Justin’s 2019 Productivity Journal

Justin’s 2019 Productivity Journal
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Over the last few months I’ve really gotten out of the habit of doing a regular weekly review. Part of it is I couldn’t justify taking the dedicated time to do so with my need to get hours billed. Now that I’m not running solely off self-employed income, I have a lot more liberty to resume a weekly review.

What I enjoyed most about doing weekly reviews previously was being able to get out of the house, think about the bigger picture, and share my thoughts with you all. Thus we start another productivity journal!

May 12-18

Bullet Journal

I’m almost two months into the experiment of running my life in a Bullet Journal. As with any system, the Bullet Journal is as amazing as the work you put into it. Lately, due to pure exhaustion solely from some major things happening in my life, I haven’t been as diligent with it.

I feel like the Bullet Journal is a fairly forgiving system, though. I haven’t missed a day using it, but I definitely haven’t engaged with it much. However, I don’t feel like I’m missing any of my tasks or anything like that.

There are two things I primarily struggle with in regards to the Bullet Journal.

First, I’m having a hard time building routines with it. This might be solely related to the fact that I just started a new job and am working out my routines there, too, but nonetheless, I found using a recurring checklist in OmniFocus helped me immensely in getting going for the day. I haven’t found that sweet spot with the Bullet Journal yet.

Second, the friction of needing to have it in front of me to use it prevents me from fully using it. This 100% isn’t an issue when I’m at my desk, but these days, I’m not always at my desk. I don’t always have a notebook with me. Yes, there’s a Bullet Journal app. Yes, I can use Drafts to capture things. Capture isn’t really the problem, it’s the working list. I have a lot of things going on right now, and the working list in the Bullet Journal isn’t always sticking in my head. Granted, the system is working, but I find this friction annoying sometimes. I also find I brain dump ideas about projects into collections, but have a hard time going back to review them. That’s probably something that needs to happen during my weekly reviews. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m feeling dissatisfied in the slightest with the Bullet Journal, and now that there’s a new theme component for Discourse to turn it into a Kanban board, I’m really tempted to spin that up and give it a go. It gives me everything I want just about… but if I don’t commit to a tool for a while, there’s no point.

Wins

  1. Starting to feel comfortable in my new job.
  2. Have really tried to keep my priorities in focus this week to a bunch of success.
  3. Picked up an old past-time for relaxing: yo-yoing

Improvements

  1. Worked a little too hard this week at times, not giving myself enough breaks or rest time.
  2. Need to engage in my Bullet Journal a little bit more for it to be effective.
  3. Need to find some sort of routines and stick to them daily as much as possible for my own sanity.

Next Week

  1. Build out a startup routine to complete before beginning work.
  2. Commit to using the Bullet Journal.
  3. Be sure to take it easy this week.
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We want a Video please !!!

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Eventually… :smiley:

May 20 - 24

It really feels good to be back doing these again. I feel more… aware of where I’m at and where my life is. I wasn’t in a place of feeling overwhelmed, but more like not all the open loops were closing completely.

So far, doing a weekly review hasn’t required me to fully jump through all my lists in depth as they’re pretty simple. However, I’m sure that’ll be changing as my new job ramps up more and more.

I’m making some changes to my tooling considering some unneeded friction in managing projects.

Here’s how I’m handling it:

Routine Tasks -> OmniFocus
Working List -> Bullet Journal
Project Planning/Management -> Discourse

Let me explain my reasoning.

I’m sticking with OmniFocus for routine tasks and process checklists because it handles these so darn well. It jives with the way my brain works and it notifies me the way I want to be notified.

Frankly, the Bullet Journal has been a great way to manage the little details through my day, week, and month. It’s not the best (for me anyway) at managing the bigger picture. So all my journaling, daily tasks, and capture will continue to happen in the Bullet Journal. If something needs more planning, it will go in…

DISCOURSE!

Yeah, this is a pretty nerdy solution, but to be frank, there’s a new theme component which turns topics into a Kanban board. This is exactly what I want for managing projects. I can put all my checklists, reference materials, and everything in the same place while being able to differentiate what projects are active and not in a visual way.

I’m just setting this up today, but I’m really hopeful for this.

An additional win here – Discourse is a progressive web application. This means I can add it to the homescreen on my iPhone as its own icon. A BONUS upside here is it still works when Safari is disallowed under Screen Time controls. I haven’t had a web browser on my phone for the last 3 months or so, and my mind feels so much freer.

