Brown Paper Bags

Life hack!

For some reason I tend to gather little piles of rubbish in places where a bin just doesn’t fit, and it drives us crazy! Tissues next to the bed… paper bits on the desk… pencil shavings next to my makeup… Gah!

So here’s where a $2 bunch of brown paper bags makes an awesome little hack. Just roll down the top a few times and shape the bag so it sits upright. And there you have it – a little collection of messes that can easily be whisked away and replaced with a new bag. Ok, it might not be super attractive, but way better than tissues lying around, right?

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Visual Management: A personal portable kanban

I love productivity systems and personal organisation hacks. Getting Things Done is a personal fave that I once got really into. And as I learn about things like Agile and Lean, I am happily ferreting out nuggets from lots of systems.

So here’s what my life looks like: a plastic folder by Aqua Drops. It’s my ‘work bible’ and is a great idea I picked up from a Kikki K workshop. Now, I’m not always a huge fan of Kikki K’s ‘dream big’ kind of fluff, but the workshops are phenomenal.

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In my plastic folder there are plastic sleeves and paper – the rings easily click open and I can arrange things as I need. I keep things like quick references to teleconference numbers and the IT helpdesk number (the stuff that I don’t need, until my computer isn’t working and then I desperately need it). Also, if I’m travelling, I pop things like tickets and hotel details in there.

Inside the folder, I also carry my personal notebook (for doodles and ideas), and my Master To-Do List (where I write everything that I have promised to do). The idea for a Master T0-Do List is something that’s quite central to the Getting Things Done philosophy, where they believe your mind is often unable to focus because it’s trying to remember everything you’ve got to do. By putting it all down on the list, you’re able to trust things won’t be forgotten and get on with doing stuff. I have to say, I’m a huge believer in this, and my Master To-Do List is a big comfort.

However, I have started working in one of those high-volume roles that means I need to keep track of multiple small projects throughout the day. There aren’t particularly a bunch of tasks I need to write in the Master To-Do List, because often I’ve sent out work and I’m waiting for it to come back, or it’s all just routine stuff that isn’t particularly a ‘to-do list’ item. My challenge has been how to keep my eye on all of the projects so nothing falls off the radar.

So in the back of the folder, I’ve now pasted in a personal kanban. Here’s what the whole folder looks like when I’ve got it open on my desk:

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And here’s what the full kanban looks like when I turn to the back page of the folder:

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The kanban is something I’ve stolen from the Lean/Agile world, and is a quick way to visualise all of the work that’s on the go. Every time a new project comes up, I write a few details on the sticky note, and it lands on my board.

The flow is (from top right hand corner):

Focus – what I’m working on right now (which can be surprisingly helpful when I get interrupted, and can quickly pick up my train of thought – it’s like the answer to my question “now where was I?”)

Today – what I need to touch on today (it’s a great indicator of my capacity for the day)

This week – what’s active, but might not be top priority for today, but I need to keep it on my radar in case it crops up today and still keep working on it

Ice box – everything else that is current and active, but that I don’t need to work on at this moment

Done – closed off, gold star, pat on the back, trophy cabinet, look at all the awesome work you’ve done!

It’s been in action for a couple of weeks now, and it’s working like a treat. My only problem is space, because those squares have filled up with sticky notes very quickly! I’m also working on how to capture all the info I need (i.e. deadlines) without visually cluttering the sticky notes. My aim is to be able to tell my next task, my most urgent items and my capacity, in one glance.

Don’t be fooled though, although I desperately need a certain level of organisation to feel that I am functioning, I am in no way an organisation freak. As of right now, my gmail inbox has 8,855 unread emails… so let’s say I’m happy to let some things slide.

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