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.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

4 thoughts on “Getting stuff done”

  1. 2 comments from me:

    1.Another great photo

    2. I have a passion for gadgets and also use psions to assist with the thought process, BUT I cant help thinking (and using) a pen and paper, its so easy and tactile – I have now developed the “sync” dredd because you never know whats its going to delete, miss out or duplicate – this process in itself is to arduous

    I travel on tube/trains quite a bit now and not an ebook in sight but plenty of the paper kind, bit like the letter being made redundant for email……..

    Food for thought

  2. Some good points, however it was with my frustrations with paper and pen (actually it was a Filofax) that led me to discover my first Psion in 1996.

    Regarding sync dread, I can recommend:

    • Backup often
    • Use ScanPST.exe on your Office Outlook file about once a week to make sure the file isn’t corrupt.
    • If it any doubt, delete your PsiWin profile and create another and PsiWin will re-sync from scratch. The trouble then is more likely to be duplications than deletions.

    Back to electronic vs paper. I love how electronic sorts automatically, can group into categories, can transfer to the calendar, can work in bed in the dark.

    I do still use paper for notes, letters, books, etc. And I guess I could go back to a Filofax, but it would make me about 10 times less productive as I am now.

    But as David Allen says: if you can’t use the system on paper then you won’t be able to use it electronically either. Personally, I would never go back. In fact, I’m sure I could not go back to the paper and a pen method.

  3. Sorry, I should have explained the sync problems have never been with a psion but other devices starting with my first hand held which was a HP LX200 running on DOS, my latest sync problems have been with my mobile phone SE K800i and outlook – Sony’s PC suite chops the end off all your addresses so now use myphonexplorer which i would highly rec (its free too) but has a small sync problem with tasks, when you complete a task and mark it so it just recreates it.

    I do like the 3a, its so beautifully simply and does the job so well

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