The Story of Jim
Jim is staring at the into the slow patterns swirling in his coffee, feeling the wheels of his mind driving him full of motivation. These are the mornings that he lives for, when he is presented with a challenge that will demand everything from him.
Jim is a marketing manager, and is at the office early, knowing that today is going to be heavy. Jim has a marketing presentation today and right now has nothing. Up until now, he has been running around removing obstactles for his younger team members, standing in to help them bounce ideas, and offering guidance. And the team has come up with some really strong ideas that he believes in.
Now it is left in his hands. Let's see how Jim manages.
What Jim Doesn't Know
Shortly Jim will make his daily todo list, like he would with other day planning softwarehowever he doesn't know that:
- He will face mental resistance when beginning to outline his marketing presentation.
- He will be interrupted with a high priority E-mail from the Zephyros team, asking for some additional information they need to continue their project.
- His boss will hit him with an unexpected meeting with only 15 minutes warning.
- He will find himself distracted helping the Cornell division with their product results.
You will see how Jim handles these common situations, using Watership Planner's day planner software capabilities, and how the automatic scheduler will stay up to the minute with a visual representation of Jim's tasks.
Coming Up With a Schedule to Start With
First thing Jim does is take 5 minutes to jot out what needs to get done. He lists everything that needs to happen to prepared for the meeting. He has to keep a good pace because he also has an appointment at 11am.
To enter items, Jim simply types them into the Task List, using Enter to create the next task after the current one.
As shown above, after you hit enter, the list adds a new task. Jim enters a list of all the tasks that he needs to get done today.
The Task List in the Today Tab are tasks associated with a day. Now Jim can begin to associate them with existing projects and roles.
Jim selects multiple tasks by holding down the Shift to select a range, or Ctrl to toggle selections. From here any changes made to this column will apply to all the selected tasks. Since all the selected tasks are for the marketing presentation, he can set them all at once. If he needed to add a new project here, he could simply type it out, using \ to seperate folders.
Now they have some color as the project is associated with the "marketer" role. These tasks will be tracked in the Projects Tab and the other statistics windows.
For tasks that aren't associated with a project, Jim can associate the task with a role, this is useful so he can color code his agenda, and for viewing reports of where his time goes.
You can click to select an role, or begin typing to auto complete the role.
Turning the Todo List into a Schedule
Now that Jim has the tasks color coded by role, he wants to assign them estimates so that the automatic scheduler kicks in and he can visualize his day in the Schedule View. Jim begins to type in an estimate into the Scheduling column, which responds like the other columns.
With estimates, the Schedule View--the narrow gray timeline to the left of the Task List, the one that says "November Wed 17"--shows the calculated schedule. Like a GPS, it will recalculate itself when things go over or under their estimates, or when the schedule changes priorities.
The "Gather Information" task now has a floating estimate on the schedule view. Filling out the rest of the estimates, Jim can see when everything is estimated to finish.
Jim then adds some breaks between the tasks. Some people like to add the breaks to the estimates directly, so it shown together as one task. Jim likes having a seperate color for breaks. He also adds lunch.
Setting the Schedule Priorities
Notice that the lunch and breaks are at the end in the schedule view, around 1pm. The automatic scheduler goes by priority order if no constraints are broken. We will get to constraints soon, but first Jim sets the priorities by dragging and dropping them into the correct order in the Task List.
Jim drags the other breaks after his writing sessions, and schedules the lunch after the rough draft.
Jim also has a meeting with Alex with a hard start at 11am. We make these appointments, so that the scheduler won't move these around on you. Jim begins by selecting a range for the appointment in the Schedule View.
Notice that the selection goes over any estimated tasks, these estimated tasks will move out of the way once the appointment is created. Jim creates the task by typing out the name of the appointment.
Jim also adds the appointment for the marketing presentation at 2pm. Now Jim has a map of his time, and if David asks him when he thinks he will have time to meet with him, he can look at the schedule and estimate that he will be ready at 3pm.
Last Minute Change
Taking one last quick look, Jim notices that the phone call to James is happening before the meeting with Alex. He would rather have the other calls happen before, so he knows that the priority is wrong. He drags the the phone call with James after the other calls. Jim uses these conflicts between what looks right, with the explicit priorities that he has set, to know exactly what needs to be done.
Starting the First Task
Now that Jim knows what he needs to do for the day, he begins by clicking the Next button, that begins a timer on the next task.
