First Caveat: Admittedly, this is mildly cathartic and totally self-indulgent. For those of you who are thinking “sheesh, like what I really wanted to do today was read your to-do list…” Feel free to move on, and I hope you find something else more fun to read (I’ll suggest this or this).
For those of you who actually find yourself reading this, I’m also adding in what I have done to help myself in each category. I just know I need to do more or do some slashing and burning, and I’d be happy to hear any specific tips you have.
Second Caveat: This is a reeeally long post. Apologies. Will balance this out with an office decor post soon.
The purpose… Identify things that don’t fit well into GTD (Part II of my Experiment), which is basically a system for keeping projects and tasks. Right now I’m using software for this, but many of the things below:
- Aren’t on my master list. It really seems silly to keep some of these things on a list, mixed in with important stuff. But not recording them goes against the “mind like water” principle of GTD. Memory and habits can only keep up with so many things.
- Are on my master list, but clutter it up and detract from the things I really need to do. Even set to have recurring tasks, it stops being rewarding to check things off when the pop up again 12 hours later.
Point is, they should not be on the same list as everything else!
Plus, I don’t have kids but I plan to someday, and I’m sure that that kids will make this list about ten times longer. I’ve already gotten more forgetful between having two jobs, so I can’t yet imagine what kind of chaos that will introduce into my life — good or bad!
Yes, a lot of these things are trivial. But this is the “ideal world” version, where I could keep up with fun stuff too!
- Work email
- Read and respond to emails sent only to me.
- My “Read and Delete” category – I actually have this set up as a label on my gmail account. Literally, it says “Read & Delete” and it’s purple. When I’m in a hurry I can skim over these for more important emails. But going through these can take a lot of time, and I don’t want to get rid of them all. Examples are:
- E-mail newsletters from bar associations. I belong to five associations: two states, two counties, and one specialty bar. It sounds like a lot, but this is pretty typical for most lawyers. On top of this, there are also sections (like the New Lawyers Section, Probate & Trust Section, or Practice Management Section), but (thankfully) the emails from these groups are usually more quarterly or monthly, and usually pertain to events… easy to “read and delete” (or sign up). Not to mention there are sometimes corresponding paper newsletters or fliers.
- Continuing Legal Education. A few notifications for every class come by mail and email, and this doubled when I got licensed in a second state. At least these are easy to delete or recycle, and I do take advantage of a lot of the courses.
- Networking groups, LinkedIn groups, and LinkedIn network updates. I have all of my LinkedIn digests set to weekly instead of daily, which helps. A lot of them are good for finding networking events, continuing legal education (CLE), or articles and news relevant to my business.
- Listservs. I belong to a study group with a google group email set up, plus the bar association’s solo and small firms listserv and estate listserv. These are some of the best resources I have, but I don’t take full advantage of them. I just found out that my other state bar also has listservs, and as much as I’d like to join, I’m a little overwhelmed by the potential added workload. As it is, I filter my two of my three listserv emails so they are labeled and archived, so they don’t fill up my inbox, but then I only think to check them once a week, sometimes less.
- Personal email. This is easier to let go because I can usually sit down on a Sunday night and delete most of the emails that accumulated over the previous week.
- Actual direct personal emails from friends and family.
- Read & Delete emails, same as above. These mostly consist of travel deals (TravelZoo, Kayak), New York Times, InStyle Look of the Day, and –currently– house search alerts (new listings, open houses).
- Coupons. I use the term broadly. These are any email from somewhere trying to sell me something. They are from stores I like, airlines, and concert and event sites. I also have these filtered (thanks, Gmail!). With a pink label. If I’m not planning to go shopping, I will click on the label and delete all.
- Other email…
- My third gmail account. I set this up for my business before I bought my website. I hardly ever get important emails here so it’s not as important to check frequently, but I do get a lot of emails about events and publications here.
- My other work account. I work part-time as an editor. Luckily, I can limit checking this email to the hours I’m actually working there, so it’s easier to keep this part of my life compartmentalized. They also use Yammer, which I usually check every day or two when I’m not there.
- I also have a fifth email account purely for junk mail. This is for when I have to sign up with an account but I don’t want the emails. I’m lucky if I check it once a month and just “delete all,” but it still pops into my head every now and again.
- A sixth account that I don’t think about much, but it corresponds to my MobileMe account. It’s on my iPhone, so I notice and delete junk mail every so often.
