Productively dealing with life after a crisis

It’s been about three months now since our family crisis happened and put my productivity solutions to the test. It is time to review what worked, what didn’t, and share what I learned from the experience.

To recap, at the beginning of December my father was struck with a rare spinal disorder resulting in near full paralysis of his arms and legs. He has since recovered some mobility but has a long way yet to go. His inability to do the things he did before both at work and at home created dozens of challenges we needed to cope with to help him and my mother both return to as normal a life as possible.

As the immediate challenges were dealt with we moved onto the long term support and care issues that so few of us are prepared to handle. This is again where my personal productivity systems and tools shined as well as fell on their face. For example let’s talk about dealing with insurance companies and health care providers.

The amount of information you need to go through when it comes to health insurers is staggering. Now add to that government organizations such as Medicare and the fact that you’re doing it for someone else and you can easily wind up buried under details and have no idea where to start. Yet again, this is where the capture part of my system shined. By capturing copies of government handbooks, insurance benefit breakdowns, and contact information for everyone involved I had the resources and information I needed on hand whenever I had to place a call to get something handled.

On my Chromebook Pro I leverage a tool called Squid to allow me to capture handwritten notes as well as mark up PDF files as easily as using a pen and paper. More than once Squid let me pull up an email from a provider, open a PDF, fill out a form, sign in, and email it back within minutes. No printing, no paper, no problem. Unfortunately Squid does not sync across multiple devices but aside from that limitation it proved to be an invaluable asset.

The second growing challenge was managing research. We suddenly had to deal with hospital beds, Hoyer lifts, manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, and a host of other things we knew little about. Being able to capture the manuals, web sites, YouTube videos, and more about the equipment we needed to put in place meant the difference between success and failure when it came to getting him situated back at home. Normally I would use OneNote from Microsoft for this type of work, but it was also about this time I started using a new tool that has become a staple of my system…Notion.

Notion is a text and information management system that carries many of the features of OneNote (except for digital ink) and adds to the mix more powerful database style features. Creating templates, setting up tables, creating kanban style boards for tracking tasks, and adding calendars meant I had only one tool I had to rely on. The mobile applications are strong and reliable as well as fast and flexible. I don’t doubt I could have duplicated the majority of what I needed in OneNote or Evernote but Notion just made it easier.

The third challenge was handling all the unexpected processes of my father’s daily life that only he is aware of how to handle. For example, during a recent high wind storm they lost power for a number of hours at their home. Normally this would be a non-issue with my father firing up their generator and switching over their house to the bypass feeds. Notice I say my father since he was the only one who knew how to do it. Having to work through the process myself involved running back and forth, taking and sharing photos with him to make sure things were switched properly, and then working through the steps in a distant part of the home.

Since that time I’ve been making my own checklists and aides for going through the processes at their house that may need to be done without him being able. It’s having to do this that has compelled me to do the same in my own home, something that I should have done in the past, and if a crisis had arisen would have been a huge failure of my systems.

So what have I learned or validated through all this?

  1. Take time to process your information. Capture alone does not a solid system make.

  2. Keep in mind that at some point someone else may have to use your systems.

  3. A small investment in a good system and tools pays huge dividends over time

  4. No matter how many tools you try, the best one for you is the one you use.

  5. The most dangerous things to your system are the things that slip through the cracks. Not only are things missed but it erodes confidence in your system for you and others.

Time will tell if more changes are needed but for now the system I use (CPR – Capture, Process, Report) is doing what it should and keeping me on top of things for the most part. So long as I maintain a current, flexible solution I’m confident I can handle most things thrown my way.