A Productivity Journal

I’ve given up on having a favorite pen with me everywhere. I just leave it in my office when i’m doing work.

I just find a cheap pen at the office supply store that writes nicely enough and I buy a bunch. I take a few of these pens and put them in my messenger bag. If I lose these cheap pens while i’m outside, I don’t really care. My good pen is stuck in the office and will never leave.

The biggest reason for me to have a journal is to see what ideas I’ve missed when I had a moment of inspiration at the time of capture. Reviewing the journal (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) has helped me tremendously. Otherwise, it was just a notebook filled up with experiences and I just threw it away. The journal review has become as essential as my OmniFocus daily/monthly/weekly review.

I actually have one single action list for repeating tasks. These are the repeating chores that needs to get done around the house. I put them in a single action list called “House Routines”. I can see it also called “Housekeeping” or “Housecleaning”. Whatever label works for you. This single action list contains nothing but repeating tasks.

• cut the grass
• change water filtration cartridges
• Take out the trash
• Clear out cat litterbox

I flag the single action list so that it shows up in my dashboard view. The household chores don’t have a due date but they are forced to show up in the dashboard because they are automatically flagged.

Next, I have another single action list for my one-off tasks for the house. I currently call it “House Single Actions”. These are all the one-off tasks that pop up throughout the day or week. This single action list is not flagged. But I will flag some one-off tasks if needed.

It’s easier for me to see all of the household chores in the “House Routines” list instead of mixing in a bunch of one-off tasks.

I’m always interested in seeing how you figure out your sharpen the saw context. Good luck.

Good one on that dumpster fire!

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Week 8

I’m going to keep this week’s journal short because I’m getting ready to go on the first vacation I’ve had in 2 years! My wife and I always love getting to the Twin Cities, so it will be a fun time.


Paper has been fantastic. I’ve missed a few evenings of journaling here and there, but nothing too major. I’ve scanned every page into Evernote for archiving. I’m hoping this will be a benefit. I will review and find out.

I recently was able to set my Mac up at home to work on it three monitors. I know the discussion about fewer screens usually leads to better productivity. As a call center supervisor in a tech company, however, it’s beneficial to have different screens up and visible at once. That being said, I’ve been keeping OmniFocus open and visible sometimes for reference. Even though I’m using OF more directly throughout the day, using paper to process my priorities at the start of the day has been very helpful still.


I mowed my lawn today. That’s the extent of my major physical activity this week though. I haven’t been able to figure out the willpower game recently with this. Part of it is I can’t mentally get myself to commit to a regular time where I even go for a walk.

Relaxation and Fun

I’ve spent some more time with friends lately and was able to rest last week Saturday again. That was nice. Like I mentioned my wife and I are going on a vacation. This will be great!

One struggle is I like to play this game called X-Wing (sorry @joebuhlig, you might not know what that is). It’s a table top Star Wars dogfighting game that’s in a way like chess on steroids. Sadly it takes 2 hours to get a game in, so I rarely play. I have all these miniatures around and can’t use them and it bugs me. Plus I have a friend who is very competitive in playing it. Not being able to play much puts me pretty far behind him skill wise, who is one of the only people I can play around here. I also find that discouraging even though I find the game fun.

I suppose this wasn’t as short as I wanted it to be but oh well :slight_smile:

Have you ever thought of using the Livescribe pen?


Might just bypass your need to scan on a constant basis.

I vaguely remember my boss (who is a tech geek) using the Livescribe pen.

And iOS 11 with an iPad Pro is looking mighty fine as a journal.

But I guess there’s something about the look and feel of real paper and pen that is tough to miss. But it might be something that can be overcome. I was listening to a podcast about the wrestler, The Big Show. He would crave all the sweets, beer, and meat. In the beginning, it was tough for him to avoid all the good stuff. But overtime, when he has a cheat day for his diet, it’s very mild relative to what he used to it. His cheat day would probably be a steak and ribs platter. But over time, he got used to pancakes and blueberries as his cheat day and he doesn’t really crave his old cheat day menu now. Transitioning from paper to digital might be tough in the beginning but it’ll get easier.

