Mind Mapping My Life

There are a few problems that have been nagging me about my task lists:

  1. Not having the right energy at the right time
  2. Losing perspective over what I should be doing right now for maximum effect
  3. Focusing too much on some areas of my life at the exclusion of others
  4. Having task list contexts that are not effective

The first problem seems to be answered in a few books I am aware of, like The Power of Full Engagement, and Two Awesome Hours (which I just purchased and have yet to read).

The second and third ones I think are born of the last problem, which is in regards to my use of OmniFocus 2 for all of my task tracking. I have pretty obvious @contexts like @home (for chores), @kitchen (for cooking), @store, @work, but then also non-location based ones like @read (for paper or digital books), @macbook (for really anything, it’s too general), and @watch (for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Tivo, or technical videos online).

MY GOAL: I want to feel like a well rounded person. I want to go through let’s say 2 or 3 days and feel like all the tasks that I accomplished contributed to all the major areas of my life. I’m a computer programmer, and look forward to the weekend so I could learn some new technology, but frequently Monday rolls around again and all I’ve done is cook, clean the kitchen, vacuum the floors, laundry, cleaned the bathroom. I seem to think that all of that is preparatory work to being able to settle back with a clear mind and be able to pour myself 100% into a project. But that’s the subject of another post, or a therapy session.

Back to having proper @contexts; for a while now, I’ve been trying to find some sort of better guidance around creating @contexts, but not really gotten an Aha! from anything. What is a perfect context that means “having enough energy, at a computer, on a non-recent project, while having an hour of uninterrupted time”??

My @contexts are just too generic- take the @watch for example. Technical videos and The Bachelor just shouldn’t belong in the same @context. And @macbook is also too generic. Half my life is on my computer, but I can’t have one @context for half of my life, and there are very different purposes for different computer tasks, so @macbook can’t be an effective @context.

As an experiment in just laying it all out on the table, making a mind map of everything that I have responsibility for, I did just that. My hope was that that exercise would be translatable to OmniFocus contexts, which would then be much more balanced overall and better segmented according to the ACTUAL areas of my life. Here are portions of what I came up with (using MindNode Lite):




As should be apparent, @contexts based on these categories would be much less location based, and more life area based. And watching technical videos online (@Professional:PersonalDev:WatchingVideos) will now be in a distinct @context than The Bachelor (@Recreation:TV:Tivo).

Next up: creating the OmniFocus @contexts based on this and figuring out how to track ‘balancedness’. Should each day’s set of planned tasks be one task from each of the main subdivisions in the mind map? Or something else? I’m thinking that some of these ‘leaf nodes’ should be tasks and some of them should be child contexts to store other tasks.

Bye Bye Sandy

For the last year or so, I’ve been subscribed to a free service called I Want Sandy. Sandy is like a virtual calendar assistant, in that it allocates me a personal email address, which I can send a specially formatted email to. That email could be something like “remind me to pick up my dry cleaning next Wednesday at 6:45pm”, in the subject line or body of the email. At that time, I get an email back from Sandy with a reminder about my dry cleaning.  I certainly am not a power user, using it maybe once or twice a week, but enough to make it convenient for those occasional reminders.

Well, I just got a notice from them that they are shutting their virtual doors on Dec 19. Looks like Twitter has bought their technology, and their CEO is also joining Twitter.  Now, on to look for alternatives:

http://twitter.com/timer – Pros: backed by Twitter’s solid foundation Cons: Limited by Twitter’s access methods – text or browser, no email
http://gopingme.com/ – Pros: They seem to be ready for Sandy’s abandoned users, as they have a tutorial for ex-Sandy users on their home page. Just like Sandy, you can postpone event reminders (reply to reminder email with “remind me about this in 1 day”) type of thing.
http://www.rememberthemilk.com – Pros: Has email-task and receive-email-reminder functionality, but they seems to be 2 distinct operations. Cons: seems to be a full fledged task management system, which I already use Omnifocus for. I really need something just to replace Sandy with- a simple email/get-reminder-later system.

Looks like I will try http://gopingme.com, even with the cheesy service name.