A Productivity Journal: 2021 Edition

I’d like to continue the tradition of posting what I’m thinking about in regard to my personal productivity journey. It all started here:

I haven’t been journaling this out recently like I have in the past, so I’m going to try to make this an afternoon ritual on my Friday. This is my ask to the community: help keep me accountable to this! It helps me and I hope it can help you too.


After my 2020 themed ‘The Year of Stabilization’, where I had partially been focusing on making my productivity system stable, I’ve come to the realization that there are tools that work for me. And they keep calling back to me, over, and over, and over again.

Three such tools are:

  • The Bullet Journal – the rapid logging feature is what’s killer for me. Chronology, quick entry, and analog means thoughts, ideas, todos, and events stay organized in a way that makes the most sense to me.
  • Obsidian - I don’t foresee myself switching note-taking apps again for a very, very long time. Obsidian offers everything I want in a note-taking workflow, and allows me to contextualize information in very real, relevant ways to building further understanding of topics I’m interested in.

And the last one… OmniFocus.

There is something about this tool that any time I have more than just a few things going on in life, I feel the need to reintegrate it into my system. Plus, I just discovered a number of new features added to OmniFocus for Web.

I tried OF for Web a few months ago and it was… terrible. Extremely basic and missing nearly every useful feature from OmniFocus. Not as much anymore. Still not perfect, but not unusable (for me) now.

This is important because my main work machine is now a Linux desktop (running Arch Linux).

But I still have a Mac in my life, and run my mobile life off iOS/iPadOS. With OF for Web improving, there’s a strong case I can make for re-integrating this app into my life – with the caveat of I have to figure out how to use it with the Bullet Journal.

Here are my thoughts on pairing the two together, a set of principles, if you will:

  1. OmniFocus is just for project next actions, checklists, and recurring tasks.
  2. OmniFocus is not my daily workspace. It’s used only for planning and review. The Bullet Journal is my daily workspace.
  3. Only in-flight, committed actions go into OmniFocus. Someday/maybe or ideas go to Bullet Journal.
  4. I have a history of over-developing the structure I need in OmniFocus, which adds a ton of friction. This time, I’m going to intentionally start with minimal structure (folders for project areas, a waiting tag) and incrementally improve from there.
  5. Logging my day happens in Bullet Journal. I capture into Bullet Journal (or Drafts). Then during a review time, migrate to the appropriate spot.

This might give me a framework to build from, but it also might stress me out. That’s also been a difficulty when I use a digital tool as my primary workspace – stress. On paper, I know where everything is at, but in a digital tool, I have to browse or search for it. Somehow I worry about missing things. I think I need to find a workflow for review and stick with it. That will probably mitigate a bunch of difficulties.

Anyway, that’s the main thing on my mind this week in a productivity sense. I’ve also been looking at better ways of scheduling. Time blocking doesn’t work for me but I need to crank down and use my time more effectively than I have been, especially in light of wanting to spend more time slowing down this year.

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Week 2

I think I’m finding an appropriate place for OmniFocus in my workflow again. The key is being okay with duplication.

A lot of times in productivity workflows, duplication is seen as bad news. Information in two places means double the work! Well… kind of.

For example, I primarily work out of my Bullet Journal. I keep lists and log items daily in there. This approach helps me stay sane. However, as I mentioned last week, it doesn’t help me organize projects very well.

This is where duplication comes in. If there’s an item that belongs in a project, I mark a little ^ next to it. This signifies I’ve put the item into my task manager. Then, when I’m reviewing my journal, I know that task is part of something larger.

When embraced for specific purposes, I’m finding duplication is totally and 100% ok.

One thing I’m struggling with is routine. Everything has been thrown off schedule-wise this year. Kids are sleeping later which means I am too, but that also means I’m not exercising as much in the morning. It’s something I need to work on, but I’m sure I’ll get it sorted out in time.