walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Your Grocery List Does Not Have To Be On Paper

Once I had the addresses out of my inbox, it was a lot smaller. And there were way fewer little pieces of scrap paper floating around. I still had a spiral notebook sitting on the counter, however, with the current grocery list. I am terrible at going through the kitchen and figuring out what I need, and I hate shopping for a particular meal. So whenever something gets used up, I put it on the list.

Alas, I often left the list at home when I went to the grocery store. Also, R. was really bad about adding to the list.

One day, I used the Notes feature on my new iPhone. That was fantastic! Until I realized sometime later that my little notes (which I think I intended to blog about) were not saved! Gah! So I signed up for Evernote, because everyone had been talking about that forever. Cool! I can use the same account on my iPad and my iPhone and my laptop! Fantastic! I'd fill out the list on my computer, close the laptop, grab my phone and go to the store. Where I discovered to my chagrin that all that stuff I entered on the computer was not on the iPhone! What! What!

Okay. So I figured out to make sure it synced before closing the laptop. And then some more subtle stuff started happening, and I quit using Evernote. I noticed I was right back to paper spiral notebooks that I forgot at home -- and those fucking pieces of paper I was trying to eliminate from my life. Lame! Why am I not using Evernote? Use Evernote! And that's when I paid enough attention to watch data literally disappear after I had entered it because it would resync with an older version. Boy did that piss me off. I googled around to try to figure out if there was any way to fix this and I got so angry I nuked my account and went back to Notes, which by this time was iCloud enabled.

And Notes now did everything the way I wanted it to. Sure, I still have to be super careful about editing a Note while not connected. But I never get screwed with data loss -- I just sometimes wind up with a duplicate note that I then laboriously figure out is safe to get rid of.

I have a "To Do" list, which is the "Next Actions" list in GTD (Getting Things Done) cult jargon, including my grocery list. At the bottom of the list is my "Someday/Later" in GTD speak. At the top of the To Do list, every night I will move things that are going to happen in the next day or so, to remind myself to do them and to surface any preparatory actions that need to be taken that are not on the list. Progressively moving down the list will be things I might not get to for days or weeks, and I will review these occasionally whenever I have time to work on stuff and also in the evening to figure what needs to move up to the top. I am not disciplined about "At Work" vs "At Home" vs WTF, because I don't find that level of organization very useful for me. If you go somewhere for hours at a time, most days, you probably will want to keep that stuff separated. Included on the To Do list are w/fs: Waiting For. When I place an order online, I'll add "w/f that thing I ordered from Zappos". When I get stuff, I'll go remove those items from the list. If I see something on the list that makes me go, hey, that should have gotten here by now, I know to go do some tracking.

Other notes capture larger projects. In Personal Kan Ban terms, I have a "swim lane" note for lifting, and another one for genealogy. When I was buying a car, I had a note that contained the research I was doing, and a list of action items and w/fs related to that project." Travel plans will generally take at least one note, but often more than one. I keep my packing lists, however, over in google docs. I also have a list that captures outstanding action items for doing taxes, projects around the house (such as getting a larger bed in the master bedroom), brainstorming future travel ("Glamping Europe" is really pretty aspirational, but hey, I can dream!). If I'm blogging about something complex, I may write it in a Note, and then transfer it (you think the ETAs are bad -- I've saved you from the very worst entries).

Other people continue to use EverNote. I gather that people who use Windows love OneNote. And there are a lot of other note taking solutions out there. A lot of those note takers and a lot of those solutions are oriented to highly detailed note taking, including free hand drawing, embedded web pages, charts, you name it. I don't use any of that stuff. It's just cryptic words typed, instead of cryptic words scrawled. And instead of being on the back of receipts and advertising flyers, it's all in the cloud, accessible at all times.

I cannot recommend this highly enough. Get your notes on your phone, your computer, and anywhere else you find yourself in the connected world. Make _sure_ it all plays well together. Get in the habit of using it. And DO NOT put shit in there that you really have no intention of doing. If you aren't going to do it, just tell people no and make 'em smile when you do (there are books to help you learn how to do this, and believe me when I say, it makes it downright fun to say no to people, because you can hear the smile in their voice as they thank you for saying no to them. Except telemarketers, and those people are doomed anyway). When you write down what you need to do, think of the next, small step, and if it only takes 2 minutes to do it AND you have everything to do it RIGHT NOW and are in the right spot and you feel like it, then just do it (seriously, 2 minutes or less. 2. 120 seconds. 121 and you should write it down. Hard Core). Otherwise, write down that simple little task. And the next time you find yourself with a half hour before your next scheduled activity, peruse your list and pick one or more to knock out (as my sister likes to say) and you will feel _so_ cheerful because it is an Easy Win, and most days could use a few more of those. Every day, pick out a good time to go over your list and do some editing and rearranging and dump all the crap in your brain out onto the list and sort through it. And then the next day, you can "knock out" a bunch of stuff and feel _so_ happy because at least something went right among all the interruptions. If you have a complicated task, you don't need to work out all the steps -- you just need to always have on your list the _next_ simple bit to do.

And just think of all the little scraps of paper and notebooks and misplaced notes that you will never have to deal with again.
Tags: organization
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