Getting stuff done

Close up of folders.

I love being organized. In fact I’m one of the most organized people I know. How do I know that? Well, of course, I have a graph with a list of “people I know” along the x-axis and “how organized they are” along the y-axis.

I’m kidding. But I quite like that idea. Give me a moment while I type that into my To Do list in Microsoft Outlook.

I’ve written before about how wonderfully helpful I’ve found Sally McGhee’s excellent book Take Back Your Life. She helped take my almost-there system and with a few key twists turned it into something that is incredibly effective. So that I can now manage and track all my projects and tasks with Outlook and my Psion PDA.

Downloading my head

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep, there was too much stuff going around my head. Mostly things to remember to do. So I got up, found my Psion and returned to bed to “download my head”. In other words, I wrote down all the things my poor brain was trying to remember; I typed them into my Psion’s Agenda task list which this morning was synchronized with Outlook. I wasn’t surprised to find that I had 25 things that I was wasting brain power trying to remember.

One of those tasks was this:

Blog about 43 Folders (img = folders)

Categories and contexts

Once in Outlook I then move them into a category according to where I would need to perform that task. This is what David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, calls “contexts”. My categories/contexts are:

  • 1:1 Meeting
  • Computer
  • Desk
  • Email (which I moved out of Computer because I can also email from my PDA)
  • Home
  • Phone
  • Shopping
  • Waiting For
  • Someday Oneday

From there I can then schedule them into my calendar, which transforms each task from being simply “something to do at some point” to being “something that will get done at a particular time”.

It might sound like a clumsy process but actually it’s not and it has now become like second nature. Like falling off a bike.

Some good sites

This week I’ve discovered a couple of sites that are dedicated to productivity:

The 43 Folders podcasts are particularly good; I’ve listened to them to and from work these last few days.

Handing back the keys

A ring of rusty keys

Today I did something that I’ve been keen to do since mid-November: I handed back the keys to 3a Toft Terrace, the rental property we moved into when we first moved to the East Neuk in April 2006.

At long last the letting agent have found a new tenant, which means that we’re now freed from the ‘luxury’ of paying £600+ per month renting and heating a flat in which we are no longer living. (We had a fixed-term lease which wouldn’t expire until April 2007, unless someone else took on the tenancy.) This has been a real answer to prayer, praise God!

I took this telephone call yesterday morning at work:

Woman: Hello, Mr Saunders, this is [insert name] at Rollo Davidson McFarlane in St Andrews. I’m just calling to say that we’ve cancelled the two viewings you had booked this evening, because … we have a new tenant for the property.

Gareth (Man): REALLY?! Excellent!

Woman: Yes, so if you could please hand back the keys on or before 8 February.

So soon! How marvellous. There was much celebration when I hung up from that telephone conversation; some of it with Jane on instant messenger.

And so for the first time since we got married we are responsible for only one house. Not one tied house and a flat. Not one tied house and a holiday cottage. Not one rented flat and a holiday cottage. Not one rented flat, a holiday cottage and a house. Just this one house in which we are now happily and comfortably living.

I have to say, I quite like it this way.