Remainders: Coin envelopes, sprints, binder clipping & more
Merlin Mann | Feb 18 2005
- The rests are as important as the notes - Try to occasionally consider what else you could be doing whenever your primary focus gets locked up. I’m not talking about multi-tasking in that faux-productive way of splitting your attention five ways (hint: you’re not as good at that as you think you are). For example, if you’re stuck on hold for tech support, use the time to run through your “waiting on” list or read an article you’ve been putting off. If you’re running DiskWarrior and your Mac is tied up, why not run through some filing or chores you’ve been putting off. Get outside for a minute. For God’s sake, you’re as pale as a ghost. Look at you! In short, don’t burn cycles just because you have a progress bar or logistical background process running in front of you.
- Coin envelopes for index cards - By now you’ve certainly seen Josh’s satisfyingly byzantine paper-based GTD setup. It relies on kraft paper coin envelopes (“Projects”) for holding sets of index cards (“next actions”). I’ve started using coin envelopes in a more modest way—to be a temporary holding pen for Hipster PDA cards that need to be processed. Keeps the desk tidy (plus it’s really oddly satisfying to put cards in those little envelopes).
- Find your diurnal sweet spot - I’m convinced that each of us has an internal clock that knows when we’re best suited for certain kinds of work. Try to schedule your work around the times you’re best at it. For example, I prefer writing in the morning and reserving brainless monkey stuff for the late afternoon. Whatever your preference, avoid scheduling creative or intense tasks at the times your ass tends to drag. Watch yourself and learn when these times are.
- Learn to sprint - For certain kinds of work, I’ve found it really effective to do timed bursts of very focused activity. Stuff like cleaning off your desk, tidying the living room, or making a dent in a big pile of things to file. Try 8 or 20 minutes, set a timer, and go! Collections of micro-tasks can be knocked down quite nicely this way, and the timer gives you assurance you only have to work on it for so long. (“sprint” is a term I stole and bastardized from Scrum development. Sorry, Scrumsters.)
- Hand writing - I totally forget who told me this one (update: Jasmeet!), but I love it. If you need to absolutely remember something first thing in the morning, write it on the palm of your hand the night before. When you wake up to wash and do your business, there you go. I also use mine sometimes for writing down my Oblique Strategy for the day.
- More uses for the mighty binder clip - As the administrative grunt for a Netflix household, I’m responsible for hoofing it down to the big blue mailbox every couple days. To make sure I don’t forget anything on my epic, two-block trek to 23rd Avenue, I hang all our outgoing mail on a large binder clip on the front door. When I somehow have managed to miss that subtle clue, I hang the mail off the actual dead bolt; I literally can’t leave the house without being reminded that Napoleon Dynamite needs to go home now. (“Dang!”)
- Custom View post preview - As promised the other day, the post on Entourage Custom Views is on the way, although it won’t make it up today as I’d hoped. Maybe this weekend, but probably next week. Lo siento about that. To tide you over, though, here’s a peak at my favorite custom Tasks view, “All Tasks - Not Lo,” to which I return probably 20 times a day:
- match UNLESS ANY criteria are met
- due date is
greater than 1 days from now
- category is
- category is
- category is
- category is
- priority is
lower than normal
- Jury’s still out on the name - Per last week’s post, I’m looking for a name for this feature. So far Madeline (and a few of you) are in the lead with keeping it “Remainders” and adding a few bullets (like today). If I called this “the 44th Folder” I fear I’d earn a well-deserved citation from the cheese police. I’m still thinking about it though! Nominees still accepted.
- Closing quote - We close out today with a word from the shredding Mr. Kirk Hammett, who, via the wonderful documentary Some Kind of Monster defines the "Metallica Mission Statement" for his bandmates: “So you can, like, just, always be reminded of what the ultimate goal is!” It's so true, Kirk. So very true. I really need to get me one of those.
’Til next time, friends, and may your weekend be as capital as your letters.
Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.
Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”