1. 29

What tools do you use to stay on track with personal projects, or goals? Either tools that focus on daily goals, or longer term milestones.

I’m wondering if there is a personal version of something like Lattice, where one can set OKRs or GSKs, and do a daily log of “what I did today”.

  1.  

  2. 10

    I swear by my Bullet Journal. It replaced a text file-based system (a sort of pseudo org-mode) that depended too much on having a laptop or other computer.

    • The friction of having to rewrite todo items by hand helps me keep my lists short. That significantly reduces the stress of giant, “eternal” digital lists.
    • Keeping it physical means that my phone and all its countless distractions can stay in my pocket.
    • Marking things as done with a pen feels like more of an accomplishment than tapping a digital checkbox. All the more dopamine.

    Their app is a big help, too.

    1. 7

      I personally found pen and paper to still beat digital note taking software. For some reason I always spend more time tweaking the software than actually using it. Either that or I get distracted by something else. With pen and paper you don’t have much to do but write, so I find it easier to stay focused.

      1. 3

        Exactly this, too. I had a small suite of scripts supporting my text file system. I fell off the wagon with it, in part, because of the effort that would have been involved in setting everything back up after a system reinstall. With a Bullet Journal, I just buy a new notebook and a new pen.

      2. 2

        I do something similar, though it’s far more basic than bullet journaling. I use a fairly thick journal, but it fits into a back pocket pretty easily.

        I’ve been eyeing the reMarkable since it was first announced, but their only product is still much too big for my uses. And, honestly, I don’t know whether I’d be okay with something I have to keep charged. But I also don’t like the paper waste I generate, so I guess I’m still eyeing it.

        1. 1

          An ex-coworker of mine had a reMarkable. She really loved it. I think the key feature for her was the ability to import pdf documents and mark them them up. She also liked how easy it was to organize notebooks for different contexts (as a manager, she was constantly referring to 1 over 1 notes by person, or project notes, or policy deployment notes). She didn’t seem to have issues witht he battery very often–It was a recharge it every other day sort of thing, if I recall.

          I personally prefer fancy fountain pens, otherwise I would have considered one myself.

          1. 2

            I’m a fountain pen person, myself, though I lean towards the non-fancy. Platinum Preppies are an amazing value, for example.

        2. 1

          I’m back on BUJO as well. I’ve had great success at using org-mode on more complicated projects, but my current project has few tasks, so it is easier to record my few todos in there. I don’t really bother with the calendar very much, I like the push notifications from my work calendar.

          Bonuses include being able to doodle in boring meetings.

          1. 1

            I was using a text file based checklist system that I concocted myself, but moved the todos to Todoist. Which is decent, but I find it difficult to use it for larger projects, or for recording daily activities.

            1. 1

              Do you use it the way they describe it in their intro video? Or have you made any modifications of your own?

              1. 1

                Essentially the same, though I don’t really use the monthly calendar feature. (That says more about inattention to time than about that particular feature.)

                I do use an ! notation to highlight the 1-3 things that most need to get done in a given day.

                The most important thing, I’d say, is to give the base system a try for at least six weeks (so that I you see an entire month through and more) so that you can develop an informed instinct for what you personally want to change.

            2. 6

              I just use Things. I have no plan to move away from Apple jail ecosystem in the foreseeable future so…

              1. 3

                I also use Things, just on my laptop though (I keep my phone off of email, calendar, etc.).

                Past monday the macOS Catalina update rendered my Macbook unbootable (sent to apple repair yesterday). In the meantime I’m running a live Ubuntu bootable thumb drive.

                While Things is not available off-Apple, it’s nice they store everything you do in a single SQLite database file. Until I have my Macbook back I’ll be running Things with a SQL editor.

                1. 1

                  Past monday the macOS Catalina update rendered my Macbook unbootable (sent to apple repair yesterday).

                  Same. Booted in safe mode, turned out it was a bad kext. Updated it and chugging along happily-er now.

                  1. 1

                    Mine doesn’t even respond to the boot time keystrokes in order to boot in safe mode, or verbose, or boot from a thumb drive…

                    I tried everything, but there’s nothing I could do without tearing it down.

                    May I know your model? Because a friend of mine also had his install broken. Also, is the bad kext related to Little Snitch? Thx.

                    1. 1

                      MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017) – the bad kext was a corporate MDM thing (“Carbon Black”). But yikes, yours sounds muuuuch worse. I could access safe mode. Recovery was working but even once booted into recovery the dialogs were lagging for 5+ minutes.

                2. 2

                  Things

                  This comment made me check it out, and damn. I’ve been using Todoist for a couple years and this blows it out of the water. Thanks!

