BOOM - Productivity! | Skillshare Projects



BOOM - Productivity!


I liked Tiego's point that our brains are best used for creativity and focus, not storage. Furthermore, it's hard to be creative if you are always in crisis response mode. As someone who has unwittingly slipped into a life of constant crisis-management, and who is what they call a 'creative professional,' I find this worrysome. I can't be creating good work if my brain-RAM is constantly full. Hopefully this course can help with that.

So, I took the quiz! (Those were some leading questions, sir!)

Well. Clearly we have some work to do.


Phase 1 - Collecting Open Loops

Yay, now I have a name to call all those nagging things at the back of the mind. Open loops. So open. Such loop. Much wow.

Digital inbox: I don't have $50 to spend on Things for Mac, as snazzy as that "quick capture" feature is, so I'm sticking with Wunderlist for now. I already have most of my to-dos in it, and like the simple interface. There's a mobile version that I already have installed.

Physical inbox: I live in a tiny NYC apartment. I don't have a desk or a dedlicated place I can put an office tray. I'll just use the tray at the center of my coffee table. The nice thing about it is that it's always there in the center of the room, so I won't forget about whatever's in it.

I spent a good hour throwing everything I can think of into my two inboxes. At first it was a little scary to see the to-dos stacking up. And then, as I got into the rhythm of typing stuff in, hitting enter, and repeating, it started to feel very cathartic. I stopped trying to evaluate what I was putting down and just focus on the act of recording.

Also according to Tiego most people have 300 open loops at a time. That seems crazy high to me. But maybe I just haven't really integrated this practice of capturing into my life yet. At the very least it makes me feel better about my stack of 60 open loops. Now it doesn't seem so dauntingly huge.

One question I have at this stage is how I'm going to separate my life and work stuff. At work I use Trello, and I like that it's on a whole 'nother system so when I'm home, I don't have to be worrying about it. It's also a system my coworkers can see. So I also want to know how a personal to-do workflow can be effectively integrated with a team workflow system.

Maybe those questions will be answered next.


Phase 2 - Process

This unit convinced me I needed to get a copy of Things 2. Wunderlist doesn't have Areas of Responsibility. It also doesn't have a nice "next" view. So I spent a good hour moving everything from Wunderlist. Hoping that will make it easier to follow along in this course.

Rewriting everything as a next physical action was easy. Figuring out the difference between projects and areas of responsibility was easy. Organizing everything into areas and projects was hard. I noticed that when writing down open loops I felt freed, but when listing out the areas and projects I felt weighed down.

I mean, have 17 areas of responsibility. That seems like a lot, and I haven't even put in the work-related ones yet. Tiago says most people have 10-20 areas. Hmm. Maybe what this is really telling me is that I'm overcommitted.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is any productivity system in the world that can actually stretch the fabric of spacetime itself. Is there? If so I'd like to know about it. But in the meantime maybe I should keep my areas of responsibility in check.

I have not created the Evernote notebooks as instructed yet. Partially because I'm not sure all these things even need references stored in Evernote. I use other reference services like Pinterest and Trello. It would be nice to have everything in one place, but Evernote just isn't that good for things like creating a moodboard or tracking items across a workflow.

I also have existing Evernote folders full of things that I don't need a tasklist to help me plan for. I have a writing folder full of drafts, but it seems unecessary to create a matching "writing" area inside Things because writing is already a habit for me. I don't need a next physical action telling me to sit down and blog. I just do it of my own accord, when I feel the urge. 

I wonder if there is a thing as overplanning. I like the 2-minute rule: small things don't need planning. What about a habit rule? I don't need Things to tell me to brush my teeth or hug my dog. As for the things I still need to be reminded of, if I want them to become habits, I can track them in Lift.

Seems like a system like GTD can only work if you're diligent and complete and watertight with capturing all areas of your life. Otherwise, as Tiago says, the system won't be trustworthy. But it also seems that if you overplan, your productivity system could be the thing you spend all your time on, in lieu of actual action. I need to find the balance between those two extremes. That's something that will probably take longer than this course. This *is* a very good starting point, though.


Phase 3 - Organize

I went back and created Projects and Areas in Evernote, because turns out each step really builds on the last and it's harder to follow along if you start to diverge in small ways.

Having a notebook for each Project before you even know whether or not you need one feels process-heavy, but I'll give it a try and see where this goes. Maybe there is something to be said for creating containers before you need them—proactively organizing?

