New Beginnings #2: The last week

This is part 2 of a 3-part of a series looking at how I used GTD and OmniFocus during my recent country move. Today we look at how GTD and OmniFocus helped me pack up my apartment and move out of Ireland.

Before leaving the apartment I needed to deal with:

  1. The stuff
  2. The accounts
  3. Everything else

Dealing with the stuff

I had to sell, donate, dump, abandon, or pack my way to an empty apartment in one week. So how to deal with that?

I created a project in OmniFocus with the goal to Have cleared the apartment in Ireland with the Due Date set for the day I was flying out of the country.

What were the next actions? Make an inventory and classify the items according to their final destination. Once that was done, I added subprojects like Have dealt with "to throw" stuff, Have dealt with "to donate" stuff, and so on.

Note that the decision on what to do with the stuff was separate from the doing. This helped me:

  • Manage my time efficiently and minimize my trips into town to sell/donate things
  • Reduce time wasted hesitating and getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the task

The subproject structure worked well because each kind of task was physically very different. Taking things to the bin is different from taking things to the store to sell. For example, to sell items I needed to have my store membership card, and also delete the data off the devices to be sold. That's very different from Put stuff in bin bags and Take bin bags to bin.

I still had to live in the apartment so I split the clearing-out process over a few days. I wasn't going to sell my TV or pack the PS4 with a week left; I would be really bored. So most of the selling of stuff would happen on the last two days.

But wait there's more (stuff)

I made two mistakes during this process:

  1. Many of the smaller items did not make it to the inventory, so there was a lot more work than I knew about. You never think about including a half-empty (or is it half-used?) box of band-aides in the inventory do you?
  2. I'd underestimated how much time I would need to recover. As it turns out, moving heavy things around and running around town is tiring, and some tasks got deferred 2 or 3 times.

The result was a lot more work on the last day than I would have wanted1. I passed out on the plane almost immediately. Sorry Leonardo, from the little I saw you did a great job on The Revenant.

Yes! This will totally work

Having underprepared with the inventory, I went ahead and compensated by overplanning with the food. I decided to make a meal plan that will maximize the usage of the leftover food.

There I was in the kitchen with all of the food (fridge and freezer food included) playing a game of build-a-recipe with the food I had left. I then crafted a delicious meal plan for the week to use almost everything I had.

It failed miserably. Having tired myself with the move I had no energy or willpower to cook. In addition, while I was running errands it made little sense to go back home to cook.

I kept wasting time reassessing my plan which led to mental fatigue. When you find your plan stressing you out more than calming you down it's time to rethink your approach. It's called stress-free productivity not food-wastage minimizing productivity for a reason.

Dealing with the accounts

The account closing projects began months before leaving since some companies, particularly ISPs, require 30-days notice for cancellations. I kept track of these dates using the Due Dates in OmniFocus. Every "Contact utility company X to cancel" had a Due Date associated with this anticipation period.

Each project followed the cancellation procedure dictacted by the company, which I'd researched in advance. A great tip is to use the notes field to record relevant phone numbers, account numbers, customer IDs, and anything else that might be relevant. Then when you call a company, all the information is accessible on OmniFocus for iOS.

Everything else

Again, I was too ambitious and tried to keep my productive volume during the last couple of weeks. I quickly realized that I didn't have the energy and deferred every project for after I left the country.

The lesson here is to accept that during a big change your productive rhythm will suffer. Everything will be out of whack, your routine and your energy levels will not keep up. Give yourself a break and do things well.

Instead of worrying, I took the opportunity to play games and read as a form of relaxed productivity. I have reading and playing goals, so I was still accomplishing something but recovering at the same time.

So how well did it go?

I'm in my destination with most of the things I wanted, in one piece, and I got my deposit on the apartment back. I'm gonna call that a success. Despite a handful of mistakes the process went well.

Learn and do better

The number of moving parts and time limitation make additional reviews necessary. An extra Weekly Review midweek would have helped my sanity and enable me to reasses timelines on all of the projects given my current progress.

Checklists can only take you so far and at some point you're going to miss something and an extra 3 bags of things will appear out of nowhere. The only solution is to build a bunch of cushion time for that.

When a door closes...

I left Ireland with a clear head having done everything I needed to do, but as they say: there is no end, only more middle. I find myself in a new land with different people, and a bunch of time on my hands to build myself and my future.

Next time, I'll look over my efforts to build my life in a new place, pick up new habits, and aim for new goals. Spoilers, I got running shoes.

Have a great one. See you next time.

-- Jay Blanco


  1. According to my fitbit I slept for 6:40hrs the day before my flight but did 17,000 steps and 70 active minutes. During the last week I recorded more than double the number of active minutes on any of the preceeding weeks.