In a previous post, I wrote that because of the various writing, speaking, and research projects I do, combined with a continuous schedule of international travel, I have a particular workflow that helps me to get things done, ensures I am continually updated with the information I need, and ensures I am working on the right projects at the right time. That, in turn, maximizes my free time, and enables me to be highly productive with very little stress.
Here is what I do. I've followed this system of workflow management since I read Getting Things Done as a graduate student.
1 list: On my computer, I keep a master list of all the projects I am working on. I use OmniFocus for this. For all the projects, I include the specifc next actions that must be taken to move the project along to completion.
2 notebooks: I use two notebooks to write down ideas, make calculations, and record notes. Why two? When I'm at my desk, I like to use the larger one as there is more space to write what I need to write. When I'm at a golf course, or a conference, or on a plane, I like to keep the small notebook with me – and it fits in my pocket!
My phones: I have Evernote on my phones. No matter what country I'm in, I'll have a phone with me, and I can record any ideas or notes using that software. Generally I prefer to put these into my notebooks, or directly into my master list (OmniFocus), but sometimes I'll be in a situation when it is easier to make a quick note on my phone.
1 weekly review: Once a week, on Friday mornings if I can, otherwise at the next available opportunity, I review my notebooks, and my phones, transferring any new tasks or projects that I've added that week into my master list on OmniFocus. Emails that I don't respond to immediately are sent from my inbox to OmniFocus. During the weekly review, I'll assign those e-mails to a project, review all my projects, and all my next actions, dropping items that have been completed during the week, making sure the new items from my notebooks are assigned to the right projects, and making sure that all the things that I need to do are accounted for.
Twitter: I make judicious use of Twitter. I'm able to share information about the articles I've written, or new information that I've made available for download, and I also find interesting articles and information from the people I follow. I don't read everything that comes through on the Twitter stream. There is no time for that. But what I often do, if I see a tweet with a link to an article that I want to read (as in the above), I'll send the tweet to Evernote, and when I do the weekly review, I'll see it again and make a decision on what to do with that information.
Google Reader: I use this for RSS feeds to make sure I don't miss anything from websites or blogs that I follow. Rather than going to the sites to check if anything is new, the RSS feeds update the content at Google Reader, all in one place, so I don't waste time going to multiple websites looking for new information, and I don't have my e-mail inbox clogged up with a lot of these types of updates. What do I subscribe to through the RSS reader? Crop Science, Soil Science Society of America Journal, Agronomy Journal, blogs about R, blogs about LaTeX, and various turf industry and university RSS feeds. The advantage of using an RSS reader is that all this information is collected for me automatically. I can read it at my leisure. And I don't have to worry about missing anything. And this stuff doesn't come to my e-mail inbox, where it could be distracting.
In summary: Everything I need to do is in one system, on my computer. It is not on multiple pieces of paper, and in my mind, with a note on my phone, and 27 e-mails that need to be responded to. I capture every idea, in my notebooks, and will add those to the system during the weekly review. All my projects and their associated tasks get reviewed weekly. And I know that I don't need to browse the internet to find information, for the important information I need to be aware of comes to me through Google Reader, with some in-the-moment stuff coming from Twitter. This reduces work-related stress, because I know that I've not forgotten anything, and it allows my mind to be free, focusing on what I want to focus on at the moment, rather than trying to keep track of everything I need to do.
It's not all work: I love my work, and learning new things, and writing, and data visualization, and turfgrass nutrition. Using this system, based on David Allen's Getting Things Done, allows me to be creative and productive, accomplishing a lot a work every year. And because this system works so well, I also have time to do a lot of other fun things. In 2011, in addition to all the work, I went skiing in the epic powder of Hokkaido, did some late spring skiing at Mt. Tremblant, ran a number of races at Thailand, including a half-marathon, spent a week at The Masters Tournament, spent a three week sabbatical in Phuket, went wine tasting in South Australia, went to England for The Open Championship, and watched a lunar eclipse while at Koh Phangan's famous Full Moon Party.
My workflow is about getting things done, and about having lots of time to learn new things, so I can keep doing better work. With that comes more creativity, energy, clear thinking, and time.