Here's what my Evernote looks like now:


  • 1 Active Projects - contains notebooks that correspond exactly with my Active Projects list in Things
  • 2 Areas - contains notebooks that correspond exactly with my Areas of Responsibility in Things
  • 3 General Reference - I shoved all the stuff that was in Evernote before I took this course into this stack. I'll worry about sorting it all out into the newly created Active Projects and Areas later. (Hey look! Something for my "Someday" container!)
  • 4 Archived Projects - It's missing because I haven't got any yet, and you can't create an empty stack. Yes, I decided to create 2 separate archives for Areas and Projects, because I like having that clarity.
  • 5 Archived Areas - Right now this contains notes from former areas of responsibility, such as jobs I no longer work at
  • The good ol' inbox notebook - I had one before, so nothing changed here.

There is an extra stack that contains all my notes from grad school. Evernote refuses to let you have a stack within a stack so right now it's just hangout out awkwardly with the rest of my GTD-ified stacks. I'd really like for it to go under "3 General Reference" but alas it is not allowed.

And here are my containers:

  • Project List - sidebar in Things
  • Project Plans - Active Projects stack in Evernote
  • Waiting For - I'll use a tag in Things
  • Calendar - the Scheduled feature in the sidebar in Things
  • Next Actions - the Next item in the sidebar in Things
  • Reference - Evernote stacks 2 and 3
  • Someday/Maybe - sidebar thingy in Things

This is starting to feel a little process-heavy and complex. But I will practice it and give it a try and see how my brain adapts. And I will be keeping this diagram handy in its newproject reference container:


Phase 4 - Review

Checklists! There's no way to know if they work until I start using them. Here are mine, slightly modified from Tiago's:



  • mark items from my Daily Review for Today
  • review Next list and mark actions for Today

EOD and Evening
(do this twice per day, once for work and once at home)

  • clear my physical environment. write down open loops that come up, file away anything worth keeping
  • clear computer desktop. write down open loops that come up, file away anything worth keeping.
  • clear email inbox.* write down open loops that come up, file away anything worth keeping.
  • clear phone notifications*
  • look 2 days before and ahead on the calendar. write down open loops that come up.
  • process new open loops

* resist the urge to check phone or email again right before bed! This is last call for the day!

End of Week

  • look 2 weeks back and 4 weeks ahead on the calendar. write down open loops that come up.
  • file away everything in Evernote Inbox. write down open loops that come up.
  • process new open loops
  • review Waiting For list for followup items
  • review Project List, archive finished ones
  • answer weekly question: what did I learn this week? what would I like to learn next week?
  • review productivity system.

End of Month

  • review Areas of Responsibility
  • answer monthly question: what are my long-term goals? do they still make sense? am I making progress?
  • review Someday/Maybes for anything that’s become actionable 
  • review finances

And here is a little reminder to myself. Processing means…

  • decide if it’s actionable or not

if not…

  • drag into Someday

if so...

  • rewrite as Next Physical action, assign due date, and tags
  • drag into Project or Area

I scheduled my monthly review for the last day of the month and the weekly review for every Sunday. Let's see how long I can stick to this!


Phase 5 - Doing Things

Truth be told, I have already been doing things! Even before my productivity system was complete, I've been putting things in Things, processing them, picking which ones to do today, and checking them off one by one. It's a testament to how badly I needed a better organizational system.

But now I've done the final step: tagging. Here is my tagging system, which is a little simpler than the proposed one:

My brain just can't handle 4 entire dimensions, so I've combined "Time" and "Energy" into one: "Size." Small tasks are ones I can accomplish quickly on relatively low energy, and large tasks are ones I'd need to be caffeinated and motivated for hours to do. It's imperfect and not as precise, but easier for me to understand when filtering my tasklist.

I also got rid of the last category, Priority, opting for just one tag: Important. In my world, Importance is binary rather than a sliding scale. It's just simpler that way.

I went through and tagged everything, and now I feel like my system is complete.

These days I have been hyper-motivated to get things done. If I put a task in my Things list for Today, no matter how trivial it is, I jump to it just so I can have the satisfaction of checking it off. Before, I would actually procrastinate and ignore that task until I forgot about it (if it was unimportant) or freak out at the last second and do it (if it was important).

On the other hand, I am spending a little too much on tender loving care of my new system. That's something I trust will get faster and more natural with time.

Woo hoo! I have completed my first Skillshare online class!


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