A Productivity Journal

A Productivity Journal

(Joe Buhlig) #62

I’ve heard great things about AR. You can play games right on your kitchen table! Oh, wait. :thinking:

Seriously, though, Agile Results is a great framework to work from.

You can be sure I’ll be asking more and more questions about this in the future.

Bingo! Trick is staying there. Everything else keeps moving so you have to keep rolling with the punches.

(Justin DiRose) #63

Week 21 - Life Strikes Back

A lot of life happened in the last week. Nothing major, but a lot of little things. I noticed a lot of nuanced details between my previous system (centered around GTD) and the one I’m working with now (centered around Augmented Reality @joebuhlig).

  • Agile Results was formidably, erm, agile. I didn’t feel like I had to put a new priority in a project or task format in OF. I just wrote it down and did it.
  • I also found it forgiving. If things blew up during the day, I didn’t feel like my entire system fell into a state of disrepair. I often felt that was the case with my OF system.
  • There were also a few times I found I didn’t know what to do next. Initially, I felt annoyed about that; however, I think this was a sign of success. I then took that time to think strategically about what needed my attention or could be done. Prior, I would try to rely on my system to tell me what to do. That just didn’t work for me.

My weekly review takes me 20 minutes now instead of 60. I like that.

I’ve also been excessively tired this week for various reasons, some of which were out of my control. With that I found myself toward the end of the week browsing around the 'Net more instead of taking a break. What’s helped in remedying that is going for a nice long walk!

Using the daily wins from a “results” perspective has been extremely helpful.

Prior, my priorities would look like this:

  1. Run the daily report and send out
  2. Call the place about the thing
  3. Respond to email from so-and-so

Now my list looks like this:

  1. Rested well throughout the day
  2. Related well in my 1:1s with reports
  3. Went for a relaxing walk

There are some subtle but important differences. All my priorities are listed in the past sense. JD Meier advocates for this for a variety of reasons, but I see it in part as a way to implement Stephen Covey’s principle “Begin with the End in Mind”. It’s helped me to think about the result I want to see, versus the sometimes-mounting list of tasks that may prevent me from getting there.

I also like how I’m building my priorities around my whole life, not just what’s most pressing or due that day. I know you can do this with GTD as well, but I was really struggling to make it happen.

Devices after Work

I’ve stuck to this mostly well. There have been a few lax evenings, but rarely am I on my phone for more than 5 minutes total without a purpose.

I am experimenting with the Apple Watch again. I found myself missing the at-a-glance capability to see what meeting is coming up next or a text from my wife. I didn’t miss all the other notifications. So I turned them off!

Did you know you can set a pseudo VIP notification for text messages? I didn’t until I researched a way this week.

  1. Under sounds, set your default text sound and vibration to none.
  2. For each contact you want to receive audible (or tap) text notifications for, configure a custom text ringer and vibration pattern.

This effectively creates VIP message notifications. Now the only notifications I get on my watch are from very extremely select applications and people.

There’s still an interesting problem I’m watching to see if I fully embrace the Apple Watch again – the fact it’s on my wrist.

It’s the same problem I have with my phone. There’s a process running on my brain somewhere expecting at some point there’s an action I might have to take. It’s constantly waiting. When I’m at work I don’t notice it, as I’m in and out of apps and communications all day long as a technical supervisor. When I sit down outside to take a break, relax, and just think, that’s when the problem hits me. I just want to look at, fiddle with, and overall distract myself with the watch.

I’m hoping turning off most of the notifications (including the little red dot signifier) will help that cognitive overhead. We will see.

Oh, also, I’m reading digital books. But on a Kindle versus an iPad/iPhone. It’s been just as good as the experience reading in a paper book has been. (I’ve done both in the last week)

Interestingly, since I blew up my way of life (exaggerated) I’ve read 3 (yes three) books.

Here’s to continuing that trend.

I’ve been looking at and coming back to AR for the last 18 months or so. I’m glad I jumped in.

