Almost exactly three years ago, I was trying to use David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”< (GTD) system, and I wasn’t seeing the benefits he promised. In the end, I found that it just helped me thrash. I suspect the problem was more my focus than his system—but at end of the day, his approach just didn’t resonate with me.
Today, my system is a little closer to a hybrid of Mark Forester’s AutoFocus and Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. I still use MLO as my task manager but on a more granular level than I used to. Instead of slaving over MLO constantly, now I use it to help generate my list for the day. I use MLO to keep track of a large list of tasks. Mostly, I just use the outline to remind me of things I want to tackle. Every day I glance at the TODO view to make sure that there isn’t anything that is date sensitive that I’ve lost track of. Once it comes to committing to tasks for a particular day, I often use index cards using MLO, email, and anything else as inputs. At the end of a day (sometimes two), I take anything that remains in the card and put into MLO. Then I tear up the card, which is probably the most fun part.
- I sweep my tabs in Firefox every few days and move stuff to reading lists in MLO.
- Once/Twice a week I go offline and go through my email.
- Once a week I take some time to reflect—what is going well, what needs improvement, what do I have the energy to improve, and what one thing can I do next week to improve it. Aka a retrospective. This is the hardest one to maintain—because you’re tempted to skip it and get more “work” done. Yet, it’s the most important because it drives real improvement.
I use the Pomodoro Technique for the following:
- a reminder to stay on task
- a way of doing a rough estimation every morning
Also, on a two-monitor setup under Win7, I dock MLO on the far left and leave it in outline mode, where I can always see other things I want to do.
Other tools I use include ClipMate Clipboard Extender because it allows me handle more than one item in the clipboard and to clean (i.e., remove html, etc.).
Mark Levison has been helping Scrum teams and organizations with Agile, Scrum and Kanban style approaches since 2001. From certified scrum master training to custom Agile courses, he has helped well over 8,000 individuals, earning him respect and top rated reviews as one of the pioneers within the industry, as well as a raft of certifications from the ScrumAlliance. Mark has been a speaker at various Agile Conferences for more than 20 years, and is a published Scrum author with eBooks as well as articles on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org an AgileAlliance.org.