Information Deluge – How do you Stay Organized?

May 15, 2010

I’ve had a chaotic quarter.

I did a new crop of videos for one product, delivered an entire traditional doc set for another, kept an eye on my Google Group, blogs, and gmail accounts.  At this time of year, we can usually take a breath before we ramp up for the next release.

But this year, we’re going Agile, so they’ll be no breaths. Instead, there is research and studying. Lots of research and studying. I’m testing wikis now.  We’re looking to abandon our old linear development method and find one that lets us develop, publish and release in one step. Wiki seems to be the best way to do that.

With so much uncharted territory to um… well, chart, I’m finding it harder to stay organized.  My old methods aren’t agile enough.

How do you all stay on top of your To Do lists without losing focus or worse, not giving a task the full attention it needs? I would enjoy hearing from you.



  1. Patty,

    I guess a lot of it depends on what you use now to stay organized, and if that can be adopted to your new agile environment. As I’ve moved from tech support and system admin work into technical writing, I found that my ad hoc method of organization just wasn’t working any more, especially since my work was now project based, as opposed to interrupt based.

    I’ve always been a list maker, and even though I spend my entire workday staring at a computer screen, I tend to keep the vast majority of my lists and reminders on paper. I find that a notepad sitting on my desk is harder to ignore than a window on my computer that can be easily closed or moved behind another program.

    I mainly use two systems, one of which is an off-shoot of the other. The core of my system is a modified GTD setup (I’m convinced that only David Allen himself uses canonical GTD). I don’t keep all the context lists he recommends, but I do keep a project list, and try to use his techniques for determining what my actual work is. I also like his methods of thinking through projects. My day to day lists are based on a GTD off-shoot called Getting Sh*t Done. I keep my daily lists using the GSD method. This helps me keep my focus on what I’m actually doing or need to do right now, as opposed to looking at a huge todo list with things that I’ll never do, or things that don’t have to be done until three days or three weeks from now.

    If you’re not familiar with GTD or GSD, you can find more info here:

    GTD: http://www.43folders.com/2004/09/08/getting-started-with-getting-things-done
    GSD: http://www.utilware.com/gsd3.html

    There is metric ton of GTD related resources online – the link above gives a basic rundown of the system. The David himself has some free articles on his site that give some more information on how the system works:


    My workflow basically consists of me rewriting my list every morning, after reviewing my project list to see what needs to be moved onto the lists for that day. Anything not done from the previous day is either moved to the new day, or gets crossed off the list if I’m actually not going to do that thing. Then I just work my lists. I know by context what my priorities are. If a new project or priority comes my way, I write it down, put it in my inbox, and move on. I frequently review my inbox (usually several times a day), and adjust as needed.

    The one thing that keeps all this together is the weekly review. Once a week (or more, if necessary), you go through your projects list and next action items, to make sure that you’re current on everything you need to do. This is the key behavior that allows your mind to put the pieces together so that your lists make sense.

    Sorry for the length of this comment. If you have any questions on this, I think my e-mail is visible to you so you can follow up there.

    • Thanks! I’m checking out the links now. Appreciate the time you spent on this and apologize for taking so long to respond. I’m working with a loaner computer while mine’s in the shop and just falling further behind.

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