Productivity setup and process

Outcome

I want to setup my productivity system that keeps me focused in 2021. In 2020 I wasted a lot of time on setting up & maintaining a complex system.

Background

  • In the past I worked with tools like Todoist, Evernote and Things 3. The rich feature set of the tools encouraged me to create complex systems. I spend a lot of time setting up the system. Instead, I should have worked on my goals.
  • Further these tools encourage me to collect a lot of information and tasks. I collected a lot of ideas and todos and the backlog grew. Processing my inbox and cleaning up my system took hours.
  • I found that productive people use simple systems. Most of them use text files. Examples are Marc Andreessen, the make time authors and the author of agile results.
  • I found out that I couldn’t use Notion at my new job. Notion is cloud based. Using cloud tools is complex with [[ privacy requirements in a regulated industry ]].

Requirements

  • The tool & system is “offline” and portable between jobs.
  • The tool & system gives me a clean start without old tasks every day.
  • I can setup the tool & system within 30 minutes.
  • I can reuse my existing templates.
  • I can share notes (e.g., meeting results and articles) with others. Others can edit them.

Solution

  1. I limit the time I spend on setting up tools: When I change the system, I do a simple fresh setup. I timebox the setup. If the system isn’t setup after 30 minutes, I go back to the old one.
  2. The system is a reduced version of Agile Results including:
    1. a daily list: with my one outcome of the day, a list of all meetings, a bullet list for free notes and the outcome of the week/KPI. I link my meeting list entry to the meeting note. During the day I write down notes in the free note bullet list. That I forget most of the notes is by design. If I forget a note it was not relevant enough.
    2. a project list: with a list of current projects. In the morning I use the list to remember the task I need to do with these projects. This uses my gut to identify relevant tasks instead of going through a huge backlog. This is fast and if I forget an important task people/life will remind me.
    3. an area list: with a list of important life areas e.g. health, relationships, career and financials. In the morning I use this list to remember if I need to do an important task in an important life area.
    4. a friday reflections list: with a list of learnings. The list includes the 1 thing that goes well, 1 thing to improve and a general list errors I don’t want to do twice.
  3. I put the following parts in place to setup the system:
    1. I use simple text files to create lists and notes. I can port these text files between applications. Text files also work offline. I manage these text files in Obsidian. Obsidian allows me to link notes and view them side-by-side. The side-by-side view is important when I use list to identify the tasks of the day.
    2. I downloaded Obsidian and created a note for each system component:
      1. PROJECTS: I created a bullet list of all active projects. If I have a lot of entries in the active projects list, I create an ARCHIEVE/SOMEDAY list and save them there. It’s important to keep my working environment declutter.
      2. AREAS: I created a bullet list of all active areas.
      3. DAILY_TEMPLATE: I created a folder templates. Based on my current template (link to GitHub) I created the template in the templates folder. In the Obsidian preferences I enabled the daily notes plugin. I configured the plugin to use the DAILY_TEMPLATE to create new daily entries.
      4. MEETING_TEMPLATE: in the templates folder I created the meeting note template (GitHub). I enable the templates under core plugins. For each meeting I create a note and use the template plugin to fill the note with the meeting template. I use this template to document meetings. Afterwards I export the result to a shared location where everybody can access. This might be Confluence, Google Docs or an EMail.
    3. I starred the PROJECTS and AREAS note in Obsidian to access them faster.
    4. I enabled the side-by-side 3rd party plugin in Obsidian. This allows me to open the trigger list besides the daily notes, and meeting notes.
  4. I use the system the following way:
    1. Every week I add the weekly outcome & KPI to the DAILY_TEMPLATE. During daily planning seeing the weeks outcome keeps me focused.
    2. Every day I create a new daily note. I go through my calendar and write down the meetings. I open up side by side to my daily note the PROJECTS. I read through the projects and write down the important tasks coming to my mind. Then switch to the AREAS note. I read through them and write down the important tasks coming to my mind. Finally, I delete everything except the 3 important tasks.
    3. During the day I noted down whatever comes to my mind in the notes area of the daily note. If they relate to an area or resource, I write them down there.
    4. On Friday I write down the 1 thing I want to keep doing and 1 thing I need to change in the DAILY_TEMPLATE. Futher I write down lessons learned in a simple list. Every day I go through the lessons learned list so I don’t forget them and don’t do error twice.

Topics for another post:

  • In an experiement I split the day int day and evening with two outcomes allowing me to reflect the seperation in work/life, work/hobby).
  • My RESOURCES list: I created a bullet list of all resources I have. A resource is a note/asset that I use in projects or areas (notes on programming, online marketing, software achitecture, productivity). I use an ARTICLE_TEMPLATE to write things down for RESOURCES.
  • My digital garden setup using Obsidian to share some articles.

Notes mentioning this note


Here are all the notes in this garden, along with their links, visualized as a graph.