I guess getting used to a new technology will be rough going but it’ll get easier over time. I remembered going from simple checklists and getting shellshocked by the complexities of GTD and OmniFocus. But over time, it got easier and now it’s just a simple habit. Maybe the iPad Pro + iOS 11 + Apple Pen is something to look forward to. Or the Livescribe system looks like an interesting alternative to paper journal.

Time to get caught up. :wink:

I didn’t know you were a fountain pen person. :pen_fountain: But sad day that the Safari has gone missing. The G2s are good, though. I have a box of them for travel and such. But I also keep a few Hi-Tec C pens around. Those are excellent if you want fine print. My wife loves them for filling out forms.

No! That just means you need more of them around. One at the desk. One at the other desk. One in the backpack. One in the… You get the idea. :wink:

I haven’t gone back to the Dashboard yet. I’m still in the middle of my experimentation with contexts only. But this has been my experience as well. Previously, I would throw the closest context on a task and not worry about it. It was mildly useful. Removing the Dashboard (for now) has created a need to be very intentional in both the assigning of the context and the use of contexts.

:blush: This makes me happy.

I do this as well but I keep two separate lists. One for things that need done to keep me at neutral: refill business card holder, water plants, do laundry, etc… The second is one for “After Hours”, which is anything that is after I get off of work.

What?! You’re headed my way!

I think this is true for people who should focus on one thing at a time. People who primarily send email, create reports, write, design, etc… But when you get into things that are fast moving like call centers or require multiple programs simultaneously to do a single task, this breaks down. Development certainly benefits from having multiple screens.

No clue. But I’m sure it’s fun. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

LOL… I was talking more about losing a sentimental pen that was given to me for my college graduation. Carried it everywhere and just lost it at the airport never to be seen again. I see that you mean having a specific type of pen throughout my work area, house, etc.

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Yep. This was 5 years ago. My wife bought me a fountain pen to replace it, but sadly it clogs up frequently, making it challenging to use regularly. It’s very nice though!

My learning of GTD has been pretty scattershot throughout the years. I don’t think I took the time to really learn the importance of batching via contexts. Then again, I didn’t have a reason to until recently. I’d say my experiment was successful. I have noticed since using the Dashboard again, I’ve spent less time writing my priority tasks down and more time working off the Dashboard. Not sure what I think about that…

Yep! I was in St. Paul for a couple days. Always fun to get down in that area. I work for a company based in St. Cloud, so I am in the vicinity about once a month.

You would know what an X-Wing is if you had seen Star Wars!

Oh no! That’s no fun, and a real bummer!

Sad day. Those can never be replaced. But then again (and not to downplay it), it’s just a pen.

We need to connect sometime. I’m west of the Twin Cities so we must live pretty close to each other.

This just won’t stop will it? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Week 9

Vacation week last week! I was so busy playing catchup on Friday I didn’t get to my weekly review. That’s OK. Didn’t have much to clean up anyway.

Week 10

I’ve had a fun new development that’s made doing work on a computer interesting. I noted it in a different thread, so I won’t get into the specifics here. This issue, which is dealing with computer-use related wrist/arm/shoulder/neck pain, has consumed a lot of my thought, especially in regards to finding workflows or equipment to help relieve the issue.


I’ve fallen off the wagon on this one. And, honestly, that’s been a pretty common struggle for me. I set out to accomplish a goal, usually requiring some sort of routine. After 2-3 weeks of shooting for it, I miss a few occurrences for various reasons. Then resistance sets in, making it ever-increasingly difficult to start at it again. Do you all have any suggestions for beating this?


I moved a lot during vacation last week. It was really nice. However, back at home, I have much less incentive to get out and go for a walk. I get in busy mindsets where I just don’t take a break.

Relaxation and Fun

Vacation was great. I gained a renewed perspective on life and work from a few days off. I kind of have another mini-vacation coming up with four days off from work around the Fourth of July holiday.

