Make a super-simple daily schedule that works

When Aaron and I were doing the Home Work podcast, we preached about the importance and benefits of having — and sticking to — a daily routine, or schedule. At the risk of beating a dead horse I’ll reiterate here: it really is tremendously helpful to know what you’re doing and when. A predictable work/productivity schedule provides focus, direction, and eliminates the overwhem of “Where do I start?”

Humans will almost always take the path of least resistance, and that applies to forming new habits. I want to make this as easy as possible. Here’s a bare-bones way to get a “beginner’s routine” in place and, more importantly, into practice.* Follow these very simple steps:

  1. Write down your do-or-die tasks. These are the things you simply may not skip, ignore other otherwise fail to complete. Exclude the items that can slide for a day or two.
  2. Consider deadlines. What is due when? Make a note of each.
  3. Consider the time and effort each task requires. Again, make a note.

When that’s done, it’s time to sort. On a new piece of paper, write Monday through Friday. Now, using the annoted list you just created, plug in those tasks. Pay attention as you write: If something is due on Wednesday, for example, and it takes a lot of time and effort, schedule work to begin on Monday or Sunday. If a task requires little mental muscle, add it to a day with a few other similar tasks to take advantage of chunking. Have you assigned each task to a certain day? Great. Now on to the very last step.

Write it down where you know you’ll see it, every day. For me, that’s Google Keep. I don’t care what service or product you use, as long as you know for a fact that you’ll look at your new schedule daily.

I’ve been doing this for months now (yes, that’s my actual schedule pictured above) and it has been great. I’m weeks ahead on all of those tasks and I feel completley on top of it. Again, you can go much deeper into managing your time, but if  you’re currently struggling or working without such a plan, the steps outlined here will help you foster a very helpful and lasting habit of productivity.

*For a much deeper dive into this, check out Mike Vardy over at Productivityist.

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Investigation: Finding my own voice

At 46 I still struggle to be me online.

I launched my very first blog in 2000 after discoveirng Grant Hutchinson‘s Splorp. It was the first time I had seen the word “blog,” let alone a chronological, vertical arrangement of posts on his life. I loved the idea and made one of my own via Adobe GoLive. Publishing via FTP was a huge pain the ass, but that’s beside the point.

I really liked what Grant was doing, so my first blog was very much like his. Time went by and I began to admire other bloggers like John, Shawn, Patrick, Dave and so on. I wanted to be like those guys so I started mimicking what they were doing (in my defense, a lot of us mimicked John). Then I started working for AOL where the bulk of my job was scaning RSS feeds, finding relavant stories, and essentially re-telling them at TUAW.

Today I’ll sit down and think, “OK, I’m going to write about something. Let’s see…” and then I browse the sites listed above, among others. “Let’s see what people are talking about.”

That’s crazy and tonight I stopped myself and examined “What’s happeing with me? What do I want to write about?” Turns out I didn’t know. So I opened Bear, and wrote the following questions and answers:

What happened today?

Work was a little crazy
I was late for the Scout meeting
Grace had her first day of high school
William cooked himself dinner
I updated Overwatch
I had two meetings at work; one with the CEO, the Clinical Director and the Associate Executive Director; and another meeting with the CEO and the drivers.
I had an evaluation with a potential new assistant for my building
I hoped that I get paid soon because I need some cash

What did I learn today?

I need to pay more attention to dates and times
Vulnerability is important
The only person I can be — online and off — is myself

What tools did I use today?

Bear
MS Outlook
Todoist
Keep

What did I work on today?

Unclutterer articles
Cultivating leads on Fiverr
Boy Scout calendar for the upcoming year
Spending time with Grace following her first day of high school
Laundry
An outline

What’s worth posting/sharing today?

This process is.

And that’s how I got here. My online voice is an ongoing investigation, and this is the first report. See you again soon.