Week 10/2022: Much to-do about to-do apps

Week of 7 March 2022

Much to-do about to-do apps

A cloudless sunrise sky above the river with tones of blue and orange
Saturday sunrise

What did I want to do this week?

  • Study: TAFE work (catch up on topic 2, complete topic 3 and make lists of specific things I need to remember)
  • Personal: Finish Cosmic Calibration
  • Personal: Finish the Matt Black photography course
  • Personal: Complete unit 2 of the Urban Photography photo course that I signed up to a couple of weeks ago after promising myself I wouldn’t sign up to any more courses . . .
  • Work: Finish writing the summary from the event
  • Work: Make a list of the next actions to discuss with my manager
  • Routine: Finish work on time

Did I do it?

Remember, I said I thought I had overcommitted? Not surprisingly, this turned out to be the case.

I did most of the TAFE work I wanted to do (thing 8). There’s still some extra reading I want to get through but it’s a bit dense so I feel reluctant to do it.

I did finish the Cosmic Calibration workshop (thing 22) but there is a bonus workshop in that material that I wasn’t aware of (thanks, Christian!). I want to complete that and write a blog post about my experience with this workshop before I call it done. I feel like I need to explain a bit more about my Myers Briggs personality type as well, before I do that, because this program is specifically about that personality type, and what I’ve learned is directly relevant to that. So that’s coming up.

I completed Matt Black’s photography course, The Documentary Commitment on Magnum Learn. I found it an interesting look into a type of photography that I’ve never considered for myself. Matt’s insights into making connections with people and using photography to highlight issues that were important to him, in particular, his quest to make his work accessible to everyone rather than it being elitist, were inspiring. He had many useful tips that I want to explore further and incorporate into my own work.

I didn’t get to the Urban Photography course this week. Finish one thing before moving onto the next, right? Don’t sign up for any new courses, wasn’t that the rule?


Moving on.

I did the work tasks and am now waiting to discuss them with my manager.

I moved all my work tasks out of Todoist (thing 13) so now all that has in it is my regular and routine tasks. I’ve now finished that thing from my 22 for 2022.

I’ve listed all the tasks in a big master task list in Evernote and put the ones I want to work on next week into Focus To-Do. The plan is to keep the list of “someday/maybe” things and bigger work streams in Evernote. When I have an actual task that I’m going to work on, I can move it across to Focus To-Do so I can Pomodoro it.

I know.

Two apps to do one thing. But I found my Todoist was huge and out of control because I had so much stuff in there, so keeping just immediate tasks in a to-do app means I’m less likely to miss stuff.

What worked well this week?

I did my morning startup routine every day this week as well my shutdown routine (sort of). The plan to make myself shut down on time every day seems to be working. I think both of these routines will start to feel more natural the more I do them and the more I refine them to make them work better.

Using the Pomodoro feature of Focus To-Do is also helping to keep me more focused when I’m working on a more substantial task. And I’m growing a nice little plant at the same time.

What didn’t work so well?

What is not working at all for me is the bit in the morning routine that says, “check email for urgent tasks” or whatever it says. What this means is that I start my day by checking email for urgent things and end up being stuck all morning responding to non-urgent things. Sure, some of these things are important and they have to get done, but I’m letting them displace the work which is of the highest value to me.

I came up with a solution to this, which is to assume that nothing urgent will have arrived in the time between when I shut down and when I log back on in the morning and to completely ignore my email for three or four hours while I work on my top priority project.

The top priority project, of course, is the one I identified during the previous day’s shutdown procedure, at the same time as I checked whether I had any morning meetings scheduled that might prevent me spending three or four hours on my project work.

Right? Right.

