Friday, September 27, 2013

Eisenhower GTD and MTR at hour-of-power

As the tasks got more and more during the last years I started reviewing and testing all kind of time and self management techniques to find the most suitable ones for me. Eventually I came up with a set of several different methods combined to a whole management strategy.

Base of my task management are the key principles of Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen. To my understanding these are:

  • what comes to your attention as a task is in your "inbox"
  • tasks that require less than 2 minutes should be done immediately
  • sort everything else from your inbox to an appropriate task list
  • make different lists for different task types
  • put together your daily schedule from the different task lists

Next comes in the Eisenhower matrix. This principle divides all tasks into four categories related to how urgent and important they are (see graphic from Wikipedia). These categories now make up my GTD task lists. Every morning I select a limited number of tasks from the two "important" lists and put them in my daily planning. However, though GTD is a rather strict system and requires a certain level of self discipline, David Allen also recommends to use gut feeling to be productive. Hence, sometimes I feel more comfortable with doing an "urgent - not important" tasks, which is commonly regarded as self deception.

The problem with urgent and important tasks is that they often became urgent because of being unattended for so long. When I finally get to work on them I generally have to start from scratch - with limited time. But its very much easier (for me at least) to start things without pressure and continue occasionally. Hence, I always try to initially work approx one hour on tasks when they are still "not urgent". I call this "make things running" (MTR). In my daily planning the MTR schedules are usually located in the morning, when concentration is high and distractions are low. This "hour-of-power" principle is a common mangement technique, especially regarding tasks that have piled up for too long.

To organise this system on my computer I am tagging all incoming tasks according the Eisenhower categories. Emails are tagged using the respective function of my email client, files are tagged in the very useful file management tool "Nemo Documents" "tabbles" (Nemo unfortunately got discontinued, and tabbles evolved from version 2 to be way better than Nemo) and any thoughts, ideas and reminders are stored and tagged in Evernote.

I also tried the Pomodoro technique which slices tasks into several time blocks of twenty to thirty minutes, with five minutes intermissions. It fits easily into the strategy described here. However, I didn't find it useful for me.

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