Groundhog Day Resolutions - July 2019

I was on vacation for most of June, so I only set a single goal.

June's Primary Goal

1. Relax

The actual traveling part wasn't great, but the vacation was good.

Primary goals for July

I'm still easing back into my routine so I'm trying to keep things simple this month. However, the year is 50% is done and I need to start making good progress with goals if I want to get things done.

1. Run a total of 35 miles

The training for my half marathon starts on July 15th. I should be running a total of 35.5 miles between July 7th and August 8th according to the training plan.

Cross-training will be bodyweight exercises and swimming.

2. Finish the "Exploring my Emacs packages" series

I have three posts left to write.

3. Finish one other goal on my "Other Goals" list

It's hard to plan which one to work on without knowing how much energy and free time I'll have during the month. Most of them are at various stages of "done-ness", but I really, really don't want to finish the year with a bunch of half-finished projects on my plate.

Secondary goals for July

1. Read another book

I read "Hacking Life" on vacation and quite enjoyed it. As with my other goals, I need to make time to actually do them instead of just thinking about them.

2. Add a page for tracking my bodyweight workouts

I already record these using org-mode (when I actually do them), but I'd like a way to view progress over time.

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Groundhog Day Resolutions - June 2019

How did May's GHD goals go down?

May's Primary Goals

1. Release a small game

Another bust on the game development front. I worked on some game libraries and wrote some path finding functions, but nothing even approaching a playable game.

2. Research diet and nutrition plans

There is a huge amount of health-related information available online, and wading through it all wasn't much fun. I found a few different eating plans, but I think the first step is to start tracking what I'm eating to get a better idea of where I need to improve.

3. Finish planning my book

I have a list of all the important topics I want to cover for version 1. I'll probably slim it down once things get going.

4. Write a new post every week

I wrote a lot of draft posts, but didn't publish every week. I'm still calling it a win, but I should have been more specific and said "publish a post every week".

5. Finish planning my "Other Goals" list

Everything on the "other goals" list now has more information and a rough list of targets.

Primary goals for June

Relax

I'll be in the UK on vacation for most of June. My only goal is to relax and spend time with family and friends.

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Groundhog Day Resolutions - May 2019

I kept April's GHD goals pretty simple, and it (mostly) paid off.

April's Primary Goals

1. Put my goals somewhere visible

I put all of my goals into FacileThings. They can then be linked to whatever tasks I'm working on. The goals page on FacileThings lists every goal, along with their related projects and tasks.

It would be nice if reviewing goals was a part of the built-in weekly review, but it's still possible to do manually.

2. Research half marathon running plans

I went with Hal Higdon's Novice 1 plan. Originally I thought an 18 week plan would be a better idea, but I think training from June to October might be a little much.

3. Publish a new post on this site once a week

I wrote several blog posts on sodaware.sdf.org that I'd been putting off for a while. However, I only managed two for this site, so I'm counting this goal as a failure.

4. Release a project

I did a soft release of MaxCop, a small utility I wrote for finding style issues in BlitzMax source code. It's not something I expect anyone to actually use, but it was nice to get it out in the open.

Primary goals for May

Release a small game

The last few weeks I've been playing around with developing software for the Atari ST. The ST was the first computer I ever properly programmed, and it's been fun to go back to making things in the same way I did as a teenager.

For May I'd like to release a small game. And this time I mean small.

Research diet and nutrition plans

I played three games of soccer in a week and it took me another week to recover. I'd like find a diet that will give me the energy to train, but will make my recovery times a little shorter.

Finish planning my book

I haven't touched this project for the last few months, which isn't an effective strategy for getting it done. I want to have a complete chapter list planned out in time for my next GHD review.

Write a new post every week

Doesn't have to be for this site, but I want to keep the habit going.

Finish planning my "Other Goals" list

It's nearly halfway through the year and there are still goals that don't have any kind of plan. By June I want to have a rough roadmap planned for each goal. They don't all have to be planned in minute detail, but I want to at least have an idea of how much effort is going to be involved in completing them all.

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Notes on FacileThings

I wanted to try out some GTD-oriented tools as part of my "get back on the GTD wagon" goal. A few appeared frequently in my searches:

Each one supports a varying degree of GTD-ness, but FacileThings stood out as the most GTD-oriented. I've been using it for a few weeks now and have some initial thoughts on it. Overall I've been very happy with it.