Benefits of this approach
  • I get on with my work with no distractions until I look at my email, unless I have meetings in the morning. If I don’t have any meetings, this gives me at least three hours of uninterrupted focus time at the time of day I’m least tired and am most able to focus.
  • Working on my top priority project in the morning means that if anything comes up later in the day to distract me, it won’t matter as much because I’ll already have done a big chunk of work on that project and won’t get even further behind on that by staying in reactive email mode all day
What might be a problem
  • I could miss something important in my email. (Solution: put on out of office and tell people to text me if they need an immediate response.)
  • I might get distracted wondering about what I’m missing aka FOMO (Solution: see above.)
  • I might forget something that’s in my calendar and miss a meeting (Solution: make sure I write down all my meetings when I log out each afternoon and put this where I’ll see it first thing in the morning.)

I think the main thing will be getting out of the mindset that I’ll miss something time critical in the three or four hours when I’m working, and not letting that thought distract me from the work I’m doing. If I can’t do that, I might as well check my email in the morning.

So, with that in mind,

The benefits of continuing to check my email in the morning are
  • No FOMO or concern in the back of my mind that I might be missing something.
  • I don’t have to put my out of office on.
  • I can be sure I haven’t forgotten an appointment.

I don’t think any of these are real benefits. I can address the worry about forgetting or missing something by capturing the next day’s meetings when I shut down. And not having to put my out of office on? That takes less than 30 seconds. I can add it into my shutdown routine right now.

And the downsides?
  • Getting trapped in email all day once I look at it in the morning and not getting a chance to work on my important work, aka nothing changes
  • If I spend all morning in email reaction time, I’d need to be disciplined enough to shut it down in the afternoon and work on my projects then. Is there really any difference between doing the important work in the morning and doing it in the afternoon, except that I’m more likely to be tired and less productive in the afternoon and it would be better to dedicate my best hours to focus work rather than responsive work?

The answer seems to be clear to me. I have a solution to every disadvantage of the first option and none of them in the second.

This week: Trial the the offline thing on Mon/Wed/Thurs

22 for 2022 summary

  • Things completed this week: 13
  • Things I worked on this week: 6: (1, 8, 12, 13, 21, 22)
  • Things completed to date: 4 (10, 11, 13, 18)
  • Things in progress: 5 (1, 8, 12, 21, 22)
  • Things not started: 13 (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20)

What do I want to do next week?

  • Study: TAFE work (finish Module 2 and catch up on the additional reading I’m putting off)
  • Personal: Upgrade my Evernote
  • Personal: Finish the supplementary part of the Cosmic Calibration program and write a blog post about it
  • Personal: Complete Unit 2 of the Urban Photography course
  • Routine: Trial being offline in the mornings at work.

Weekly overview

What did I learn this week?

Leaving home on my bike at 7.30 am is a Bad Idea. There is too much traffic. I don’t like it.

I reviewed the Mindspot material (thing 1) and it reminded me that anxiety occurs when we’re threatened or frightened by something, often when we think we’re unsafe, when we think something bad might happen or when we think we can’t cope. Our brain does this to try to keep us safe.

It was a good reminder, which backed up what my counsellor said last week about it being okay to feel the way I do in the current covid situation, especially now that as of the end of this week, people, including staff, are no longer required to wear masks in most of the places where they had been mandatory. This includes shops, many workplaces, restaurants and cafes. I don’t feel at all comfortable with this, both with the risk of getting sick myself and also of contracting the virus and passing it on to a more vulnerable person.

To manage my anxiety, my focus needs to be on doing what I have to in order to feel safe, which really hasn’t changed. Stay away from places with lots of people and only stay in indoor spaces as long as I have to to do what I need to do there. Wear a mask. Use as much hand sanitiser as I need.

What was the best thing about this week?

I was happy with the progress I made on my personal projects.

What I’m reading this week

  • 7 1/2 by Christos Tsiolkas
  • Menopocalypse by Amanda Thebe

Habit tracker

  • Days I went for a walk in the morning (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I did controlled breathing (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did jaw stretches (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I did my post-work pack up routine (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 5
  • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 5): 7
  • Days I shut my computer down before 9.30 (Goal = 6): 7
  • Weekly review at work: Yes
  • Weekly review at home: Yes





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