Now Jim minimizes Watership Planner and gets to work. Any time Jim finds that he needs to redirect his focus on the current thing that he is working on, he brings up the Action Menu.
Jim hits the global hotkey Win + W to bring up the Action Menu from any program.
From here Jim gets a quick reminder of what he is working on, the next alarm, and the upcoming appointment. This is usually enough to jolt him back on track when his mind begins to wander.
Jim finds this helpful, his attention wanders, but he has a set habit that brings his attention back to the present task at hand. Just making one better decision a day increases how effective he is. By working from the Action Menu he can ensure that he is working on the most important thing that he can be doing with his time at that moment.
Staying Focused on Big Vague Tasks
He clicks the break down menu and from here is presented with a list that he uses to begin to brainstorm different ideas of what to write. Then he assigns some estimates to guide him along, pacing him.
From here another window pops up for Jim to enter the new tasks that will make up the broken down task.
Jim jots down different topics that he needs to cover for his presentation.
This list allows the same editing features as the other lists, here Jim is selecting the new tasks to give them all an estimate of 10m.
Jim finishes up by reducing the estimate of the "Rough draft" task to 5m, since it was the shell, now he has many smaller rough draft tasks. Jim could have also renamed the "Rough draft" task to "Plan rough draft" and move all the tasks to a project folder named "Rough draft."
From here Jim gets his first task under way by using the Next command, and commits to staying focused for 40m. He sets an alarm for 40m so he knows he can completely focus on it, without worrying about anything for at least 40 minutes, until a warning comes up.
Jim is really banging out the presentation material--already finishing up the "Outline" task. Checking the Action Menu he realizes that he is ahead of schedule by 20 minutes, by reading the "Time Left on Estimate" cell.
As soon as he hits the Next task, Watership Planner registers that the current task is finished, and adjusts the schedule to this.
Now as Jim is 5m into his 2nd writing task, he gets an E-mail asking for some additional details needed for a project he was involved in last week. Jim would like to get them the information to unblock them, but he knows that the marketing presentation is more important.
However Jim has a habit set to help him stay focused on what really matters, he adds the task in the Today Tab and bumps the priority to see what it does to his schedule.
If it causes any constrained conflicts, they would pop up and he would know that he doesn't have the time to take on the interruption. This gives Jim one last chance at making a better decision that he won't regret later.
In this case, if the "Comment on Tyler's product sketches" is required for the marketing presentation, then he has gone over the estimated time. It has been pushed to 3:30pm, after the "Analyze product test results with David."
If changing priorities don't cause any conflicts with his schedule, Jim can take the interruption--giving it his entire focus until he finishes, or a scheduling constraint comes. Jim can also set an alarm to keep him on track. Even if he didn't set an alarm, the scheduling constraints will warn him when he is in danger of not making his schedule before constraints, allowing him more opportunities to make better decisions with his time.
In this case, the interruption would take too long and so Jim choose not to take the interruption, sending a quick E-mail with an estimate of when he can get the numbers to unblock them, so that they can plan around it.
Since this is a task that he can work on in pieces, he sets the splittable attribute, and now he can take advantage of the tiny spaces between tasks and appointments, where most unsplittable tasks can't fit.
Jim opens the task properties window to set the task as being splittable.
Now the task fills in the gaps between tasks and appointments because it can be split into short enough duration to fit the periods before appointments.
While Jim was working an urgent E-mail came in that he had to take care of right away. He could have started an interruption using the Action Menu as soon as he realized that he was going to have to take the E-mail. But the E-mail aroused in him such a strong sense of urgency that he forgot.
So now that the E-mail is addressed, Jim assigns the time spent on the urgent E-mail as a distraction.
He opens the Action Menu and enters the distraction menu. From here he estimates that he spent 12m on it, which he calculated from the current timer of the current task. He knew that he started E-mail about 4m into the writing task, so with the timer at 16m, he estimates that he spent 12m on the E-mail.
Jim enters 12m for the amount of time distracted, and writes "E-mail Cornell Division" as the task. If the distraction was a task that was already on the day's Task List, he could have selected it directly.
The distraction command assigns the time from now until 12m ago as a tracked time for the distraction task, and marks it as completed. The timers is still on the writing task, but with the distraction time cut out of it, or 12m less in this case. This way the estimate on it is still valid, and Jim can keep track of his distractions and where his time is going when he reviews the day in the evening.
Making it Easy to Pick Up Where You Left Off
Jim is keeping a good pace by committing to 30m sessions for writing, and then taking a short 5m break, to get another tea, do some office stretches to keep his tennis game tip top, or to snack on some almonds. He does this by starting an alarm each time he begins a new task, using the Action Menu.
