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!

Similar Posts:

S'organiser… en fonction du niveau de stress? [fr]

[en] I tend to grow out of my "GTD" systems. Initially, I found myself wondering if I shouldn't simply accept that I'm somebody who needs to change systems every few months (victim of "the magic of novelty"). However, I'm now inclined to think that I might need different time/task management systems depending on how stressed I am. It seems logical, after all, that the best way to keep your head out of water when you're on the verge of sinking is not necessarily the best method to be productive when you're not afraid of drowning.

Il y a une dizaine de jours, me promenant dans mon cher Chablais vaudois (je vous dois des photos, et aussi du Bol d’Or, je suis irrécupérable), je méditais tranquillement sur ma tendance (irrécupérable) à sombrer dans la procrastination. En effet, après quelques mois très chargés et productifs, rythmés par les petits billets colorés “à faire” sur mon bureau, la pression s’est relâchée, l’été est arrivé, et… je pétouille.

J’ai toujours bien des choses à faire, je vous rassure, mais je ne suis plus en train de courir derrière les deadlines. (Je suis disponible pour de nouveaux mandats, en passant, ne comprenez pas dans ce “bien des choses à faire” que “Steph est surbookée et n’a de temps pour rien, comme d’hab'”.) Et, misère, les petits billets colorés sur mon bureau ont l’air d’avoir perdu leur pouvoir de m’aider à organiser mon temps.

Ma première idée fut la suivante: peut-être que je suis simplement quelqu’un qui est très susceptible à la magie de la nouveauté, et que je dois simplement changer régulièrement de méthode d’organisation. Peut-être faut-il simplement que j’accepte que “j’use” mes systèmes de gestion du temps, et qu’au bout de quelques mois, il me faut simplement en trouver un autre.

Quelques kilomètres plus loin, ma réflexion avait suivi mes pieds et avancé également: peut-être que l’usure des méthodes de gestion du temps n’était pas une fatalité. En effet, une différence majeure entre la Grande Epoque des Petits Billets Colorés (février-avril) et maintenant est mon état de stress. Je suis beaucoup moins stressée. Et comme toute personne qui a un peu tendance à être motivée par l’urgence et les épées de Damoclès, l’absence de stress signifie que je me laisse un peu emporter par mon envie de me la couler douce.

On comprend donc aisément que les piles de petits billets roses et bleus sur mon bureau, destinés avant tout à me permettre de me concentrer sur les quelques tâches les plus urgentes du jour, ne fonctionnent plus vraiment.

Moralité: j’ai peut-être simplement besoin d’avoir à ma disposition une palette de méthodes à utiliser en fonction de mon état de stress.

Similar Posts:

Dealing With Procrastination [en]

In her post about [going freelance](http://www.disambiguity.com/did-i-mention-im-freelancing-or-coping-strategies-from-the-dining-room-desk/), [Leisa Reichelt](http://www.disambiguity.com/) tells us of her favorite method for fighting procrastination:

> My number one favourite technique is called ‘[structured procrastination](http://www.structuredprocrastination.com/)‘ and here’s how it works. You’ve got a to do list. It’s reasonably long. Make sure it’s got ALL the things you should be doing or should have done on it. Then, attempt to tackle the task you think you *should* be doing. You may have some success, but if you are like me, this is a task that you’re probably doing ahead of time and the lack of adrenaline makes it less compelling than it could be. Rather than just surfing the internet or doing something even less constructive – go to your list and pick something else on the list to do.

Leisa Reichelt, Did I mention I’m freelancing? (or, coping strategies from the dining room desk)

Well, it’s not really foolproof, but one thing I often do is just decide I’ll work 30 minutes on something. 30 minutes is an OK time to spend on something, even if you don’t want to do it. Then I’m free to do what I want.

Sometimes, once I’m “in” it, I run over the 30 minutes and finish the task. If it’s very long, however, I force myself to take a break from it after 30 minutes — so that I’m not cheating myself and the next time I convince myself to spend 30 minutes on something, I know it’ll be just 30 minutes.

You see, one of the things I’ve understood about my “not being able to start” things is that it’s closely linked to my “not being able to stop” things.

In that respect, I quite like the [procrastination dash](http://www.43folders.com/2005/09/08/kick-procrastinations-ass-run-a-dash/) and [(10+2)*5 hack](http://www.43folders.com/2005/10/11/procrastination-hack-1025/). I’ve also used the [kick start technique](http://www.self-aggrandizement.com/archives/011705_kick_start.html) with success.

Being quite the [GTD](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done) fan, I’ve had a chance to notice more than once that my productivity is usually the right opposite to my levels of stress. And my levels of stress — surprise — are usually closely linked to the number of things I need to do which are floating in my head. **Capturing** all the stuff I need to do and organizing it in one system (which is what GTD is about, really) is often enough to make me feel “un-stressed” enough that I can get to work on the next things I need to get done.