:ok_hand:

Wins

  1. Stuck to the system this week and felt a lot better
  2. Started some really basic morning and evening routines to help me manage being a remote worker better
  3. Put less pressure on myself this week and felt a lot better. Plus yo-yos.

Improvements

  1. Need to gain bigger picture clarity hence the need for more system layers.
  2. Continue to adjust mindset with a 100% remote company for my own work
  3. Need a plan to handle exercise when it’s not nice outside (which has been the last 6mos…)

Next Week

  1. Continue to commit to morning and evening routines every workday
  2. Get to play with new 2019 MBP :smiley:
  3. Find a rhythm using new components of my system
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It’s interesting that you bumped into some of the same issues I did when I used BuJo a few months ago–the routines and recurring tasks plus the need to have the journal physically present. I add stuff to Omnifocus by talking to my watch all the time.
There were many things I liked about BuJo, but ultimately decided to take some of its principles and apply them somewhere else.

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Yeah I’m still using it as my main task management/planning method, but other items just feel better in other locations. Jury’s out on how well splitting it up is going to work, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway!

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This is similar to my use of tools. OF is handling the bigger stuff, activities with many smaller particles, and reminders that are sometime out in the future. For my journal, I have been using the Fully Focused Journal and that has been going quite well. I really tried to be fully digital but the ability to sit down with pen/paper and go through items and sketch out flows was better on paper. I cary the pocket field guides and use when pulling out a phone may not be practical.

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I’ve been more and more of a fan of multi-tool, hybrid systems as I’ve grown in experience with productivity. My main sticking point of frustration is that this one tool can’t do something. Well, it doesn’t have to!

Technology is not the answer to everything, even though a lot of people would give that sentiment these days. I’m so thankful to have adopted paper into a practical part of my workflow. I feel a lot clearer headed and have a place where I can disconnect if I start feeling unclear.

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May 27 - 31

Wins

  1. Another monthly migration in the Bullet Journal done.
  2. Got clarity regarding my system needs and actively worked toward implementing.
  3. Got my new MBP up and running

Improvements

  1. It’s hard finding childcare for two kids! That was a major stressor last week.
  2. I totally ditched out on my morning routine. I’ve consistently had a hard time with exercising, which is my main focus for having a routine like that.
  3. I’m still learning to slow down and be okay with that. Getting closer.

Next (This) Week

  1. Refine the multi-step system I’m working on.
  2. Flesh out ideas for June Guild video module
  3. Continue misc work projects

Not going to post a writeup this week as I got behind!

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2019 W25

I’ve been a little lax the last couple of weeks, but don’t worry — it’s because life’s been full and sometimes you have to back off certain intentions for a period of time.

I made the realization today that I work best when I have three things defined:

  1. Committments
  2. Intentions
  3. Habits

Commitments are my hard landscape items — the ship breaks if I don’t follow through with these.

Intentions are the things I hope to make progress on this week and need to set aside time for.

Habits are the daily tasks that get me closer to an end result.

As part of my weekly review, I’m going to create a spread in my Bullet Journal to outline all of these things for the week ahead. It’s another experiment, but I like experiments.

Wins

  1. Got to work on some fun development projects for work
  2. Been finding using my Bullet Journal as a log (as well as a working list) has been really really helpful. I love the idea of having something paper lying around as a history of my life.
  3. Been thinking about the big picture more as time has allowed it. Time is really the key here.

Improvements

  1. Time crunch on personal life, but many things are out of my control with it. Learning to be patient.
  2. I keep fiddling with the big pieces of my system. It’s from lessons learned, but I need to learn to settle down a bit :smiley: I ditched Discourse as my project manager and am now trying to use OmniFocus combined with Bear to track my bigger projects. Daily tasks and working items are still in the Bullet Journal, but the big picture resides in OmniFocus/Bear. All non-routine projects in OF have a note in Bear now. And I think my foray into Discourse helped me realize that’s what I needed to do.
  3. Tried logging my food this week. Did not take…
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I try to make room in my task manager for both fun projects to soften the more grueling projects that I try to grind through. Mixing fun projects with the other projects makes my task manager more inviting to visit.

