A Productivity Journal

Thanks. I post on here to get feedback to see what I can do to improve my own personal workflow. If I can help, I’ll try.

Yeah, there will be times when I need to focus on single actions/routines (maintenance) from my special projects. That’s why I worked on my own @Admin perspective. @joebuhlig uses his neutralize perspective to similar effect.

I am also doing something similar. After working on the admin work post, I will be working on writing up my Big Rocks perspective. It sounds similar to your workflow with a couple of twists. I should have something written up by next week barring any dumpster fires that might be hitting me. I have out-of-state guests and might get occupied with tour guide duties.

It’s the perfect time to do that massive review and reset. Put almost every project on hold. Then run away for a day (or at least a half-day) to go through OmniFocus and delete projects, delegate other projects, and defer/pause projects.

My journaling habits have also changed over the years. Previously, it was just a place to dump and vent and show gratitude. But it’s easily forgotten because I don’t go back and review myself.

Nowadays, I’m tackling my journal a little more actively. At the end of the month, I skim through the past month’s worth of journals. I get a general theme or mood of what I felt for the month. Then I write down all the friction points that have caused me irritation or pain. Then I try to create a project or tasks that will help reduce the pain factor. That leaking faucet is a minor annoyance but it sure would be nice to just take care of it. I might find an issue where I’ve been at odds with a co-worker for the past few weeks. I might have to investigate if it’s my approach to that person; get a personality profile so that I know how to approach a person; ask co-workers how they deal with this person; or any number of other options to solve a dilemma.

My journal allows me to reflect on all of the friction points and devise new projects or tasks to make it a little easier to cope with a situation that repeats itself. Be sure to review it. Some folks do it on a weekly basis. I’ve found that a monthly review is good enough for me to see emerging patterns. If I’m have a s***ty month, I will see it reflected in my journal entries. Then I know it’s something I have to work on.

@justindirose - Thanks for your weekly updates! It provides us a chance to see ourselves in you and what we can do to improve ourselves.

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Don’t let time be the scape goat here. It only needs to take 2 minutes and write two sentences on how you felt about the work you did that day. That piece by itself can take you a long way.

The thing that makes Neutralize work is making it a priority. If it becomes something I do “when I have time” then it never happens. But if I know it’s next after my main tasks for the day are done, then it gets cleared every day. That said, I’ve been putting too much on my plate lately and haven’t cleared it in 4 or 5 days. Thanks for the kick in the butt. :wink:

About a week ago, I told Wonder Woman I felt overwhelmed and was struggling to keep my mind off of work when with the girls. She knows me really well and asked if I needed some time to do a brain dump. So I took 30 minutes and wrote down everything that came to mind. I didn’t worry about putting it where it belongs. I just wanted it out of my thoughts. It didn’t solve everything but it put my on the right path and helped me stop.

+1 to this. :+1:


Yes, maintenance tasks don’t go away automatically. I always reserve at least 30 minutes to an hour every day to doing all the boring maintenance tasks. These are like my frogs to. I try to do them early in the day and get them out of the way. I try to avoid appointments or meetings early in the day. If I have I come to the office earlier and get them done as quickly as possible. It’s amazing how much focus I get when I’m rushing to beat the morning rush hour when customers start coming in. The Neutralize perspective (or @admin perspective as it’s called in my workflow) is an automatic part of my day. Knock a few tasks off every day until I’m caught up and maybe try to get ahead of myself by working on any future repeating tasks.

Sometimes I’ll write a couple of sentences. Sometimes I write a whole page and then some. Length doesn’t matter. I accumulate a lot of one or two sentence over the course of the day. That gives me more stories to expand on later.

For journaling, reviewing, and maintenance tasks, time must be carved out of your workday. I’ve found that most important. Good luck!

Week 16


  1. Journaling - I’ve implemented a 2 minute journaling task during my Shutdown Routine. It’s a quick braindump of whatever is on my mind about the successes or struggles from the day. It’s helped me keep going. So thanks for that, @joebuhlig. I’m considering implementing the daily tasks AppleScript to dump my completed tasks in this note, too.
  2. Health - My Ergodox shipped, so that’s cool. I’ve been in a bit of an emotional slump this week, so my exercise has been limited.
  3. Relaxation - I finally have had a slower week, which has allowed me more time to relax. My lunch breaks have been spent reading The Lord of the Rings. I’m also finding having 60-90 minutes to myself for reading and doing stuff early in the morning really helps my stress level throughout the day.

