Update on GTD v. ADHD #amwriting

A heavily modified version of Getting Things Done is still my go-to system, and I still have it tied to Habitica, the gamified to-do system I’ve been using for several years.

My calendar after GTD processing

GTD principles I ignore or simplify:

From my point of view many of GTD’s classifications are complications that I avoid or simplify lest I stop using the system. The ones I either don’t use or simplify greatly are related to categorisation and prioritisation, which ADHD folks are notoriously bad at (I am no exception):

  • Roles: Classifying things to do by the “role I play” while doing them. I don’t bother. The details of why I have to do a thing are things that are too nitpicky to record. Because I’m a writer? A wife? A housemate? Because I damn well please? It doesn’t matter.
  • Contexts:
 Classifying things to do by the location in which I do them. Again, I don’t bother.
  • Projects: Classifying things to do by the project of which they’re a part. If I have more than two projects going at once, I’m in trouble anyway. So I have essentially two projects: Writing-Related and Not Writing-Related. That’s fine enough categorisation for this ADHD person.
  • Priorities: GTD has four of these: Now, Next, Later, and Someday. For me, it’s either Now or Later. I can’t cut this any finer.
GTD principles I retain:

But there are things that are core to GTD that I’ve taken to heart and have heavily automated:

  • Collecting: I’ve set up automations via IFTTT and Zapier for this. Whether I add reminders in Evernote, in Siri, in the iOS Reminders app directly, in a (rarely-used) iOS app called Daily Notes, or by forwarding emails to Evernote as to-dos, they all get funnelled to a Google calendar I call “Unprocessed”, as all-day events due the next Monday after the events are added.
  • Processing: The hard part. I have it scheduled for every Monday; about half the time I actually do it. This is where having the tasks disguised as all-day events becomes useful. “Unprocessed”, “Processed”, “Scheduled” and “Appointments” are the four Google calendars I have on the same account—so that they all appear on my week’s calendar in neat little day-based columns.


How I process things to do:

I look at the unprocessed events, and delete those that I, upon reflection, don’t need to do. I then transfer the remainder to the Processed calendar.

On the Processed calendar, I start looking for places to put the most important to-dos on my calendar. My rule is that I never schedule more than five items on a single day. Writing is always scheduled, as is exercise. Appointments count as items. As I schedule to-dos, I move them to the Scheduled calendar. Left over items get moved to the next Monday’s Processed calendar. (Or possibly deleted if I decide that Later has become Never.)



From here my automation takes over. Via Zapier, all the Scheduled calendar items and the Appointments calendar items get inserted into my Habitica to-do list on the appropriate date. I either do them, or my fellow Habitica party members will chew me out.

Finally, a GTD user is to regularly review whether a thing-to-do is needful, and if the categorisation and prioritisation is appropriate. I don’t do this regularly; instead I do this when I feel like chucking it all. Usually this means either I need to prune my daily checklist (which isn’t tracked through GTD) or I’ve over-complicated my GTD variant. Again.

But still, the GTD paradigm remains useful so long as my automations still work—heaven help me if IFTTT or Zapier goes out of business!

Advertisements

Stuck in the Planned Obsolescence Swamp #amwriting

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I’ve been struck with the Planned Obsolescence triple whammy.

First whammy: I use Zapier to cobble some of the pieces of my GTD system together. When it works, it’s great. But some weeks ago either Trello updated its Zapier interface or Zapier updated its Trello interface, or both. So my completed items stopped being automatically marked as completed. That cost me several hours of rebuilding my automation and debugging it. Blah. But it’s running again, now.

Second whammy: The iPad 3 has developed two separate hardware problems:

  1. The Home button has gotten “stubborn” — it doesn’t respond to every press. So I try to do a double press to get to the gallery of apps in memory, and I try it twice because the first try doesn’t work, and I inadvertently trigger color inversion. Then the same problem happens when I try to turn the colors back to normal, and I still haven’t gotten to the app gallery… I am learning to use other means to do this (keyboard shortcut if I’ve got a hardware keyboard going, or a swipe-to-gallery gesture if I don’t) but habits die hard.
  2. The 30-pin dock connector has some wear or damage that prevents the internal speaker from functioning — and also makes power connections unreliable. Thus I miss alerts either because I can’t hear them, or because the iPad itself has died due to not charging when it was plugged in all night. Wiggle the cable and it starts charging…

The iPad issues cost me more than a day and a visit to the Genius Bar to diagnose. The good news is that it’s a comparatively easy fix — it’s time for a . . . well, a reconditioned iPad Air 2, anyway. I’ve ordered it from Apple and it should arrive next week. But it’ll cost me hours again to back up the old iPad, and restore to the new one.

Third whammy: The battery on my iPhone 5c is dying. I still think I can use the phone for ten hours — but really it’s dropped to seven hours, and the loss of battery life is accelerating.

There’s no quick solution for the phone — it’s out of warranty, and the contract still has four months to run. All I can do is carry a backup battery everywhere (yes, everywhere), and remember to charge them both.

At least I got a lot of writing done in Cambridge.

Trello with Extra Zap(ier)s and IFTTTs

http://Zapier.com and http://IFTTT.com can make repeating tasks in Trello.
http://Zapier.com and http://IFTTT.com can make repeating tasks in Trello.
The problem with Trello (or for that matter, Evernote) as a task manager is that it doesn’t handle repeating tasks. And my favorite task game, Habitica, has its own limits — its repeat schedules are much more flexible than they used to be, but not so flexible as a semi-decent calendar or task-only app (examples: Google Calendar, Toodledo.) In addition to this, I really want ONE place to mark off things as done — I find it enough of a pain to follow a bloody list, even one I’ve made for myself. Having to mark things off two or three times — well, it leads me to sulking for a week or three before guilt and boredom drive me back to my lists.