                  1. 1

                    +1 for Things. I have a soft spot for the idea of a bullet journal but Things is just so good.

                    1. 3

                      Things is the only software I’ve ever missed after leaving apple.

                      1. 1

                        I have a mac laptop, but an android phone, so I would be hesitant to use Things.

                  2. 6

                    I do bullet journaling for tasks and (hear me out) horoscopes for attacking ambiguous tasks like “don’t let boss get to you today” or “take time to look at that thing you were thinking about” that don’t fit neatly into a concrete to-do list. I don’t believe in the supernatural stuff but I do find there’s enough expected coincidence during the day to apply the advice to something.

                    1. 1

                      That’s quite interesting. Although I’m an athiest, I’ve recently started praying (for the first time in 20+ years). I get a lot out of the conversation, even though I’m not sure that anyone’s on the other end of the line.

                      1. 4

                        I think that one of the things atheists (myself included) could benefit from is ritual. Despite its usual religious connotations routine acts of meditating or whatever are beneficial to mental health and wellness, I believe.

                        1. 1

                          I get a lot out of the conversation, even though I’m not sure that anyone’s on the other end of the line.

                          With “praying” you mean an introspective conversation?

                          Perhaps there was always only ourselves on the other end of the line… before some people started taking allegories in a literal sense.

                          1. 0

                            I mean, well, praying. Expressing gratitude to God for His blessings, asking for guidance and courage. That sort of thing.

                            Perhaps there was always only ourselves on the other end of the line… before some people started taking allegories in a literal sense.

                            I think it’s probably that the allegories and routines provided a way for people to connect to themselves before we had a way of articulating that concept.

                            1. 1

                              I’d love whoever flagged this as “troll” to expand on their reasoning.

                              1. 1

                                Although I’m an athiest, I’ve recently started praying

                                Expressing gratitude to God for His blessings

                                Sounds like you are really not an atheist.

                                1. 1

                                  On the Dawkins Scale, I’m about a 5.5. For the past 20 years I’d say I was a solid 6. So yes, I’m an atheist.

                        2. 4

                          I used paper & pen for a while. These days I use vimwiki’s diary because it’s easier to grep through.

                          1. 3

                            I don’t always stay on track, but when I do, I use org-mode. I’m not even at the beginner level though. For the most part, I just find it helpful that I can build collapsible trees in my editor.

                            1. 3

                              A A4 size paper folded as a pocketMod and three sentences (goals for the day). I keep longer track / perspective by keeping a daily journal at the end of the day.

                              1. 3

                                I use todoist. And I have kind of engineered by own tagging system. I use goal-<name> tags and use them in a bit of an OKR fashion. I have rotated back and forth between using projects and labels for goal tracking and have landed on labels since they just provide a bit more flexibility.

                                But generally I like todoist for its simplicity and it is multi-platform so I can add from my phone. It is one of the few apps I have left on my phone and I like it better than carrying a pen/paper everywhere. I can also put my work and personal things there, I even using it for shopping lists.

                                I did look at stride for only goals but at the end of the day at least on this I desired the daily GTD style over goals and tracking them and it wasn’t flexible enough for my ever-changing whims.

                                1. 1

                                  I use todoist to reinforce habits. For example, I have a daily “Anki” task for spaced repetition learning. I have a bi-daily “exercise” task.

                                  For longer term stuff I have no system and I do not keep on track with personal projects. I abandon them before they are finished. I do have an ever growing list of potential projects.

                                  I also half-use Zim as wiki and journal.

                                2. 3

                                  Walmart sells pretty cheap sketch notebooks. It helps keeps everything in the same place and I use a different one per project and lets me doodle, mindmap, or draw designs 100x quicker than I’ve ever been able to with software. (https://www.walmart.com/ip/Daler-Rowney-Simply-Hardbound-Sketchbook-8-5-x-11-Soft-White-Pages-65-Lb-110-Sheet/21982841)

                                  1. 3

                                    Pen and paper (moleskin note pad and a short japanese ball pen for it, which becomes full size if you stick the cap on its back), since the times when PalmPilots were gone and androids still cheap tools. Works everywhere, I’m not lost without battery, and there is nothing sexier than to strike through a bullet point because its done. Another advantage: my aunt knows exactly what I need for X-mas.

                                    1. 3

                                      I’ve been using Zim Wiki as a way to mange my projects, tasks and notes. Its really powerful with the plugins. I’ve tried many other apps but I always get back to Zim.

                                      I want to switch to Org Mode but I’m dreading about the learning curve with emacs and org mode

                                      1. 3

                                        Every day I make a todo list on paper, in my notebook. I copy over any items from yesterday’s that I failed to do, trying to be realistic about what I’m going to accomplish. I have sets of other longer-term todo lists I pull from while constructing the daily ones.

