You know how I love my organization systems (and there have been more in the past). Following from I call the idea cascade, I developed a new system. For the first time in my life I’ve consistently followed my system. This post serves to describe this system and the benefits and challenges I’ve discovered from using it these last few months.
The system is currently focused on Goals and Actions, but has not yet explicitly included the higher Purpose/Meaning level. The tools used are Todoist and Google
Docs Drive, in particular a Form. In a nutshell: I define quarterly Goals, record my progress daily and review my progress weekly and monthly. I use a to-do list to keep track of the Actions I must take to reach my goals. This system provides enough detail and data to satisfy my mildly obsessive tendencies, but also allows for plenty of freedom and flexibility so that it doesn’t stifle me and kill joy. It’s pretty neat.
I skipped the Purpose level for now, going by an undefined sense of what is a good direction to follow. For now, while I am still very rough around the edges, it’s hard to mistake what is most important right now in my life. My driving Purpose is to develop discipline and core habits to provide structure and make me effective in pursuing other Purposes.
I define my Goals quarterly. They have been financial and personal goals, and include such things as reducing spending levels, preparing healthy and inexpensive food at home instead of being lazy and eating in restaurants, and building daily habits of exercise, prayer and bible study. My quarterly goals may change slightly depending on how well I do monthly (for example, the restaurant budget decreases if I successfully meet it in the previous month).
To support these Goals, I define Actions in Todoist. For example, I have a daily recurring task of reading the Bible, one for prayer, and one for exercising every other day. I also use Todoist to keep track of daily tasks, such as paying a bill on time or following up on something in the future. I follow a slim version of GTD, with Todoist Projects servings as my lists and calendar/reminders. The great thing about using this to-do list instead of a calendar is that old tasks automatically roll forward, so any tasks I cannot accomplish on time remain in my view with no additional effort. It also doesn’t worry me with the future because it does not show future tasks by default.
The link between Actions and Goals is the centerpiece of this new system. Each day I enter my Google Form and record how well I spent the day. I define a day as well-spent if I pursued my goals with the time and resources available to me. I define it as squandered if I spent my time on unworthy actions. Actions carry point values depending on how much time was spent. The results of this survey are inserted as a row into a Google Spreadsheet.
The point values help me gauge how well I spent the day and allows for basic statistical analysis. Each week I add another row for weekly review. It contains a simple average of the three numeric fields and commentary on the week’s events from a standpoint of learning what went right or wrong and how to promote or prevent the same performance. Each month I do another review, this time to evaluate how well I am tracking my goals, and hide everything but the monthly review row. I have not yet done a quarterly review; those might not be very beneficial because Actions are more minute and variable than Goals.
One of the benefits of this system is that it gives me data. I can evaluate how well I am pursuing my goals based on real information, not vague feeling and imperfect memory. I can, with experience, learn discipline and carry out the Actions that bring me to my Goals. It gives me a record by which I can see my general trends, which actions are most harmful, and which are most beneficial. This has indeed happened, and I’ve been able to shift my monthly averages from mostly Unworthy to mostly Worthy. I like how one of my friends described it: this is a time budget, and I am eliminating the Starbucks of time.
This system is not perfect. but I have honestly not found too many shortcomings. I don’t foresee a need for more granularity; that’s what always killed my other systems. I will continue to examine the efficacy of this system and find areas for improvement.