This piece is part II of a short series. Last year I blogged about my New Years Planfest over at littleredtarot. I wrote a planfest post for 2018 as well, then started this series about how I planned last year and how I’m planning 2018.

<<click here to see the previous post


Let’s say you’re getting free ice cream twice.


Now, I know ice cream can be dangerous, sugar/milk and what not does all kind of damage so pretend this is magical ice cream that you can eat without harm or baggage. The first time, you don’t get to choose anything about the ice cream, and the server is going to put whatever they want on it.


They pick the flavor. You watch them scoop it up. Not what you would have chosen, but this is ice cream, you’ll take one for the team. They pile on one ingredient, then another, and another. By the time they are done you see 1/3rd toppings, you might have chosen yourself and 2/3rds some kind of topping nightmare. Maybe you can brush some of it off…


Later you get your second serving of magical free ice cream. Much later if you’re the sensible sort or in 3 seconds if brain freeze and immediacy is your thing. This time, you get to choose the flavor and whether you get toppings and exactly how much of each topping.
Which kind of ice cream would you prefer?


I want my ice cream the way I like it. Everything on it. But only if I get to choose what everything means. I want my time management tools the same way. Below you’ll find a list of my planning tools (toppings? I never know when to quit with an analogy…). Some I use daily, others monthly, others sporadically and without guilt. 
It’s so highly customized for me I’d be surprised if anyone could use ALL of these but I share them anyway in case one of these belongs in your arsenal. First, let’s recap.




#1 GTD – Main Ingredient


In the first post of this series, I mentioned the Getting Things Done methodology and how I was a fan. I still use it. I spoke of benefits I experienced with it, but I didn’t explain how it works.


It’s basically a category system.


It begins with deciding if a task/goal or whatever, is actionable. You’ll notice at the top of the picture above, that whether something is actionable determines where it goes next. If it’s not, there are options, the most visually prominent being “Someday Maybe.”


This option is a pile, a list, a storage bin. The system is about making that storage bin real and breaking the habit of keeping it in your head. I have a physical file labeled “Someday Maybe.” I also have a digital project folder labeled the same. I spare NO thoughts about what I might someday do. And if something new to do “someday” occurs to me, I write it on a sheet of scrap paper and dump it in the physical file.


The reason I don’t fret over that file is that I’ve made a date to look at it later at monthly and yearly “check-ins.” As long as I keep my appointments with myself, I build self-trust. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle that means I can let things go.


This is just an example of one of the categories. Here are the ones I use most often:

Next Actions


Now that you’ve seen these you’ll recognize when they turn up in my photos, and you’ll know I’m implementing GTD.


Some of the things I’ve noticed while using this system…


One of the trickiest things at first as seeing the difference between an action and a project. I had already cultivated a habit of reverse engineering projects for my business, but it was a new and inconsistent habit and doing it one time isn’t doing it ALL the time.  In the picture, we see these items on opposite sides of the sheet, but in the mind, they are right next to each other. At first, it’s kinda hard to tell which is which. It gets easier with practice.


If you’re anything like me, you’ve got at least one grandparent/relative that has proudly saved every knickknack and household item they’ve ever owned. Whether they display these items as collections or hide them away, the message is the same, “hold on to everything because you never know.”


“You never know” really means “you may not get anything else so cling!” And since some of these folks remember the Great Depression firsthand, it’s easy to see why they’d feel this way. We can treat our projects this way, clinging to items to remind us of tasks we feel we should be able to do or obsessing about things we want to achieve even when we don’t even yet know how. Once I had some months under my belt with this system, I got a little more willing to use that “Someday Maybe” pile and better yet, trashing things. This is so damn liberating.


One of my biggest mistakes with this system was altering the 2-minute rule. In GTD, there’s rule that once you determine that you’ve got a “Next Action,” you decide if it can be done in less than 2 minutes. This 2-minute thing is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, after you’ve seen how many things can get done even in this short time, you get really excited about it.


After consistent successes, I would bang out tasks with zero hesitation and loved the feeling of not having to enter an action into the system because it was already over. Somewhere in the excitement, I lost track of the actual time limit.


At first, these tasks took a little over 2 minutes, then over ten, then an hour. I got into a habit of using my check-ins to do hours worth of tasks just to avoid having to bring them into the next week. My latest hurdle has been to let 2 minutes really mean 2 minutes and to capture the rest.



My inbox is under that teal sock. (it belongs there, it’s not what it looks like…)


Oh right, Capturing.


I haven’t talked about this yet. At the top of the first photo, you see the words “in-basket.” In the photo of my desk above, you can see a black mesh basket with random items in it. That’s my in-basket, also known as an “in-box.” (Did you know about these?! This is where you would “capture” notes from other people before there was email!)


David Allen refers to capturing as anything you do to remember something but not in your head. You might write on a sticky note, make a digital note, write on a mirror, or put it in your inbox. Whatever. As long as you don’t try to “remember” because the point is to empty the mind and not fill it in new ways.


In essence, all my tools help me capture tasks, projects, appointments, goals, etc. I use them to store my thoughts so that I can use the extra real estate in my mind in other ways.


Tomorrow, in the next post I’ll detail the other tools I use to plan, starting with the broadest view possible, the big goals.


click to read the next post in this series>>