Jessie: In New Hampshire, trying to admire the daffodils through the swarms of black flies.
When I was a child my parents often criticized me for having what they called a “one track mind”. I would become passionately interested in a subject and would investigate it, consider it and talk about it animatedly until they pointedly asked me to keep my enthusiasms to myself.
As an adult, I’ve delighted in giving my interests their head and have followed quite willingly wherever they may lead. I love to live my life that way and I have fallen down many research rabbit holes I am so glad to have traversed.
An ongoing passion for me is goal setting and productivity. I know it isn’t for everyone but it is the only way I know to stay on top of the things in my life that are important to me. I use planners and notebooks and calendars and mind maps. I have a yearly theme and quarterly action items. I list top three items I will almost always complete.
One of my recent discoveries is the concept of the Personal Kanban. I had been looking for ways to keep on top of multiple looming deadlines. My lifelong habit of delving into a subject headfirst served me well as I dashed round the internet looking for solutions.
When I fetched up at Personal Kanban I was sure I had hit on the right method for me to sort myself out. It was everything I could have hoped for, including permission to indulge in two of my favorite organizational tools: color coding and sticky notes. I was hooked at first sight. To the left is the one I have set up in my office, which I have been using every day for the past two months.
The system is simple. Anyone can do it using minimal supplies and little time. It isn’t complicated or time consuming to learn. It doesn’t even require access to technology of any kind. It creates a tangible, clear view of the items on my ongoing to do list versus the things currently on my plate. It even addresses those things I must keep track of, but that are in someone else’s hands at the moment.
To make one of your own you simply create four columns on a white board, chalkboard or even a mirror, as I have done. You can use dry erase markers, if appropriate, or sticky notes. The columns are labeled BACKLOG, DOING, PEN, DONE. Mine are in purple at the top of my mirror.
Then you proceeed to write down all the to do list items on your mind in the backlog column. I write mine on colored-coded sticky notes. Pink is for actual fiction writing. Yellow is for administrative tasks like blog posts, emails and banking. Orange is for personal life. Small blue stickies are for travel plans. Green flags are knitting projects.
Every morning I take a look at my board and evaluate what I am actually doing until around lunchtime. I place no more than five items in the doing column and hopefully, a maximum of three. I check the pen column to determine if I need to check about progress with anyone else on an item. I scan the backlog for items that have increased in urgency.
I move stickies back and forth between the columns, if necessary, as the mood strikes or circumstances demand, until I am finally able to move them into the done column. At the end of the week I am able to look at how I have spent my time and whether or not it pleases me. I don’t have to keep all my obligations in my head and I feel far less overwhelmed.
Freeing up the head and heart spaces allows me to continue to burn with enthusiasm for the ideas that intrigue me and makes me more productive too. That’s one track I’m sure I’ll be happy on for a very long time.
Readers, do you have a one track mind for your passions? Do you use organizational tools to free up mental energy for things that interest you more than keeping on top of your to do lists?