दुःख में सुमिरन सब करे सुख में करै न कोय।
जो सुख में सुमिरन करे दुःख काहे को होय ॥
Everyone prays when suffering, and none when jubliant;
One who prays when jubilant, shall never see suffering.
- Kabir Das
- Notice that I am stuck and with no end in sight
- Drop everything else for the next several days and write down everything I need to do
- While still stuck:
- Finish very short tasks - dashing out mails, phone calls - launching simulations - updating status pages etc.
- Find exactly one next-action for each of the larger tasks and do it - cycling round-robin through tasks and adding the next next-action when done with the current task.
I would invariably go back to working haphazardly when not in crisis-mode.
This changed in 2020. Between the baby and the pandemic, I was unable to shut out the rest of the world and go into hyper-focused work mode. HTTGD did help me stay afloat this time, but barely so. If not for an unforseen cancellation of a project at work (which took with its demise most of my task list), I wouldn't have been able to make it to the finish line. (oh - the cancellation wasn't my fault - it was a decision taken several steps above me in the management hierarchy)
I remember the despair in mid-September - days before the cancellation - I couldn't sleep well - and I was failing as a father too because I wasn't able to show the amount of undivided joyous attention the little bundle of joy playing with me deserved.
Now that the worst is behind me, I have decided not to cobble together a gtd-ish system not in times of despair, but as the couplet goes, apply GTD-proper in times of joy too.
And so, I read the revised edition of GTD book and have rediscovered some of the principles that underly the system which I have not leveraged. Also, given that I am significantly more experienced with the real world than I was when I read the book the last time, I was able to immediately spot some places where I can improve on the approach. My renewed application of GTD into my life has the following key characteristics
Capture should be as quick as possible - I have a "Add Task" button in the middle of my home-screen in Android.
I consciously avoid refining the task at the point of capture (unless done as a part of the weekly/daily review). Refinements include meta-information like contexts/projects/schedules/priorities . GTD should get out of the way ASAP when not working on the system itself.
Any time I realize I am idle, I get the inbox cleaned up before doing anything else.
In GTD circles, most people identify the weekly review as the "make-or-break" factor when it comes to successfully adopting GTD. And I agree. I have a dedicated 1 hour Saturday for this. Each day though, I quickly go through a daily review for a few minutes in the "all-tasks" view of my todo list and schedule things for the day on my calendar.
Work only from the system
Unless something is a 2 minute task, I only work on tasks in the task manager. A place where this has significantly improved my life is when it comes to articles on Lobste.rs or HN. While I still go through main page of these sites and stop by for some comments to see if the article is worth reading, I don't read the articles themselves. Instead, they go into my todo-list with an appropriate context. The same applies to any movie/book recommendations.
I have started using contexts differently. I didn't realize their purpose in the past. I used to tag keywords a-la Twitter. The only two useful contexts I had were work and personal, but these aren't a meaningful context anymore given tat I am working-from-home.
My current contexts are primarily used to enable task-batching. I have intentionally kept this a short list so that I can quickly run through the list when switching into that context.
- outside: I eyeball this list when stepping outside the house.
- pc: For when I am online and on a computer - doesn't matter if it is my work laptop or personal laptop. Intentionally short since this is my most frequently used context
- offline: I add this in addition to the pc tag for when I lose access to the internet - however, since the tasks will also be tagged with pc anyway, they would be available for completion even when I have internet.
- vpn: Tasks which can only be done on the office network. I eyeball this when logging into work for the day.
- phone: Phone-calls, SMSes, and any other phone-app. I assume internet connectivity for this and I haven't had the need for an offline equivalent yet.
- household: I am always home, but this includes tiny errands I need to run inside the house - fixing lightbulbs, cleaning cupboards etc.
- read-it-later Articles I come across on the internet be it (as described in the previous section. I get to this list when idle and my inbox is cleaned up.
For tasks, I use TickTick. This also serves as my habit-tracker and calendar on my laptops and my Android phone.
For reference material, I currently use Evernote though I am a little unhappy about the situation. Evernote shines at storing documents like bills, identification cards etc. But it sucks at note-taking. Other note-takers like Joplin are great at note taking - but I still have to worry a little about my VPS running out of space when storing attachements.
I also don't have a place to store photos though given that Google recently stopped offering free photo backups. I am considering paying for a OneDrive 1TB account as it would also solve my reference material grievances as Joplin integrates very well with it.
For login and password information, I am very happy with the free Bitwarden and intend to pay the $10 a year to support the project if it serves me for the next month or so without hiccups.