Not your usual Getting Things Done.
July 17, 2017 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Interested in productivity but can't relate to the dry managerialness of GTD or the saccharineness of the planner decoration world? Want advice and insight from nerdy, salty, artist types? Check out Productivity Alchemy, a podcast by sysadmin and media producer Kevin Sonney featuring his wife, author, illustrator, and Wombat Test Subject Ursula Vernon, as well as interviews with people from all walks of life who are all convinced that they are not as organised as people think they are.
posted by divabat (61 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
 
this is relevant to my interests. if your productivity plan has more than three steps, to hell with you, i needed a productivity plan because i have ADD!

(spends several days researching productivity systems in five minute bursts, fails to pick one, writes an enormous to-do list, gets overwhelmed, has to lie down)

posted by murphy slaw at 7:05 AM on July 17 [48 favorites]


I'd maintain a productivity program but I'm far too lazy to do that.
posted by hippybear at 7:11 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


1. Make a productivity plan
2. Whew! Look at all that work you've done
3. Take a break. You've earned it!
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:18 AM on July 17 [21 favorites]


1) Get Index Card
2) Write down 3 things I need to get done today
3) Get those 3 things done
4) Enjoy rest of day as gravy
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 7:38 AM on July 17 [16 favorites]


I'm making it a point to spend less time Doing productivity: figuring out systems, optimizing workflows, and all that kinda stuff, and more time being productive: actually checking shit off my lists.

I don't get a lot of stuff checked off, but I still feel like I'm accomplishing more by spending less time on the system and more time doing stuff in it.
posted by SansPoint at 7:40 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


Because I really like the little thrill of crossing items off my to-do lists, I always make sure they are filled with things I've already done.
posted by chavenet at 8:07 AM on July 17 [24 favorites]


I get really tempted by the planners when I go to craft stores. SO tempted. I like the fancy embelishments, the stickers, the color, the decoration.

But then, I realize that the decorating doesn't do a damn thing when it comes to actually helping me get shit done. The need that the decoration is satisfiying in me is different - it's a general wish for a different life aesthetic. I sometimes wish that we were all living in a less fast-paced world, when utilitarian objects were sometimes beautiful as well. Offices were bedecked with leather, mahogany and Art Nouveau glass. Bowls were hand-thrown and solid. And most of all - I would have had time to grace my table with flower displays, I could dry sheets on a clothesline in the sunshine, and I actually would have a still room for drying herbs and a pantry for storing home-canned food. But that world is not this one, and it works better for me to get that aesthetic elsewhere.

I have, though, found that paper works best for me. My planner is actually just a simple notepad with a to-do list in it - and the only personalization I have is that instead of calling it a list of things "to do", I have named it a list of things "To SMITE". I overheard another stage manager I know calling her list that once, and thinking of a to-do list as a to-SMITE list made it seem amusingly adventurous enough that it keeps me on track.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:08 AM on July 17 [21 favorites]


1) Get Index Card
2) Write down 3 things I need to get done today
3) Get those 3 things done
4) Enjoy rest of day as gravy


But how do I choose between the 97 things on my to-do list

Especially when I'm accumulating more than 3 new things to do per day
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:10 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]



1) Get Index Card
2) Write down 3 things I need to get done today
3) Get those 3 things done
4) Enjoy the rest of the day as gravy
posted by Kibbutz at 8:14 AM on July 17 [16 favorites]


I have a bullet journal but as I've started to use it more it is less like a beautiful display of colors and drawings and more like a mad chicken-scratch hodgepodge of notes like 'dont forget the thing for the thing with the green dots'.

I'd be interested in the information in the post but I loathe podcasts - I wish there were some other way to consume it.
posted by winna at 8:16 AM on July 17


1) Get Index Card
2) Write down 3 things I need to get done today
3) Get those 3 things done
4) Enjoy rest of day as gravy


whoah there! you aren't using any old index card for that, are you? I can sell you productivity-enhancing cards for only $19.99 for a box of 50
posted by thelonius at 8:28 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


1) Get Index Card
2) Write down 3 things I need to get done today
3) Get those 3 things done
4) Enjoy rest of day as gravy


But you just wrote four things.
posted by FJT at 8:31 AM on July 17 [11 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I experimented with the Bullet Journal for a while. Unfortunately, I'm a core digital person and I hate recopying stuff if I have to move it. One thing I did notice is that the Bullet Journaling community sure likes to spend a lot of time prettifying their BuJos (ugh, what a gross abbreviation). I find that the less options I have to be fiddly, the more likely I am to just use the dang thing and get stuff done. This, I should add, is one reason why I've jettisoned most of the Canonical GTD approach, mostly around Contexts. If I have to spend more time organizing than doing, I'll spend too much time organizing and not enough time doing because organizing feels good in a way that doing does not.
posted by SansPoint at 8:40 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


But how do I choose between the 97 things on my to-do list

HTH
posted by uncleozzy at 8:42 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


My productivity plan is:

1. do as little as I can get away with
2. read MetaFilter
posted by briank at 9:02 AM on July 17 [30 favorites]


Yeah, my one weird trick is also to write my To Do list on a very small piece of paper.
posted by puddledork at 9:03 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


One of the moments that got me off GTD/bullet/etc. systems is investigating who is selling the systems themselves. The hucksters selling perfect visions of an engineered life almost always have executive assistants, personal assistants, and researchers who both gatekeep and perform a lot of the timesuck grunt work of life for them. If you've ever met an EA to a CEO, they are in a constant state of panic and disorganization.

Take away Tim Ferriss' remote workforce and he'll succumb to life without ketogenesis because he can't keep his fridge stocked too.

The only thing I've learned so far that works is - have a stronger gate. It's okay to say no to a worthwhile volunteering opportunity because you need to go to the gym. It's okay to have a hard stop 9:30 pm bedtime every night despite there being an important email in your inbox. It's okay to not go to a birthday party and to send a quick loving message instead. No apologies about this ever - the world's broader priorities are not your priorities.

If you need external validation, remind yourself that notorious medium thinks you're doing a bang-up job just the way you are.
posted by notorious medium at 9:08 AM on July 17 [52 favorites]


I'm listening to the first episode now, and at first I was like "I'm not sure I can listen to how much Ursula hates this" and now I'm like "oh my god this is the actual voice of my subconscious" so now I'm hooked.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:15 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


notorious medium: Yeah. That's another reason I've pulled back from a lot of that stuff too. There's an air of hucksterism and workaholism around Productivity as an Industry. I don't get that vibe from David Allen/GTD per se, but certainly from a lot of other stuff. I think the breaking points for me were an article suggesting people listen to audiobooks and podcasts at 2x, so they can get more knowledge, faster, and an email about a $250 course on "How to Focus."

Bless Merlin Mann, the guy who got me on this train to begin with, for realizing several years ago, that this whole Productivity for Productivity's Sake game is a bunch of bullshit, and working hard to distance himself from that whole scene. He still talks about work and stuff, but at a higher level, less about systems, goals, and Selling You Crap, and more about figuring out how to do your best work.
posted by SansPoint at 9:18 AM on July 17 [10 favorites]


There's an air of hucksterism and workaholism around Productivity as an Industry.

It's also really, really gendered in a way that especially skeeves me. Masculine Productivity is toxic and exploitative (get other people to do your work for you, productivity = knowing all the things! but especially knowing more than other people except people means men, competitive productivity, the alpha male startup founder gets to force others to use his system, etc), and Feminine Productivity is always family productivity (keeping up with 3+ people's schedules, meals, chores, unpaid and paid work if applicable; it's about managing one's exploitation) rather than work-based, and wrapped up as a crafting project sold as a form of "self care" (and I do mean sold - selling subscriptions to planner designs and workshops is the new monetized blogging).