What I like

  • It's heavily designed around GTD. The full process of capturing, clarifying, organizing and doing is built right into the software.
  • It supports the more high-level parts of organization, such as goals and "areas of responsibility". Tasks can be assigned to a goal and/or area, and can then be filtered appropriately.
  • The weekly review tool is a huge time saver. Each step has instructions, along with the tools required to complete them. For example, the "review your projects" step lists all projects, and each one can be checked quickly from the same page.
  • There are integrations for Evernote, Twitter and several cloud storage providers. Reference material can also be stored in Evernote and accessed from projects.
  • The dashboard lists reminders, calendar items for the day and all appropriate next actions. It can be filtered by tag (e.g. `work` or `personal`), along with time, energy and urgency. It also has a graph of tasks completed for the current week. It will remind you if items have been sat in the inbox for too long without being clarified.
  • There are keyboard shortcuts for accessing each part of the app.
  • Projects can have sub-projects. Projects can also be put into "waiting for" status, which is very helpful when working on client projects. Projects are highlighted when they are missing a next action.
  • Has a tickler file.
  • Has an "analytics" section that contains a lot of statistics. Things like how much is being collected, how much is being processed and how much is being done. It's a good way to find stuck projects and things that may be better suited to the "someday/maybe" pile.
  • The "Focus On" button in the top right can be used to quickly filter everything to goals and areas of responsiblities. So you can say "I want to work on goal X right now" and it will filter tasks and projects accordingly.
  • Can send emails have them go straight into the inbox.
  • Can be set up to email daily and weekly reports.
  • Shows you estimated time to complete projects and lists. So you can get a rough idea of how much time is needed to clear your entire next actions list (assuming you set estimated times).

What I don't like

  • Overall appearance isn't quite as polished as other tools out there.
  • Jumping to projects is done via dropdown menu, rather than a dedicated button, which isn't as smooth as I'd like. However, there is a keyboard shortcut to jump to the projects page.
  • It's not as keyboard-friendly as other tools. For example, Nirvana has keyboard shortcuts for adding projects and next actions from any page.
  • There isn't a way to import data from other platforms or via CSV/Text file
  • It's very expensive compared to other platforms. The current price is $84 a year (if paid in one go) and there is no lifetime option. For comparison, Nirvana is $50 for a lifetime subscription.
  • It's a little sluggish in places. Closing a task can sometimes take 5-10 seconds.
  • There's a Ruby API client, but there's very little documentation. I'd love a more complete API, and would especially like some webhooks for when tasks/projects are completed and weekly reviews are finished.
  • Not free/libre. I like to own my data and prefer self-hosted solutions.

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GTD Step 2: Processing

In the GTD methodology, processing is the act of deciding what to do with each item that has been captured. It's fairly straightforward: take each item, and decide whether to do it, defer it, delegate it or dump it.

Most importantly - nothing goes back in the in tray.

Processing steps

Take each item from the capture pile, and ask yourself "is this item actionable?". In GTD, an item is actionable if you need to do something about it.

If the item is actionable

Decide on what action (or actions) are required. Depending on the item this can take some time. Once there's a clear picture on what to do:

  • If it will take <= 2 minutes, do it immediately
  • If it can be delegated, delegate it to someone and track it on a "waiting" list
  • If it will take more than one action to complete, add it to the "projects" list and add the first action to this project
  • If it takes a single action, add a single and well-defined item to the "next actions" list and attach an approriate context where the action can be done (e.g. "at store" or "at work")
  • Otherwise, defer it:
    • If it HAS to be done on a specific date, put it on the calendar
    • Otherwise put it on a context-appropriate todo list

If the item is NOT actionable

  • If it is something to possibly be worked on in the future, add it to the "someday/maybe" list
  • If it is reference information, file it
  • Otherwise, discard it

Processing an item should take around 30 seconds.

Initial processing

I had so much stuff during my initial processing phase that I decided to do a fast triage to make it a little easier. It's not an approach I recommend, but I didn't want to miss any tasks that due in the next few days.

I ended up with three separate piles:

  1. Items I knew were going to be filed. This included things like utility bills, tax forms, insurance documents, receipts older than the current tax year etc
  2. Items for current or recent projects went back into the in tray (I know I broke the most important rule)
  3. Items that belonged to other projects or didn't really have a set place went to a third pile

Anything that would take under a minute got done during triage. This was mostly small things like "I need to this address in my address book" or "I need to put this receipt in my 2019 my tax folder".

Everything else went straight into the recyle bin.

During normal processing I would not take this approach, but after my initial capture I had over a year's worth of items and it was quite overwhelming. It made sense to batch things up to me, as I'm usually in a creative mood when I'm filing items.

One surprising thing was just how much ended up getting discarded. Around half of the items I processed were either already done, or were things I didn't want any more.

Other things I noticed:

  • The two minute rule is a huge help. There were so many things I'd put off that could be done quickly, and getting them all out of the way was a relief.
  • It's worth putting time into thoroughly deciding what to do. Sometimes I'll get lazy and add a next action that isn't well-defined. This means I have to spend extra time when going through my actions list because I'm having to process items twice. I always end up procrastinating on tasks that aren't well defined.

I was expecting a huge list of next actions after processing, but ended up with around 50 projects and maybe 200 next items. A good chunk of items also went on my "someday/maybe" list, but I think if I was being realistic I could ditch 50% of them.

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