Then Jim enters the "New" menu by hitting 'n'.
Then Jim enters the "New Alarm" menu by hitting 'a'.
From here, Jim enters "30m" for a trigger in half an hour. So the entire combination is: Win + W, "na30m". Jim thinks of this as New Alarm 30m.
Jim can even set an alarm to automatically go off whenever he starts a timer on a task that reaches 30m. This can be helpful for break like tasks, that automatically remind you to start the next task. Or for pacing larger tasks that should be worked on in sessions.
When an alarm sounds, he suppresses any urge to keep going and complete the task. Instead he keeps typing until he gets to the middle of a sentence, right in the middle of an idea. By cutting in the middle of an idea, he leaves a hook for him later. When he comes back and rereads the last sentence that he wrote, he will be jolted with all the ideas that he had at that time, and the ideas will flow.
It also makes it easier to want to start again. By cutting, he keeps that drive that wants the closure of finishing the task. It is easy to use start working on something easy that you already knew how you were going to finish. From there, the momentum will carry him forward. When you are approach a new fresh task, it can take some heavy thinking to discover where exactly you need to begin. So instead Jim leaves breadcrumbs for his unconscious to follow, the best discipline is the one where you make things easy for you to naturally do.
From there he switches to the break task, and sets another timer for 5m. These quick transitions keeps him energized, and creates a sense of urgency in him.
Short Circuit Daydreaming
While Jim is working on the article for the presentation, he comes up with a great idea that he wants to explore. Only it is for an unrelated project. He knows that he can quickly work himself up thinking about these ideas to the point of losing half an hour in a trance. Knowing that this tendency in him limits his success, he has come up with a habit or logging all ideas and letting them rest before exploring them more.
Jim brings up the Action Menu with Win + W, and hits "n" then "t" for New Task, and then types out his idea. It will be added to the end of the day's task list.
He logs anchor words, just enough to jolt him back into the state he was when he had the idea, just like he would when leaving a bookmark. Later he can go through the ideas and prioritize them based on their impact using ROI prioritization to spend time on the most promising items. Instead of being like a dog, who will drop whatever they are doing to chase a stick that is thrown their way, he concentrates on big meaningful projects that have a big impact because others don't have the techniques to sustain consistent thoughts towards a single project.
He could try to ignore the idea, but it will keep coming back to distract him, and he will have to use his limited mental energy to bring himself back to the current task, energy that he needs to get a quality presentation ready on time.
Jim knows that by following through with the tasks at hand, he becomes trusted with more responsibility. The more he can manage himself, the more freedom he will get, and the more opportunities to lose himself in these ideas.
So he does what many creative people do to silent his mind to keep it empty and available for new ideas. If an idea comes that doesn't pertain to the current task, he logs it and forgets about it, keeping the mind open for new ideas. Through this process, he gets an idea for the current task at hand, just as exhilarating as the other ideas, but also aligned with him progressing.
Staying in Flow
Just knowing all this becomes an unconscious activity to him, as he is aware of his thinking and the different levels of arousal for the current task that he is in. If he feels resistance, he knows he can break the task down and then focus on a smaller piece with less details to think about.
If he is underwhelmed, he can thinking about raising the challenge level to get himself more engaged.
By working with the flow commands, he is become more aware of the process.
Kelly--Jim's boss--calls for a quick unexpected meeting in 15m to go over something important. Before this would upset Jim, who would have his carefully planned schedule scrambled on him. It made him feel like someone came in with muddy boots, followed by wet shaggy dogs on long leashes, into the living room that is his schedule.
But Kelly has noticed that lately Jim seems much more flexible, and yet at any point he can give a list of what he is working on, and their priority. When she interrupts him, she finds that she doesn't unload work on him because he always calculates what it would push out, and it causes them to both realize that the interruption wasn't as important as it first appeared. Instead she gives it to one of Jim's coworkers.
Jim opens Watership Planner the easy way by opening the Action Menu and then hitting g, for "Go to Watership Planner". Jim selects the appointment time on the Schedule List and sets the title and role.
Jim's schedule is automatically shuffled around to accommodate the new appointment, he doesn't need to manually figure out where things need to go and he can still have the confidence that he is making progress as he makes progress through the day.
Try Watership Planner for Free
Make better decisions with your time, and experience the clarity of always having perspective.
Start Free Trial