What would you do with an extra 35 hours a week you could use for yourself to do whatever you wanted?Since I have a short little break this weekend, I’ve been thinking a little bit about priorities and productivity.

I have a category of tasks in Outlook called “Projects” that has a list of all the things I am actively working on (ranges from “Cure Fungus in Grass in Front Yard” to work stuff to “Produce and Launch Raku Robot Show.”

There is another category of tasks called “Someday” which lists those things I’d like to do someday, but don’t really have in my short-range radar and thus don’t have any “next steps” for (ex. “Deploy Pathogen at Conference” “Bike Across America” “Build or Lease Studio Space”).

Total number of ongoing projects + Someday projects is easily over 500…  For completeness: Every single one of the current projects is accounted for with at least one other task in Outlook with a context-specific category (ex. @Calls, @Email, @Errand, @Read/Review) that let me group types of activity together so when I have a spare half-hour before a meeting, I can jam through my list of calls to make (no matter WHICH project they relate to, personal or otherwise).

All my email from my 6 email accounts arrive in the same inbox.  This allows me for a single-stream of consciousness where I deal with everything at once (right now my inbox holds zero messages).  “Deal with” frequently means shooting off a one sentance response, moving the item for reference, deleting (my favorite), or putting it on my todo list as a project or task.

There’s a lot more to the system, but I’d defer to the source for more detail.

I’ve been using this system now for about 2 years.  It’s only recently, though, that I’ve been able to dramatically reap the rewards of such an approach because there has never been a point in my life like now where I have so much going on at once and my work-time vs. play-time vs. hobby-time vs. maintenance time all are mixed up… 24/7 lifestyle, indeed. This system definitely considers that nowadays, work and home-life aren’t really all that distinct.

I tend to wake up pretty early and go straight to the computer to get some warm-up tasks out of the way… get ready, and then do more work at home until rush hour resides a bit.  Then I’ll head on over to the office.

(This presents an annoying problem for a different post: I get this guilty feeling that people might think I’m not working my full 40 hours… even though I may have already put in a half-day’s work before they even boot up their computers… that’s compounded because I’ll feel the need to stay later until the “normal time” (thereby giving 10-11 hours of work).  That’s where things like a workplace-cam site and publishing my day’s schedule could help.)

In general, I think I’m currently more productive than I’ve ever been.

The Symptom:

I think there is a little bit of engineer in me that thinks I can do better.  For example, I frequently find myself scheduling meetings that run late into the night.  That would be fine, but that means I’m “at work” from 6:00AM – 9:00 PM

Unfortunately, by the time I get home from work, I’m worn out, (I may have had a drink or two during dinner meetings), and there isn’t a long enough time before my bedtime to get into any personal projects… that relegates a lot of things, like designing robots, to snippets of downtime at work (which I think is ok) or the weekends.

Furthermore, I hardly have the bandwidth to deal with my current projects, much less the “Someday” projects.