of foresight).

Learning to say “no” more (when necessary) is an ongoing process, and I’m pretty proud at how far I’ve come. It is just not a viable option to say yes to everyone and everything, or you disappear in the process. (Merlin’s time and attention talk, which I’ve started watching, touches upon this.)

As for foresight, it requires longer term planning. Having a view of one’s month, or of the two weeks to come. However, I’m not there yet. It’s no use trying to plan further ahead until I’m at least a brown belt in weekly planning — just as it would have made little sense for me to try and plan my weeks when I was still struggling with the idea of planning my days somewhat. It’s an incremental process, step-by-step.

The fact that I’m not planning beyond the week right now also allows me to relax a bit about the stuff I haven’t got done this week. It’s not like I already have a plan for next week and it’s going to be all disrupted by what I didn’t do this week. I’m going to put the “undone” things back in my master lists, and reevaluate if I’m doing them next week or not.

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More Thoughts on Weekly Planning [en]

[fr] Planifier mon travail sur la semaine me rassure sur le fait que je vais faire le travail "obligatoire" qui est sur ma liste durant la semaine, et que je peux donc me permettre de prendre du temps en cours de route pour des tâches qui me paraissent moins cruciales (mais qui, au fond, sont tout aussi importantes à mon activité professionnelle que le travail payé).

So, enter my second week with a weekly planning, after the first. I spent a good part of my Monday morning getting organized.

I’ve understood how having a weekly planning is helping me make progress in the neglected departments of my “work”: bizdev, research, more writing, etc.

When I work as I normally do, day-by-day, I am only digging into the pile of “things I must do for others”, or “urgent things”. I do not feel I can afford to devote time to less urgent tasks, because there is always this feeling that I should be doing more important things.

With a weekly planning, laying out my week means that I have an overview which reassures me that the “urgent/important” stuff can and will get done, and that it is in fact OK for me to stop and read an interesting publication for an hour or two even though I still need to upgrade some WordPress installations for a client or write a blog post for another. That’s why it works.

The challenge, for the moment, is that I still overestimate what I can do in a day. Or I underestimate the amount of time I need to set aside for the unexpected. And I still have trouble prioritizing, which means that I spent yesterday morning agonizing in front of the rather long list of client work which absolutely had to be done this week.

Yesterday worked out well, but today is being a disaster. Too many rocks, and one task in particular that I completely underestimated: it took me the better part of the morning (granted, there were interruptions and emergencies) to sort through my 350 photographs of Troyes — which I needed to do as I’ll be using some in an article I’ll be writing for a client.

I’m starting to see how longer-term planning (it’s not for straight away, mind you) will come in to help me be better at determining how many projects or how much client work I can take on for a given time period without getting “swamped” in the end.

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Weekly Planning, First Attempt [en]

[fr] Cette semaine, pour la première fois, j'ai réparti mes tâches sur la semaine au lieu de travailler au jour le jour comme j'en ai l'habitude.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I felt the next step to take in my “work life improvement” series was to plan beyond the day, and start looking at my weeks so that I can start building in time for long-term projects. I’ve done this for the first time this week, and overall, the result is pretty positive. Here’s roughly how I did it and what I learned.

1. Define office days and meeting days

This has to be done in advance, obviously, or the calendar fills up. I usually have either two or three of each in a week (minimum one). Every now and again exceptions slip in and an office day turns into a half-baked errand/meeting day, but I try not to. I think I can still improve the way I plan and manage these days (for example: errands vs. meetings, laundry days, exceptions for “immediate” paid work…).

2. Define “areas” that next actions fall in

I’ve refined the list I brainstormed in my “balance in the office” post and come up with these four areas:

  1. things other people expect me to do (paid work, projects involving others, getting back to prospects…)
  2. longer term business development (taking care of my sites, creating documentation, direct marketing…)
  3. stuff I want to do more of (blogging, research, fooling around with cool toys, write ebooks and fiction…)
  4. admin and daily business (personal and professional, checking e-mail, emptying physical inbox, accounting…)

These are my areas — yours might be different. Suw and I chatted about this on Skype on Monday and hers are slightly different from mine. Just find something that makes sense to you.

