I have talked a lot about productivity on this blog, because I believe that working toward goals and accomplishing them are important factors in being happy. I have discussed how I have been able to get tasks and projects done, and how I have just tried to move forward no matter how small the steps. But I have always wanted to think a little larger than that when it comes to productivity.
It’s so easy for me to get caught up in daily tasks and weekly projects that I feel like I have no direction. Even if I am completing tasks and projects at a steady pace, I still wonder if I am doing the right thing at the right time. With this in mind, I have been looking for (or trying to create a way) to get a more global view of my work.
Here a few things that I have tried or given me inspiration in this quest:
This is the vision. I mean it would be absolutely incredible (I say this now) to wake up to a large HD display of what I need to do and what goals I want to accomplish in any given time frame. The guys who made this are extremely smart, so it would take some time for me to do this myself. But it’s possible.
Mike’s Energy Line
This is a concept I picked from a book called Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky. You list out your priorities and mark how much energy you will dedicate to them. I love thinking about my projects this way, because it makes me think more critically about the time I am putting into each one. If there was a web app for this, it would almost be perfect, but since this is static I have to put a lot of energy into updating my energy line.
Things is a simple task management application for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. It has a beautiful interface that lets you enter to-do’s and setup projects and areas based around those to-do’s. I really liked the Areas feature in Things because it allowed me to get a global view of all the projects I was working on and made me more focused with the to-do’s I was creating. The only issue is that I wanted more features in the Areas section, but since Things prides itself in being simple, there is no analytics component available.
At the beginning of the year, I decided to build a website that would keep track of all my 2011 goals. I organized these goals in separate categories and put progress bars under each of them to indicate how close I was to completing it. I also created a status blog on Tumblr to update my goals in more detail when I make progress. This was a win-win because I could have a fun (and public) way to keep track of my goals, and I could learn more about building websites.
However, since this is a static website, it can only be updated when I go into the HTML and CSS and do it.
What I Am Trying Now
In this constant search of a global view of my life, I recently found this interesting web app called Interstate. Basically you set up a different “roadmaps” or areas to your interstate, and then add “roads” or goals/milestones to your roadmap. You can set start and due dates, add other people to your project, and most importantly, you can add progress bars. I love progress bars!
If you haven’t started a project you can select “proposed.” If you wanted to start a project, but now have decided not to you can select “postponed.” If you are currently working on a project, you can indicate the progress of that project by selecting one of the values between “10-90%.” And of course the best part, when you are done, you can click “launched.”
I just started using this app a few hours ago, so there is a lot to be discovered, but I am excited to see where this goes.
Why Is This Important
My reasoning for this goes back to how I described my energy line graphic. We all have different areas, projects, and tasks that we devote our time and energy to, so it is important to think about the long-term vision of how you want to move forward. I have the option of going crazy with my exercise and try to accomplish my goals really fast, but I know that I will expend a lot of energy which will negatively affect the other areas in my life. If I had an application or just a framework that could help me focus my energy and do the best work possible with the most efficient effort, I would have one smooth operation.
It all comes down to choices. What should I eat? How many hours should I work? How late should I stay out with friends? All the choices that I make in one individual area will create ripples in the rest of my life, so I need to understand how important my ground-level decisions are to my aerial goals.
Even without the perfect solution, I have been trying this “system-oriented” way of thinking for the past month or so, I have been happier about what I have done and not done. I have had to make sacrifices in some areas, but when you think about the bigger picture, it doesn’t really matter.