Week 20 - It’s Time for Something New
Last week, I had to take the last half of Friday off due to not feeling well. It turned out to be a huge blessing, as I spent a lot of time thinking about my life, technology, and productivity. I came to a few major conclusions.
I spend way too much time entrenched in technology. My entire workday is spent in front of a screen, as well as every single one of my side projects requires time at a device. I just can’t keep doing this to myself.
My system was breaking me. What I mean is I felt like I had to manage too many details just to keep myself on track. While I can be detail oriented, I don’t thrive in that place for too long. Minutiae exhausts me.
- I have too much on my mental plate.
So, in the last week, what did I do about that?
1 - No devices after work.
I stopped wearing my Apple Watch. I don’t carry my phone with me at home. I quit reading digital books. I seldom watch television.
How’s that turned out?
- I have fewer headaches.
- I spend more focused time with my family (and it wasn’t lacking before either).
- I spend more time thinking. While making pancakes for my son, I think about my life and world vs. twitterating and emailing the moment away.
- My head feels less abuzz with trying to stay connected and is more clear.
2 - I blew up OmniFocus and GTD.
Seriously. I did. And I went paper.
Well, for the most part. I’ll get into that in a bit.
I switched to a framework called Agile Results by JD Meier. It hinges on a few main principles, and I’m adapting it to my own use case.
First, there’s a large focus on results-oriented priorities. This has helped me keep my head above water this week and focused on the right tasks, versus my previous mad rush to try to clear out OmniFocus items.
I create a new todo list every day on paper, starting with my top 3 desired results, followed by any other items that may need to get done that day. The key difference here is I don’t keep a running todo list database like I used to. We’ll see how it works long term, but so far the cognitive load is much lower for me. I feel more relaxed and able to do important things.
Second, there’s an idea about letting things “slough off”. Basically, from day to day and week to week, if a task isn’t relevant, don’t copy it over. I still have it written down in my notebook if it comes up again anyway, but the fluidity of this is freeing. In GTD, I felt like I had to be so much more adamant and decisive with every single task.
Third, AR focuses highly on just getting started and making adjustments every day/week along the way. And the adjustments feel easy and fluid, as there’s not a complex system and process I have to adjust to do it.
As I said, we’ll see how this is going in the next few weeks, but for now, it’s been very helpful for me.
I mentioned I switched to paper. This is augmented by a couple of light-use digital tools.
Paper is used for:
- Daily priorities
- Daily task lists
- Weekly priorities
- Daily & weekly journals
There are a few items I still need some sort of a due reminder for. Those items are going into 2Do.
There’s maybe 10-15 items that fit in this category (take out the trash on Thursdays, etc.)
High-level planning (and routine checklists) are located in Trello. I have 4 boards set up (Scripts, Hotspots, Personal, and Work). Scripts has the most items, as it’s a simple reference checklist repository. The rest have no more than 10-15 items on each. It’s a simple way I can quickly see a high level visual view of my priorities, what’s active, what’s backlogged, etc.
Every morning, I review the priorities and create a todo list.
Every evening, I create my priorities for the next day.
Every Friday, I review it all, journal what went well and didn’t, and set the priorities for the next week.
That’s really all it is.
What was the switch like?
The first day I felt like I was losing my mind. I didn’t have a “backlog” in place, nor due task alerts. A few days later, that all went away, and I’ve been doing well ever since.
3 - I abandoned everything.
Okay, well not everything. But all of my side projects are officially on indefinite hiatus. I’m no longer thinking about them in every moment. They weren’t really all that important anyway. Plus, I like my job.
I abandoned Twitter and Facebook. Too much input. Plus, Cal Newport’s TEDx talk on this convinced me how terrible social media is.
Same thing with RSS, and most of my podcasts. I’ll keep a few, but will likely sporadically listen instead of every free moment alone in the car.
I quit reading news for the most part.
And I’ll tell you what, I needed this break from input. Might I come back to some of them? Maybe. At this point, likely not. My head is so much more clear.
I have mental space (and time) to focus on what’s really important to me – my spiritual life, family, friends, and work. Honestly, I don’t know if I need that much more in my life right now.