Noisy Deadlines

MSTodo

For the surprise of absolutely no one, I'm back with the Nirvana app for my tasks and projects. 😏

I lasted roughly 2 months with my 2-accounts setup in Microsoft To Do. All the integration features offered by MS To Do that I thought were detrimental to my daily setup ended up not being that important.

Drawbacks of Microsoft To Do

Over the past two months, I've found myself utilizing the file attachment feature only once.

Although the option to flag emails in Outlook and synchronize them with Microsoft To Do seemed promising, it didn't significantly impact my workflow.

The handling of recurring tasks also posed a challenge – the lack of separate copies meant that altering the due date by a day affected the entire task series.

While Microsoft To Do serves me well during less hectic periods, I've noticed a pattern: when faced with complex projects at work, I tend to feel overwhelmed. This is where I remember the effectiveness of the Nirvana app to deal with it all. Nirvana just makes more sense with how I compartmentalize multiple projects and next actions.

This brings to mind the classic GTD (Getting Things Done) discussion about linking projects to next actions.

The truth is: there is no right or wrong way to do it.

The fundamental principle is: maintain a a list of current projects to review weekly and assign one next action to each project to move them forward. That's it. But for some people (like me) it is beneficial to group next actions by project. Occasionally, the project itself defines my entire focus for the day.

Microsoft To Do attempted to facilitate this organizational aspect with hashtags, but it felt somewhat loosely structured for my taste. Without a centralized list of hashtags, I found myself typing various versions of the same hashtag for a single project, leading to confusion.

Also, the pop-up hashtag list that appears when adding a new task doesn't work when editing a task post-insertion, requiring me to recall the correct hashtag or go search for it.

The 2-accounts setup also was a bit cumbersome, because in my head I didn't have one unified Inbox. I prefer having no friction at all for capturing things. Capturing tasks should be effortless and instinctive, without any unnecessary cognitive load. However, I often found myself contemplating whether a task belonged to my work or personal account, disrupting the capture momentum.

It took time and experimentation to determine what truly suits me. Through trial and error – as you can see documented in my GTD Journey blog posts – I've gained clarity (finally!). Microsoft To Do is undeniably a great simple app, yet Nirvana resonates more closely with the natural functioning of my mind.

All that being said...

The little things that make me come back to Nirvana:

  • Nirvana guides me towards a more disciplined GTD approach by neatly categorizing everything into predefined sections. This alignment with GTD principles removes the need to invest excessive time in personalizing settings (a big win, especially for someone like me who can get lost in endless customization choices!).
  • Nirvana handles recurring tasks better than many tools, since it doesn't bother me with them until the start date. This clever approach involves creating new instances of tasks for their upcoming occurrences. I can even adjust individual due dates without disrupting the original sequence. Also, I appreciate the option to set deadlines and determine how many days in advance tasks appear in the “Focus” section (I use that a lot!).
  • The way Nirvana integrates next-actions with projects is amazing.
  • It has Start Dates (very hard to see in other apps).
  • I love how Scheduling works by keeping a next action hidden until they are ready to appear in the “Focus” section.

After years of back and forth I've come to this conclusion: Nirvana aligns closely with my personal work style and preferences, making it my preferred choice over Microsoft To Do or any other task managers.

At the end of the day it's all about trusting the system and regularly reviewing my lists (weekly reviews!). Consistency is key – the more consistently I engage with my system, the more reliable it becomes, reinforcing my confidence in it.

I feel that I completely trust Nirvana right now👍.

So, I’ll renew my promise: I will stick with it for at least a year and re-evaluate.

#GTD #productivity #MSTodo #Nirvana #apps

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I changed my task list manager again! 😆

I know I promised I would wait a year before rethinking my use of Nirvana but… I got some more pressure from the company I work for, where everything is becoming Microsoft 365. Considering that I use Outlook 365 for work every day and I also have a personal account, I decided to switch back to Microsoft To Do.

Here is why:

  • Integration: my work teams started assigning tasks to people and they are showing up in MS To Do. I didn’t want to have to copy tasks to another app, and then loose track or get confused about what was on my plate. In this case the integration makes things consolidated in one tool, making my life easier. Also, there are work periods when I deal with a lot of back and forth emails, where I’m waiting for something and/or have to follow up. The Outlook integration here makes things less confusing. (previously I had to forward the email to Nirvana, and manually add a link to the message so that I could find it later… some things fell through the cracks on a couple occasions, so the process was not reliable).
  • Having multiple accounts on iOS: Now we can switch between multiple accounts on iPhones. Just until recently this was only possible on Android phones. This solves one of my earlier issues with MS To Do, where I couldn’t access my work lists using my personal phone and vice versa. I know I could solve this by having everything in one account then sharing the lists, but I prefer to have them separate.
  • The looks 😍: I really LOVE Microsoft To Do aesthetic. I love using emojis and honestly I missed some colours in my daily tasks.
  • My Day: This functionality is great to manage my attention/focus deficit! And because it resets everyday, it forces me to select the focus of the day.

Now, the setup!

I follow the GTD Methodology Official Guide and my system didn’t change much from last time. I have similar setups on both my personal and work accounts. Here is my personal setup overview:

Lists without groups:

  • 📥INBOX (Shared): I created this as a shared point between my personal and work accounts so that I can move things I captured on one account to the other. The idea here is that when I’m capturing it doesn’t matter which phone or account I have on my hands, it has to be quick and easy to capture something. I’ll deal with it later.
  • 🎯My GTD Dashboard: This list is a quick reference link to documents that are outside the task manager, like my dashboard spreadsheet (used for planning), my system overview (a description of my system) and master project lists. These master project lists are long time records of my projects that I update once a month or so.