Were you looking at some kind of calorie counter app? Perhaps this is the time to consult with a nutritionist to guide you along the way? Going into a new habit with a clue is a daunting venture. Bringing in an expert to show us the ropes will help us develop a better sense of what needs to be done. After a certain period, we can stop the coaching/consultation and try it on our own.

2019 Week 26

A follow up to last week:

I tried out the planning method of outlining my commitments, intentions, and habits. This seemed to work pretty well. I had a better understanding of weekly outcomes I desired, and had a sense of a plan I could refer back to.

However, I’m not translating weekly outcomes to daily tasks very well. So that’s something I need to evaluate – how do you take a weekly outcome and actually make it… actionable? I think one key is scheduling. When you can incorporate something into your routine or a dedicated time to work on it, that helps a lot, but that’s a nut I’ve yet to crack.

Wins

  1. I think I found a mode of week planning that makes some kind of sense to me!
  2. My evolving use of OmniFocus seems to also make sense!
  3. I might be finding a use for my iPad/Apple Pencil for brainstorming and mindsweeping

Improvements

  1. There are a number of areas of stress in my life I do not know how to resolve right now. They are going to require a lot of thought over the next couple of weeks.
  2. I’d love to find a way to incorporate more movement into my life.
  3. Try to work a little less reactively (which is difficult for the type of work I do right now)

Yeah this is more fun stuff that’s been assigned to me :slight_smile: I have side projects I get to work on like the Guild :smiley:

Nah – I was simply trying to log what I ate for a few days to notice any patterns, but it was too laborious to do it. Didn’t really find it worth it… I am not a very big quantified self type of person.

I’m considering taking up juggling, as I’ve heard it can do wonders for your brain power… Wonder if its just the hand/eye co-ordination that’s the key to this, in which case yo-yoing would work too!

Juggling and yoyoing are very similar in nature! I just don’t like dropping things so much :smiley:

number three is the best! In the eternal fight of control vs chaos (super agent 86 comes to mind :stuck_out_tongue:) , chaos, or entropy if you like thermodynamics, is the natural trend of life. So… fight it… but take it easy!

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2019 Week 27

Coming at this one a day earlier than usual because I’m not working tomorrow :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Input creep is a real thing.

After reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, I really went for it and made my smartphone as dumb as possible. No email, no feeds, no Safari even.

But when I started my new job, I realized I often could catch up on things while doing other stuff around the house, like making breakfast or coffee in the morning. What I didn’t realize is this dramatically increased my “purposeless input meter” to overload and caused me to feel like I was working all the time.

Like I said, input creep is a real thing. When you start down the slippery slope, it’s easy to just keep going and going and going. But you have to stop yourself at some point. Just put a stake in the ground and say nope, no further. So I did. Back to nothing of interest, but only utility, on my phone.

This makes things inconvenient sometimes, like not being able to look up or research something on the fly, but I’m learning to be okay with that.

Wins

  1. Hybrid system seems to be working really well with some massaging and clarifying. I still love my Bullet Journal for logging things and planning the day, but I don’t find it does well at managing things.
  2. Making a lot of progress on some fun projects for the Guild. News to come!
  3. Paper always helps me clear my head. Always.

Improvements

  1. I really had to pull back on inputs this week to feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  2. I also am finding I need some more structure to my day and week, otherwise I reduce to reactive mode.
  3. I had a morning of just absolute crazy yesterday, and that took everything out of me for the rest of the day. Would like to get better at taking time to recuperate from those kinds of things.

2019 Week 28

A little late on last week (it’s been a crapshoot of a week, let me tell you what!), but here it is!

Wins

  1. Despite the emotional craziness of the last week personally, I’ve done my best to stay on point.
  2. Clarity always begets action, and I’m learning how to do this better.
  3. Circumstances do not dictate outcomes. I’m really grateful for this.

Improvements

  1. I’m trying to figure out where to plan and put stuff again. Things are growing and shifting too quickly right now to effectively manage them in a Bullet Journal. I’m doing more in OmniFocus, and as a result I haven’t opened my notebook until 4pm for the last two days. I don’t like that, but I’m not sure where to handle it.
  2. I may explore Notion as a solution to some project reference materials and monthly/weekly planning. Digital is just so much easier to handle moving targets! :smiley: But I’m not sure yet on this either.
  3. I need some kind of a routine. I’m plugging in at all hours of the day again (because of multiple reasons), but it’s draining me more than fulfilling me. I’m logging my efforts in the Journals category under the new Pro membership.

2019 Week 30

Going through the process of moving is exhausting! Packing up. Managing chaos inside chaos. It’s all just :peanuts: nuts!

But a few things have improved this week. I think my experiments going paper only have given me some key insights to my workflows.

OmniFocus

I FINALLY GET TAGS.

To explain, I fully understood the purpose of these things, but I never quite got them into a usable state in my workflow. I’m still developing what I’m using these for, but aside from my “hot” task lists, I’m using the tag perspective to do work based upon the type it is, whether it requires focus, low energy, a trip to town, whatever. It’s quite nice.

Project Reference

Funny enough, I ALSO FINALLY GET PROJECT REFERENCE MATERIALS!

Not every project needs it, no. For me, only the big ones usually get a project reference spot. But the thing that’s making this tick for me so far – Notion.

I never thought I’d jump on the Notion bandwagon, but I’m finding this a powerful tool to handle planning and project reference materials.

Here are some shots of my project planning page:

It’s the perfect combination of digital and paper for my needs. While I’m not a fan of everything apps at all, and many people try to use Notion as such, I do think Notion has some very strong points going toward it here.

The experiment will continue.

Wins

  1. Notion :hugs:
  2. I feel like I’m winning with OmniFocus. I’m a lot more careful with adding stuff to it than prior.
  3. I’ve been able to crank out some focus work this week despite feeling highly stressed and overwhelmed.

Improvements

  1. My mindset could improve with handling stress.
  2. I’m finding I have enough margin in some areas of life, but definitely not in others. This is going to be a major focus after I finish moving through the end of the year.
  3. Need to be more diligent with what I am and am not doing in a given period as to create enough space.
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Yay! Welcome to the club! I do curate my tags once a month to keep it manageable. You might have some tags that are relevant during your moving period will need those in OmniFocus now. When you’re finally settled in, it might be a good time to archive, drop, or delete those tags since you won’t need them anymore.

Most of my tasks will have a primary tag. It’s usually a location (Home, Office, Hardware Store) or tool (Mac). I add extra secondary only if it requires a person (I need to bring my MacBook and sit down with Lucy to look over our August budget spreadsheet). I don’t recall if I ever had the need to add multiple tags because I discarded energy tags for now.

Oooh… This might be something worth exploring. The hard part (to me) is that it seems to do everything but I’m still not sure where it fits in my life yet. But it’s good to hear that you’ve been using it for project planning.

It’s all about just scheduling time for it and sticking to that schedule. Even 15 minutes a day or every other day just to make progress will do wonders.

2019 Week 32

Things have been a little… busy… around here the last few weeks, so I haven’t gotten a technical review in.

Overall, things are going pretty well with my systems. I’ll be working on some new routines over the next few weeks, as moving into a new house will leave room to build them! Been thinking a lot about them, actually, so I’m hoping it’ll work out.

Bullet Journal

I’m no longer doing much task management in the Bullet Journal, but more so intention management. I’m planning my days in in my daily logs, and also using the dailies as a review time to note down anything I want to remember. It’s been nice to have a structured approach to journaling now that actually melds with the way I operate.

OmniFocus

I’ve embraced my favorite software tool again, and it’s been really helpful. I have a new philosophy toward using it, which is only keep what I’m actively committed to doing in it. I can so much more easily kill off cruft doing this. Big picture stuff doesn’t land here.

Bear

My use of Bear has dropped off recently just because most of my note-taking is happening inside Discourse for work and I don’t have much personally. I still use it to keep stuff digitally that I don’t want to lose in a journal somewhere.

Notion

Since I haven’t had much time to sit in reviews and such the last couple of weeks, I haven’t used Notion as much as I’d like, but I’m still very satisfied with its ability to help me manage the information of projects. The free-form way it works makes adding all sorts of different information extremely easy.

Things I’m Considering

  • Habit Tracking – I am going to give Streaks a go again for reminding me to do my morning routine habits. The struggle I have with habit tracking is turning the habits into a religious routine instead of integrating them into my life.
  • Time Tracking – I’m wondering if tracking time on 30 minute intervals is a good idea for me (and not every 30 minutes, but fill in what I was doing 2-3 times a day for each 30 minute block, like Laura Vanderkam does). Still considering this one though.