Meltdown / Reboot

Screenshot 2014-07-08 22.16.29It’s hard to tell on this tiny graph, but I did manage to write a few words both on the 1st and on the 3rd of July, as well as some more today.


I have a hundred excuses. The truth is that I looked at 100K of revision and my brain tripped out as badly as it did at my first NaNoWriMo at 50K. At the same time, I found that I’d gotten so involved in HabitRPG as to make it almost as big a time-waster as video games.


I also found that my planning system was so elaborate, with some repeating events in HabitRPG, some in ToodleDo, and non-repeating events kept in my Evernote GTD implementation (to be transferred to HabitRPG as they were scheduled) that it was taking an hour and a half just to do a weekly GTD review — and even then, things were slipping through the cracks.

I spent yesterday rebooting Sandra and her GTD circus. I’ve got all my repeating events back in Toodledo, and my one-off events in Evernote/GTD, with no duplication in HabitRPG. Both ToodleDo and EN events are linked to Pocket Informant on my iPad, which is my central console. HabitRPG is no longer a part of my tracking system; instead, I intend to use it simply for a reward, updated at the end of the day. If it’s taking me more than 15 minutes, I’ll simplify further by eliminating it entirely.

And I am tempted to tell the next health care professional who tells me that “You REALLY need to do this and it will only take 30 minutes a day” that he can fold the directions for whatever until they are all corners and insert them into his own anatomy where the sun does not shine. Thirty minutes here and thirty there, and soon you’re talking about the whole freaking day. (I’m looking at you, Dentist from Hell. And at you, Physical Therapist Drill Instructor. Don’t get me started.)


GTD: Last Post (For a While)

I may come back to GTD later, but for now I think I’ve got my system:

  • Evernote. Records not unlike the ones I used to have with Franklin Planner reside here. All my one-off tasks live here. My notebook and tag system is derived from The Secret Weapon, but somewhat simpler with respect to tasks. Also, I use other notebooks besides the three they recommend because I use Evernote to hold a lot of other stuff (like novel notes) that isn’t really addressed in TSW. My email clients all feed stuff to Evernote now.
  • Pocket Informant. This is my daily control center, on my iPad. It accesses my Evernote reminders, lets me add things to my “collection” and holds my daily checklists and periodic items. I used to try to make this act like Franklin Planner, recording postponements, delegations, and formal deletion of tasks, but now I do that in…
  • Notability. Also an iPad app, I paste a screenshot from PI into a new note here every morning. I can use all my old handwritten symbols from Franklin Planner, record how my time’s actually spent (if I’m that ambitious), take daily notes, again handwritten if need be. Or if I prefer. When I’ve finished the day and am planning tomorrow, I use the “open in” feature to put this record into Evernote with appropriate tags. It duplicates effort a little bit, marking off things on the Notability note as well as in PI, but not as much as I thought it would.

I use Evernote and PI on my Android phone, but it’s an emergency measure as my poor phone (ZTE Valet) is on the slow end of the smartphone spectrum. I’m much happier on the iPad. And I do weekly advance planning on my Mac, with Evernote, Mac Calendar, and web ToodleDo.

That’s it. We’ll see if it survives when my hyperfocus on GTD vanishes (as it will. It always does.)


I just attempted to read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Yes, that’s right, I’ve been looking at the Wikipedia article on GTD and the Evernote / GTD manifesto The Secret Weapon but I’d never read the source of the whole movement — a bit embarrassing. I’ll have to stay embarrassed, because I could not get through the book. I was hoping for an insight into how this might work a little better for me, but between the original GTD tome (what I could read of it) and The Secret Weapon, I’ve only managed to come up with one blazingly clear observation:

None of these people has ADD.

If they did, the Secret Weapon people would not casually speak of going back to their master list several times a day to pick up new things to do. They would not dismiss recurring events so casually as habits in formation. Mr. Allen would not talk about “mind like water” if he’d ever experienced Mind Like Teflon.

You know those times you’ve forgotten something? Something important? Have you ever dismissed ADD with statements such as, “Everyone forgets things. Everyone gets distracted. What’s so special?”

Several times an hour, I forget what it is that I’m trying to do. I’ll find myself on the stairs with no idea why I’m there. It takes me two to three hours to leave the house in the morning — I plan it into my schedule because I KNOW I’ll get distracted. If I have to leave faster something will be left undone — brushing my teeth, taking my aspirin, packing my lunch. I might pack my lunch and leave it behind on the kitchen counter. These are not “senior moments.” I find it bitterly amusing to hear an older person complaining about distractibility crap I’ve lived with all my freaking life.