My new OmniFocus structure and process has been serving me well. I enjoy working off the row of perspectives for my reviews (thanks @wilsonng!), and I’m actually remembering to do things like water the plants.

That being said, I sometimes find myself aimless and having difficulty to choose what to do next. It seems to be one extreme or the other - so busy I can’t think or prioritize anything, or slow enough to think but unable to make a decision.

There are a number of things. The main one is my wife and I are expecting our 2nd child, and she’s in the not feeling so great stage. As a result, a lot of house chores and taking care of our son fall on me before and after work, when she feels the worst. Work was busy the last few weeks. I overbooked myself with employee reviews and one-on-ones. Reviews are now done, and I moved my one-on-ones from weekly to biweekly. That should gain me a lot more time.

I struggle with verbalizing these things. I have them, but I often find myself reacting to incoming situations vs. making choices based off my priorities. I’m slowly starting to take a second and say, “Does this really need action now, or can it wait?”

I would have to say taking care of my wife and son are high on the list. Being available (within reason) to my reports and customers at work is up there too. I do a good job setting boundaries to separate the two. But sometimes those are the only two things, and then wherever else I feel super far behind, that tend to take priority.

My weekly reviews have helped me recover. Especially after doing a brain dump and really trying to prune my projects.

Otherwise, this is another area I’ve struggled making time for. Additionally, there’s been a nagging sense of other things to do when I am by myself trying to relax, so that time doesn’t always end up helping me recover.

I’m cutting out a big responsibility of mine as a volunteer. That will be worked through next week and will take a sizable load off my back.

I also mostly limited my projects in areas of responsibility to what I’m actively working on, and shoved everything else in Someday/Maybe. However, I still am seeming only to make time for whatever’s urgent or behind (especially housework in this area).

I really like having these conversations. They really help me too.

Something I struggle with is the separation of Work & Home tasks. I feel I don’t have the liberty to neutralize my home tasks during my workday (even though I work from home). So generally, I have about 1-3 hours a day to actually get any outside of day job tasks done.

This one got long, which is great. And I know I got a little gritty real. But that’s how life is – gritty, challenging, and real.

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I am worried you aren’t recovering, @justindirose. I’d figure out ways you can get ten to twenty minutes a day to spend on yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.


Is this the case even though you’ve moved a bunch of projects to Someday/Maybe? My tendency is to procrastinate when there’s too many options on the list. I have to keep it pared down to be able to make a solid decision.

Week 17


  1. Journaling - 2 minute journaling about my day has been a good way to keep my focuses positive. I’m not sure it’s made me 25% happier yet :wink: but it is helping me do an end of workday reflection to ease in the transition from work to home life.
  2. Health - My Ergodox EZ came on Monday. It’s been an interesting experience using it. I’m writing up something for my blog (which I’m kinda working on relaunching), so watch for that. Actual exercise? I’ve been struggling to find a consistent time to do that.
  3. Relaxation - I finished my leisure book (all 1000 pages of LoTR). I also spent about 20 minutes the other day working on a script to import OF tasks into Day One (based off one Joe shared in the Pro section).


I’m feeling a bit better this week. Work has been slower (thankfully). I moved some appointments to a biweekly instead of weekly basis, and that seemed to help. I noticed when I have meetings right away at 8am, I have no time to ramp up. Thankfully this is rare.

Some of my personal life responsibilities have dropped, too. My wife’s starting to feel better. And the volunteer responsibility I have will be done in just about 2 weeks.

New Items

GOALS. I’m looking at goals for the remainder of the year. Here’s what I have so far. Thoughts?

  1. Build a daily exercise habit - 10-15 minute walk a day
  2. Build a daily writing habit - 10-15 minutes writing a day
  3. Build a daily prayer/meditation habit - 10-15 minutes per day

This was inspired by a James Clear article talking about building habits instead of focusing on goals. I figured I’d mix the two. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

SYSTEM. I’ve been considering the effectiveness of what I’m doing. In reality, it would be nice to see one big list of projects ordered by priority, a backburner list, and tactically plan out my 6 most important actions for the next day each day. Sometimes I wonder if the system I used, with all its contexts, filters, and features, is slowing me down and preventing me from simply getting work done. I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking of experimenting with something like this.

