Organize me now!

I have to get organized. In fact, it’s crucial that I get organized, and it is something that I honestly believe I am capable of doing.  Because not believing in my ability to get organized would sink me into a spiral of depression from which I fear I might not recover.

Why get organized now?

But why, you may wonder, is there such doom and gloom associated with my failure to organize myself? After all, for 55 years, my ADHD has allowed me to fly by the seat of my pants, relying on my brain power to fill in the gaps of appointments I need to make, groceries I need to pick up, bills I need to pay, promises I need to fulfill.  For those executive functions I have lacked, I’ve made up for by putting more work on the functions that I possess well.

The truth is, however, that my brain is aging along with the rest of me. Sometimes my cognitive abilities feel like they’re in decline.  I get distracted…a lot, these days.  It’s as if my ADHD is in overdrive now. Which, may be causing my memory to suffer as well. The internal alarms don’t go off like they once did to warn me about doctor’s appointments (one of which I missed last week), pill taking and bill paying.

Two of my lifelong enemies are the demons know as To-Do List and Daily Schedule. I probably still have in one of my boxes, packed away, a Day Runner organizer, a leather bound, thick, but small notebook, which had all sorts of features, tabs and pockets to make people’s lives easier.  I had some success with using it but eventually I gave up on it because I couldn’t discipline myself enough to open it first thing in the morning, take it everywhere with me and write down ideas, phone numbers, or details from appointments. 

Since life moved more toward my computer, I’ve used many apps and programs, perhaps none more than Microsoft products such as Outlook and Notes, with varying degrees of success.  Outlook manages tasks and to-do lists separately, and there seems no intuitive way to integrate either of those items with the calendar feature to schedule myself. Notes is good for taking notes at meetings, in classes, or studying, but I haven’t figured out how it integrates with the aforementioned calendars, tasks or to-do list. Perhaps the biggest benefit to putting something on one of these lists has been that it solidifies in my brain allowing me to retrieve the information at the appointed time, a process that no longer seems to be working. 

But unlike my mental acuity, which, may or may not be declining, my self-discipline is these days on the rise. I’ve developed a few daily practices which are becoming consistent habits and the kinds of things I do to better myself. So I believe I am ready to add something else to those practices, something which could, in fact, change the quality of my life for the better. That is, firstly, creating a list of tasks which are a mix of things I must do (pay bills, go to appointments), things I should do (call friends more often, clean the kitchen floor), things I need to do (go to the gym regularly, plan healthy meals) and things I’d like to do (write fiction and essays, paint, yoga). And secondly, ranking those tasks by difficulty and planning them into a daily schedule around the rest of my life. 

I prefer the word “planning” over “scheduling” because It just sounds easier to me. Throughout my life I’ve fought with trying to schedule myself so just changing the word gives me less of a desire to escape from it.  Plan. It has a nice ring to it.

So needed an app that would take a to-do list and put items on a schedule seamlessly. And one that is open source. And geared toward personal use. This has turned out to be quite the challenge. 

But I have found a few things that are moving me toward what I want to be doing. This is not a review, clearly, as I’ve been going on and on about my executive function disabilities for 900 words before even getting to the first one of these I tried out. And I didn’t delve deeply into how-tos or the instructions, so perhaps something that isn’t intuitive already is in there.

TaskUnifier

After using some appropriate search terms in Bing, like “open source task scheduler,” I found something called TaskUnifier. It appealed to me because it had a calendar, and I had hoped that it would be everything I wanted.

It was not everything I wanted. 

TaskUnifier window
TaskUnifier browser app

TaskUnifier does, in fact, allow you to set a date for tasks, but I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to set a time to do tasks. There is no item for start time in the task form. The calendar day view does provide a calendar measured out by hours, but there is no determinable way to set an activity on the calendar at any time.  All of the items may be found as “all day” on the agenda view. 

So while you can set an alarm for the item at a specific time. I was saddened by this lack of usability, because I was hoping it would be able to do what I was asking, that is, incorporate tasks into my schedule.

TaskUnifier seems good at creating task lists but not good at planning a day, which is what I was looking for.

Freeplane

I did another search, this time in Google, on the phrase “I need an open source software that takes to-do lists and allows me to schedule items.” This led me to a series of search results.

Freeplane desktop app

I found the program Freeplane.  It was not exactly what I was looking for but the material on the program intrigued me. It’s a software that creates mind mappings, something I’ve heard about but never looked at very strongly.  I downloaded the app on my PC, and looked at it. There are ways to use this to tie together ideas and tasks, plus you can set alarms and look at your alarm list. But ultimately, it still doesn’t do exactly what I currently need for my task/scheduling.

However, I’m going to play with Freeplane some more and see if I can use its mind-mapping capabilities to work on ideas, and maybe help organize my thoughts in other ways.  

Tried and true

When I went back to review the search results for this essay, I found a website whose name I had been trying to remember, because I’d used it before with some other online users: Trello.  It’s quite a powerful project manager, easy for groups to use and available for free.  Sadly, however, the feature I wanted, the ability to schedule tasks, is only available on the Premium version.

I gave up and went back to Microsoft Outlook. I have a fully licensed 2016 edition which I’ve used for email for a long time and which I have integrated with my iPhone calendar. In looking at the “View” menu item in my Calendar, I discovered a “Daily Task List” icon.  I could in fact show my tasks while I was looking at my calendar, in fact, those tasks that are listed as “to be done today” or with no date are under the schedule in the Day and Week view.  And I can drag a task to the schedule to create a new item

It’s not what I would call full integration but it’s more than I’ve had so far, and I’ve already got the software to do it. Maybe the perfect software exists for me, maybe it doesn’t, but I am not going to expend any more of my time in searching for it. 

I have to use the task list and scheduler and I have to then do the tasks on the task list and their appointed times.

And the first thing I am going to check off of it is finishing this essay.