One of the most important aspects, which is giving us the feel of well spended time is a flow state. When we are talking about work, the problem is when you are struggling to achieve this state. There can be more reasons, but in this article I will focus on tasks. Tasks which can appear from anywhere, can have different priorities, solving them can take different amounts of time and deadlines can be on scale between “in 5 minutes” and “next year”. At some point I figured out that some level of organizing them can make a radical difference in a way, how I perceive them and how they affect my work time.
First, let’s step back and let’s return to the term “flow”. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book describes flow as “optimal psychological state that people experience when engaged in an activity that is both appropriately challenging to one’s skill level, often resulting in immersion and concentrated focus on a task.” To get into this state is not easy. Often it does not come by yourself and specific activities are required. For me it was planning my work time, which consisted of various steps like prioritizing, sorting or estimating required time. What is important, they all are skills, so you can improve them, just by doing them.
I’m a person who likes analog things. Paper books, physical writing, physical activities etc. I used to write my daily tasks on paper and sticky notes, but gradually I started to notice a negative side. At first, text written on a paper is hard to edit. But my tasklist is dynamic, it requires editing, reformulating, sometimes is useful to connect URL or longer text. Second point is state. It’s not only about if the task is done, or is waiting on you. It can be blocked by another person, process or time. It can be only idea, which you slowly develop during a long time period. I find useful to have the possibility to change this status dynamically. This is where a digital environment brings advantage over paper. Notebook is still an important work tool for me, however I use it just for activities, for which is more suitable.
So I started to look for some existing simple solution, which will fit into my needs. I came across the article “Getting Things Done” by Simon Davis. “GTD” system isn’t his invention, but in his article he explains deeply how it works, how to bring this system into a creative/tech business and also offers his own Trello template. Basically, GTD will offer you a system and categories to sort all coming tasks in a meaningful way.GTD is based on the premise that productivity is directly tied to our ability to relax, and the best way to avoid feeling overloaded is by having a clear overview of all the different tasks, topics, and moving parts in our lives.
If you want to try it, I can just recommend reading the original article: Getting Things Done. After a few weeks of using it, I have tweaked the Trello template a little bit to fit better to my requirements (I added a panel with recurring “daily routine” tasks for example) and I have few next ideas which I want to try in near future. But basic idea is still same – have better overview in tasks and their deadlines. After the plan is prepared, the amount of unpredictable problems is reduced. This was the point, where I started to feel good flow state. Sometimes you need just to finish a few tasks in a row, which allows you to spend next few hours focusing on your main (creative) task with a clear head.