Still here? I thought I was the only one…
Having captured your stuff, and clarified what it is and what it needs, you now need to organise it. There is no end to ways that you can do this, so I’ll focus on what I do.
The source of truth is Things 3. I want it to be digital, for sync and backup. It’s perfectly possible to run this type of system entirely manually, but if you have a house-fire, well, that’s that. I love Things 3 - but I work exclusively on Apple platforms. If you don’t - then bear in mind that there is no Things 3 for PC or Android. You might want to look at a web service like ToDoist (or many, many others) if you’re not in Apple’s ecosystem.
Anyway, my rule is that “my trusted system” (TS) is in Things. That’s where my lists live. I have projects there - “Nero’s Notes Company Return” for example, and standalone “next actions”.
Things has little hierarchy, but it does have “areas”. These, I fit with my universal document hierarchy. Everything that I do lives in one of five areas, each with a name and emoji.
This is consistent across all my devices, and all my apps, including Things.
Things allows me to start assigning dates and tags to every individual task. One can get all sorts of funky with views. If there are hard deadlines, I will affix them, but generally I don’t get too stressed. I will fix a deadline to the final action “Submit company return” but not to the steps preceding.
Some stuff gets converted to recurring tasks. Every Sunday, I have to take out the trash and I like to have a reminder come up on Saturday. It’s hot here, and I really don’t want trash hanging around.
At times - I come across something that’s an appointment, and those I put on my calendar. I only put time specific appointments on my calendar, not deadlines. Things shows my appointments and my deadlines, but the calendars only the appointments. Calendars get way too busy otherwise for my preference.
There’s an important point to reiterate here. Your trusted system (TS) only works if:
You use it for everything.
If you don’t, then you don’t trust it, in which case you lose the benefit of it.
If you use a TS for work but not for personal stuff, then you lose all the benefits of clearing your brain (the RAM, remember?) because you’re trying to remember what you need to get from the store and to book your dentist’s appointment instead of focusing 100% on the work task at hand. Of course one can have two parallel systems - but for me that way madness lies.
Now - I set about emptying my in tray. Not everything is a one line task or a ten task project. I’ve printed off the P&L and Balance sheet for a start. I could save them on disk and email them to Things, but I don’t. I put them in a simple clear wallet, and into a tray beneath my in tray. There I go, all analogue hipster again. Why? Because I like to review things on paper. In the projects tray are a bunch of wallets representing the reference material for ongoing projects. It keeps them handy for when I want to work on them and they’re all in one place. The trick is to include these in the weekly review - but that’s something we’ll get to later.
I have three stacked trays. On top is the in tray. Beneath it, the projects tray, and on the bottom, the out tray. This third tray is where I put things that I want to keep, but are not needed in a current project wallet. This tray gets emptied as part of my weekly review. This process is mirrored in Things. I have an inbox, the five areas, each full of projects and an archive. The priority is the workflow, not the tool. My analogue and digital practice is consistent.
Other things from the tray get turned into a task in Things and discarded, and anything else is either sent to the bottom tray, or more likely straight to the bin. The key thing is that the intro gets emptied. Everything is moved somewhere.
Next, Reflect and Engage
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