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Mobile analogue or hybrid organisational and time-management system

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Posted by Ken
Feb 12, 2018 at 06:47 AM


Fascinating topic, and I feel you pain as you might have guessed by many of my past posts over the years about feeling overwhelmed.  I am not sure if my comments will fully address your challenges, but you might be able to pull a few nuggets out.

Like many of us, I find that I cannot fully and effectively function in a digital-only world for task and time management.  While Google Calendar and Todoist help me manage my personal life, and Outlook and My Life Organized try to manage my work life, I find that sometimes I just need a pen and paper when I am feeling overwhelmed.  I have been (again) tempted to try and find a replacement for MLO, but have taken a different approach in recent weeks.  Instead of leaving MLO, I have been trying two different methods of task management (at the same time no less).

First, I used to keep a small notepad in front of my computer that I could use to capture tasks and notes quickly (or more quickly than if I entered them into MLO).  While this worked for a while, the pages started to fill up, so I am trying a slightly different approach.  I am using small lined post-it notes where I can decide what I want to accomplish for the day and just concentrate on that list instead of having MLO open on my computer.  I realized, and to some degree have accepted, that I am constantly interrupted during my day and that when I am not, I should be working on the items on my post-it list.  This does not help my ability to manage and prioritize my time, but it does reduce my stress level as I am only looking at a short list of critical items.  I know that programs offer this ability to sort and display, but then I am “in the program” and want to spend time reviewing and prioritizing and that is a time vampire in and of itself.  Since I figuring the best thing to do is keep working as best I can, I keep the list reasonable and know that I can generate another one anytime it is needed.

The other thing that I am trying is to use Trello in a similar fashion.  I have a very simple set-up with three columns - In Progress, On Hold and Not Started.  I quickly focus on the three lists and only get involved with the program when an item is deleted or moved from one column to another.  It is a bit like a digital version of a post-it note in that I keep it simple and use it to remind me what I need to do.  I know that MLO would offer this type of sort/display ability, but as I said above, I want to stay out of the program for the time being until I can feel like I am in control of the program and it is not a time vampire.  This really is a temporary solution, and perhaps a placebo to keeping me from switching away from MLO, but for the time being, it is helping me form feeling completely overwhelmed.  And it it works for now, I find that better than sitting at my desk and pondering about a more perfect solution/program.

I have often said that if I just had my old, beloved Ecco back that I could keep on top of things, but I do wonder if that were so would things still be a bit messy in my work life?  Times have changed and work flows have changed as well, and perhaps Ecco is just a metaphor for simpler times in the office?

I wish you luck and hope you find (and report back to the forum) a workable solution.

Good luck,



Posted by MadaboutDana
Feb 12, 2018 at 10:14 AM


I love the phrase “eek out”, but I suspect you actually meant “eke out”?

I eek out all the time! Not to mention squeeking, freeking and geeking…

>More concretely, as an academic, I need to make sure that whenever
>possible, I am able to eek out time for reading and writing (and
>planning future research projects) every single day, besides unavoidable
>duties such as teaching hours and administrative and management duties.




Posted by Paul Korm
Feb 12, 2018 at 10:19 AM


Ken’s post and others reminded me of a couple of once-popular organizing approaches from the pre-digital world.  Tickler files (or folders or even just a deck of index cards).  In this scheme, one kept a set of file folders or a set of cards—31 for days of a month, 12 for months—in which things scheduled for the current month were put in one of the day folders or written on a card for each day, and things scheduled for a future month were put into folder for a future month or written on a card for that month.  Sometimes both cards and folders were used—the cards containing todo lists that were kept in a day or month folder along with documents to be dealt with on that future day or month.

Since most documents are digital now, the folder part of the tickler method can be discarded but the index cards can still be useful.  It’s easy to have a deck of index cards clipped by a binder clip or rubber band.  Each day, the top most card is dealt with—the tasks on the card are scheduled, finished, and stuck off.  When new tasks come up they are written on today’s card or on a card for a future day or month.  Add a new day card to the end of the deck every day.  At the start of a month, break down the month card for that month into day cards and add a new month to the end of the deck.  (I don’t remember the exact transition between months and days.)

David Allen took this public-domain concept, wrote it into a book, and got rich off “Getting Things Done”.  I’m no fan of the GTD fetish, but the old school tickler card concept it came from makes sense.  The idea behind the scheme is to let the “organizer” or “tickler” system be one’s memory and—like Ken suggested—focus only on today’s list.  I think others are suggesting similar. 


Posted by MadaboutDana
Feb 12, 2018 at 10:26 AM


After my rather frivolous remark above, I’ve very much enjoyed reading this thread. Fascinating! What a lot of good ideas!

There is something about being constrained to a screen and keyboard that becomes very exhausting. On the other hand, various postural problems I’ve had to deal with over the years undoubtedly arose because of my dreadful posture while writing in schoolbooks/notebooks/on paper.

I think Dr Andus’s remark about using a Chromebook for instant note-taking is interesting, too. I used to take an iPad with keyboard case along with me for similar reasons, but funnily enough, laptops/notebooks still have the edge when it comes to fast, efficient note-taking, so nowadays I tend to grab for my MacBook Air first of all.

Looking back, I suppose that was one of the great attractions of the original netbooks (like the minute Asus whatever-the-number-was, which I still have tucked away in a box somewhere - the battery life eventually deteriorated to unusable, but I was very fond of it for a long time; just as I was fond of my AlphaSmart Dana, Compaq WinCE device and other light but robust keyboard-based solutions; how life flows by…)


Posted by Luhmann
Feb 12, 2018 at 01:10 PM


It is pretty basic but this iOS day planning app might be helpful.

Long Day – Day Planner by Yoeyo, Ltd.


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