- Work email
- Clean/put away dishes. We have a very open-concept house, so when the kitchen is messy, I can see it from my office and the family/living/dining room. (Hopefully next home office will not be next to kitchen…)
- Go through the mail. Our mail lands on our kitchen counter. Same issue as with dirty dishes. Anything that doesn’t require action goes straight into the recycling.
- Facebook. I try to skim through my news feed only once or twice a day, which is an improvement over previous years. If I have time I will look at photos and articles posted and update my status. It helps a lot to hide game applications and pages or groups that you don’t need daily updates for. If I abstain for a few days, I have a list of friends and family that I’ve titled besties, and I will check just that list for updates. I probably need to hide more pages and maybe even some people, or resign to checking just my besties list more often. The iPhone app helps because I can go through it on the bus or other downtime when I can’t get much else done. Update: I hid all the pages that post really long updates. (You know who you are! You regularly post articles or notes that take up more than half the vertical space on my screen and increase my vulnerability to carpal tunnel from all the added scrolling. Edit your text down. If the headline or description is interesting, we’ll click into it anyway for the details.)
- Check to-do list. I use OmniFocus for all my tasks and projects, so I need to check off anything I did, since that might cause other tasks to become available. And add new tasks.
- Vitamins. I just bought a set of daily pill boxes because I usually remember vitamins in the morning but want to take them with lunch or dinner. I’m hoping these will be easy to throw in my purse or set on my desk so I remember them later in the day.
- Drink water, eat fruit and vegetables. If I don’t think about this, I will eat too many pretzels. Also, I’m a vegetarian with a pretty decent metabolism, so I usually need to eat between meals. That’s why this goes on the list. If I don’t plan ahead I get stomach cramps and can’t eat (yes, I know that sounds contradictory).
- Meditation. I don’t actually do this. But this is my ideal list, so I’m keeping it in mind.
Every few days:
- Gym. I hate fitting in exercise, but this makes the biggest impact on my energy level and mood, second only to lots of sunlight and good weather!
- Blog post (here!)
- Google Reader. I love Google Reader, but I oversubscribe to blogs. Google Reader itself really simplifies a lot of other things into just one daily task, but if I don’t remember to check it every day, it gets really full. I try to regularly unsubscribe to blogs I’m not enjoying. (The ones I’ve kept for a long time and never unsubscribed to are in my blogroll.) Oh, and since I have two gmail accounts, I also have two google reader accounts. One is set up with fun blogs, and the other with legal and business blogs. I read one in my office and the other on my laptop, helping to keep my personal and work computers/spaces separate.
- Tivo. Tivo is great because I don’t have to remember to watch anything, but if I don’t go in and delete stuff every so often, it runs out of space. I probably watch too much television.
- Follow-up with networking connections. Phone/e-mail/calendar.
- Read magazines. This is another area where I get a lot of volume because of my professional memberships. Two alumni magazines, two bar journals, and three fun magazines (fashion, design, and wellness). I want to get more fun magazines (local and shelter), but am afraid to add to this already. Plus, unread magazines create a lot of physical clutter.
- Check the perpetual calendar for birthdays and anniversaries. If I find one, then I may add a card or gift to my project list. This actually works pretty slick, and I haven’t forgotten many birthdays over the past few years.
- File papers. I definitely don’t get to this weekly, but it would be so much easier if I did…
- Work. I just bought a Scansnap, so that’s helping a lot with the paper management. There’s a stack of old stuff to scan before I’ll probably see the true benefit of this.
- Personal. I have a pretty box that I let fill up before I file papers, but I usually let it go too long (months!) and then put it off because it can take several hours to put everything in its place. But at least I know where everything is in the meantime and it works pretty well to contain clutter.
- Call parents, call friends. Generally, be in touch with people “just because.” Nothing structured here, just awareness.
- Back up files. I have my work computer set up with Mozy, which is great because it’s automatic. But I haven’t wanted to pay for it on my personal computer (not that it’s expensive – I’m just cheap) so I have to do manual backups periodically. Currently I’m only doing this once every few months, but the only major loss would be recent photos.
And then there’s all the other cleaning things that happen somewhere between weekly and monthly. These are the primary ones for me:
- Cleaning bathrooms
While it’s easier to remember to do these things because there are physical reminders (no socks! dusty table!), since the rest of the list got a lot longer, I notice my memory for cleaning has gotten a lot shorter. For example, while I don’t forget to do the laundry, I often forget about it and leave it in the washing machine for hours. In fact, I just remembered that I’ve had a load of shirts in the washing machine for the past 8 hours…
That was supposed to be about my brain, but it also helped me remember the laundry :)