Have any of you done anything like this? What’s been your experience?

I’m not thinking of straying too far from GTD, except ditching contexts, and maybe rethinking my structure inside OmniFocus.

Thanks @shouit. I’m really trying to take this into consideration as I think about my day. I have noticed the days I get time to myself in the morning before my son and wife wake up are good days. What throws me off are the variable times I wake up and my son wakes up. I’ve always struggled with this – if I can’t consistently do it at a certain time (for habits anyway) I generally have trouble doing it.

It depends on the day. One thing I also think I struggle with that empowers procrastination is not clearly defining for myself what next actions and goals are. I’m usually just moving in a direction, no matter how undefined that direction is. Especially with my goals, I tend to be very scattershot, lose interest, or fail to really continue pursuing. It all adds up into this big ball of procrastination.

It’s rough times like these that systems and routines can help us get through the rough patches. It gives a sense of routine and normalcy. It’s the chaos and interruptions that drive us bat-s##t crazy.

I’ve been there with the pregnant wife and picking up the slack during the 9 months plus the 6 months (or has she just been milking me for as long as possible?). :open_mouth: Thankfully, I knew it was just a temporary phase of my life. I just had to grind and sweat it out until life returned to some resemblance of normalcy. I think it’s just having the grit to just grind through the tough times that toughens my skin. At least I proved myself that I can take s**t as well a give it.

good to hear you’re slowly getting back that sense of normalcy once again. It feels refreshing when you’ve reduced your responsibilities and are able to re-align your projects to your personal goals instead of other people’s goals. It’s tough trying to draw a fine balance between our own personal goals and the goals of others.

I’ve been trying to do this myself. One idea I used was to document my workflow. Create an RTF document and write out your system workflow. I did this for OmniFocus 1 and it was part of the original Asian Efficiency OmniFocus Premium Posts. When OmniFocus 2 came out, I documented the changes I’ve made after playing with it for three months. It was submitted for the updated Asian Efficiency OmniFocus Premium Posts product.

The version I am documenting in the Guild has certainly evolved over time to adjust myself to new challenges that I encountered. The current workflow that I am attempting to document and post up in the Guild covers the Admin vs Big Rock project dilemma. I tried to do this with the previous workflow but the experiment gave me mixed results. The current workflow seems to handle it a bit better but the jury is still out. I will be posting the followup post (the Big Rocks) to the Guild very soon. I’m doing this so that I can test out some workflow ideas and see if someone else can help tweak it. I love picking other people’s brains to see how they work and discover ways for me to incorporate new ideas into my personal workflow.

I think it’s beneficial to document your workflow and then watch it evolve over the years. My Asian Efficiency OmniFocus Premium Posts article from 2015 is very different from what I have now. I found small bits of 30 minute time blocks every night (or every other night) to documenting this. Maybe you can find a 30 minute block to slowly gather up your ideas and post it up on the Guild?

I’ve recently been working through some procrastination issues myself. Reading Think and Grow Rich lately has me thinking of the opposite of procrastination: decision.


The idea is this: whenever I’m procrastinating, I need to stop and make a decision. Or I need to set my day up such that I don’t have time to stop and decide (or in this case, not decide). I need to keep going or I put everything off altogether. So if I do the hard work of making all the decisions up front and ahead of time, I shouldn’t have time to procrastinate.

I hope that makes sense. It’s what is helping me lately.


This led me down a direct thought process. Failure to decide is the #1 reason I struggle with procrastination. A major reason I struggle with decisions is because I don’t want to make the wrong one. I don’t want to make the wrong one because I’m afraid of failing. As a coping mechanism, I resort to letting other people decide for me.

This thought process is probably dictating the core of my struggles with productivity and feeling stressed out. Instead of setting my own priorities, I let other people set them for me. :flushed:


Week 18

Fun fact - I moved the writing of this post from a throwaway Byword doc to Ulysses. I think I may buy in.