                                        I enjoy the freedom that a physical books allows, being able to scratch my lists down next to drawings & diagrams.

                                        1. 2

                                          Plus it looks really cool to use a physical book for lists.

                                        2. 2

                                          I have a system that I use in a Rocketbook Everlast. My system takes (what I believe to be) the best parts of Bullet Journal, but cans the parts I find inefficient and unnecessary.

                                          • Each week I split a page into three sections:

                                            • Work
                                            • BSD
                                            • Personal
                                          • Each section uses the bullet system similar to bullet journal:

                                            • . for a task.
                                            • o for an event
                                            • Add an additional * for emphasis (to prioritise).
                                            • / a . to indicate you started the task.
                                            • Convert a task or event to a x when the task or event is done
                                            • At any time you can strike out a line to cancel it.
                                          • At the beginning of a week, I review the previous week’s page and either:

                                            • Strike out a task that isn’t worth my time any more.
                                            • > (triangle) a task I’m going to carry forward to the current week (in bullet journal they call that migration).
                                          • Then I use the Rocketbook app to scan the page, pull the scan up on my computer and copy the migrated tasks onto a new week’s page.

                                          I also have a ribbon tied to the notepad for quick access to the current week’s page. This is particularly useful for a Rocketbook Everlast, which is effectively a ring buffer.

                                          I’ve used this system for about 6 months so far. I find the Monday morning ritual of reviewing my progress and adjusting my priorities to be a good way of getting my head in the right mode for the coming week. The review takes about 5-10 minutes.

                                          I found bullet journal to be too regimented for my taste, and setting up the journal looks like it takes an age. Also I want my notebook to be a place where I can scribble unstructured notes, trees, graphs and diagrams etc. With my system any blank page can be used for those kinds of notes, and planning only takes up a page here and there between other notes.

                                          1. 2

                                            I track what I’m doing through making a posteriori calendar events on a caldav server. I track a prioritized list of things I want to do in caldav tasks.

                                            1. 2

                                              If you estimate the time it might take (say in Pomodoros), I’m interested in analyzing your data, here is one I did earlier (ok, this is not personal daily goals; the idea is the same).

                                              1. 2

                                                I like my data to stay on my computer. I used to use mGSD, but I replaced it with CueKeeper a few years ago and I’ve been using that ever since. In both cases, you download an HTML file locally and then open it in your browser. mGSD stored the data by modifying the HTML file, which modern browsers don’t like. CueKeeper keeps the items in the browser’s IndexedDB storage.

                                                1. 1

                                                  Any way to synchronize CueKeeper’s data between a laptop and a phone?

                                                  1. 2

                                                    There are some instructions on how to set up a sync server at https://github.com/talex5/cuekeeper/#running-a-server. However, that’s still experimental. In particular, the UI is not well tested on phones. It would probably need some changes to make it usable.

                                                    Before marking the server as finished, I’d first like to switch the data storage to be pure Git-format. Then you could even sync via e.g. GitHub. At the moment, it’s using an obsolete pre-1.0 Irmin format. I’m hoping to have time to look at it before the end of the year and write some migration scripts, so we can upgrade to the latest Irmin without people losing their history.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      thank you!

                                                2. 2

                                                  I use Things and have for many years, loosely following a GTD-like process. iOS and macOS only, though.

                                                  1. 2

                                                    TODOs written on yellow legal pads with mechanical pencils.

                                                    1. 3

                                                      Why specifically a mechanical pencil?

                                                      1. 2

                                                        I always liked the slender “lead” and there’s no need for a sharpener.

                                                        1. 4

                                                          Have you used the Uni rotating lead pencil. It is pretty nice.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            Nope, but I will check it out. Thanks!

                                                    2. 2

                                                      A text file in my home directory called TODO. I cat it when I’m not sure what I need to do next.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        I use Habitica, which is like a gamification of todos and habits. It seemed silly to me, but I’ve been using it far more than I ever managed to use any other system. This is partly because my partner also uses it and she’s a few levels ahead of me so sometimes I do a chore just to get more XP. We’re in a party and doing tasks also helps us defeat the enemies.

                                                        There’s also an Emacs mode for Habitica that I like to use for entering new todos.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          I use a Bullet Journal-inspired approach, but in text files (markdown formatted, stored encrypted in pass, with the git repo synced to my VPS, editied with vim and the pass android app).

                                                          I’ve settled on the following setup:

                                                          • tasks.mkd - a combination of Monthly Log and Daily Log
                                                          • future.mkd - the Future Log
                                                          • repeating.mkd - tasks that repeat daily/weekly/monthly
                                                          • POST.mkd - my own creation, where I lay out my Principles, Objectives (derived from principles), Strategies (to achieve objectives) and Tactics (to implement strategies).