Looking at my areas, it’s easy for me to see that “bizdev” and “stuff I want to do” are the two areas which will easily be left aside if I just work day-by-day doing things as they become urgent (in bad cases, call this the “Fireman Syndrome”). If you don’t do stuff people expect you to do, sooner or later they nag you or you get in trouble. Same with admin: forget your taxes or invoicing long enough, and you’ll get in trouble.

As there were almost no tasks in these two areas, I realised that to fill them up, I probably need to do a little longer-term planning. For example, what are the things I want to do in the “bizdev” department over the next 6 months? Over the next month? That will help me generate next actions. Otherwise… I’m just flying blind.

3. Sort upcoming next actions in those defined areas

The way I’ve worked these last months I would have one “master” next action list (in EvernoteI love Evernote) and I would regularly “pull out” the 3-10 next things I was going to deal with, under headings like “today”, and then “next”, or sometimes a specific day.

What I did this week is that I first sorted this “master list” into the four areas I defined. I just made four big headings in my list, and that was that.

4. Plan the week!

This is the fun bit, actually. I just made another 5 “day” headings at the top of my list (Monday to Friday) and then started moving items to given days, making sure the urgent stuff was in there, as well as a certain amount of less urgent stuff (specifically from my two “left aside” areas, bizdev and stuff I want to do more of). Two things to pay attention to:

  1. don’t plan to do stuff on errand/manager days, even if you see you will have some office time (a weekly plan is for the “minimum to accomplish” — if you have too much time you can always grab things to do from your master list or even… take time off!)
  2. remember that a fair amount of what you do in your week is going to appear during the week, so leave plenty of buffer time for the unexpected and the unplanned.

5. As the week rolls on…

One of the reasons I like having my tasks in an Evernote note is that they have these neat little “todo” checkboxes (keyboard shortcut: alt-shift-T) that I can check as I go along. Sometimes I’ll do something that wasn’t planned for precisely this day, or that is still on the master list. Well, I check it, and it feels nice. It’s also nice to see a day with a list of completely checked tasks by the time I leave the office.

My Tuesday was a meeting day, but I made the mistake of planning quite a lot of stuff to do on that day because it looked as if I was going to have enough time in the office. Big mistake. So halfway through my Tuesday, I grabbed nearly all the items I had placed under the Tuesday heading and dumped them under Wednesday (a full office day).

On Wednesday, I didn’t manage to do everything I had planned (unsurprisingly, as I shifted the “Tuesday problem” to Wednesday). So I checked the actions I did accomplish and left the others unchecked. This meant that Thursday, in addition to the rather modest list of things I had planned to do (buffer time, remember? specially at the end of the week) I was able to go back and check tasks that were leftover from Wednesday. But I didn’t move them over to Thursday — somehow it felt better to be able to start Thursday with a “clean slate” and catch up when I felt like it.

So, Monday morning, I’ll be wiping the slate clean and planning next week — looking forward to it!

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Office vs. Errand Days [en]

[fr] Ma solution pour rester un peu en contrôle de mon agenda: bloquer des journées entières de travail au bureau sans rendez-vous, et concentrer tout ce qui implique sorties, courses, cours, meetings, rencontres sur d'autres journées. Etre ferme, avec soi-même tout d'abord.

These last weeks have been pretty hectic. Large amounts of stress (work and personal), slipping deadlines, contemplation of possible big changes ahead… I had the feeling that I was spending each of my days running around and not having the time to do any of all the hyper-urgent things I needed to deal with.

Now things are much calmer. I caught up with my deadlines (boy, were they running away fast!) and am much more relaxed. So, of course, it’s easy to figure out solutions that make things better and talk about them when things are better but… who knows, maybe these solutions did actually help me 😉

Actually, “this solution”: concentrate meetings and errands on given days. Book whole days in the office. Be firm with yourself. I actually put huge “booked!” meetings in my calendar. And I don’t make exceptions. Because when you start making exceptions, even with very good reasons, it’s the beginning of the end — and before long your whole week is just riddled with appointments and meetings, like a piece of old Emmental cheese.

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