I don't mind listening to people from various walks of life talk about how they organize their shit, but when it's all only white men talking about only startup/SV culture, no thank you. I'm hoping this podcast is going to be not-that.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:31 AM on July 17 [33 favorites]


"Do you want gold stars or do you want banana stickers?"

I'm hooked.
posted by bilabial at 9:38 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: I experimented with the Bullet Journal for a while. Unfortunately, I'm a core digital person and I hate recopying stuff if I have to move it. One thing I did notice is that the Bullet Journaling community sure likes to spend a lot of time prettifying their BuJos (ugh, what a gross abbreviation). I find that the less options I have to be fiddly, the more likely I am to just use the dang thing and get stuff done.

See, here's the thing with the bullet journal - it takes two steps to put a task on your list, as I understand it, instead of just one.

The point of a list is to write it down so you don't forget to do it. Get a notebook from the drug store for a dollar, and if you need to remember to do something, write it down. When you do it, cross it off. Done. You're reminding yourself of things, not designing the battle plans for The Siege On Normandy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on July 17 [5 favorites]


if your productivity plan has more than three steps, to hell with you, i needed a productivity plan because i have ADD!
and
1) Get Index Card
and
Bless Merlin Mann

Really, as much as I drool over beautiful organizers and organizing systems as perhaps the way to *finally* solve my diminished executive functions, a simple version of Merlin Mann's** "Hipster PDA" - a set of color coded index cards I keep in my back pocket - and a shared calendar on all devices have been the absolute best system I've found that works. Especially since I lose shit all the time, or forget where I put things - I can take pics of my index cards with my phone (pro tip: delete the old pic when you take a new pic) and upload it straight to google docs. And like SansPoint points out (ha!) it does help me really narrow in what I want/absolutely need to do because I only have so much room on those index cards. It also helps me to say "no", too!

And geez, routine. Routine routine routine. Routines that eliminate decision making, like eating the same breakfast every day. Or the alarm that goes off on my watch to make my to-do list for the day on the top index card. It takes awhile - I can only work on one of those habits at a time - but once a habit like that gets set I really don't get distracted while doing it.

**huh, I haven't read any of his stuff in a long time - I'm curious what he thinks of that system now, so thanks for the reminder, SansPoint; I see he has a podcast now I'll have to listen to with this one.
posted by barchan at 9:43 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: You overestimate my abilities to

a) remember to bring my notebook
b) remember to bring a writing implement
c) remember to write the thing down when it comes to me
d) remember to check the notebook for things to do

But that's all _my_ personal suck, and why I prefer electronic stuff for task management.

--

barchan: Merlin has many podcasts these days. These include: Roderick on the Line, Reconcilable Differences, and (my current favorite) Do By Friday. Plus Back to Work.

B2W has been around for a _while_, and a lot of the juicier stuff is in the early episodes. Most recently, it's been more just a free-flowing conversation with co-host Dan Benjamin about stuff, and some listener feedback. I still listen, but the earlier ones are better. Go through the archives and if an episode talks about a relevant topic to you, by all means dive in.
posted by SansPoint at 9:50 AM on July 17 [8 favorites]


Thanks, SansPoint!
posted by barchan at 10:03 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


I work in technology, but our office is about 50/50 people who use notebooks (universally Moleskine because we're still very hip) for to-do lists/notes and people who use computers. I just can't do digital. It just doesn't seem real to me in the way that writing something down in a physical book seems real. I tried to do an online Kanban kind of situation but eventually abandoned it. I need something staring me in my face all the time when I'm at my desk, not just when I have that particular tab showing in my browser. Also it takes me a couple steps to get from [boss communicates a need in a meeting] to [discreet steps to achieve goal] and I need to scrawl notes on the communicated need and then stare at them and then actually write a list. No way am I sitting in a meeting generating a perfectly formatted list of anything.

I just wish I could magic my notebook into existence at any moment. When I'm at my desk, it's right there. But I don't take it home with me, and if I did it would just stay in my bag where it would in no way help me deal with bills and kid stuff scheduling and suchlike.

Basically what I need are those floating robots from the Superman movie that follow you around and give you advice and remind you about things.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:19 AM on July 17 [7 favorites]


I've abandoned making to-do lists everyday in favor of blocking my time because most of my projects can't be finished in a day. So from 8-9, I answer emails and do admin type things like reconcile my purchasing card or doing my time sheet (or cleaning my desk because I am a slob). 9-Noon is for Theme A, 12-1 is for lunch, 1-2 is for Annoying People (aka Theme B) and more emails, 2-3 is for Theme C, and 3-5 is for Theme D. There's a little variation day to day because of planned meetings, but I get way, way more done than when I just relied on a list. I still have lists but they live on Trello so if I ever find myself wondering what I'm supposed to be doing in a block, I can just go check and pick something to do. Also, the time percentages track pretty well with my work plan, so this helps me make sure I don't overemphasize one part of my job over another. And I find myself actually eating lunch which is good because I get hangry.

The only planner I use is for managing my work's social media accounts. It's shiny and gold and covered in stickers because I find social media to be really challenging and unpleasant to manage sometimes, and I need all the shiny encouragement I can get.
posted by Mouse Army at 10:58 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


Basically what I need are those floating robots from the Superman movie that follow you around and give you advice and remind you about things.

This was what I'd hoped life with Siri was like, however if she had her way I'd spend every morning drinking black coffee because I clearly wanted a reminder to get Mark from the Gracer Star again.
posted by notorious medium at 11:05 AM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I have a weird system that works for me:

I don't make to-do lists; I keep a work log. I write down only the work I've done, and I keep a digital calendar with meetings (though I also put the most important ones on a physical calendar next to my desk). The digital calendar sends meeting notifications to all my work devices, but otherwise I have no "to-do" notifications set up. Right now I have 8 projects on the go. Seven of them are small and are for one department, the eighth is enormous and is for a second department.

For the seven small projects I keep a colour-coded spreadsheet that I update as I go, and effectively works as a progress bar for my work on the project. They have the absolute bare minimum about the current state of my role in the project that's possible. If it's a thirteen step project then I just list that last completed step in the cell. (And the colour-coded statuses that I have are "in-progress", "completed", "handed off", and "urgent".)

For the eight one we have a group tracking spreadsheet that the entire team uses for to indicate the status of every single aspect of the project. It took a day to set up, and we tweak it as needed.

I also keep a hand-written log (it's important that it's hand-written, and it never gets transcribed to digital, ever) of everything I've done for every project in a notebook. Each entry in the notebook covers a single day and starts on a fresh page, and everything I do for the day is logged in chronological order, including meetings, problems encountered, work completed, work started but not completed, etc. Important information I learned that day is also logged, although I will often keep that elsewhere and just refer to it in the book.

My personal list of tasks (chores, errands, whatever) is usually a bit of a mess, but my work life runs like clockwork most of the time, insofar as I always know exactly where I stand on anything.
posted by Fish Sauce at 11:12 AM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Fish Sauce: My personal list of tasks (chores, errands, whatever) is usually a bit of a mess, but my work life runs like clockwork most of the time, insofar as I always know exactly where I stand on anything.

That's all you can ask for, really. As long as stuff gets done when it needs to be done, there's no need to go fiddling with a system!
posted by SansPoint at 11:37 AM on July 17


EmpressCallipygos: You overestimate my abilities to

a) remember to bring my notebook
b) remember to bring a writing implement
c) remember to write the thing down when it comes to me
d) remember to check the notebook for things to do

But that's all _my_ personal suck, and why I prefer electronic stuff for task management.


Oh, my apologies for not being clear! I was pooh-poohing the paper-form bullet journal vs. a cheap notebook. I wasn't even talking about electronic stuff at all.

No, I totally respect the electronic vs. paper split; I am equally as unlikely to use an electronic based thing as you are to use a paper notebook, and respect that these are just ingrained habits. I was just saying that when it comes TO that paper notebook, I like a much simpler approach.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:50 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: No offense taken! I was more posting that to laugh at my own ADD-addled self.
posted by SansPoint at 11:52 AM on July 17


I keep this notebook -- each day gets a page on which I log all the editing projects I've taken on during that day, their deadlines, and other pertinent details. If there's anything else I want to remember to do, or any information I want to write down, it goes there too. Appointments and scheduled events go immediately in Google Calendar, sometimes with two or three notification alerts to make sure I don't forget about them. I absolutely know that if I haven't written it down, I will forget about it.

Oddly, I get satisfaction out of logging the projects (always in pencil--I do everything in pencil); not so oddly, I get even more satisfaction out of crossing them off as done.
posted by tully_monster at 12:05 PM on July 17


"Do you want gold stars or do you want banana stickers?"

I'm hooked.


Bilabial et al: If you're looking for more Kevin and Ursula podcasting, may I also recommend Kevin And Ursula Eat Cheap, a far drunker, funnier podcast about reviewing the sort of food one might find toward the tail end of a month's grocery budget, as well as The Hidden Almanac, which is the love-child of Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac and Welcome to Nightvale.
posted by Phineas Rhyne at 12:16 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I have been using a bullet journal for about two years now and I am bemused by the ornate, decorated things that seem to characterise most of what you see online. Mine is spartan like Caroll's original and I feel no impulse to tart it up.

I suspect the beautiful decorated ones predominate in search results because there is an existing crafty mommy-blogging internet to spread them (feels like it's mostly women doing this), they resonate with that crowd, and they make nice pictures you can show off, whereas my cranky middle-aged manager one is boring and plain and hardly worth showing anyone. Good for people who do pretty decorated journals -- if it makes them happy, why not? We all need something to over-invest in and make life interesting for ourselves.

"it takes two steps to put a task on your list, as I understand it, instead of just one." I don't understand this. Not the way I do it.

Lots of productivity stuff makes most sense when you are desperately multitasking things and have too much to do, which to me explains the two online audiences of middle managers and mothers.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:42 PM on July 17 [6 favorites]


i_am_joe's_spleen: And the rest is catering to the "I wish I were self-employed" crowd (whether they want to be freelance or run a startup)
posted by SansPoint at 12:52 PM on July 17


If you've ever met an EA to a CEO, they are in a constant state of panic and disorganization.


That is not my experience at all. The EA's I've met are all super busy, but disorganized is the last word I'd associate with them and if I saw them panicking I would assume the world was ending.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:21 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


And all I want out of productivity systems is someone who can convince my co-worker to do something more effective than 17 different piles of sticky notes on his desk that seem to be mostly used to get every thought out of his head so that he can say in meetings "I had something I wanted to say about this but I can't remember it, it's on a sticky note somewhere". I don't care if they convert him to Scientology in the process.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:24 PM on July 17 [3 favorites]


I've tried a bunch of Productivity Methods and the one I keep coming back to is basically the Pomodoro technique. It's a good way to declare that These Things Are What I Want To Do With Today. I'll save going into more detail for when Kevin makes good on his threat to interview me for a future episode of the podcast.
posted by egypturnash at 5:17 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


I have been on so many productivity kicks over the years, starting with a DayTimer back in college in the mid-70s. I did GTD for a while. It was useful, but too fussy. That's always what gets me, the fussiness.

Right now I'm trying Personal Kanban, using Trello. I've done Kanban before successfully, using a whiteboard and sticky notes, but that was before I had a smartphone and an iPad. So we'll see if it works.

I try to makes routines where I can, but that doesn't work for my job. I work on a variety of projects, usually simultaneously, that have many fixed requirements but no routine, so I need to keep track of what I've done and what I still need to do. Kanban seems well suited for this.
posted by lhauser at 6:57 PM on July 17


I use emacs and org-mode, and I use it to schedule everything I want to do at some random point in the future, to remind me at that point in the future to reschedule said thing to a further random point in the future. I might not get things done, but I'm procrastinating in a very systematic way
posted by destrius at 7:10 PM on July 17 [10 favorites]


This month I am trying a crazy system called "write down the shit you want to get done the day before." It's working shockingly well compared to my previous method of rolling into lab and trying to remember the 7 different things I was doing and prioritize them while the coffee's still kicking in.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:27 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Has anyone listened to this podcast and found it significantly helpful? I ask because I have ADHD and have fallen approximately a million times into the hole of researching productivity systems rather than actually being productive. I've also yet to implement any of them with any measure of success. So at this point I have started to actively avoid them because I know as soon as things get marginally complicated or require recopying it will become dead to me, and more often than not the Productivity Peddlers love their complex systems.
posted by schroedinger at 1:01 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]


also whenever I think about being productive and organized and adult-like I realize I don't want a productivity system, I want a wife.
posted by schroedinger at 1:03 AM on July 18 [6 favorites]


The tool I came up with is to make a Top Ten Aggravations List. The items on my list will range from the hard to define "existential angst" and "afraid I will be fired" to small and concrete "can't find my pen" and " cat sticks his claws into me every time he tries to jump onto my lap".

The aggravations then get translated into possible solutions - like "use my inhaler more often because maybe the angst is really dyspnea" or "research if small solar powered atmosphere carbon atmosphere filtering could be feasible" down to "pick up a new pen at the dollar store" and "put a foot stool where the clumsy old cat can use it when he tries to jump up on my lap". When an item is removed from the list I replace it with a new one, so there are always ten items on the list, so when I remove "Cat sticks his claws into me every time he tries to jump onto my lap" I may replace it with "I keep tripping over that damn footstool beside my chair" and take that off my list with the solution "trim cat's front claws so he can jump onto my lap without foot stool and not stick his claws into me."

Some items stay on my list for weeks and years and I keep chipping away at them, others are fixed in mere moments. I rely on my emotions to assign priority. If it doesn't make the top ten it can probably wait. If it's important it will make the top ten soon. But using the top ten aggravations list means I am working on things by quality of life - what will improve my well being and happiness in both the long and short run. It means I don't over look things that seem unimportant but actually make a big difference, that I might think aren't worth taking the trouble to fix when more serious things things like finances should take priority over a drippy faucet. But the small things are often things that destroy mood and concentration and if they recur it clues me in to the fact that they may indicate a systemic problem. If I am annoyed three times a week by 'the smell in the kitchen' I may want to consider changing my cooking habits, my cleaning habits or my ventilation system. Seeing the fact that the problem is a recurring one helps me decide I want a long term solution rather than to deal with it repeatedly.

And the fact that the item still has ten items ten years later is not discouraging because the items on the list tend to get more and more trivial which is very heartening.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:42 AM on July 18 [18 favorites]


I use GTD (I've read and re-read the book, and much of it stuck, though I don't keep the separate lists any more), bullet journaling (I need a fresh task list every day or I start to get muddled), but just writing things out narratively in my journal is often the only way I can get straightened out. I literally write something like, "I don't know exactly what to do" or "Collect the little bits of myself and get going, that's the ticket," and then explain in a paragraph or so, and as a result I think through the chaos that is the inside of my head.

But the most useful thing is clearing everything off my desk and physically dumping it in my inbox, which is from GTD.
posted by Peach at 4:43 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


My ideal strategy would be to collapse in a random puddle of tears and let a much more organised person take care of it all, but no one falls for that shit any more, and why would they, to be honest?
posted by Grangousier at 5:36 AM on July 18 [4 favorites]


I do love all this stuff, though, really. And a solid excuse to buy a new pen (or, glory of glories, a new notebook) is a wonderful thing. And I think Merlin Mann deserves some kind of medal.

I will listen to the podcast. Perhaps it will help.
posted by Grangousier at 5:44 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]


schroedinger: The podcast isn't really trying to sell you into any particular productivity system as such. They review subsets of productivity (setting up a planner, setting goals, etc) and the two of them - Ursula especially - are very very frank about what works and (more often) what doesn't work. It's a very down to earth, honest look at how productivity fits into their lives, and they pooh-pooh a lot of Productivity Marketing TM stuff (Ursula's edict is "nobody tells me what to do, not even me").

The people they interview by and large have claimed that they're "not that organised really", but through the discussions you do learn that they have figured out some kind of system that works for their particular circumstance - a PhD student, a scientist, a managerial type for a tech company, I think there's more. But again nobody is interested in selling you into a system; they're more interested in telling you about how their system works for their particular circumstance, and how it really works out in real life, outside any kind of Instagram filter.
posted by divabat at 5:57 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, i do believe this podcast is co-hosted by Ursa Major and Hugo Award winner Ursula Vernon.
posted by gc at 6:36 AM on July 18


Oh ha ha, in my excitement i forgot to read the actual fpp. Just in awe is all.
posted by gc at 6:37 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Guess I'm a lost soul. I'm deep in GTD weirdness starting with a small notepad for thought capture, then a small bullet journal for small to-do's for the day, to Evernote/OneNote for project capture and data handling, to a GTD web service that tracks all the above. Is there a 12-step group for this? One I could put into my GTD system?
posted by diode at 10:57 AM on July 18


diode: Is it working for you? Then you're okay.
posted by SansPoint at 11:42 AM on July 18 [2 favorites]


diode, I think these systems can work really well for a lot of people. It's just they do not work well forall people. I have serious procrastination issues that result from a toxic combination of ADHD, perfectionism, and depression. These means that most formal productivity systems (A) lead to procrastination-via-productivity-research, or (B) triggers a downward I-will-always-fail-at-everything spiral when I inevitably miss a task or mess up implementation. It's not only about learning to organize, but about learning a way to organize that doesn't set off all the Brain Problems.
posted by schroedinger at 12:06 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]


schroedinger, one of the things I like about Bullet Journal and other manual systems that make you transcribe your existing list to a fresh page is that you are supposed to recognise that you're just not going to get around to some things. I know if I've copied a todo from one page to another more than a couple of times, I'm probably never going to do it, it's evidently not that important, and I declare bankruptcy on it and move it. It is liberating.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:27 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]


i_am_joe's_spleen: That is useful. Something I'd kill for in a task management app is a way to sort actions by creation date so I can see what's been sitting there for eternity and kill them as needed.
posted by SansPoint at 12:45 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Mouse Army, I'm going to try your approach. I like the idea of blocking time. I will never, ever finish all my specific tasks as they regenerate like mushrooms, but the time blocks give me finishing points.
posted by Sweet Dee Kat at 7:06 PM on July 18


Yes, my system does work for me to some extent. I wouldn't necessarily say I am super productive but I am fairly certain I can get thoughts, actions, ideas and outcomes into a system, manage it without being inundated with the overhead of the system itself and then utilize it when and where I need to. That, for me, fixes about half of my procrastination. The other half I will get too someday after posting on Mefi, then surfing Youtube for awhile.
posted by diode at 7:23 PM on July 18


I'm currently in a "figure out productivity" phase in my ongoing sobriety/exercise/diet thing, so this is a well-timed thread for me, and I'm really into the Top Ten Aggravations List above. I actually was halfway through the below when I took a break and found this thread...

At work, I use Sublime Text and a package called PlainTasks to create todo lists. There’s a bunch of things I like about this combination of things…
  • It’s super simple, easy to read, easy to follow.
  • Sublime has folding features, so I can collapse up tasks that have subtasks associated with them.
  • File sizes and load times are teeny tiny.
  • It’s easy to mark things as done, and then they turn grey and are struck through with the time you marked them as done written right next to them. Good psychologically, and also for tracking.
So my general methodology is to have a daily to-do list. As I move through the day, I zero my inbox by adding things to it. I tick things off as they get done. Almost no task is too small to be added, unless it’s really a less-than-one-minute thing.

Every morning, I write today’s date, copy yesterday’s list, paste it up under the new date. Then I delete all the done items. Catch up on overnight email and add new tasks to the list.

One of the things I like about this is that it makes a very long, searchable text. So if I’m wondering about a project’s status, I can search for it, and see (usually) a hand-off task on my end and when it was done.

So I’m trying to implement this at home. I’m thinking it might be best to tackle it as a document per project, rather than one total intimidating to-do list. That way, when time allows, I can peck away at any of a number of things instead of living in a constant feeling of overwhelmed panic.
posted by Shepherd at 4:14 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


If you've ever met an EA to a CEO, they are in a constant state of panic and disorganization.

My dad used to be the Managing Director of a company back where I'm from and he had a secretary/EA that's been working with him since pretty much my birth and is still a valued family friend. My dad can sometimes be in a hidden unadmitted state of panic and disorganisation (especially now that he's retired and has to deal with some paperwork-intensive stuff on his own) but that woman was a model of calm. Sometimes my dad rehires her just to deal with the stuff he has no clue how to accomplish (if my sister and I can't do it).

If you're interested in bullet journal ideas that aren't decoration-heavy, look up "men's bullet journal". The gender essentialism IS weird, but it is a very different, more minimalistic aesthetic.

Right now I'm trying out SkedPal, which takes your to-do list, syncs with your calendar of choice, and creates a schedule for you. (There's a bunch of others but this is the only one I've seen that's free) It takes a bit of effort to set up but omg I've gotten so much more done now that I don't have to think about "hmm what should I do right now", especially since I don't have a set schedule and trying to set one up is hard because I have to deal with a lot of shifting plans and ad-hoc issues.

I've also noticed that I gravitate towards having schedules and to-do lists on walls. My Google Calendar is a lifesaver but both online and notebook attempts at todo lists or planners would fail from my tendency to not remember to refer back or look up what I wrote before. On my wall/mirror/door I see it all the time so I can't easily ignore it. Right now I have a mood tracker calendar, a book reading tracker, a weekly planner (mostly to scratch my sticker itch), and a Kanban board to keep track of my never-ending ideas and projects.
posted by divabat at 10:02 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


1) Get Index Card
2) Write down 3 things I need to get done today
3) Get halfway through 1 of those things
4) Boss needs a new thing done that is presented as fairly straightforward
5) Start doing new thing
6) Turns out new thing is far more involved than it seemed it would be and there is literally no point on getting started on any aspect of it until you get 100% clear advice
7) Search for boss to get clarification on what it is exactly that they want
8) Boss is in meeting with somebody
9) Go away and look at index card for a bit
10) Start working on an entirely different thing from your list of 3 4 things
11) Boss arrives at your desk and asks for the thing
12) Explain to the boss what you think it is that they want in order to achieve clarity
13) They tell you that yes that is the thing
14) Explain to the boss that about 20 different people need to be involved in this thing otherwise there is zero point in progressing it, and there is no way they are getting it today or even a month from now
15) Boss tells you to start on the thing anyway
16) You start on the thing

[TWO WEEKS LATER]

52,797) Thing the boss asked for is finally done! No other things have been able to be achieved due to the elaborate and complex nature of the thing and the number of parties that have had to be involved
52,798) Take the thing to the boss
52,799) Boss has forgotten about the thing
52,800) Boss says the thing is no longer required but thanks anyway
52,801) Return to desk
52,802) GOTO 1)
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:20 PM on July 20 [12 favorites]


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