From "time management" to "write down what you need to do"

I used Emacs org-mode to do time management before, with dedicated project plan, autogenerated schedule, and filled in how my time was spent every hour. Yeah, this is fancy, geeky, cool. Looks efficient. Until one day I got tired of it.

GTD with org-mode

Then I changed to pen and paper. No staring at the project plan, no keyboard shortcuts to switch among TODO, DOING, DONE, no autogenerated good-looking schedules. Just write down the to do items, and tick when finished. It's troublesome sometimes because you cannot "insert" above some line, and have to cross out texts or use ugly marks.

But to my surprise, it works like a charm. I get more focused at work, spend less time on the "management" itself, and feel more clear in mind when approaching the goal, while have to write down the action items for different projects again and again.

The reason why it's more effective may be it's just simple. I feel the largest obstacle when trying to thinking about something is, you have to memorize or keep reminding yourself of some certain points. Anyway the capability of our brain is very limited, and we shouldn't waste it in memorizing when more important tasks are awaiting. With the pen and paper, the workflow is just write it down and do it. When it's getting outdated or too complicated, just rewrite them (rather than revise the more and more complex plans in Emacs) so the size and complexity of the todo items are controlled. In other words, I feel always looking at the very next step thus always clear about what I'm doing and easier to focus on the stuff in hand. And when it's the time to think about the big picture, that's another thing and separate time should be assigned to think about it (and put it in a different page in my notebook). Another thing is pens and papers are nearly always available, and require no booting, password entering or app switching. Simple, but works. That's the essential for this old-fashioned way.

This inspires me that "time management" should really be lightweight. Maybe it shouldn't be called "time management", but "write down what you need to do". Besides "time management", the things I like and used for a long time seem always be simple. I am a paid user of RescueTime for time recording and tracking. It doesn't require me to do anything to track my time usage in the laptop. And Mint, also need to do nothing to get comprehensive analysis on the financial situation. Time capsule/machine, iPhone/iCloud backup, Dropbox... Things making us lazy is also making us more efficient. ;)



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