Hope you’re having a fantastic week. I am reaching out to anyone who has knowledge/experience in the field of Project, Task and Time Management and can provide the assistance. I feel the people who inhabit this forum are probably very similar to me and might have the same struggles.
I struggle massively with journaling, note taking and task management in general. And have done for a long time. I’ve tried many tools and methods and none have helped. Not having the right tools and a good process means I can feel disorganized and then that leads to stress feeling overwhelmed. But it also lately makes for frustrated because I don’t feel like I’m actually achieving anything.
I am lucky in a way, my job and hobbies overlap - if I wasn’t getting paid for it, I’d still be doing it! But this means that the line between work and fun is blurry, or non existent. I will take projects that start at home to work as demos and proof-of-concepts. And similarly work will often trigger a new project (and they will cycle). On top of that I have private projects - home brewing, cooking, training … but being the people we are we find a way to add tech to that as well, and so everything is a big mess of interconnected work!
I also just find a lot of things interesting and the Information Age is a curse here - constantly being recommended a topic on YouTube or a hackaday article - things that aren’t in my “must do” tasks… but more “I’ve wondered about that…” and you suddenly have 60 open tabs and 500 “watch later” videos. You find you’ve spent 5 years planning and researching a project instead of doing it… and in that time you’ve researched the same open question 5 times because you didn’t remember you’ve already researched it and have lost the notes you made! When you work on something for a while, and get to a point where it’s “completed for now” and a year later you want to fork the design, add a new feature … or you put a project on hold whilst you go on vacation and when you come back you’ve got no idea what status you were at! … or ideas that just percolate from time to time… pop up for 5 minutes then disappear until someone or something promotes it to a project to be done but now you have to collect and find all the old research (happened to me today!)
So I am 100% confident there are people here who will be reading this and nodding… so how do you solve it?! What tools and methods do you use?
I have been using Evernote primarily - not because it’s great… but in my experience it’s the least bad! The Mac application is fuss free and puts all the focus on the notes. Text goes edge to edge and the line spacing is pretty good. It’s not “fancy” in the UI to look pretty - it’s functional instead (this is why I don’t use notion or bear for example). It supports pasting screen shots and images. I can insert docs (pdfs, excel) and it embeds YouTube automatically. The iOS App is as capable as I want I to be. It’s buggy though which does p*** me off (especially when it comes to trusting that my notes are as I want them to be, and there is a LOT of stuff I would add) but after trying many other options I keep coming back to Evernote
What I want to do is simple
- manage my tasks (what do I have to do) and the sub tasks that go with it
- keep notes (I am obsessive on note taking)
the challenge I have found is that
- not everything is task based - sometimes you are just reading for interest, for research or what ever → how do you capture that knowledge?
- when reading and researching you often have resources (docs, web pages, youtube videos) that are useful - capturing that, and the notes that go with it
- in working you often have inspiration for something else, or find questions that aren’t important now, but are interesting
- you have a long backlog of things to learn, research, experiment with - again, not tasks, but things that interest you (maybe a backlog)
- a “project” or “ideas” book - things you want to do one day; often times you find something accidentally; a resource, article, link etc - you aren’t working on it actively, but you occasionally have things to add to it
- when you have a LOT of things going in parallel (which I do, nature of the job) you need to capture knowledge and tasks quickly
I was reading some articles by Arron Lynn, who suggests keeping tasks in one tool (like Asana, OmniFocus etc) maybe because when the article was written Evernote tasks didn’t exist… but Evernote really sucks for task management anyway! his journalling method also agreed with the way I have done things for a long time - I have one note per day in Evernote - this is really quick to capture information and you are never stressing about where to categorize a note (you know, when notes never belong in a single topic, project or task and can easily go in multiple places). This also has the benefit of capturing project progress and chronology - it is painful in that unless you know exactly what to search for, finding things can be painful; also ideas can easily get lost in a note from several weeks ago (so unless you stumble upon it accidentally or remember it, it’s gone); you can easily duplicate work and knowledge; continuing work across multiple days is hard and viewing a full project in one go is impossible…
ive tried having notes per project - but this is not sustainable, and you end up with waaay too many notebooks (due to all the projects). When a note belongs in multiple places, you end up cross referencing or spending way too much time deciding where something goes…
so! if this sounds familiar to you, and you have solved it… please let me know! its driving me nuts…! I am spending too much time trying to be organised than getting stuff done… but not being organised increases the stress levels…
i am working on reducing the things I have in parallel - but that has its limits. For example just now, I have a project but it requires a training course, setting up development environments etc - so before I get to the actual task I have several steps to go through, each of which is “generic” and will be reused in other projects later on… now that can be broken down into tasks I agree
so… having talked to others about this, its not a unique problem so i am confident others have felt or feel my pain and id love some pointers on how to deal with this!