I was really making my way this way, but the granularity I felt OF required (or I required of OF) was the ultimate overhead that pushed me away.

Oh please do. My paper use is still in infancy, but I’m really liking it.

(Wilson Ng) #64

Yeah, GTD is definitely a monster to tackle. The David Allen Company has a lot of marketing muscle behind it and is at the forefront of the task management arena. I think the introduction of contexts is still something that is tough for many folks to wrap their head around it.

I do love Agile Results. How much has your weekly review changed?

I’ve felt this way many times with OF myself. I also felt the same way in 2Do. It must be GTD that is the common factor that makes it a bit difficult. That’s why I’ve been steering away from GTD and implementing J.D. Meier’s Agile Results and Michael Linenberger’s Master Your Workday Now ideas to create a Frankenstein system that seems to fit me a little better.

(Joe Buhlig) #65


-shakes head-

This probably requires it’s own topic, but I’d love to see a breakdown of the lists/maps you created to get AR to work for you. I have a notebook arriving today where I’m setting up an analog GTD system so I’ve been researching this a lot lately.

(Wilson Ng) #66

That e-ink technology does a very good job of simulating paper instead of the LED display of our iOS devices. I’m truly impressed by the screen technology.

(Justin DiRose) #67

Week 24

This will be a short post.

I’m struggling with my system again. First, due to busyness, I had to skip my reviews the last 2 weeks. My system fell apart. Second, I’m missing a lot of detail my project lists in OF that help keep me on task. But I also don’t miss how I used to stay “busy for the sake of busy” using my lists and systems. I feel I’m at a crossroads, and I’m not really sure what I’m going to do.

If I go back to a more detailed system, do I do paper? If so, how the heck would I even structure that? And if I do a digital database, I feel like I want to use a cross-platform system since I spend most of my time on Windows at work.

Life’s been crazy lately, which means I feel like I’ve been going a level of crazy. Trying to level off and recover well, but it’s a challenge.

I’ve been into my phone a lot lately as a result. I actually am using parental controls to block Safari use just because I tend to get into repetitive browsing habits.

Since I don’t have huge project lists, I don’t have to do a bunch of managing details. Most of it is the same, but it’s more high-level reflective than before.

Shh. At least I’m not reading on my iPad.

(Wilson Ng) #68

I couldn’t skip it. I always make it top priority to review. Otherwise, my system would fall apart too. I put review up there with taking a shower and brushing my teeth. I just do it automatically. This was a habit that I had to work on like an upper-body gym workout. Slowly, I developed the muscles to make it effortless.

Have you torn down your complete productivity workflow? I know I’ve had to tear mine down completely. I went back to my books and looked at the different parts of the productivity systems I liked. I took out a small notepad and wrote down the parts of GTD I liked using. Then I referred to J.D. Meier’s Agile Results and wrote down part of Agile that I liked. I also referred to Michael Linenberger’s Master Your Workday Now to see what parts I could steal. There were a couple of others such as Leo Babauta’s Zen-To-Done that I grabbed. But for the most part, it was GTD, Agile Results, and Workday Now that formed the basis for my reboot. I had to develop habits to consistently work on the different parts (capture, review, processing, 2 minutes, doing, etc.). It took a while but I think I got most of it working. I’ll fail every now and then but I can see what’s happening within a day or two if something is amiss.

For me, OmniFocus is mostly used for planning, capturing, and reviewing. I do most of my work on paper. When I want to start on an On Hold OmniFocus project, I’ll set the project status to active and print out the project’s next actions. Then I work off of that. The less time I spend in OmniFocus during the “doing” phase, the happier I am.

I deleted Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram from my phone. I have those apps on my iPad. This helped reduce the distraction of reaching for my phone to check out the latest tweet or social media notification.

(Mike N) #69

Paper will fall apart without the review (GTD or not), you don’t have the benefit of the regular alerts to bring things up.

@wilsonng is right, it has to be an automatic / non-negotiable thing. Figure that out before worrying about the rest of it.

What detail is missing?

