Planning System Based on MyLifeOrganized

Publication Date: 18.06.2021 Author: Oleksandr Krayovyi

A well-tuned mechanism, where all weak links are addressed, and everything is clear as day. It’s time to share my planning system, which I’ve been using for many years. In some ways, it resembles the American Constitution—new additions appear over time, but the foundation remains unshakable. All elements are time-tested, refined, and reliable. Nothing superfluous. Nothing without explanation or rationale.

Reading forums, I often encounter users’ “reinvented wheels.” I have nothing against it. If it works for someone, that’s the beauty of MyLifeOrganized. Everyone customizes it to their needs. However, my personal belief is that such “handmade” systems can be daunting for beginners:

  • They scare them off
  • They seem overly complicated

This became another reason for writing this article: to show new MyLifeOrganized users that the system and product can be understandable and convenient, to share my insights and approach with experienced users, and to demonstrate the unique capabilities of MyLifeOrganized to those still deciding on a planner.

“Let’s go!” as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin once said…

Contents

  1. Settings: There are many, but you set them once and that’s it!
  2. Basic Concepts: What is what?
  3. One-time Task
  4. Recurring Task
  5. Project
  6. What I Record in Project Notes
  7. Project Statuses - The Basis of My Weekly System Review
  8. Goals
  9. Review - A Tool for Displaying “Someday” Tasks
  10. Reference Information
  11. Task Tree: A Complete Life Display
  12. Contexts, Flags, Text Tags: Why So Many?
  13. Active Actions: Main Working Lists
  14. Principles of Working in My System
  15. How to Form the Right List for the Current Situation
  16. Are You Satisfied with Your Planning System?

Settings: There are many, but you set them once and that’s it! MyLifeOrganized has a lot of properties. Often, I see people using them without understanding their purpose or benefits. They just use whatever comes to hand. Hence my rule: Assign specific properties to certain types of tasks to quickly create a simple list of tasks, projects, and information with the necessary sorting. It’s essential to understand the purpose of each property:

  1. Which tasks to assign them to?
  2. What does it provide?
  3. How will it be applied or used?

In my courses, I always draw an analogy: Assigning properties to tasks is like the amount of sugar in tea:

  1. The optimal amount is individual for everyone.
  2. If there’s too little sugar, it feels like something is missing.
  3. If there’s too much sugar, it feels cloying and uncomfortable.

By the way, there are properties I don’t use at all. But this is not due to ignorance of their purpose, but my conscious choice. I understand that for you, these might be some of the most important properties. To make it clearer, I’ll give an example of how I analyze properties. It’s enough to give each value a definition that leaves no room for ambiguous interpretation. For example, a deadline. What is it? A deadline is a point after which it either makes no sense to complete the task, or certain consequences occur after the given date or time (financial loss, letting someone down, damaging relationships, etc.). A deadline is assigned only to tasks that have one. To determine whether to assign a deadline to a task, ask: What will happen if I don’t complete this task by the assigned deadline? If nothing significant (in my understanding) happens, no deadline is assigned. These tasks can be important, urgent, “for yesterday,” “for the day before yesterday,” which will also affect their weight in the list of active actions. But they don’t have a real deadline. This approach helps avoid a large number of overdue tasks, especially those with low priority, which undoubtedly affects internal calm and trust in the system.

Assignment: Try to define with unambiguous interpretation what urgency, importance, start date, and other properties mean to you.

Basic Concepts: What is what? One-time Task In reality, there are very few one-time tasks, especially those that fit my definition. For me, a one-time task is one that has the following characteristics:

  1. Can be completed in one go at one location.
  2. All necessary resources are available.
  3. Completing the task does not require further development.

Each of these actions is self-sufficient. Done and forgotten! It’s important to distinguish one-time actions from project sub-tasks. For example: scheduling a meeting with a client. It can be done in one go at one location. All resources might be available. But the process doesn’t end there!

Recurring Task Such tasks can be called areas of responsibility. Their main purpose is: What and how often should be done to keep life under control and prevent crises? This can also be called crisis prevention. Given that recurring tasks vary in type and priority, I pay great attention in my planning system to setting the correct duration for each task. This helps avoid overdue tasks and stay in a state of flow. The correct duration of a task is the stretch between the start date and the deadline. On the forum, I once explained this using the example of cleaning an apartment. In such a task:

  • Deadline - the day when complete chaos ensues.
  • Start date - the day when cleaning should already be done.
  • Set periodicity - the period from the last cleaning to the moment when complete chaos ensues again.

This algorithm can be applied to almost all recurring tasks. This approach works especially well for tasks that repeat by completion date. I call the process of handling a recurring task “launching on autopilot.” This means that the task:

  • Is fully processed, all properties are assigned, and it requires no further thought or decision-making. Everything is already decided. Just perform the action without straining your mind.
  • Contains all necessary information, links, and data for completion in the notes. No need to switch to the browser and search for the required site in bookmarks. One click on the link in the notes, and you’re on the right page.