Additionally, I’ve started reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books. It’s been a series I’ve wanted to read for quite a while, and now focusing on relaxation, I am intentionally doing it.

I’ve thought of it. However, I’m not sure how much I like being tied into a specific notebook and pen like you are with Livescribe.

Oh has this ever been on my mind. I just upgraded my Mac in April, so I’m not quite sure I can justify the expense of an iPad Pro quite yet. I’m also evaluating Apple Notes as a full Evernote replacement with its OCR and document scanning features built in iOS 11 Notes.

I may go back to using Contexts only. I added a few more contexts, and it’s totally thrown my game off. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Yes, this has been my experience exactly. You have to be selective on what you have up on the screen to monitor, though. Otherwise, it’s easy to get sucked into stuff that’s not your actual work!

I bet @shouit’s bacon will make it stop.

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Did someone say… bacon???


I wouldn’t worry too much about this. I journal when I see something that i want to record. It might be an interesting idea that pops up. It might be some event that happened that might trigger me to think about creating a new someday/maybe project. It might be a blog article or something that someone said that i want to keep a record of for later meditation. It helps to always have a capture tool 'cuz you never know when something happens. I keep Day One on the iPhone and iPad to take a snapshot of something or to type in some thought. I also have a small pocket notebook in my man-bag and write down something if it’s too cumbersome to whip out the iPhone.

Journal only when you want to. Journal only when there is something to record. It doesn’t have to be every day. I’ve had stretches where I don’t journal for a few days. I’m just caught up in life and don’t journal because there wasn’t anything i wanted to record.

This is a perfect time to get back to your weekly/monthly review. I often tell the family I’m unavailable for 3 hours and start whipping through OmniFocus. I find that I have to “schedule” an appoint to tackle a lot of eat-that-frog tasks like the weekly review and monthly review. I just finished my end-of-the-month review last night. I go through my projects and contexts and review everything. What projects needs to be put back to “on hold”. What projects needs to become “active”. What can I delete or defer? At least this gives me a sense of control over my life. I know what’s going on with the different projects. I know what I don’t need to do (someday/maybe projects that are set to “on hold”. I know what I need to focus on (currently active OmniFocus projects that have become my Big Rocks). As long as I’m aware of what needs to be done, I feel much better. It’s that fear of not knowing what the hell is going is what stresses me out.

Glad you’re able to break away and disconnect for a little while.It’s nice to be able to separate from the crazy work life and regain perspective.

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@justindirose I just wanted to say I think these are extremely cool and would love to see them in a newsletter or blog that I can subscribe to! Makes me want to do the same thing! Keep it up!


Thanks man! That’s been an idea I’ve had for a while, and I may now have the direction I needed to make it happen. I’ll keep you posted!

Week 11


Interestingly, my approach to this goal has morphed. Instead of doing this fancy hybrid approach of scanning my entries to Evernote (mainly because I’m considering leaving it :shocked:), I’m going back to trusty paper journaling. It feels better.

I’m not abandoning digital journaling completely, though. I’m still using Day One, but for some very specific purposes.

  1. Moment Journaling - if there are photos or particular other moments I want to remember, they get noted here.
  2. Dream Journaling - I journal my dreams, and have tended to find a level of meaning in my dreams. Having an easily searchable place is really helpful.


My movement goal has really changed to a “health” goal. Instead of just focusing on movement, I’ve been focusing on a few things:

  • Ergonomics - with my recent bout of wrist pain, I’ve been trying to keep my desk setup as ergonomic as possible.
  • Posture & Stretching - I have a break app on my Mac that forces me to take microbreaks every 15 minutes and 10 minute breaks every hour. I use this as a marker to stretch and reset my posture.
  • Standing - my chiropractor recommended to me to stand instead of sit. I already have a sit/stand desk, so I just leave it raised.
  • Diet - Before being a dad, I was good about keeping a balanced diet. Afterward, not so much. I’ve been resetting this week, and I feel a lot better for it.


