Today will be a bit of a dry subject, it will be about the way I manage things for myself, but hey, maybe you, dear reader, find something in there that will help make your life a bit easier as well.
First up, I have tried a lot of tools to stay on top of everything from simple things like mowing the lawn up to fully blown collaborations with other companies.
You name it, I tried it. Evernote, Teams, Notion, Reminder Apps, Calendar Apps, everything up to installing OpenProject on a Server.
The reasons they failed? If there was only an App on my phone I wouldn’t look into it during work and forget about those tasks. Why would you want to use a phone, when you are at a PC? If it was a website I would regularly forget to sign in. If it was something running on my PC I would not always have it with me.
I could not get anywhere with those things, so I sat myself down and gathered my needs.
1.) What ever I use to manage must be one tool available on any device
2.) The things I have to do must be presented to me in one list, sorted by date
3.) If something is done, I need to be able to remove it from that list, without deleting the task
4.) There must be an easy way to filter and go through completed tasks if I need to go back to them.
5.) I must be able to collaborate with others, without them needing to buy or install my tool.
I searched the web back and forth and came up with nothing that suited my needs.
At some point, lacking a tool I liked I started to mail myself reminders when I was out and about. For example when I see or hear something I’d like to blog about: Mail to myself.
It took me longer than I’d like to admit until it hit me, that actually e-mail was the exact tool I needed. It fulfilled everything perfectly.
Let me take you through the process.
These are the categories of tasks I manage via mail:
1.) Things other people want me to do. (so I can send them an invoice and get be able to eat)
2.) Repetitive task
3.) Notes and reminders
4.) Collaborations with others.
Let me take you through them.
Stuff others want me to do
That one is easy enough. I told every one if you want me to do something for you, send me an e-mail.
If you call me, use a text or a messaging app I will forget, because I read your message and then it’s gone in the never ending stream of messages. Same goes for calls. The second I hang up, someone else is calling me and my brain will reset.
This really happens often to me, a lot of people want things to be done and I have to handle them. Sometimes I forget. Even if I write it down, there is a good chance I forget the note I wrote.
Just send me a bloody mail….
That one was a bit more interesting, so let me first tell you what I mean.
Say I mow my lawn every Friday during summer. Since my lawn mower is battery powered those batteries need to be charges on Friday, meaning remember to plug them in on Thursday.
I can’t tell you how often I forgot about that.
The solution: Easy I set up a cron job that would send me an e-mail every Thursday 1 a.m. to remind me to charge them.
This actually took off for me. I manage everything through cron Mails, from being reminded to check my tyre pressure on a monthly basis to cleaning the dishwasher, up to server updates, reboots, followups on offers I made etc.
And I keep finding things I can add. I just set up daily mails starting at the 10th of october to check if it will start freezing during the night, so I can shut off the water in the garden and prevent my pipes from freezing.
Notes and reminders
Hi, I am The WK and I write E-Mails to myself.
It is not as sad as it sounds, others write to me as well. But adding something I would like myself to do to my list is just as simple as sending me a mail.
A selection of current mails of that type: 3 Ideas for blogposts, the idea to program a wakeup light and thoughts about controlling my home AC via a raspberry pi zero.
Some of them will stay in my inbox longer, some shorter. But I won’t forget about any of them.
That topic is of course harder to tackle. Collaborating is not simply done by Mails. And I am cheating a bit on that front.
At the moment I am working with 6 companies on various projects. From sales to software development pretty much everything goes over my desk.
For larger scale projects my tool of choice is nextcloud. From file sharing to kanban style project management it simply does everything you could wish for.
But it does one thing, that I truly like. I can set it up so that I get an email about anything that happens. Someone completes a card of a project -> Mail
Someone adds a card to a project -> Mail
Someone uploads a file I need -> Mail
Someone invites me to a meeting -> Mail
I think you are getting the picture. While I still need a more complex tool to handle larger projects this tool allows me to stay in my workflow, if something happens that concerns me or if I am needed, I get a mail.
The thing therefore is on my one unified list of things to do and when I am done, I remove it.
For one thing I am a dinosaur who can’t get used to new technologies.
But what I have learned in my life is this: Managing things boils down to one thing: a list of task one needs to complete. What ever tool one uses needs to get out of the way of completing things.
Yes, you can prioritize and manage your task and hundreds of list in a million of apps, but the more complex you go, the more time is wasted on keeping it all together and the easier it gets to miss one of your lists.
Keep your process as simple as possible and you will have more time to actually get things done.
So, if you want to tell me I am a fool for doing things that way, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact me, either via mail or in the fediverse @firstname.lastname@example.org.