Saturday, November 7, 2009

Time Management: Two Pics, Two Books, One App

Lots of people are into David Allen's Getting Things Done. I discovered it in 1998, about ten years before it became a programmer fad, when it was a mail-order tape course that cost $100 instead of a best-seller on Amazon that cost $10. I liked the ideas, but in practice it was too complicated; there was no way in hell I was going to get from as disorganized as I was, to following a system that complicated, without becoming an organized person first. A system for becoming organized which requires you to already be organized in the first place was no use to me at all.

I've read a few books on time management since then, but they all seem to suck. These two books are the only two I've really liked:

No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs (NO BS)

Time Management for System Administrators

Everything I'm doing now revolves around pen and paper (or felt-tipped marker and calendar). I've tried a lot of different software, including Things and RescueTime, but I only ever found one piece of time management software which was useful for me at all: Streaks.

However, even Streaks didn't really do it for me. I kept creating new calendars for all the new habits I wanted to cultivate - eat healthier food, work out every day, remember to wash the dishes, etc., etc. - and some of these things, I wanted weekly frequencies for, not daily. I couldn't solve the weekly problem with Streaks, and I solved the many habits problem with many calendars. Pretty soon I had more than 20 calendars, which was way more than Streaks was even designed to hold in memory, and performance nose-dived. So I bought a physical calendar and wrote on it.

It worked but it looked like crap. I soon upgraded to color.

Vertical lines represent weekly habits; horizontal lines represent daily habits. It's pretty great because you can see at a glance how you're doing. You can only track about ten daily habits with this, though.

I wanted to buy ten or fifteen calendars and put them all up on a wall, one calendar per habit, to make it much easier to read, but you can really only buy 2009 calendars in 2009 if it's January. The calendar publishing industry is so insane about promoting new releases that they make the car industry, which will have people buying 2011 model cars by June 2010, look reasonable. I realize I'm raising this complaint in November, but I started looking in August.

Anyway, come 2010, I might go for a wall of calendars. I've reserved wall space for at least ten calendars, just in case, but I might go for something simpler instead. I have some other ideas that might work better. I'd like to go into more detail, but I only have nine more minutes budgeted for this, and I have to take an unscheduled leak.

Full disclosure: The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which pay small sales commisions.