In my time of focusing on relaxation and fun, I’ve been realizing I am often unrealistic with my expectations on myself. I suppose since relaxation and fun was one of my lowest Wheel of Life areas, that would be apparent, huh? I have tended to fill my day purposelessly. Every nook and cranny of time spent checking email, Facebook, or my favorite news sites. In reality, I’ve been directionless.

Focusing on relaxing has forced me to think about where I can incorporate more margin in my schedule. Instead of checking Facebook, I’m now grabbing my leisure book for a few minutes. Or I’m entering moments into Day One. Or jotting down a few thoughts about my day. These tasks are more life-giving to me than social media or overworking myself ever have been.

This is largely why I’m not being so hardcore about journaling. Day One’s Activity Log feature helps me go back and note the moments I want to keep record of. My paper journal serves more as a place to process life.


Now we’re talking. :thumbsup:

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Week 12

Last week was a pretty good week up until Thursday/Friday. Work blew up and I got so far behind. And that carried into this week.

Week 13

This week was insanely draining and difficult. I am on-call at work, so that means any after hours calls needing attention come to me. It’s also review time for my reports, so my schedule has been wall to wall with meetings, and customer issues.

That being said, I’ve been struggling with having too much on my plate. I’m working to pare down my active projects to just a few. It’s hard, though, because even with my active projects, I can’t get any work done due to the constant barrage of interruptions lately. It’s flat out near impossible to get any focused work done. I’m trying to set aside some time to focus, but it’s been challenging considering the requirements of my job.

Also, I’ve been finding myself emotionally overwhelmed at times. Reading the article @joebuhlig just posted about GTD was fantastic, as I never thought of my emotions or situations (anything causing me stress) as something to capture. I’m going to start doing this.

Anyway, I have to run. Big storms on the way and have to pick up my son. I’ll update more later if I’m able.


I’ve had the same feelings. ive had to force myself to do a quick omnifocus review when I feel I have too much on my plate. There’s something call “Life” that gets in the way of all my Big Rock pet projects. I’ll get nothing done because Life and its distractions leaves me little precious time for my pet projects.

Whenever I get a sense of overwhelm, I review all of my currently active projects and set most of them to on hold status or change the defer date to a future date to let them automatically resume later. Then I add a note to the project indicating current status, feelings or hunches, and what I should be thinking about doing when I resume my pet projects later. When I return to my pet projects, I’ll have a better chance to resume where I left off. Otherwise it takes me a while just to remember what I did last and what I needed to do next.

If have the courage and strength, I might look at my On Hold projects but that’s rare. Just checking my currently active projects is enough.

I also have to look at my Single Actions Lists (SAL) to see if I can defer some single actions to a later date. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I don’t. The SALs include House Single Actions, Office Single Actions, etc. these are the one off actions that are a constant part of Life.

The Review is what I do when I feel like my life is slowly spiralling out of control (or when a big storm is heading my way). GOod luck and safe travels during the storm…

Week 14

I think it’s been neat to write these “journals” for the last 14 weeks off and on. I’ve been finding a lot of clarity and solace in the discussion but also the mere process of writing out my thoughts and intentions.

Update on my goals:

  • Journaling – I don’t do this as much right now. Time and energy seem to flux and flow. However, I learned what I was doing previously was more of a routine brain dump versus journaling. I mean, in reality, they’re the same, but purposefully they’re different. I need to do a brain dump for my own emotional health. I want to journal for memory’s sake.
  • Health – I’ve been doing very well with this, actually. I’ve been going for a walk 2-3 times per week, seeing a chiropractor to work on my neck and back to alleviate strain, invested in a fancy new keyboard, and have focused on eating a better diet. I feel better all around.
  • Relaxation – Hehe, ehhh. Relaxation for me has needed to come in tiny respite moments in the chaos of life right now. That hasn’t quite been enough.

Since I have a little more time today, I wanted to discuss a few other topics.