  1. Journaling - Unless my workday gets hijacked after 4pm and I can’t do my shutdown routine, I’ve been journaling like this every workday. It has been very helpful. Now I need to implement a review. Though it’s important, all the reviews and maintenance I have a hard time justifying. It feels like so much time invested in upkeep.
  2. Health - I’ve implemented a 5-10 minute prayer time before my workday starts as well. This has helped me stay focused and less stressed throughout the day. It differs from meditation because I’m choosing to fill my mind with hopeful, peaceful thoughts and feelings vs. emptying my mind of everything.
  3. Relaxation - I’ve been trying to get up early before my son wakes up. In that time, I’m spending time reading. To be honest, this starts the day for me in such a relaxing way. I don’t do well getting up, being busy right away, and heading out the door for work. Other forms of relaxation have been limited, but not as necessary if I’m doing this most days.



  1. Build a daily exercise habit - 10-15 minute walk a day
  2. Build a daily writing habit - 10-15 minutes writing a day
  3. Build a daily prayer/meditation habit - 10-15 minutes per day

I want to focus on getting some feedback on these this week. Any thoughts? Are these too broad? Am I missing anything? I’m a noob at setting goals like this.


I’ve really been thinking about my system this week.

I like the Kanban model for project planning. It’s so visual. However, it doesn’t tactically work very well in OmniFocus. Trello seems to be the de facto standard. It feels so quirky to use, though.

I also like the idea of having backlogs like Agile. Again, OF doesn’t do this super well.

I don’t like having my system spread across multiple tools. I want to avoid that as much as possible.

I think my main struggle of OF is it is not quite visual enough for me. If there were a tool that combined the detail-level of OF with the Kanban-style of Trello that also implemented defer dates in some way where I can hide stuff, I’d be such a happy camper. I don’t think there’s something out there like that right now though.

I think the other thing that has me thinking a lot about my system is I may not be able to work from home as much in the future for various reasons. I use my Mac at home and remote into my work environment. This allows me to use OF side by side. At work, I don’t have the exact luxury. I may need to revisit how I use OF in my system in order to make it effective from just an iPad or not to be in it all day.

Sadly, thinking about all this stresses me out.

If you’re doing a walk, would it make more sense to make it longer? Personally, I find that walks are great but they typically need to be about 30 minutes for me before I see the energy benefits. But that may be a factor of my super high metabolism.

How is this :arrow_down:

…different from this :arrow_down:?

What do you mean by project planning? Are you spelling out all the tasks? Deciding on the end game? What does done look like?


I’m with you here. This is the primary reason I’ve been exploring the idea of a paper-based system. It makes it easier to physically see the things that need done. Currently, I’m adopting the @wilsonng way of writing out the tasks for the day in my hPDA. That seems to make a big difference.

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I would love to see OmniFocus break out from the outline mode and incorporate different views. The forecast perspective is a good start. I just saw firetask pro and pagico. Looks really nice. Things 3 had some nice touches but structurally not good enough for my needs.



For now, i’m comfortable in OF2 but would be curious to see kanban elements incorporated.

It doesn’t feel so much like upkeep when I can enjoy the process. My journaling tends to be freeform stream of thought. Then I have to look back at the fragments and form something out of it.

Isn’t that what it’s like to compose music or write a blog? You have snippets of guitar riffs, drum beats, and bass licks. You take a little from here and a little from there to eventually make a song.

Right now, I’m playing around with Ulysses and trying to prepare the third part of my OmniFocus post for the Guild. I’ve always had snippets that I’ve saved in my journal about my OmniFocus workflow. But I’m plucking ideas and watching it take shape. I’m sure you have plenty of ideas hiding in your journal if you review it after getting some time and distance away from the original date of entry.

Week 19


Dumpster fires all around this week. I’m not really even going to get into it. It was another one of those weeks that got away from me.


  • Out of town for Tues/Wed
  • Didn’t sleep well Tues and haven’t felt rested since
  • Persistent feeling of being behind the 8-ball



I did some journaling last weekend and nailed down what I’d like to have my system be like. I think I’m really close to a useful system. Honestly, it turned out super close to what @wilsonng is doing. I don’t have time to get into the details of it right now, but it basically involves a bit more organization and focuses on putting projects On Hold and trying to keep only 3 Active projects in each area of responsibility.

I removed my Dashboard perspective entirely in this process. Instead, I’m trying to plan my day on paper. In a way, this has helped, but it also has caused me a little anxiety as I relied on the Dashboard to tell me all the important things. Yet the reason I gave up the Dashboard was there were too many important things.

Now, I primarily try to review four perspectives when I plan:

  1. Habits - The recurring items I complete on a regular basis (reviews, stretching, etc.)
  2. Active Projects - A high level of what projects I’m currently working on
  3. Routines - I have a big list of 20 routine projects I use to keep up on my regular duties at work. This helps me see which ones are active today.
  4. Backlog - All my On Hold projects in each of my areas of responsibility.

I do pretty well still at getting my workday tasks done (though my Shutdown Routine often gets left behind as hot actionable items love to creep up at the end of my workday). The problem I still find is being able to make time to do simple, routine household tasks alongside resting and spending time with my family (which is my #1 priority when at home).

I think I have a hard time doing this because I do value spending time with my family heavily and have a very hard time breaking away from it.

Yes, probably. My issue is getting out there and making time for it. So I figured I would try to at least start small.

It’s not :stuck_out_tongue: but I wanted to note it. However, it might be in the category of “Book Goal”. I’m revisiting it.

Project planning was maybe a bad description. More like planning what projects I’m going to focus in a given period.

I think the way you (and now I) have structure OF with On-Hold projects will quite suffice for now. None of the other tools do what I need, so I’d be making bigger sacrifices to use something different.

One item I’ve never implemented is a monthly or quarterly review. I’m thinking this would be part of that process. Again, it all comes down to me feeling like I’m cramming a ton into my life already, and much of the basic stuff is slipping through the cracks as it is.

I do realize most of my overwhelm right now is coming from being flat-out tired.

yeah, “everything” is important. What my wife thinks is important is secondary to me and visa versa. It’s been a challenge.

Having a maximum of 3 active projects helps to limit the choices. This is on top of all the maintenance/admin tasks (repeating and one-off) that are screaming for my attention. Everything is screaming at us saying “me first!” But I just choose three, roll up my sleeves, and get back to work. The rest will eventually get fed soon enough.

i don’t know if i’ve ever found a real balance. But I do see my life similar to yours. It’s a monthly thing for me. One month, I might have to focus on the fires in one area of responsibility and just put everything else in life-support mode. The trick was to remember to switch off from life-support mode and spend some time with my family too. Life will swing back and forth like a pendulum. Eventually we’ll find the pendulum swinging smoothly.

I do some initial exploration into things like Personal Kanban and mind mapping. But, yes, I agree with you. For now the way we’re structuring OF with On-Hold projects will suffice for now. I’ve been slowing down my shiny-new-toy syndrome and just keep humming along with what I have.

As long as you’re capturing it into OF, you know it’s always there and it doesn’t fall further down the crack. The tasks are waiting for you in OF. Sometimes they try to poke you. Other times, they start to raise their collective voices. But at least it’s not fully fallen through the cracks. We’ll catch up eventually (especially when we have a fire lit under our collective @$$es. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Not doing an update this week due to not feeling well.

Gotta take care of yourself, right??


Know when it is time to retreat, recharge, and come back in…

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The Framework

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.

The System

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. :scream:
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.


Yay! Agile Results was the reason why I adopted a journal style approach. Reviewing my journal at the end of the week was essential in helping me plan for next week.

That’s why I was using a hybrid of pen+paper and OmniFocus. OmniFocus held all of the things I wanted to do (projects and single actions). Then I would write down the things I wanted to do for the next day into a paper journal.

That’s what I felt. I don’t always have to spend my time in front of a screen but referring to my electronic task manager way too much was just getting me discouraged. I’ve found that the less time screen time I spent in OmniFocus (or whatever task manager), the more time I had to actually doing. I minimized screen time to processing my digital inboxes, planning my projects, and planning my day (choosing the tasks to work on for the next day). Afterwards, I hide OmniFocus from my screen and get to work. I will look at OmniFocus only if I need to review some notes about a task or project I am working on.

I tried to do the 12 week year but it felt like 3 months was just too far into the future for me to accurately predict. I preferred Agile Result’s 30 day cycle. It fits me better. Long enough to make progress in a large term goal but short enough for me the measure results. Maybe I’ll look at the 12 week year again but it’s on hold for now.

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