The answer to question “what’s the best thing to do now?” has always been really important for me.
I have a really busy life and prioritisation is critical in order to accomplish everything and save some free time. Handle the huge amount of personal data (mails, messages, chats, documents, ideas, …) I receive everyday and convert it to useful and usable information is essential but hard. Choose right tools is great starting point. Here is mine and why I’m using them.
Many people think to personal and work data as two different environment. I don’t.
I don’t think separate environment is a good idea because everything we do could be modeled as a task: work on a software is a task but also play with your son is and also sleep, go to work, go out with your partner and read a book.
Each of these task require a timeframe (that could be scheduled or not) and some data. For instance you need date, hour and restaurant name to go out with your partner. You can decide to allocate a given timeframe for personal life and another for work but you are simply scheduling. Activities are always the same. Use data and accomplish tasks. This data usually arrives from someone else or from another task.
When you receive any communication (verbal or by message/chat) or find some new information making something else you can categorize what you get into three simple categories:
- Useless: Isn’t useful (spam mails, tv spots, boring messages, boring people…) so you can ignore/trash it.
- Now: Is useful and can be managed within 2 minute (mail with simple response, messages that require information about something you already know, a colleague asking you anything vis a vis) so you can do it.
- Later: Is useful but you don’t need it at the moment (phone numbers, interesting information, ideas) or can’t manage within 2 minutes (tasks, projects, structured questions, …) so you need to store them.
Store these information is critical because if you store them in the right way you will be faster in task execution and better in prioritization.
Faster execution means less time for single task, more task accomplished and more free time for you. Optimal prioritization means you accomplish right tasks in the right time within deadlines.
If you think of how many task you do everyday you could understand why do it the right way is a good idea.
Started from this idea I split information to store into 3 categories:
- To-do: something you can do
- Appointments: something you can do in a specific date and time
- Information: some information useful for you
Each of these category could be handled using best tools.
A place where to store a list of task you need to do. When the list is small, a paper note or a text file are enough. When you realize your life is really busy, something with projects, prioritization, notes, remineders and deadlines became useful.
A tons of products are available but Todoist is the best. Has great feature and is available everywhere (web, OS X, Windows, iPhone, Android, Chrome, Firefox and more). Handle syncronizations and backup gracefully and I love its interface.
A place where to store your scheduled appointments. A few year ago a paper personal organizer inside your backpack was everything you need. Now we usually use tools offered by our favorite OS provider (Apple iCloud, Google App, Microsoft Outlook). Each software is able to integrate calendar from other providers and I used Apple Calendar for years. A few days ago I switched to Fantastical2.
Fantastical2 (not to be confused with Fantastical, previous version with less features) is really similar to Apple Calendar but has a few relevant addition that worth the price:
- Appointments recap on left sidebar.
- Adjustable font size and flexible size of hours in weekly view (against all-day events).
- Calendar sets.
Before the switch I tested Sunrise Calendar who has a great online interface but it doesn’t offer something really better than Apple Calendar.
A place where to store every information you could need now or in the future. Evernote is my choice for everyday use but, in the past, I experienced several problems: sync was slow and conflicts were frequent, GUI wasn’t easy to use and web interface was a mess. Now, after a couple of years of active development, everything seems better.
The ability to integrate documents and edit them in place is still limited so I also use Google Docs for documents and PDF I want to store.
Todoist, Fantastical2 and Evernote help me to accomplish almost all the management work required by my everyday life. Anyway a couple of softwares are really useful too in addition to these: