Hello future David from 2016! I’m you from 2015 and I decided that it’s nice to start logging productivity strategies we use over time and how they evolve (or revolutionise!). Unfortunately for everybody else this article will have a lot of GTD, business and productivity lingo that they would have to research on their own.
Before We Start: Axioms and Rules of Thumb
- Three is two, two is one and one is none. C.G.P. Grey talked about it on Episode 12 of Cortex podcast, the idea is: if you have one pen, if it breaks you have none. If you have two pens and one runs out of ink you have only one and risking having none. When possible have three. Three backup solutions, at least three rolls of toilet paper and so on.
- If task takes less than 2 minutes - do it now.
- If task takes longer than 90 minutes - It’s not a task it’s a small project. Split it up into tasks.
- When possible use spreadsheet instead of sketches, json files, notes, mind maps, word documents. Spreadsheets are far superior and versatile and transformable.
- Notifications on mobiles and computers should be disabled by default and whitelisted later.
Apps, Technique, Devices, and Stimulants
Pomodoro Technique and Timeboxing
I hope you still using Pomodoro Technique, it’s great, it’s great for tracking time, estimating how long similar work will take and time-boxing. I call each segment of work 25 minute work chunk and ten of them a cycle. Are you still big believer in timeboxing btw? I tend to timebox problems in 2–3 chunks and if I realise I’m no where close to finding solution I will try and “crowd source” it either with a team or StackOverflow.
Inspiration on Demand and Timeboxing
Are you any closer to realising which activity tends to boost your background thinking? You know when you trying to solve a problem whole day and fail only to have a clear idea next morning. Long walks without interruption help but they are boring and listening to music, audiobook or podcast doesn’t boost that effect. To this day sleeping, showering or cooking are the ony ways to achieve this effect.
Cleaning works too, maybe I should open a side-business, solve few problems and then clean and apartment or two and then come back and continue on! But in any case time-boxing help a lot in it.
Coffee and Tea
Still rotating between coffee and tea? Still love coffee, did you start to roast your own beans? Or maybe you switched to teas? Currently I usually drink between 2–6 espressos a day (equivalent 1–3 flat whites or 1–2 filter coffees) and then switch to green tea and mate from time to time. Though coffee is still my favourite beverage.
Mobile and Wearables
So last year David from 2014 switched to iPhone 6 for a while, but then I (or he?) went back to Android, mainly because we have this wierd believe that Google Now is somehow helpful, Moto 360 is round and Android has widgets. Now widgets are actually useful, let me show you my home screen:
- It has Wunderlist widget with tasks for today visible without opening app or checking notifications.
- It has IFTTT widgets to log time against my current projects.
- It has widget Drive scan shortcut, it takes a photo and sends it to “Inbox” folder in my Google Drive.
- Google Keep widget to memo in free text, list, voice or photo format.
How about yours? Btw is there round Apple Watch? Widgets on iOS? 6.5 inch iPhone? My 6 inch Nexus is not enough for me!
iPad and Laptop
Did you buy yourself iPad Pro? Is it cool? It looks rad. I really like my iPad Air2, it’s my dedicated productivity device. I bring it with me, to write, journal, email and it’s used to be my main OmniFocus client, but I use my laptop to organise tasks more lately, maybe because I have 2.5 jobs at the moment and spend a lot of time in front of laptop.
Is it still amazing? Is better? Can it respond to your email for you? I’m using it a lot, it filters all my spam, and puts all non-urgent email in corresponding folders only notifying me when something important arrives. Well not always, but in 8 our of 10 occurrences, which is pretty good.
Remainder of the tools are superfluous, and don’t really matter, so let’s continue on to processing.
In Getting Things Done term “Inbox” means place where one puts all their incoming tasks, reference and information or items of any kind, it has to be then processed into project.
Did you find a single app to accumulate all the actionable and non-actionable information? I’m in transition at the moment, I used to use Evernote for my reference but currently I’m migrating to Google Drive, mainly because A) I like it search better, B) I will be using it anyways, so eliminating extra app is helpful.
I’m still using Evernote though, but mainly as my Inbox, it still has best plugins to grab entire pages and unlike Instapaper or Pocket it allows to edit them before processing them further. [IFTT Do Note] is very helpful for loggin time on diffrent projects, four widgets add a line with a date-time and a note about to specific spreadsheets. I’m actually worse at the moment than usually at weekly processing, I have quite a lot of things stuck in my inbox but they can wait, or maybe you are cursing over there in 2016, and screaming at me because they were urgent? Hehe.
Getting Things Done
I’ve added a lot of small customisations into classical Getting Things Done strategy outlined by David Allen, mostly I added some new terms to distinguish between different types of actionable items.
Did you find a better name? I used to call them repeating tasks, routines and now rituals but none of the term meet. This is semi-actionable items, in fact they are “Make sure that” tasks. Let’s take brewing coffee as a project, every morning I like to have freshly brewed coffee in V60, in order for that to happen I need to have coffee beans, grind coffee beans and have filters, the tasks will look like this:
- Bought coffee.
- Grinded coffee beans.
- Bought V60 filters.
I don’t have to buy coffee every day, but I need to make sure that I have fresh coffee every four-seven days, so first task can sound like: “Made sure that still has coffee and it’s fresh”, second task is trivial if I’m at home, I can use my electric grinder in the morning but when I’m traveling I either have already ground coffee, or hand grind them previous evening, depending on situation. I will tick all of those items as I go down the list every evening to make sure that I’m ready for next day, my bags packed, clothes selected, everything ready for breakfast.
In GTD everything is a project, every task is a project with only one task in it, and that’s was an eye opening concept for me, I used to think that Projects are finite, and until I’m sure about something it’s just a jumble of tasks. This days everything somehow related gets into projects. That said, it’s still useful for me to outline Products. Product is a tangible result of series of tasks and projects.
Things that I do occasionally or constantly such as writing (journaling or blogging), reading (books, tutorials) go into activities. Writing activity will have projects for each article I’m working on for example this very article!
David Allen talked a lot about contexts but I find them less and less useful in our age of mobile technology. There used to be a time when I could all the work only in front of my computer, but lately I can do more and more things on my phone. I still need laptop to program and to draw, but I don’t need computer to type a draft any more. So instead of #work context I have multiple device oriented contexts:
- Computer: Keyboard — Any task that I can do on device with hardware keyboard. Laptop or Tablet.
- Computer: Mobile — Any task that I can do on mobile while on the move. Including writing emails while on the train on my mobile for example.
- Computer: Screen — Any tasks that I can do on a device with screen only, usually it implies reading or researching.
- Computer: Crafting — Short for Crafting Table. This is only laptop. Essentially it means I need my development or design environment. Run Sketch, Photoshop, Atom, Terminal, XCode and so on.
What about you? Can you guys write code on your mobile phones in a future? Did anyone tried designing landing page on their watch? Maybe there are no need for contexts, and we can do anything anywhere!
Well future me! I can’t wait to discover tools you find and strategies and techniques you’ll apply! Don’t forget to tell David–2017 all about them!