A Much Needed Re-Organizing of Work (Visually)

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Yesterday I was feeling really stressed about the work I wasn’t getting done. This was in large part because L decided she wasn’t going to take her usual 1.5 hour nap. I use the time she naps to clear out my email, grade papers, or work on writing projects. While I was trying to get her back to sleep, and fighting off a slight panic attack because of the mound of work on my plate at the moment, I had a very basic idea and moment of clarity. I thought, “what do I need to get done today?” Not in terms of what actual “to-do’s” I needed to check off, something that always leads to a feeling over being overwhelmed, but rather, what types of things to I need to get done? So I created a basic mind map to help me organize what I’m working on visually (Mindnode).

Workflow.mindnode-1.jpg

Generally my four areas of work include email, research, writing and reading. I realized I start feeling overwhelmed when I let one of these areas overrun the others. Often this is email. The problem for me is that if I get to the end of the day and all I did was answer emails and work on writing I left a lot of research and reading unattended, and I it feels like my day was wasted. So yesterday, I decided to limit the amount of time I spend on each area everyday. That way I actually do a little bit of everything, or at least most things on a daily basis.

I decided to spend no more than an hour on emails for the day. When that limit was hit, I turned it off. And would only check back periodically to make sure nothing really important came through. This freed me up to get to the other areas. In the afternoon, when I am done watching L and go to the library to get some work done, I focused on doing an hour of reading, and hour of research and an hour and a half of writing. By the time I was done for the evening I felt like I had really cut through my list of things to do.

The Techie Part

Speaking to-do’s, I’ve set up these four tags in my to-do list organizer (Things) so that when I’m in that mode, I can pull up what I’m working on for that area.

Using Things For Mac

DevonThink, my file manager, note-taker, etc., the other program I use regularly,is geared to working in these areas with particular names.

DevonThink Pro Now you don’t have to have these programs to organize, I’m just showing how I’ve rearranged stuff according to my areas of work. What really helped me was to visualize what I’m working on first, limit the amount of time I spend on anyone area, and set up the tools I use regularly to reflect this way of working.

Hopefully this will help one of you. Feel free to ask questions or make your own suggestions below.

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Wess

A papa, Quaker minister, Phd in Intercultural Studies from Fuller, & prof. Contributor to Antioch Sessions. Angelic troublemaker & #sketchnote preacher. Enjoys #remix, liberation theology, bourbon & a wool vest.
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7 thoughts on “A Much Needed Re-Organizing of Work (Visually)”

  1. Sounds good. Doesn't the GTD regime use a kind of tagging for type of work too? When I my own variation I divided my to-do list into phone, errands, office, etc.but it ended up being too elaborate for its worth and I dropped the system. Lately I've been testing out Merlin Mann's '(10+2)*5' method for keeping extraneous interesting things from eating away my time.

    1. Hey Martin, yep, I’d say that GTD influenced this but it was more the idea that I need to think bigger and not get stuck in one mode all the time. Thanks for sending the link, I’ll check it out.

  2. Thanks for the link Martin, I hadn't seen this before. Yes, what I've written about above is very much GTDish, just more emphasis on the bigger picture and limiting the time I spend on each area per day. I think this was more of a moment of inspiration on how to move forward than some kind of original idea.

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