(Justin DiRose) #70

Oh I wholeheartedly agree. Due to circumstances I was forced to skip the last few weeks. Self-created time crunches. :man_facepalming:

I have not logged into any of these services for over a month. The onslaught of information was overwhelming me.

Thanks for this insight. I was religious about reviews for a year or so until I started reworking my system. The lack of clarity around reviews in the revised system is what did it. I’m working on getting more clear.

My system revision focused highly on day to day lists and high level planning, but was missing the mid-level project details.

(Wilson Ng) #71

My stress levels gets reduced when I do my weekly review. I am not stressed out when I just happened to miss something because I wasn’t aware of the current state of affairs. If I do the review, I am reviewing everything to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Every once in a while, something will slip by me but it isn’t as often as it once was. I hate getting surprised and mutter to myself “I should’ve caught that one but I took my eye off the ball… S••t!”

It’s like cooking. Check the oven at regular intervals. Check the stew so that it’s not overcooking. Watch the grill so that your barbecue doesn’t turn into a black, crispy disappointment.

I think this is your next 12 Week Year Goal! Get that review habit going! Good luck!

(Justin DiRose) #72

Week 25

This was an interesting week. As you may recall from last week, I was having significant issues with my task management system.

In lieu of that, I decided to make a big switch. I had tried this in the past, but was unsuccessful because I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around it.

The switch is that I moved to Todoist.

It’s amazing how much these systems have been iterative for me. That’s not something that’s always visible or noble when you first get into the productivity space. However, you need to be iterative in order to be successful.

I used to think that was a problem. Now I know it’s how things should work.

The major thing I was missing in the last iteration of my system was detail. I had high level mappings worked out in Trello, daily planning on paper, but nothing to manage the details in between. That’s why decided to incorporate Todoist.

Todoist serves as a less detailed database than OmniFocus was for me. I don’t have things broken out at this time in segregated projects. Instead, they’re broken out into buckets. I have one fo work, one for personal, and a couple other high-level buckets.

I will probably write up an article about how I use Todoist at another time.

One interesting thing, though. In Todoist, I was finally able to get my mind around how to organize it. There’re still shortcomings, like the lack of start dates, but I really like the approach where you can throw a ton of tags on the task. No longer am I restricted to a single context, which didn’t work for me anyway. Now I can appropriately tag tasks to filter them. Or even to get them to stand out.

But enough about Todoist.

In Joe’s other thread, there’s been a lot of talk about weekly reviews. I really struggled with those recently. I’ve implemented a checklist again, and that’s helped me stay on track immensely.

I’ve also finally landed on some goals.

  1. Explore what it would take to record a music album
  2. Lose weight by changing my diet and being more active
  3. Launching new initiative by the end of the year at work

Something that stood out to me this week is I’ve been trying to do a bunch of new things as goals. But again, goals don’t always have to be new. They can be iterative.

I’m limiting myself to one new thing per set of goals I create. I don’t have room in my life to add a bunch of new things, but I do have room to improve current things.

Overall, I feel good at the end of this week. The last week and a half I felt very aimless because I didn’t have any structure. Initially I thought this was a good thing and freeing. But now about a month into it I realized very clearly that was not the right choice.

(Joe Buhlig) #73

As always, I love the brutal honesty of these posts, Justin.

I think that as long as your system doesn’t get in your way at all, then you’re on the right path. It’s simply a challenge to find the one that lets you be creative and yet efficient.

I would venture to say that your bout with an analog system likely helped you figure this out. I’ve been realizing in my experiment a greater need for the calendar over lists. I’m guessing you learned some things that told you to go with Todoist. Am I wrong?


I’m going to write this :arrow_up: at the start of my next journal. I definitely suffer from guilt about missing entries, which then makes me less likely to do the next one!


This struck a nerve with me, I often get to the end of the day with multiple half-finished ‘I’ll just do this now, it won’t take long’ tasks, and realise I have barely looked at my actual planned tasklist.

