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5 Steps for Workmonster Project Planning

(Charlie here:) Okay, so the fact that I've missed two weeks of columns and Sarah's theoretically on sabbatical is probably an indication that we're still struggling with the workmonster in our own ways. I really had about a week of burnout where neither words nor code were making a ton of sense. This may have been a fit of sort of sub-clinical depression, as well as just being tired; starting the "walk to work" thing I talk about in my other column today may have resolved that. Certainly my mood is still sort of ridiculously good.

But while I haven't been getting lots of production done, I have been thinking and trying to get something coherent together in order to start getting more things done. Basically, to review what I've done so far, I

  1. Picked a steno pad to serve as my "inbox". When I have something I need to do, it gets entered on the steno pad.
  2. I have a second "projects" steno pad which captures more extended thoughts on something that will take more than a few minutes to do. The official Getting Things Done rule is 2 minutes.
  3. Every so often, usually while I'm writing my morning pages (when I often capture a lot of things for the inbox anyway) I go through the inbox pad and put things onto a Today's To-Dos list. Sometimes I just cross them off, having decided they're not worth doing. And here's a practice that seems to be working well: when I do something on the To Do list, I cross it off the inbox list. At the end of the day, I throw away the To Do list. If it hasn't been done, it's still in the inbox; if it's still important, it'll get back on a to-do list eventually.

So, then, we come to the "projects" pad. Some of them are "little projects" and never get off the pad -- they just become some specific to-do items. Others are bigger, and it's those that have been a problem for me historically. See, I have so many ideas of things I want to do, and some of them didn't fit at all on a single steno pad page. (Not that I expected them to, the steno pad was just a stopgap.)

So this week, I set up a project file box, shown below. Each project gets a file folder of some sort. I started off with some colorful ones but I could never remember what the colors meant, so I went back to vanilla manilla. Stuff about that project goes into the folder. You'll notice the divider, artistically crafted from the cardboard back of one of the writing pads I use. (Two or three a week usually. Staples should hire me to do commercials.) The ones behind the cardboard are things I'm officially not working on, the things in front are thing that officially are on my mind.

2014-02-15 12.52.41

Now we get to the good part: what do I do with those folders? Okay, this is now work in progress, but Getting Things Done has a description of "natural project planning" that rings true to me. It's five steps.