Groups of Lists:

  • P R O J E C T S: I separate them between active projects “Projects-Personal” and “Projects-Inactive”. Inactive projects are the ones that I started but for some reason were put on hold, or I am waiting for something, so they are not active. I revise this list during my weekly review.

* N E X T A C T I O N S📌: each list is a different context, classic GTD

  • L A T E R 🔒: I created this “LATER” list for actions that I don’t want to engage just yet, but soon (next week, maybe). It’s a middle ground parking lot between Someday-Maybe and Next.
  • S O M E D A Y: Lists to group different topics for all Someday/Maybe’s.

  • Noisy Deadlines: I capture ideas for blog posts and have links to my archives folder where I store images, file references, etc.
  • Recurring: All of my recurring tasks, including Daily Reviews, My Routines and GTD Reviews.
  • References: various lists that are non actionable items.
  • Checklists: Travel and GTD Checklists.

Using hashtags to identify Projects

I’m still using hashtags as a way to search similar items. So for example, in my projects list I have a keyword to identify that project and so I can use that same hashtag on my next actions. Clicking on a hashtag will show all related items with it.

Shared Lists

I shared some lists between my personal and work accounts so that if I update one the changes will be reflected in both accounts:

  • INBOX
  • My GTD Dashboard
  • Recurring
  • Vacation Dates
  • Checklists

Final thoughts…

I’m getting used to this new system which feels to me a bit more focused on executing (via next actions by contexts). In Nirvana I tended to let things parked in my next actions list longer and it wasn’t as engaging for me to act on them. It seems now that capturing and processing is faster.

I’m exploring the integrations available between Teams/Outlook/MS To Do to start using them to my advantage, including the “Flagged email” list.

Also, I really like “My Day”!

So, I’ll renew my promise: I will stick with this system for at least a year, unless it becomes unbearable. 🙋‍♀️

#GTD #productivity #MSTodo #apps

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

After several false starts the company I work for is finally migrating to Microsoft 🥳. No more sync issues between Google Calendar and Outlook for me (yay!).

I remember taking a quick look at Microsoft To Do last year and liked its simplicity, but because I only had one account I thought it was cumbersome to deal with personal and work stuff all together in one app. One of the reasons I liked Nirvana was the global area filter, so I could switch from personal to work mode, and keep a minimal number of context tags that were shared between personal/work .

Now I have 2 Microsoft accounts so things can be organized separatedly. I can switch from one to the other using the Microsoft To Do desktop app, both on my personal and work computers. I also have 2 mobile phones, one linked to my personal account and the other linked to my work account.

The 2 setups are similar, I’ll get into more detail about my personal one.

Read more...

So I use the GTD (Getting Things Done) method to organize my brain. It has allowed me to manage anxiety and stress over the years. From time to time I look at my system and reflect: is it getting messy? is it too complicated? is it really working for me now?

One of the things I’ve always thought was fundamental to me was having a system in which Projects and Next Actions are explicitly and solidly linked. I tend to spend more time organizing rather than executing projects. The truth is that we don’t execute projects, we execute actions that will eventually attain the project goal. And that idea is the basis of why GTD recommends having the next actions sorted by Contexts.

A context can be a place, a tool, a mindset, or the people required to complete a given task. If I want to make a phone call, I need my phone (@calls). If I want to pick up something at the grocery store, I need to go there (@errands). So the idea is to assign contexts to next actions so that it’s easier to decide what I should be doing at any given time because I have a limiting factor (context). It’s about focusing on execution.

I don’t think I paid too much attention to contexts in my system, I was more worried about setting up projects right. Hence, my preference has always been to use Nirvana to manage my projects and actions. But I want to do an experiment: use a simpler tool in which contexts are more upfront, forcing me to work by contexts.

Experiment with Microsoft To Do

I chose the app MS To Do for my experiment. I’ve tested it before and I think it provides a clean and beautiful interface, syncs on all my devices, and provides an easy setup.

I’m using two different accounts: one for personal and one for work. The company I work for is switching everything from Google to Microsoft so I will take advantage of that. I already have an Office365 subscription for my personal file storage and calendar.

I followed the official GTD guide to set up my system. I have a “Projects” list with hashtags to identify them. So I still have some way to “link” projects to next actions, but I would say it’s a weak link. The hashtags are more like temporary keywords to remind me what that action is related to. I don’t have a proper “project folder” anymore, containing all actions related to a project and that’s a big mind shift for me.

Right now I’m happy with my setup. I like the option to use emojis, it makes my lists more enjoyable. One of the few things I disliked about Nirvana was that it was visually uninteresting to me. I like some colors and visuals to attract my attention.

One thing I’m using consistently on MS To Do is the “My Day” feature. In the morning I open up the “My Day” tab and it really helps me plan my day. It’s a smart list that resets every night, so it forces me to think about what I want to accomplish every day and focus on them. In Nirvana I used to have the “Starred” items to focus but since this list didn’t reset, I used to have stale items in there and I constantly skipped the daily planning.

So I’ll see how this experiment goes. I’m already seeing benefits in having a quicker way to process my next actions: I just move or drag/drop the item to its context. Done. No filters, no clicking and choosing through various drop-down menus. Also, personal and work are 2 separate accounts, but on the desktop app I can easily move between the two. So it creates a nice work-personal boundary in my brain and still allows for some integration. Let’s say I remember something about work that is bothering me: I can easily capture that capture in my work inbox if I’m on my personal computer. Same thing if I’m on my work computer and want to see my personal lists.

#GTD #MSTodo #Productivity

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

💾For a complete summary list of my blog posts grouped by year, click here.

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Sections:

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