I’m not going to lie, I’m losing my mind these days. Part of the reason I object to chasing after small time gigs is that I already have so much information stuffing my pea sized brain that I simply cannot take it anymore. Time to up the game.
In the past I’ve been cheap when it comes to paying for new fangled products, but these days, if they work, I’m happy to do so. The biggest fear I have though, is investing not a monthly payment of $20, or even prepaying $200, but investing deep amounts of time to learn a product, only to discover that it doesn’t do exactly what I want. That’s wasted time.
Email is useless
I’ve got about 5 ‘real’ email addresses right now. Three for work, two personal. I stay on top of most of it by not seeking inbox zero. I find the notion ridiculous, because as soon as you reach it, someone is gonna email you again.. all that time wasted tidying up to have them crap on it again. I just ignore the messages I don’t want to read, which is why I’m up to about 80K unread right now.
Email is a real pain in the backside once you start pushing it hard, long threads with many users are unreadable, documents are duplicated and lost in the fray and one guy in a group going off on tangent screws up an entire project.
We need a central nervous system.
Right now, here’s some the stupid stuff on my brain:
- I’ve got 70% of a cruise paid off, and need to remember to buy a voucher in December to pay the balance.
- I’ve not got any flights for that cruise sorted yet.
- When I created miles for the flights I haven’t booked yet I used a Marriott certificate, it needs to be bumped up to a Ritz tier, and it needs to be monitored for expiry.
- Oh, and I got 2 x 1-5 Marriott certs that are in one of my 5 real and one of my other 4 not so real inboxes, they probably expire too..
- I emailed Club Carlson about a free night from 2 accounts… they didn’t get back to me yet… will they?
- I got 2×2 nights at radisson Aruba (now a Hilton) am I Gold? Does it matter? When should I check? I think I have a flight outbound, I’m pretty sure I don’t have a return. I’m thinking to stop off on the way home to attend a conference in FL for work… need to buy tickets for that.
- I need to update some model portfolios for my other company to make sure they are in line with expectations.
- I’ve got $89 of Ritz Carlton incidental airfare credit to burn up
- I got a Netspend card for the 5% APR and still haven’t gotten the transfer sorted
- Forum software needs updating again
- I’ve got a $30 eBay egift card sitting in raise.
- I’ve got some balance left on a wine.com giftcard somewhere… and a stewardship free trial to cancel..
The above is a snippet of any given hour of things that I think I remember needing to do.. I’m sure you guys have similar thoughts email is great if you remember what is on your mind, search it, find it! Action it, and don’t get distracted.. but how much can you really handle if all that crap is in your brain?
There’s no perfect solution
I’m playing with a few web based solutions that help with this task management. They are good, but not perfect. The key I have found is how well they share their APIs, and therefore how well integrated they are.
Asana is one such task manager, you set up tasks as projects, and you can assign roles within that to team members. As weird as this might sound, I’m experimenting now with adding the wife as a team member, setting a task and having her complete it. This is for things that I just cannot do, but as a group we need to get done. Thus far it has been things like our Wills and other ‘big’ things, but perhaps in the future she’ll assign me a task to pick up milk… hey, it sounds kinda weird, but I’d be perfectly happy to have my phone buzz when I drive past a supermarket with a pre populated shopping list.
Zapier is a strong integrator
People have heard of IFTTT more than Zapier, but the latter is a more robust solution. Until recently they had a rather ugly UI, but it looks a lot prettier now. Zapier is the ‘middleman’ that splices together your apps to make them work smarter.
Putting it together
I’ve got too many travel projects to resolve right now, examples from my list include: Aruba, the cruise, and all sorts of certificates that I need to track. With a premium account at Zapier I can create unlimited ‘zaps’. These can do things like:
- Send all emails from gmail labelled travel booked to asana travel project.
This takes a bit of work.. the system is smart once it knows what it is doing, but you need to tell it what to look for. This would happen in 3 ways:
- Build a home in Asana to receive the Zaps.. in this case a Travel Projects home.
- Tell Gmail to label things that come from your airline/hotel chain/etc if they contain the phrase ‘booking confirmed’ (or whatnot)
- Tell Zapier to ‘zap’ anything labelled in that manner and push it to your Asana travel project.
The further you go with this, the more you refine, tagging the projects into individual trips. Some work may be required to pull that together, but if you build it well it would be minimal.
It’s Ok to start smaller
This all might be a little overwhelming. The way to ease into it is to start with setting up things in Asana (or an alternate) manually, and manually updating tasks when achieved. The Zapier integration phase is taking things to a higher level of efficiency, and isn’t needed from the start. If you aren’t too comfortable with the tech, start out with simple projects in Asana, if that is helpful to you, start layering complexity into it. The ultimate goal is a highly complex system, which creates simplicity.
Why not use a third party?
I use awardwallet’s trip page for trips, and have some subscription to tripcrap or whatever it is called via the Arrival+.. the difference between these and building a high tech solution is the same as email and a high tech solution in many ways.. they aren’t giving you that task management control. Awardwallet isn’t reminding me that I need to email Club Carlson about my certs, or telling me that I don’t have a flight home booked for Aruba, it just tells me what I have done.
Personally, I find one of the hardest things to manage in life is keeping track of everything, while seeing what you have is helpful, remembering what you don’t have is still a real chore. I’d invite you to check out Asana, or other such apps, along with Zapier to see what you can create. You can start for free, but if they feel helpful, don’t be afraid to pay if the trial versions are limiting your ability to offload this stuff.
Matt, don’t you file your email? I create file trees – “cruises” -> “Hawaii 2015” and file all associated email to that file. Then I can just look in the file to see what’s been done, and have it all for reference. This is easier with some email web sites than others, I suppose. I use GoDaddy’s email.
I don’t. There’s some return from that, but not enough for me. However, a product that allows me to track progress and tasks missing does encourage me to set up filing systems.
I like the get things done (gtd) method and you can implement it many ways including Evernote or even Gmail
Evernote is really good… I played with it and skitch and found it very useful for study… I agree you can do a lot with it and with gmail, but am looking for that global command center…
Andrew C says
I can’t recommend Asana highly enough. Really a great way to manage tasks, especially all this miscellaneous stuff like you mention. Have tried to get my wife to add tasks etc but she hasn’t totally bought in.
Maria Sangria says
I’ve used Asana as a light agile project management tool when our group was resisting using TFS. Eventually we got another tool we could all use. Asana was great for its simplicity, and price. You can group tasks into projects and reprioritize them. I use Evernote pretty heavily as it syncs across multiple devices and you can save some folders offline. Those are great for catching up on articles on the plane, etc. I put all my Amex Sync offers in here in a simple table so I don’t have to log in all the time. I also have a simple table stored here for CC due dates, statement dates, payment amount, etc.
You can just use Google Tasks. You can create tasks from any email that sits in your to do list, you can sort them by priority right from your Gmail main screen, there’s mobile integration with the Android app GTask, and you can set due dates so when something needs action, it gives you a sticky notification on your phone.
It’s simple and easy to manage both ad hoc and email based tasks.
Interesting… I’ll take a look.
Gmail has some really cool features for email org and app org. You can put a decimal anywhere in your google screen name followed by @gmail.com (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org = email@example.com) and get the email sent to you. In addition you can put the google screen name with the plus symbol and anything followed by @gmail.com (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org = email@example.com). So handy for additional accounts and also filtering for certain items. In your filter settings you can designate all emails to you using the designated email to a certain inbox sub folder. It’s far easier for me to manage one inbox than many. FYI you can forward messages to a current if you seek to consolidate easily.
I like the idea of task management with the SO!