Stock apps, if feasible. Open formats. Plain, readable text. Then my own macros, and scripts, and workflows, and whatever I can be bothered with that day. That’s where I like to be, productivity-wise, and I find it liberating. There are different definitions of flexibility, and that’s mine.
For me, freedom is power unused.
When completion isn’t the measure anymore look at getting progressively better.
What are the strategies that bring more focus?
- Practice it it’s a muscle and can be exercised
Clear your head. Regularly clear head from ideas. Write them down, outline how to take them forward. Practice GTD or similar method.
Find locations with little or no interruptions. Banish notifications
Stop being reactive. Take control over when you check messages, when you look at updates or respond to people.
Get proper sleep 7-8 hours. It has bigger impact than any amount of work or effort you could put in.
Read more over How to focus
Last night I got to watch Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Arianna Huffington. One of the topics touched on the amount of time spend working.
One particular sentence by Arianna Huffington that stood out for me was:
people are paid for their judgement not for their stamina
This is quite profound especially if you think how much infromation is produced every minute, how many workplaces are lost due to automation. This process isn’t slowing down, quite the opposite. One can’t keep up with a machine that can perform the same set of tasks over and over again without any need for break, sleep or else.
It’s clear we can’t produce more purely by spending more hours working. In fact it’s the reverse the more you work the lower your output. There are countless examples of that.
This brings us to judgement this is how one provides value to company. By taking time to think, work on insights, use creativity to suggest new solutions or improvements.
See full episode for some more insights Oprah & Arianna Huffington on Her Big Wake-Up Call.
My all time favorite task and list managemet tool Remember the Milk has been significantly updated.
I was part of the testing programe and used all the new features for quite a while.
If you haven’t checked this tool in a while it’s definitely worth a look now. It’s modern, fast and infinately flexible.
More details on Remember The Milk – What’s New.
An excellent reading and learning centered arond Kindle
- read a book
- highlight sections, sentences as you go
- extract highlights to your notetaking app of choice
- review highlights, add any additional thoughts and comments
- use those in your writing and learning
I picked it up from The Knowledge Project podcast- Shane Parish – Interview with Sanjay Bakshi
The basic idea is to design a way to get rapid feedback while working on bigger projects. The faster we get feedback that we are moving in the right direction, the more likely we are to continue moving that way. Work for the long-term. Measure your progress for the short-term.
Most suffering in life comes from Things that are unimportant but distract you from what is important
Picked this up from Scott Berkun’s The Three piles of life.
Excellent list of essential items and skills from Nicholas
This is one of the best recent post explaining why GTD works and how to make it work.
In essence the system is solid it’s the implementation that’s causes the issues.
The idea of commonplace notebook, a place where you record important quotes, ideas, books read, plans etc. has caught my attention. This notebook isn’t a journal or a log it’s more of a reference place where you can check things, find inspiration, ponder about life’s purpose and so on.
A good starting point and introduction to commonplace notebook ideas is blow linked blog post:
For the moment I haven’t really settled on a specific workflow to capture things into my commonplace notebook. I’m using plain text files to store them at this moment but I’ve read a lot of compelling arguments in favour of paper for this purpose. It definitely looks more appealing.
This may sound totally wrong but it actually works.
The number of new responsibilities and task brought in by a newborn can be head spinning but it forces you to pick and chose. There is no scope for pulling 20 different things.
Welcoming first a child into a family is really a special event, one that is surrounded with lots of worry, some fear, excitement and overpowering joy.
At the same time there are the practicalities of looking after your wife, newborn, pets and the household in general . All require care, attention and time. Nappies need to changed, hugs and support given, plants watered, dishes cleaned, pets fed etc. It’s a big stress, with lots of balls to be juggled.
Despite being short on sleep, I like this type of busyness, you’re focused on providing tangible service (comfort) to people you most care about and get almost instant feedback whether you’re doing it good.
Speaking of focus, it narrows to almost unbelievable level. All I’m focused on is the baby and the needs of my family. It’s a bit strange to do just that one thing (with hundreds of moving parts) and be constantly occupied by it.
From time to time I get the flashbacks of what it was before, what I was able to do, see, spend time on. To be honest it can be a bit frustrating but it goes away quite quickly as it makes me realise how scattered my focus was before.
All in all, I think that’s good, the arrival of my first baby will result in some very significant changes and they will be for the better. The required attention and effort that needs to be provided leaves me with very little free time which in turn forces me to think what is important in the given moment. Is it running, writing for this site, reading blogs etc? Frankly all that was set a side.
Deep down I know I can do all of that, although I have to accept I can only do one thing at a time (maybe be two if I’m lucky and stick with GTD).
To finish this post I would like to point you to very good episode of Weekly Briefly Podcast -Platform Juxtaposition, where Shawn Blanc talks about focus, platforms, creativity and inspiration. It was a great companion to a number of chores that I did this morning.
I had a couple of posts drafted with a number of points explaining why I no longer use Remember The Milk but they are now defunct as I’m back using it.
Why the initial switch? I think, I looked to move to some other application simply because I let the tasks and projects became stale in RTM. I wasn’t doing any pruning and things got out of hand, at the time when I really needed something to rely on. Plus at that time Wunderlist (which I used) made some big announcements about improved looks, better sync and new features.
Moving to new applications was a fairly effective step, as it allowed me to start with a clean slate and focus on the 2-3 major projects that I had going on.
When things calmed down a bit, I started to see the shortcomings of Wunderlist. I had some sync issues whereby items added on PC weren’t synced to the cloud or vice versa. The ability to tag and sort tasks wasn’t there either. I liked the sub-task feature but to be honest, I haven’t used it that often.
A couple other things that spurred me to move back to Remember the Milk were the reliability of the platform, smart lists and the all powerful quick add which makes adding and tagging tasks very quick and effective.
RTM didn’t really fail me in the sense that it corrupted any items or lost any of my tasks. It was more my own neglect that made me seen it in the negative light. Plus the thought that the grass is always greener when using something else.
Having gone through this switch, the main lesson for me is, that I should stick with the current setup and only adjust the system, not move away from it. If I need to focus on one or two projects again, I will be better off by creating dedicated lists in RTM and focusing on them. This way I will achieve two things:
- – keep everything in one place and
- – stick with my current setup and thus avoid losing time to move to another tool.
Extra granularity and spreading task across various applications is no longer needed.
Obviously this works for me as Remember the Milk is my personal task manager and I don’t need to collaborate with anybody. If you’re in different position look at your needs and see what are you using already then consider new options.