To be successful, I need to limit my daily list of things to do to three to five simple items outside of routine. I need to have periodic but not daily routine things show up automatically somehow because I won’t remember them at all if I don’t do them daily. (Before I had electronic devices to do this, I had to try to put them on calendars. It wasn’t very effective.) I need a daily checklist so that I won’t forget, yes, things that have been nominal parts of my daily routine for years. Habits? I wish. I’m never sure if I’ve actually done something routine, or if I just thought about doing it, or maybe I remember doing it from last week.

These guys don’t deal with under focus. Neither do they deal with hyper focus, that state in which I cannot reduce my focus on a (probably irrelevant to my true goals) task or process. They don’t understand not being able to control the level of focus. They simply assume that once you’ve managed to figure out what you should be doing, you’ll get ‘er done.

Yeah, capturing everything I think about maybe doing is really valuable. But I need to boil it down to a real short list every day. I need to not go back and update that list during the day — the short list is challenging enough. And contexts? No, I’m not going to have a list for here, one for there, and another for everywhere. One list. Per day. Five items, tops. Daily checklists for routine stuff.

So. My implementation of (sort of) GTD. Evernote for one-off stuff and for collecting everything I think of to do. Pocket Informant on my iPad (synced to Toodledo, Evernote and my iCloud calendar) for my daily checklists and for periodic (monthly, biweekly, whatever) tasks. Everything shows up on my iPad in PI. I put an iPad screenshot of each finished day back into Evernote. If I have any other daily notes, I create them in PI for sync back to Evernote, or in Notability (if they need handwriting and/or a template) and email them to Evernote. So I have everything recorded in Evernote. On my Android phone (yes, Android. The horror!) I have the PI widget and the Evernote widget on the same page, showing me my entire system. On the Mac, Evernote and Toodledo on the web hold everything.

Now I need to simplify. Big time. Because right now, what I’ve got is far too complex to be sustainable for my distractible brain for any length of time. Suggestions are welcome.

Update: Novel Writing

HabitRPGAvatarFirst: I intend to finish my post series on “Scrivener v. iOS” Real Soon Now.

Meanwhile, friends, I thought I’d bring you up to date with how the novel writing goes.

Right now, it’s going quite well. That doesn’t mean that 2014 hasn’t brought challenges.

At the beginning of February, I came to the conclusion that if I continued with the non-progress I was making on “Leticia,” I was going to be dead before it was published. Said death would be hastened by my complete lack of exercise, poor diet, and extremely poor sleeping habits, not to mention spending more than eight hours per day playing video RPGs.

So I started from, not zero, but about negative fifteen on a scale of one to ten. I started February 2nd. I pulled together a pastiche of techniques I’ve learned over decades and often ignored. Artist’s Way, Franklin Planner, GTD, talking to friends (gasp!), and Seinfeld chains are some of the more prominent chunks. I also started using a variety of tools, including Penultimate, Pocket Informant,, Goal Streaks, and Evernote in no particular order.

Net result: I’ve written Morning Pages (from Artist’s Way) in Penultimate 21 of 25 days this month. That jump-started the whole process. I started using a light visor (which had lain gathering dust for nearly a year) to regulate my sleeping. I’ve cobbled together a Franklin Planner implementation out of Evernote and Pocket Informant. I’m sending all my “to-do” emails to Evernote, and anything else I think of to do, I snap a photo, and put it into Evernote. My novel notes now reside in Evernote (Scrivener has links to them). To work on something like a character sketch, I sync the relevant note to Pocket Informant with a reminder and date, edit the note right in PI, and check it off there.

But the true game changers were:

  1. Talking to a friend, who gave me the needed boot in the butt to make some effort to correct course in late January.
  2. Recording how I really spent my time, which I did for the first week of February.
  3. Making a concerted effort to implement Seinfeld Chains. (For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Jerry Seinfeld famously attributed his success as a comic to marking each day he wrote a joke on a year-long calendar, and then not breaking the chain of marks.)

It seems silly, but the visual feedback of seeing those chains has really helped. I now have 9 days of exercise, 8 days of absolutely clean Paleo eating, and (hardest of all) 8 days of completing a tangible step towards publication.

It’s hard to be a tortoise — slow and steady. I’ve always been the hare, sprinting ahead (usually under fear of dire consequences,) and then burning out halfway to my goal. Moving ahead towards publication, I fight fear every time I take a step. Nonetheless, I will reach publication — by walking there, one day and one step at a time.

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