My previous post on Trello, “Trello — Its Impact on GTD, ADHD, The Universe, and Everything”, promised more detail about my use of Zapier and IFTTT. Both these services follow a trigger–action paradigm: the service watches for a particular sort of event in an app you tell it to watch — the trigger. When the service sees that trigger, it sets off another event in a second app — the action. Here are my current trigger–action pairs:

  • Zapier:
    • Scheduled Trello task -> Google Calendar “For Tasks” (This takes care of the rare case in which I schedule a task directly from my main Trello board.)
    • Credit Habitica with Trello completions (Major coolness! The Habitica “action” is unofficial, so that you have to request access via Habitica. But worth it — I no longer need to copy one-off tasks to Habitica by hand.)
    • Events from Google Calendar “Appointments” to Trello (I treat appointments — rare in my schedule — as one-off to-dos.)
    • Evernote ToDo items to Trello
  • IFTTT:
    • If any event starts on Google Calendar “For Tasks”, then create a card in – Trello, Silvers’s Plate board (This is the core of my repeating tasks list.)
    • If every day at 01:00 AM, then create a card in – Silver’s Plate board (This is just a reminder to look at my Habitica daily lists so I don’t forget them…)
    • If card assigned to me in – Trello, Willow’s Journey, then create a card in – Trello, Silver’s Plate board
    • If card assigned to me in Trello, Manifester, then create a card in – Trello, Silver’s Plate board (The above two put items from my writing projects into my daily tasks so I don’t forget….)
    • If any new iOS reminder, then create a card in – Trello, Silver’s Plate board (So I can use Siri to remind me later of things I think of while driving.)

The truth is, that I’d use Zapier almost exclusively if I could afford it. Zapier is a much more flexible automation tool than IFTTT. IFTTT’s only advantages: it can automate events triggered by things in iOS or Android OS, such as a new iOS reminder or receiving an Android SMS. And it’s free. Zapier, by contrast, costs $20 a month if you want more than 100 successfully triggered actions per month and/or more than five scripts.

Zapier’s $20 per month gets you 3000 (!) successfully triggered actions — far more than I need. I could use about 300. I wish they had, say, a $5 per month option for 500 triggered events — I’d pay that in a heartbeat. As it is, I use IFTTT when I can to avoid being maxed out on triggered actions.

But still, maintenance of my task list is down to a minimum, and my level in Habitica is climbing higher and higher!

I love technology.

Trello! Its Impact on GTD, ADHD, the Universe, and Everything

Screenshot 2015-08-11 10.30.12“…Or, The Silver Dragon Discovers Kanban…”

Indeed, I have not been living under a rock for the last three decades. The term “kanban” has entered my ears, mostly in connection with my husband’s factory (he’s plant manager for a (small? medium?) manufacturer.) It never occurred to me that it could simplify my life.

I came across Trello when looking for something to help me collaborate with my son, Andrew (also a writer, also ADHD) on a story. We needed something that was visual because both of us aggressively filter auditory signals and distractions and/or quickly learn to ignore them. We needed something that didn’t look or smell like specialized email (I’m looking at you, Asana, and you, Evernote Work Chat) because email almost never gets Andrew’s attention (if I want him to see an email message, I text him to look at his email.) Messages had to look and smell like specialized texts, be controllable so that the level of interruptions is minimal (for me), and the project management had to be very visual for either of us to be able to work with it.

It also had to be cheap or free.

Trello met all those criteria. The fact that it is the tool the many collaborators of Habitica (formerly Habit RPG) use to coordinate their efforts is an impressive endorsement. After all, many of those who find Habitica useful have attentional challenges…

I set up my current writing project rather easily using the project management information I’d already captured in iThoughts (another post for another Tuesday.) While researching Trello, I’d come across references to it being a kanban-style project management app. So, I researched kanban, kanban for knowledge workers, personal kanban, and picked Hubby’s brain.

Net result: I now have a personal kanban board (On Sandra’s Plate), separate from my writing projects. New stuff I put into my writing projects is automatically pushed into my GTD collector column, “Unprocessed,” with an IFTTT recipe. Reminders from Siri — another IFTTT recipe, straight to “Unprocessed.” I can still use Evernote to collect, because I’ve automated that with a Zapier script to stuff everything in my ToDo notebook into, you guessed it, “Unprocessed.”

Once a week, I go through the Unprocessed stack and categorize the stuff therein more or less as in “The Secret Weapon” and move it to the “Unscheduled” stack. I look at my Google calendar (via Pocket Informant) where my periodic non-daily items live, and move things from “Unscheduled” into “Scheduled,” with due dates that don’t overload any one day with more than 5 things to do (appointments count as things.)

Yet another Zapier script moves all those periodic non-daily items into my “On Deck” stack on the day they’re due.

Every morning, I move anything left over from the “Doing” stack yesterday to “On Deck.” I pull stuff due today from “Scheduled” into “On Deck.” Periodic items due today have already landed there courtesy of Zapier. I look at the pile, reschedule if I need to in order to limit the “On Deck” items to five (change their due dates and move them back into “Scheduled.” Or maybe delete them if I decide they’re not that important after all…)

I then pull ONE item out of “On Deck” into “Doing.” I do that. I move it to the “Done” stack. Then I pull another item out of “On Deck.” There’s never more than one item that I’m “Doing” at any time. Even when I get distracted (never “if” I get distracted. I’m ADHD; distraction happens) it’s hard to avoid that glaring one “Doing” item. It never gets lost in the visual murk.

For those of you who were wondering, yes, I still use Habitica to provide myself with incentives, more for daily routine checklists (I loathe their non-repeating ToDo handling.)

So, more detail on iThoughts, and possibly more detail on how I automate recurring tasks to show up in Trello, next week.