Living an organised life in the cloud, part 1: Huh?

From the outside, my life looks pretty well organised. I don’t have any problems juggling multiple personal and work-related projects, I can always find time in my calendar to see friends and I never run out of milk. From the inside though…

Until recently, keeping track of everything in my life was itself a massive job, and to say I had a “system” was being very generous. Instead, there was a scrabbly collection of ad hoc practices I’d started gathering more than 10 years ago. They included a scattering of text files and notes on each of my three laptops, iPhone and iPad, a collection of Google docs and word files, Outlook at work, a Google calendar, and an absurdly messy diary which wasn’t easy to update and still failed to be an accurate, readable compilation of everything.

But over the last few weeks I’ve had some time to completely rebuild my life system, and I am incredibly excited! While it was always easy enough to be organised in just one part of my life (e.g. to keep track of meetings and other fixed commitments), it was difficult and time consuming to be organised for everything else as well. With the new system I don’t have this problem anymore, and the new system is easier to use as well!

The key is in the “everything and easy” part of it. Taking a step back, my life system must help me achieve three closely-related goals: to track deadlines and committed blocks of time, to plan and organise all the different threads of my life, and to keep track of all the information and other little facts of my life. If the system does all of this then that minimises the time I spend thinking about “what” I should do with my time and lets me focus instead on the “how”, or just having fun. So that the system can do all of this though, it needs several components to cover everything:

  • Fixed Blocks – commitments and structured blocks of time, e.g. plane flights, meetings, theatre shows and lunch dates
  • Anytime Tasks – the million minutiae of life I must do: write all my Christmas cards, call my bank, all my errands too
  • Projects – each an ongoing and related series of tasks: FiloThought, 学 中文, marriage (just did that one – hooray!)
  • References and Ticklers – documents, files, account numbers, receipts, warranties, contracts (the other million minutiae of life) and cyclical, time-oriented information, also the redundant Finance and forlorn Inspiration

I’ll explain each of these and what makes them easy to use and easy to align with the other components in the following parts of this series, but first it’s important to return to the title of this article: why put everything in the cloud and make it so digitally ethereal? After all, a text file doesn’t need an internet connection and a paper diary can’t run out of battery…

The answer to this question harks back to the battle cry of “everything and easy”. By organising my life in the cloud I have my life system with me anywhere I have any of my digital devices with me, and anywhere I have an internet connection too. That means I don’t have to spend mental energy remembering to bring things with me, don’t have to worry about losing my diary, and I can always updated it and add new things or tick them off. Because I don’t have to spend time reconciling multiple calendars and lists into a single master copy (like my old paper diary) it’s even easier. What’s more, I get automatic reminders, can search everything and share it with others, plus some thought for each of the components mitigates the ethereal problem in all situations excluding Armageddon anyway. What’s not to like?

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