I often have the feeling that the day has fled past with little to show for the hours.
I would have said that there is no good that can come from that feeling, but it turns out that is not the case. I'm a list-maker by nature. I like to know that I haven't missed anything. There is also the satisfaction that comes from checking a box on a line item. At the end of the day, those checked boxes let me feel as if I have accomplished something.
My new plan involves making a list of the major areas in which I spend my time. For me, that is:
- Writing (game articles, second book in the Shrine trilogy, short stories)
- At home tasks (transcriptions, cleaning, groceries, etc.)
- Work tasks (THWmodule, DocBook, etc.)
I found a good mind-mapping package called MindNode. The company offers a free version and I used it to brainstorm a table-full of things I do in an ideal day.
This was all inspired by an article on incorporating OPML into a writer's work flow, if you can imagine that. Investigation into workflow as a concept led me to discover that I don't have a very good idea of how I spend my time when I'm not at work.
That's not good, in my opinion.
So I selected two writing projects. I broke the home tasks into Chores and Errands, the difference being whether or not the task is at home or away. And I added a section for Trivia: things such as email and reading. (No, neither of these is really trivial, but they don't contribute much to my sense of accomplishment and are therefore put in this category.)
Using MindNode, I learned that I can better organize my day. Here's what I do each morning:
- In NoteBook, I copy yesterday's organizing page to a new page and date it for today.
- I delete any unique tasks that were checked off yesterday and clear the checks from any recurring tasks.
- I clear the copied journal entries at the bottom of the page, making ready for today's entries.
- I make sure that I have launched my daily tools:
- MindNode for brainstorming
- Scrivener from Literature and Latte for serious texts.
- EagleFiler from C-Command sort, store, and tag my files by project.
- Notebook, which is already running.
- EverNote to capture snippets of text and other off-topic ideas as they occur during the day.
To make all this work for me, I also had to be a bit clearer about my disk organization. Over the last few months, I have started a number of projects (visit Barbara Sher's Scanner Tribe if you want to understand why) and had let them grow in an uncontrolled manner. That had to be fixed.
Because I have two computers, I also run DropBox. I confirmed that the key applications all work with DropBox. Each project has a folder in DropBox, and all the files (mind maps, outlines, drafts, notes, and snippets) all land in the appropriate folder.
Don't misunderstand me. My days are not "organized". I still flit from thing to thing as the mood/need takes me. But when I sit down a moment, I can bring my notebook page to the front and get reminders about what else there is to be done.
If I think of something new, it gets a line item on the notebook page. If I decide it will be a project (i.e. it has 3 steps or more), it gets a project folder, a page in the notebook all of its own, a tag in EagleFiler, and a section in EverNote.
Now, at the end of the day, I am rewarded with the feeling that I've accomplished something. It's all right there: notes, checked boxes, drafts, sketches. Everything.