(Justin DiRose) #76

Whenever I want to build a habit, I feel the temptation to get down on myself for missing a day. But I heard a productivity guy say once that habit building is not about consistency, but about getting back on the horse when you fall off. If you stop journaling, just start again if you want to! No need for us to put unneeded pressure on ourselves to do something that we want to do.

It’s hard to break the reactive mindset. I’m still dealing with it. The biggest help has been writing down in the past tense what I want to accomplish this week and each day.

For example, this is my list from a day earlier this week:

  1. Drank 60oz of water
  2. Restfully enjoyed my day
  3. Made progress on a song I’m writing

Doing this and having it in front of me really helps. Most days I meet these goals because my brain is already planning to have completed them at the end of the day.

The other kicker is these outcomes don’t have to be tasks. It can be “Enjoyed my lunchbreak” or “Took time to think throughout the day”.

All that to say, if planning your tasks doesn’t work for you, try planning your outcomes. You’ll probably feel better and focus on the important things, not just the urgent ones.

(Joshua) #77

Some of you have mentioned the notebooks you use.

I, too, use The Baron Fig Confidant. I like how flat the notebook sits. If it’s important that your notebook lay flat, this is definitely a good choice.
But, I am a fountain pen man. I have an Edison Nouveau and a ebonite handmade from a gentleman I know. (So far, Ebonite is the best material for my sweaty hands. Ebonite is a bit porous from what others tell me. The Edison Nouveau is made of resin. The dip of Edison pens helps keep my fingers form slipping. But eventually they do. I had to go handmade for my ebonite pen because most company I found did not use ebonite. I think it is because the material is more easily breakable, but I am not sure)

Back to the books. For me when using my fountain pen (I use a F nib), the Baron Fig has too much bleed through for me.

For journaling, I use Rhodia. It’s bleed through is the best I have found of notebooks

for notes and other sort of things, I use Mnemosyne. It’s more smooth that anything I’ve ever used, probably because it absorbs the ink a bit more than Rhodia. But it doesn’t absorb ink like cheap paper that will feather the ink. No, this tends to keep the ink in-tack.
If Rhodia had sizes and formats like Mnemosyne, maybe then I would consider Rhodia. But they don’t, as far as I know.

My go-to store is Goulet Pens. https://www.gouletpens.com

(Wilson Ng) #78

Is there something that you’re reacting to that irritates the crap out of you? If it happens more than once, maybe creating a checklist or workflow to work from can help prevent the irritant from happening again or at least make it easier to remember how to deal with future occurrences.

I’ve always felt that maintenance/admin tasks always keeps me away from doing the stuff I really want to do. We need the maintenance tasks done to keep our life running smoothly (pay the utilities, change the oil for the cars, weekly reports to the boss). If we can get that stuff out of the way (do, delegate, defer, delete) then we can focus on the important stuff - the projects that will build the necessary infrastructure to improve our lives.

I think there was a quote about “Productivity not about the number of tasks you’ve completed. It’s about the number of important tasks that got done.” I can’t remember how it actually went but I think that’s a close enough quote.

(Joe Buhlig) #79

I had a chance to write in a Baron Fig with my fountain pens at one point. Too scratchy for me. That’s why I stick to Rhodia and Leuchtturm1917.

If you ever decide this is a bad pen for you, I know a guy who would gladly take it off your hands. :wink:

Confession: I’ve bought a pen from them just to get the bookmark they throw in. :grimacing:

When I worked in corporate I had a Pre-Meeting Checklist. There were two versions. One was for the meetings I personally ran and the other was for when I was just an attendee. Those served me really well as they took the stress out of being prepared for meetings.

I think of this rendition:

Productivity isn’t about getting a lot done. It’s about getting the right things done.

(Justin DiRose) #80

I do some pre-meeting prep as well but not with a checklist. Do you have examples hanging around yet? Maybe that’d be a good thing to throw in the Pro side :slight_smile:

(Joe Buhlig) #81

Done. :wink:

You can get them here: Pre-Meeting Checklists.