Adam Cecchetti ToDo

On occasion someone will ask me how I keep track of all the things and stay focused. At first I thought it was odd that anyone would care about my personal management but the frequency has increased enough over the last few years that I must be doing something right. In hope that others will benefit from my efforts I decided to share my todo/life management list with everyone.

A long time ago I made myself a list format to keep track of things in life and school. I’ve been tweaking this on and off for the last 16 years.

I’ve tuned it over the years and I feel it has a good trade off of overhead. It goes from paper to computer and computer to paper well. It also helps me lock focus and most importantly it helps get things done. It used to have more features but I cut them because they got in the way of getting things done.

My meeting calendar is managed in Outlook. Meetings make it onto this list if they are of high importance or need prep items. Otherwise they stay off. I found over the years the less time stamps in the file the better as they are just another thing to manage. What I do find incredibly useful is being able to go back 3 years to see what I did the first week of January.

Every file is a single week in a format the OS sorts. Example 05_24_05_30.actd

Every file for every week is kept in a folder for the year so 2013, 2014, 2015 etc.

Every file contains a week of things that got done or is the current week.

Every day is marked simply by the name day of the week in {}

sat
{
}

I put things in two buckets. Two buckets works for me I tried more a few times but more than 2 buckets becomes another thing to manage. And the point of this list is to spend as little time working on it as possible.

Dej – (Deja)
Per – (Personal)

sat
{
Per – run 3 miles
}

Simple attributes on each of the items help me do visual sorting.

A leading ! means the item must happen today.
A leading * means that the item has been completed.
A trailing  -> means a larger task got delegated
*Dej – Write backup script -> Tom

The list is always also in priority order. What I’m currently working on is the top item. If I get randomized “What was I doing?” becomes what’s on the top of the list. What needs done is Ctrl-F !

To see if everything got done at the end of the day I look at all the items missing a *.

No week is an island so longer goals for the year or projects get pushed into other {} Which I manage ad hoc. When a large enough gap opens up I move something from other to a part of a week.

The most important part is Gravity. There is no going back in time so everything moves down. When an item hits the bottom of a day it goes to the next day. Hit the bottom of a week it gets triaged for importance. If it makes the list it gets pushed to the top of next week’s Saturday or Monday. If it’s not something I really needed to do then it hits the ground and dies at the end of that week.

I keep an “other” category which always stays with the current week’s file. At the end of the week other is moved to the new week and deleted form the current week.

On the last Friday of the year I look at other category to triage and move what remains to the next year. If other gets too big I simply delete it.

To keep this example readable I’ve removed my Work items (Dej) and reduced the others, but you should get the general gist of it.

08_15_08_21.actd

sat
{
*Per – Read papers
*Per – Art Studio
*Per – Write crypto lib
}

sun
{
*Per – Brunch
*Per – ACTD app – Create iOS viewer/file association
*Per – Run 3 miles
}

mon
{
*Per – 7mW/chuck/stretch
!Per – ACTD/Photo post
!Per – Rotate various passwords
}

tue
{

!Per – Run 3.5 miles
!Per – Get new running shoes
!Per – Friend’s Birthday
}

wed
{
!Per – Build sniffer host image out
}

thur
{
!Per – Run 3.5 miles
}

fri
{

}

other : 2015
{

}

Things people have asked me over the years:

Q: Why?
A: Everything about this is designed to be light weight and not a task unto itself to manage. I use it to lock on something and it seems to have the exact right balance for me.

Q: Why not use JSON/XML/ASN.1/etc?
A: Too heavy weight the point is to manage my life not the list/data format or create a parser library.

Q: Why not use Org Mode?
A: Incredibly too heavy weight and it doesn’t export well for my use cases.

Q: Why not use the other million Todo apps / services already created.
A: Normally they require me to be online, none of them export well or allow fast editing. The second you require me to click a + to add a task you’ve lost me. None of them can be edited instantly/universally as my little file.

Q: How do you access this from my iThing/Work/Home/etc?
A: Make a folder and use your favorite service: S3,Dropbox,Box,SpiderOak,GDrive, OneDrive, doesn’t matter it’s a folder of text files.

Q: But my stuff is sensitive!
A: It’s just a text file encrypt/decrypt it.

Q: Can I get a blank Template?

A:

sat
{
}

sun
{
}

mon
{
}

tue
{
}

wed
{
}

thur
{

}

fri
{
}

other : 2015
{

}

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