By the way, only in MyLifeOrganized have I seen the ability to add links to files on the computer. Not attach, but create a link to launch!

Project A project is a desired result (an open question, a problem or situation, a desired state) that requires two or more actions. A project cannot be completed. You can perform the necessary number of actions to achieve the desired result.

Definition of projects in GTD by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: Projects are desired results that require more than one action to achieve and can be completed within the next 12 months. A project is considered active as long as it involves at least one next action, an entry in the waiting list, or a scheduled step in the calendar. Projects that do not have a next action, an entry in the waiting list, or a scheduled step in the calendar are either no longer projects or should be moved to the “Someday” list. The list of projects and project plans are usually reviewed during the Weekly Review to ensure that each project involves at least one next action, an entry in the waiting list, or a scheduled step in the calendar.

For each project, I use a template that I insert into the notes. I took it from a standard Russian-language template and slightly modified it for Markdown display. It looks like this in edit mode and like this in view mode.

What I Record in Project Notes

  1. Successful outcome - criteria by which I can determine that the project is complete.
  2. Organization - key points, steps to consider when determining the next actions for the project.
  3. Notes - necessary information, contacts, phone numbers, links. Everything that might be needed to complete the project.
  4. Journal - a timeline of completed actions. Not all actions, but only key moments.

Project Statuses - The Basis of My Weekly System Review I pay special attention to project statuses in my system. I created a clear gradation for myself regarding the status of each project. As a result, most projects are reviewed during the weekly review, which is sufficient at the moment. Only a certain number of projects are moved to execution. It turns out:

  1. Project “Not Started” - reviewed during the weekly review. No actions have been taken, and nothing is planned for the next week. Hidden in To-Do.
  2. Project “In Progress” - a list of working projects that need or can be acted upon.
  3. Project “On Hold” - stalled and postponed projects. Needed for the weekly review. In 99% of cases, this is enough.
  4. Project “Completed” - finished. The status is more for analysis and to avoid cluttering the list of ongoing projects.

I take a week as the unit of review for project actions, as the great David Allen advised. This period allows for convenient adjustment of direction and speed. Even if a project is not urgent, performing at least one small action per week results in 52 actions. Rarely does a project require that many actions to complete. I call this “background project completion.”

Goals Everyone asks how a goal differs from a project. Many don’t understand or don’t want to think about what is what. Goals are what bring changes to my life. They transform it. Make it different. And to achieve them, actions that were not done before need to be taken. Reaching a new level that was not previously attained. Doing the same things as before will always yield the same results. I fully agree with this quote!

Goals are also projects, as they fit the definition. But they are needed to track progress towards the desired result or state. For convenience, you can change the “Projects” view settings to not display goal projects. Thus, in the “Projects” view, only current projects that do not lead to life transformation will be displayed.

Review - A Tool for Displaying “Someday” Tasks Review is a gentle reminder of postponed ideas, thoughts, and tasks. I also call the review “deferred decision-making.” In the review, I place tasks that did not or will not make it into active actions, projects, or goals. This approach ensures nothing is missed, regardless of other settings. I fundamentally do not place projects in the review. Why? I already review them at least once a week.

Reference Information No matter how you look at it, MLO is not designed for storing reference information. Other services do this better, simpler, and more effectively. The same Evernote or Notion. So what information should be stored in the planner’s notes? Only what is necessary for completing projects, goals, or tasks. For example, I have:

  • A link to a Google Docs file in the task for writing this article.
  • In the “Site kraevoy.com” folder notes, there is a link to the admin login, site color schemes, etc.

Task Tree: A Complete Life Display My task tree reflects all areas of my life. Each area is further divided into corresponding directions. Each direction, if necessary, is also divided. A fragment of my task tree in MyLifeOrganized.

The answer to the question “Why do you need such a detailed task tree?” I found relatively recently after reading the book “Systematic in Everything”:

  1. All areas of my life, all directions are displayed. A holistic approach to life emerges.
  2. Each area or direction can be improved. No need for drastic changes. Improving each direction by 1% results in exponential system enhancement.

The more detailed the task tree is laid out in folders, the harder it is to lie to yourself that you are doing something in a particular direction. Everything is visible as clear as day. Everything is objective. On one hand, it’s convenient and honest; on the other hand, you need to find the courage to admit that it’s you who is doing nothing about a particular issue…

Contexts, Flags, Text Tags: Why So Many? You won’t believe it, but all these three components play an active role in my planning system. With these three components, I can set up a task to fully reflect the meaning I put into it.

Contexts are my life situations, the blocks that make up my active day. For example:

  • @Home - I am at home doing household chores.
  • @Calls - my list of calls that I need or can make.

