Thursday, April 19, 2007

Busy is as busy does

Having too much to do can be a curse.

It's been like this ever since I can remember (which stretches about as far as freshman year of college): to-do lists, notes written on my hand, stacks of paper, unresponded-to e-mails. It all adds up to one big pile of busyness.

Just ask anyone who's e-mailed me. When's the last time you heard from me right away, especially if you need something done? My tendency is to receive the e-mail, read it briefly, then let it sit in my inbox for, what? Days? A week? Then, when I realize the pile that's buildling up, I plow through each message and tackle the project in a fury of productiveness.

On a good day, that is.

But lately I think I'm hitting some kind of stride. Especially when it comes to Rotary and Recycling; the projects I'm working on have actually been getting done.

My trick? Keeping an electronic to-do list on my flash drive. Every day I plug it into my computer, read the lineup for the day, and try to spend a few minutes working on whatever needs working on. Just a plain ol' text file is all I need.

E-mail? That's getting better, too. I subscribe to the zero-inbox philosophy; there's something about an empty inbox that screams "aaaahhhhh." So making sure I hit e-mails as they come in, or at least flag them for some kind of response later, becomes key. Luckily, Gmail makes it pretty easy for me with the neat little "star" feature. If I need to respond to something, or someone needs something from me, I "star" the e-mail and that lets me know I need to get to it eventually.

Google, thankfully, has been helping as well. Have you checked out all the non-search stuff Google has been up to lately? Did you know you can personalize your Google homepage to give you your Gmail inbox, your calendar, local gas prices, the weather, and - a must for me - late-breaking headlines?

And sweet Jesus, take a look at Google Maps or Earth. I'm in the process of marking down every place I've ever been in this country. For free.

Tonight I even made a web site for my Rotary club. It's simple, but it works for our non-technical group.

The trouble with all this is it can quickly become a soft addiction. I could spend hours logging all the trips I've made on Google maps, and for what? Just to show off? For me it's like a scrapbook of Places I've Been, but it can be a big-time time waster.

And now I've got a bunch of big trips and plans in the next month - weddings, conferences, a giant trip cross-country to Seattle - that will be taking up more of my time. Who needs sleep?

It seems like a have a decent system down. iCal at home, Outlook at work (with those life-saving pop-up reminders), calendar on my iPod, and a scribbled-on hand that goes wherever I do - it's a recipe for Getting Things Done.

I've written before the benefits of slowing down, counting the breath, and not devoting one's life to GTD, but the habit is hard to break.

Life always happens in the meantime, doesn't it?

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