Allocate Energy to Categories

I have read the post Get Everything Done & Still Have Time to Play by Jackie Ashton recently and adopted some strategies into my process.

Before I plan the tasks daily by allocating them into time slots in a calendar, it is tedious and time-wasting. It messes up my agenda, which is intended only to contain the events that I must do on time. And it makes me nervous and exhausted to follow a pre-defined schedule every day.

My new process is much simpler. I review my life objectives first and group them into categories. Then I evaluate their importance in my current life stage and allocate my energy in percentage into them.

Here is the list looks like now:

  • Maker 30%: Work as a programmer. I follow the suggestion from the lesson one “Switch Between Manager And Maker Modes” in the book “Leading Snowflakes.”
  • Manager 5%: Work as a manager.
  • Career 15%: The tasks that are not directly related to my work but help to improve myself on my career path.
  • English 15%: I want to improve my English listening and speaking, so I commit enough time on it. However, it is a short term objective. Once I’m satisfied with my English level, I can move the time to other categories.
  • Hobbits 10%: Piano, painting.
  • Workout 10%: Running, swimming.
  • Misc 5%: Such as reading novels.
  • Family 10%: Quality time with family.

Then I create a punch card to plan timed bursts for each category. I use 50 minutes for tasks requiring long focus period, and 25 minutes for short focus period. The 50 minutes session counts for 10% of the energy, and 25 minutes accounts for 5% because I dedicate 10 hours per day to the planned tasks. And this is my punch card.

  • Maker 50 / 50 / 50
  • Career 50 / 25
  • English 25 / 25 / 25
  • Hobbits 25 / 25
  • Workout 50
  • Manager 25
  • Misc 25
  • Family 50

I have set up my OmniFocus projects hierarchy by categories. Every night, I go through each category to see what to do next and plan enough tasks for the next day according to the allocated energy.

The next day, I choose a category and pick a task to work. If I have completed the timed burst, I checked it in the punch card, then move on to the next one.

The new process has many pros:

  • It is simple. Simplicity saves time and is efficient.
  • It associates every task to one of my life objectives. It motivates me to complete the job if its objective is crucial for me. Otherwise, if I always feel reluctant to do a task, maybe I should cross on that objective from my life temporarily.
  • I can dynamically adjust my day. If some routines occupy me in the most time of the day, I can use the remaining time to only the most critical categories.
  • It reminds me of what is essential in my life. For example, I should spare enough time with my family and friends.

The cons are that I should take the punch card with me. But it is so simple that I can print a whole week into a single piece of A5 paper. As a bonus, I can review the card every week, record the completion status into a spreadsheet, and adjust my plan according to the statistics.

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