Text tags are the people I interact with. Tags are conveniently selected from a dropdown list or assigned with hotkeys. The peculiarity of tags, unlike contexts:

  • Only one text tag can be assigned. And that’s correct. Even if it’s a group of people, only one can be responsible. Like in football - the team plays, but at a certain moment, the ball can only be with one player.
  • If there are no tasks left with a specific text tag, they disappear from the list. Thus, we don’t need to allocate time to sort the list of people we interact with. This is done automatically.

Another reason I use text tags for people and not contexts is uniformity. It’s impossible to foresee all interactions with other people using contexts. There are:

  • Clients
  • Rare meetings
  • Specialists of a certain profile

They also need to be tracked. Tags are perfect for this!

Active Actions: Main Working Lists The biggest difference between MyLifeOrganized and other planners is the transformation of a tree list into a simple list of active actions that can be performed right here and now.

Principles of Working in My System The foundation of my planning system is the proper processing of incoming information, which allows:

  1. Not to lose any task. Necessary properties are assigned, allowing the task to be seen in the required lists.
  2. To bring the execution process to simply following the formed list of active actions depending on the current situation.

All the productivity of my system boils down to a state of flow and a negative answer to the question, “Am I doing something pointless right now?” At every moment, I am confident that I am doing the most important thing out of all possible, without missing or forgetting anything.

Every day, new tasks and projects appear. You still won’t be able to complete them all. And you don’t need to. All that is possible is to engage in the most important thing for yourself at every moment of your time. It doesn’t matter if it’s:

  • Working
  • Writing an article
  • Training
  • Spending time with family

How to Form the Right List for the Current Situation When everything is structured, organized, and “done,” the question arises: What to do next with all this beauty? Given complete trust:

  • In the tool - it should not fail or refuse.
  • In your system - it should be harmonious and structured.
  • In the completeness and quality of processing incoming information - I am personally confident that the necessary task will be displayed where and when needed.

It remains only to adjust the list according to the situation I am in. This is done by filtering the selected list of active actions, where the necessary:

  • Contexts
  • Flags
  • Text filters
  • Other properties are chosen.

This process reminds me of choosing a smartphone in an online store. Initially, all available options are offered. Considering that each smartphone in the picture looks like a “black rectangle,” choosing a gadget with the required parameters in this form is unrealistic. This is how gadget selection looks without filters. Choosing the desired product without filters based on pictures, names, and prices is impossible! Therefore, using a filter, everything unnecessary is cut off. Parameters are set:

  • Size
  • Memory
  • Number of SIM cards
  • And others

As a result, about five gadgets remain for decision-making, comparing which, you can make a purchase decision. Fix this selection option for yourself! Imagine or visit any online store and see how filtering works there! Now try to apply the same approach to the list of active actions. As a result, lists are obtained that can be modified in seconds, depending on the current situation:

  • Sat down at the computer - one list.
  • Decided to focus on the site - added focus on the “Site” folder.
  • Meeting with a person - switched to “Active by flag” - filtered by text tag.
  • Went somewhere - switched to the “Nearby” view on the smartphone.
  • Wanted to be alone and do something useful - focused on the necessary folder, turned off all tasks with a flag.
  • And so on for each situation.

At the same time, I keep focus on tasks that need to be done today (meetings, events) in the “Today” or “Due in the next 7 days” views. But I use them not as a list for actions, but as the basis of my day. I don’t miss anything. Even if I am busy with something else, a reminder of the upcoming meeting will notify me in advance. This creates a state of flow. Life flows. Changes. No “extra movements” are made. Confidence and calm. I am in control of my life.

What does your work with to-do lists resemble? A long trip. When you enjoy the road, the views from the window. Confidence in the car. Confidence in yourself as a driver. You choose the speed at which to drive. You decide which gas stations to stop at and where to stop to enjoy the views and stretch your legs. 67.19% City traffic in a jam. And it seems to be the same car and driver. But constant “swings” in traffic jams make you nervous. A constant feeling of being late. Not managing to do something. Spinning “like a squirrel in a wheel.” 32.81% Voted: 64

Are You Satisfied with Your Planning System? System! That’s the most important thing in any life area. A well-tuned mechanism, where all weak links are addressed, and everything is clear as day. This is what I do. I help people create their planning system, achieving goals that:

  • Harmoniously fits into your life
  • Fully shows all your strengths and weaknesses
  • Is 100% yours (like a custom-made suit)
  • Doesn’t require many resources, strength, and time
  • Is convenient and reliable

Ask yourself: How many years have you been trying to create your system? What opportunities have you lost by independently inventing the perfect system, fitting it into one tool or another? And how much longer are you willing to experiment with your life?

http://blog.kurganskyi.in.ua/2021/03/30/priority-of-task/