Productivity, Kids, and Home

I have been struggling in this area a ton. I’ve been keeping just barely above water at work. Between my wife and I, we’ve hardly been able to keep up on normal routine tasks at home. How in the world do you keep up on dishes, laundry, and normal household stuff (let alone the big projects) when you’re chasing little ones around the house all the time?

The struggle here is we end up on a reactive streak, get caught up, stay proactive for a few days, get exhausted or have something happen, then everything piles up like crazy. Routine in these areas has been hard, so has been able to justify taking time to work on them. My #1 goal this weekend is to get caught up as much as I can while my wife is at work.

Do any of you have thoughts on this?

Additionally, I feel like I’m leveraging my system better and better every day for work. I think it’s because I live in it there. Same for any side projects I work on. But for home stuff? In a way, it’s like my system doesn’t exist because I don’t live in it when I’m at home.

I know David Allen looks at his lists once then goes about his day. However, I usually have so much stuff going on in my head that need to see it to stay focused. Has anyone struggled with this? Any thoughts?

Assertiveness and Confidence

I recently received some feedback in the business world that I need to work on being more assertive. I’ve made leaps and bounds of progress in this area in my life, but I know it still needs more work. I’ve heard recommendations from authors like Brene Brown, which I’m looking into. Does anyone else have any other book recommendations in this area?

I’ve started doing this. I realize I need to be a bit more focused in my choice of work at a given time. I think I’ve still been so reactive that this type of planning hasn’t come naturally. There are tons of tasks that never make it into OmniFocus because they come in like a firehose and I try to deal with them right away since they need to be. In that regard, it can be hard to evaluate what stays and doesn’t because I don’t always have a full picture of my plate.

The Day One folks have started some kind of contest that asks Day One users how they journal. It might be something to get your spark lit up like a trash can fire if not a dumpster fire!

This was the first one I saw…

But there are others who submitted their journaling ways here:

Week 15

Goals update:

  1. Journaling - Again, not doing too much here due to time constraints. However, I have been doing a brain dump when needed by writing my thoughts out on a notecard or something. Sometimes I need to process into tasks, other time I don’t. Having this kind of mental outlet has been helping me keep my emotions under control. Kind of. :slight_smile:
  2. Health - This week I’ve fallen off the wagon. It’s been a crazy week, light on sleep, and busy beyond belief. Exercise and stretching has been limited. Motivation has been difficult, too.
  3. Relaxation - Dumpster fire. I’ve been going every waking hour every day except today. I finally have time to emotionally catch up from the craziness. Maybe I can enjoy my weekend now!

I had some extra time to do my weekly review, so I went through and re-did some of my OmniFocus structure, thanks to @wilsonng’s awesome posts. I really like your ideas.

What I have now is simpler for folder structure:

  • Routines (Reviews right now)
  • Self
  • Relationships
  • Work
  • Home
  • Side Projects
  • Neutralize (routine tasks)
  • Single Actions (one-off tasks)
  • Someday/Maybe

My main takeaway: separate projects from single actions or routines.

I’m also using my Someday/Maybe lists more now, too. Instead of throwing a new project in an area of responsibility, I throw it in S/M unless it’s urgent. This takes off the cognitive load which has been a problem lately.

I’m still struggling with overwhelm. As I mentioned above, I have been busy with no time to think hardly from literally the time I get up to the time I lay my head down. Maybe it’s a matter of perspective for me. I do tend to deal with overwhelm and decision fatigue more when I’m tired (which obviously makes sense). However, in those modes, motivating myself to do anything except react to incoming input can be, erm, difficult.

I’m basically stuck, and am running out of strategies to try to combat this. I don’t prioritize, rest, or function much at all when I get stuck in this. The only reset button I’ve found so far has been 4 hours away from all stimuli (which is near impossible to get for me) or a few days off from work.

I’ll welcome any input!

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@justindirose What’s causing the running all the time? What are your priorities? How are you recovering? You cannot be at your best if you don’t spend time on yourself.

I am glad you spent extra time on review. During that time, what did you cut out?