Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 4)

Evernote.  Things.  And Dropbox.  Three tools I use to stay organized and synced.

And like most people, I use email and a calendar program on a daily basis.  These round out my main tech tools.

Email isn’t really advanced technology, and there are many programs you can use. But here are a few things I’ve learned about working with email.

  1. I try to empty my inbox every day. You shouldn’t have a bunch of email awaiting response in your Inbox. Sit down and clean that thing out and empty it every day. I NEVER keep tasks in my email Inbox…if something arrives that I need to do, I create a task in Things and assign it a deadline. Michael Hyatt’s post on this subject is excellent.
  2. I have four or five different email addresses but all of them come to my Mac Mail inbox. I rarely use the Gmail interface or access my email on another computer. The SMTP servers keep my mail folders on my computer indention to the mail folders on my iPhone.
  3. I get Twitter DM alerts in my email Inbox, but not mentions or other social media notifications.

As far as my calendar, I use the simple iCal program that came with my MacBook Air. It does everything I need to do. Here are a few things I do:

  1. I have several calendars, but I see them all in one place. I have a personal calendar and several work calendars. I share all of these calendars with my wife and she shares her calendar with me and iCloud keeps everything in sync.
  2. I put birthdays on my calendar with a 4 day notification if I want to send that person a hand-written birthday card.

Evernote.  Things.  Dropbox.  Email.  And a calendar.  Those are the five workflow tools that keep things simple and organized for me.

Technology Tools and How I Use Them (Part 2)

This week, I’m sharing a little bit about the tools I use to stay organized.  Yesterday, I talked about Evernote.  The second tool in my organizational tool belt is a task manager called THINGS.

I use Things to manage tasks. This is important, because I don’t believe action steps should stay in your head. A bunch of stuff in your head that you’re forced to remember is mind-clutter. And worse, when you remember it, you’re probably supposed to be thinking or working on something else.

  1. When I think of a new task, I put it in the Inbox.
  2. If I get an email task, I create a new task in Things and assign it a deadline.  I do not keep tasks in my email Inbox.
  3. I have about 50 tasks in THINGS – about 30 of them are due in the next month, 5-10 are for the next 24 hour period and several are just future things that could do.
  4. I schedule RECURRING tasks. This is important to creating an action rhythm and keeps you doing the most important things on time. Think about it…much of what you do (or should) do is repeating. For me, “Read Bible” and “Exercise” is a recurring daily task. It pops up every day and I check it off. “Tag stuff collected in Evernote” is a recurring weekly task, so it appears every Friday and I check it off. “Spray house for bugs” is a recurring monthly task, so it appears once a month and I check it off. “Check credit report” is a recurring annual task, so it appears once a year and I check it off. Here are some of my other recurring tasks: schedule blog posts, review website, pay affiliates, blog spam twitter followers, look at spending plan, schedule dentist appointment, and create school awards for kids.
  5. Things keeps my tasks in sync between my phone and computer, so if I’m out and about and add a task on my phone, it can sync with my computer.
  6. The key to using a task management program is to assign a deadline to action steps, even if it’s a self-imposed deadline. Tasks without deadlines are somewhat silly. If it’s important enough to do, it’s important enough to do on time.

Things is a Mac program, but there are a ton of other task management solutions.  You might check out Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, or Action Method.  Like most things, there’s no perfect solution.  It’s a waste of time to constantly search for the perfect tool or switch from one thing to another.  Just find something that works, and use it daily.

How to Get More Done in Less Time

I’m not a Getting Things Done guru or an organizational genius, but over the years I’ve learned three important principles about to get things done.

  1. Prioritize. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln once remarked “one war at a time.” You’re not going to be able to accomplish everything, so you must decide what can wait. Everything isn’t important.
  2. Write it down. I use Things to record all of my tasks, never keeping tasks in my email inbox. I capture every to do in my Things INBOX, move important things to the TODAY folder and capture future, unplanned stuff in the SOMEDAY folder. I’ve found that when I write things down, it has a much better change of getting done.
  3. Plan your week then plan your day. On Sunday night or Monday morning, I take a look at the whole week. I plan the week before I plan the day. Looking at the big picture helps me not get sucked into the whole picture. Sometimes, I give each week a theme. For example, this week is about “content” because I have 3 significant content projects that need to be finished.

What system do you use for getting stuff done?