During the day (at work), I've got a number of different things I need to do (mostly work-related, but some personal). These fit into general categories:
- the major things I'm working on that day (could be a major project, or something that should take a few hours)
- misc. things that have to be done AT a certain time (e.g. concert tickets on sale at noon)
- misc. things that have to be done BY a certain time (e.g. run the report that will take 20 minutes and send it to my boss by 3pm)
- things that have to (or really "should") be done at any time during the day (call mom, talk to John and see if he can explain how to do something I need for my project)
- things that don't really have to be done with a deadline, but in general I should do them (clean out my inbox, reply to some emails that have been sitting there, read that research paper that is tangentially related to my job)
- things that pop up unexpectedly (an instant message or email from a co-worker asking me something random)
So what I'm looking for is an exact system for how you deal with all of this. Some of them are obvious (e.g. set an alarm for things in group 2 and when it goes off, stop everything else you're doing), but what often happens is that I'm working on something in 1, when an alarm for something in 3 goes off, but I don't want to work on that just yet, so I continually snooze it. Sometimes I run out of time to do the thing in 3, and forget entirely about things in 4. And I hardly ever get to things in 5. Things in 6 interrupt me and mess everything up.
What technologies/apps/software do you use? Do you use some sort of electronic todo list? Paper and pencil? How exactly does the sheet of paper look?
Do you set aside specific times for the different groups?
When do you set your schedule for the day? First thing in the morning? The night before? Do you just wing it?
That's the level of detail I'm interested in. Think of me as a dumb computer, and your "system" is a program for me to follow to do the stuff I need to do.