I wrote a piece in my wiki about tools & methods I use to stay focused.
I found this system to work well for me. It’s a Trello board of goals separated by time. Weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly. Where month goals are ideally based off my year goals and week goals are based on month goals. This kind of system gives me structure and focus and I allocate time with events based on the goals I have set. And more importantly it gives long term perspective to the things I do now & the things I want to achieve in life.
The link also goes over some nice tools I use to automate distraction as I have most ‘news feed’ like websites blocked (front pages of twitter/hn/lobsters/github/..). And only have few times I can actually visit those sites with goals of intentionally viewing them and not out of a habit.
I also try to systemize as much as I can to the point where I create some guidelines (rules) I wish to follow. It helps me keep things in order and I iterate on them as I gain more experience.
I am curious what systems & methods you guys found that work well for you to achieve this goal of being more mindful of your time and the things you truly want to be doing in life?
specific tools: pen/paper, google calendar+tasks, generally focusing on just three things a day.
Methods: Atomic Habits by James Clear and a technique I gleaned from Neil Gaiman… I go to my work space, and for 4 hours I have one of two options, either work on something or do nothing. I can do as much nothing as I want, but I can only do nothing or work. I get board enough to think through whatever I don’t want to address, and then my mind latches onto it and I get it done.
I use a minor variation on the bullet journal concept - on paper for work and in Trello for personal. At the end of each month I export the Trello board JSON and convert the cards I’m interested in preserving into blog posts. I do a goal setting session every 6 months, and a progress review at the end of each month. I also use GCal to schedule almost everything family-related.
Otherwise, my main focus “hacks” are to keep a daily journal/diary, get enough sleep (which I regularly fail at), avoid almost all non-vegetable carbs, and take L-Theanine whenever I have caffeine. Low carb in particular has made a large difference to my mood and focus, though I’m a firm believer there dietary interventions are highly personal so I’m not necessarily recommending it.
How do you organise your bullet journal? I’ve been using it for about a year now, and while for the most part it has worked well, I somehow have the feeling the “index” based lookup doesn’t suit me too much. So I’m curious how others do it.
On paper (for work stuff) it’s basically just a series of daily lists - I don’t really need to keep track of anything outside of that because that’s a project level thing that’s managed elsewhere.
For my personal stuff (in Trello) I have 3 boards:
Each night I copy the next day’s template, add in any tasks from the Monthly list that are due or that I think I’ll get to, then move the day list to the Daily board.
At the end of each month I create a new Month list, migrate anything remaining from the current month, plus anything relevant from the Future board. I also readjust the Future board’s quarterly lists.
Writing it out it, TBH, sounds a bit crazy. But it works well for me. The thing that I really needed to get sorted was repeating tasks - I have a ‘morning’ checklist of a dozen or so things that varies slightly from day to day depending on what activities the kids have etc - the regular bullet journal system didn’t really seem to cater for that.
I’ve been using this system since October last year and it has been a definite improvement over the rough kanban-type “now/next/backlog” system I used previously.
100% agree on manually writing out anything carried over to the previous day.
It really brings it to the front of my mind in a way that just keeping them (or even retyping them) doesn’t.
I used to take goal achievement and planning very seriously. I couldn’t stand anything that was disorganized.
It’s deliciously enticing and soothing to feel like you know where you stand on everything, that your path has been well thought out. Highly addictive!
My opinion changed quite a bit after reading on the topic of immunity to change. I discovered that this over-planning was a hinder to change the habits I didn’t like in me. No wonder when being this stiff you can’t get out of the box. Reality strikes hard, it’s so easy to fall in a monoculture of your own.
To cut it short, nowadays I emphasize more on intention than goals. I don’t disavow planning, I still do it more than any of the persons I know, but less than before and more deliberately than out of a strict protocol I have to follow. I used to plan a week ahead, now I write at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day in a TODO list.
For work the notes are taken on paper and the personal notes are kept in a text file.
I recently started a daily diary along with a mood tracking application named Daylio.
We’ve had a bit of a discussion here about digital focus.
Overall, I still struggle with my mind wanting to organize everything instead of embracing chaos and the beauty in it. I still get from time to time panic attacks when I feel disorganized. I’ve noticed first hand the difference, you’re not always “productive”, or doing things that matter when organizing too much, you may do the opposite, at least when doing it too much or being too strict.
We hear about the productivity craze topic a lot these days however we barely hear about the opposite and how it helps too. Maybe I sound counter-intuitive, maybe someone has had a similar story.
Interestingly, I’ve had the exact opposite experience. A lot of my goals are about changing myself and scheduling in the time to work on them has made a big difference. Planning for me isn’t about “being productive”, it’s about using my time intentionally.
I’m somewhat loath to mention it, because he’s persona non grata in these parts, but Jordan Peterson says something along the lines of “Use a calendar to schedule the life you want to live, not just the things you think you should do. Don’t try to be your own tyrant; you’ll be a terrible tyrant and a worse subject”. That helped me to significantly change my approach to planning and scheduling.
Any planning has an initial intention. The point I tried to convey above was that you may not yourself be aware of the best life for your own self. You may think you are directing it in the direction you want, creating a narrow nifty path, but that may not be the case. I wholeheartedly sing with you the chant that we’re not production machines of our own lives.
I agree with you on the second paragraph, you shouldn’t be your own tyrant. I guess that the situation I was in and the conclusion are only applicable to persons who went through an extreme planning phase to then resurface and embrace the possibilities that chaos can give. It certainly doesn’t match well with professional procrastinators, technology/media addicts, and the ones that are directionally challenged about their lives.
Thanks for the comment.
I’m reminded of Wise People Have Rules For Themselves.
Recently I’ve found coffee helps a lot. I didn’t drink it at all my whole life but now that I do, I find myself very focused after it. I know it wares off after a while which is unfortunate.
I’m still pretty terrible about keeping myself organised or focused, but I tend to use a mix of Trello, Things, an A5 Oxford Black and Red notebook on my desk and a pocket Moleskin notebook which mostly lives in my backpack.
The notebooks are essential as unless I write things down I just don’t keep them in memory anymore. At work I try and write down a todo list in the A5 notebook at least at the start of the week and tick or mark each entry in different coloured pens as I work on them.