                                                          Between folding and search in vim, I don’t need the concept of an index.

                                                          My process is something like:

                                                          • at the start of the year
                                                            • review principles and objectives for relevance
                                                            • derive strategies to focus on for the year, and tactics to implement them
                                                            • turn the tactics into a list of regular activities (in repeating.mkd) or one-off activities (in future.mkd)
                                                          • Each month
                                                            • write a review of my progress in the past month
                                                            • migrate unfinished but relevant tasks to the new month section in daily
                                                            • migrate future tasks to the new month section in daily
                                                          • Each day
                                                            • copy repeating daily tasks from repeating to today’s entry in daily
                                                            • copy any relevant tasks from the monthly section of daily to today’s entry

                                                          For work, I run basically the same thing with only the daily file.

                                                          When I write it out, it seems like a chunk of work. But it takes a couple of minutes each night.

                                                          Previously I’ve tried a ton of stuff, including Bullet Journal on paper and in Trello. So far this is the best fix of forced intentional decision making (the beauty of BuJo, IMO) and convenience. Manually writing out my dozens of repeating daily tasks by hand was way too OTT, as was carrying a notebook everywhere.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            code projects have a TODO. The more private and me-only it is, the more detailed. Stuff where I collaborate has e.g. Github issues.

                                                            I don’t think I’m tracking any other kind of goal in my life.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              For my personal projects I also keep a JOURNAL file with a daily entry each day I work on it, with what I worked on, where I got blocked, what issues I am wrestling with, and that sort of thing, in a very informal tone. It’s especially nice when a project gets set down for a month, and I can quickly get myself back to where I left off.

                                                            2. 1

                                                              Trying out the Zettelkasten Method (https://zettelkasten.de) via the Sublime Text plugin. I use it for learning/thinking. For my tasks, I use PlainTasks (also Sublime and VSCode extension), which I use to do the checklists for my work/home things. I have work.todo and personal.todo files which are used by the plugin.

                                                              I’ve tried all the paid fancy apps (Omnifocus, Things etc), but they aren’t really going to enforce discipline. I’ve given up on bullet journal because handwriting is too slow for jotting down notes. It’s good for brainstorming/ideas exploration, but not for the grunt work of putting things in your head on an external system.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                Google Keep. My coworkers use Notion so I’m considering switching to that.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  I use Apple Notes checklists. It’s simple enough that it gets out of my way.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    I use checklists. Right now I’m using Notion for these. Notion may have templates for what you’re looking for. You can also make custom templates easily… Another option that may be interesting is using meditations for daily tracking

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      I use a combination of apps - personally I use Things for tracking actual items and I’ve been experimenting with templates in Day One, essentially having a morning checkin (what am I going to do), an evening checkin (what did you do today, is there anything I could have done better) and a new weekly retro (what should I start doing, what should I stop doing, and what should I keep doing).

                                                                      There are a plethora of similar apps - I think it’s just good to find one (or two) that works for you. I’d like to eventually build something, but that’s a ways away from being finished/ready.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        I use Apple Notes and Things.

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          I have gone back and forth between a physical journal and an electronic one; right now it’s in OneNote.

                                                                          Regardless of format, I use a note keeping format based on Tom Limoncelli’s Cycle System from Time Management for System Administrators [0]. Still very helpful even now that I’m not sysadmining.

                                                                          [0] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/376236.Time_Management_for_System_Administrators

                                                                          1. 1

                                                                            Pen and notebook. I find the ability to pull out and reorder pages to be optimal; my latest tasks are always in the front. Possible with notebook like this: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B003981LH6/

                                                                            … still need to put in the work to learn a GTD-like system.

                                                                            1. 1

                                                                              For longer goals (1 month or 3+ months) I use a Trello board named Focus.

                                                                              For daily tasks I use 2Do and GitHub issues.

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                I used to use Github issues and wrote about it http://julienblanchard.com/2017/journaling-my-life-with-github/ but nowadays I find myself more comfortable with org-todo in emacs so I just have tasks and no specific dates.

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  Todoist for work. Things.app for personal stuff. I try to keep things separated. Otherwise my whole life is about meeting invites and todos.

                                                                                  1. 0

                                                                                    Google Tasks integrated into my Google Calendar. I have multiple, GTD orientated lists in which I organise my ToDos and long term projects. I never liked the idea of having to carry a paper notebook and pencil with me whereever I go which left my smartphone as only option. Another positive effect of using Google Tasks: I can simply migrate it to a self-hosted CalDAV server with support for task lists.