Sometimes, it’s a particular thing I need to do which stresses me most. And when I get stressed, I tend to feel down, and when I feel down, well… I’m not good at doing things. So I go through a routine which is similar to [Merlin Mann’s cringe-busting your to-do list](http://www.43folders.com/2005/05/23/cringe-busting-your-todo-list/) to identify *what it is* exactly that is weighing down on me most. Then, **do** something about it!

And as Leisa mentions, having a list of **all** the stuff you need to do that you can pick from really, really helps.

A word of caution however: “to do” lists are often a trap, because they can contain much more than “things you need to do”, and the items on the list are not always **[simple actions you can take immediately](http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/27/does-this-next-action-belong-someplace-else/)** (“Next Actions” in GTD jargon). Here’s [how to make your to-do list smarter](http://www.43folders.com/2005/09/12/building-a-smarter-to-do-list-part-i/) — it’s useful even if you don’t use GTD.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately (it worked well enough until went through a bad personal phase — nothing to do with doing things — and everything went to the dogs) is deciding that I devote a small number of hours a day to *paid client work*. If you’re a freelancer, specially in the consulting business, you’ll know that a lot of our work is not directly billable. So, I try to keep my 9-12 mornings for paid work and what is related to it (e-mails, phone calls, billing) and the rest of the day is then free for me to use for what I call “non-paid work” (blogging, trying out new tools, reading up on stuff, nasty administrivia…) or relaxing.

Similar Posts:

Vie de bâton de chaise [fr]

[en] If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I have top-priority conflicts these days (well, have been having them for a couple of weeks, and it's not going to get better, not with all the mad travelling all over the place -- but I'm happy about the travelling, so I won't complain too much).

A bit like Suw, I feel the need to reclaim blogging as a priority. So watch this space -- and in the meantime, if I'm silent, enjoy the cute kitty photos.

Mon pauvre blog… bien délaissé ces temps. En fait j’ai des tonnes de choses à écrire — je ne mens pas, ma liste “blogme” dans [iGTD](http://bargiel.home.pl/iGTD/) ne cesse de s’allonger, et j’ai même la tête qui menace de péter avec tout ce que je n’ai pas le temps de coucher sur clavier. Des tonnes à écrire, des autres tonnes de choses à faire, d’endroits où aller, de [voyages](http://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=5844p36ob825j95ijode3ihm54%40group.calendar.google.com) (malheureusement à mes frais pour la plupart), de gens à voir, d'[appartements à organiser](http://steph.wordpress.com/2007/04/01/the-last-shelf/), de rendez-vous divers et variés y compris avec une très sympathique journaliste — jetez un oeil à 24heures ou la Tribune de Genève de demain et aussi [online](http://www.lesquotidiennes.ch) (j’avoue me réjouir beaucoup de la parution de ce portrait, qui combine une version courte papier, une version plus longue en ligne, un photo quelque part, des liens, et même un extrait vidéo).

Donc, juste là, depuis quelques semaines, je cours après ma vie et j’ai un peu de peine à la rattraper. Oh, je vais bien — très bien, même. Mais bloguer a tendance à ne jamais se retrouver assez haut sur la liste des priorités pour que je le fasse (c’est le problème aussi avec [le fameux livre](http://climbtothestars.org/categories/livre/), mon matériel d’enseignante à débarrasser, les catégories de ce blog à refaire, bref, vous voyez. Priorité numéro 1: ce qui paie directement le loyer et les croquettes de [Bagha](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/tags/bagha).

Ce n’est pas pour dire que je ne blogue plus, hein. D’ailleurs là, je suis en train d’organiser mes “choses à faire” pour les semaines à venir, et je peux vous dire que j’ai la ferme intention d’être bien présente ici (pas sûre en quelle langue, par contre) comme [mon amie Suw](http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/) qui est un peu dans la même situation que moi, et qui a décidé de [bloguer chaque jour durant une semaine](http://chocnvodka.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2007/4/26/2907465.html) histoire de réorganiser un peu ses priorités.

C’est aussi un peu pour ça que j’écris ce billet. Pour écrire, il faut commencer par écrire.

Similar Posts:

Software: FreeMind [en]

Trying out FreeMind, mind-mapping software that runs on OSX (and other operating systems).

[fr] Je suis en train d'utiliser FreeMind, un logiciel gratuit de "mind-mapping" (comme MindManager) qui tourne sous OSX. J'y ai mis ma liste de choses à faire, et c'est bien mieux que dans iCal.

The less I post, the less I post. One reason being that there would be a ton of things I could talk about, but I don’t want to discuss here. Another being that my hands hurt. But the most important one is that as I don’t write much these days, the things I actually do publish had better be overly important and overly interesting.

So, to hell with that. I’ll lower my interestingness expectations.

I’ve just been trying out FreeMind, a free mind-mapping application that runs under OSX, Windows, and Linux. Following Suw‘s advice, I’m using it to keep track of things I must do. I’m not certain it will replace my fun to-do list, but it sure beats iCal’s To Dos.

Similar Posts: