Ever since I started this journey of self-discovery a huge hurdle was doing all the things that I wanted. This part is obvious, and likely a lot of people struggle with getting stuff done. For me, this is an especially hard part that I would love to improve. I've noticed that I enjoy doing a lot of random things for short periods of time, get invested immensely, have plans of doing great things, but always fall short without having achieved anything substantial. The worst part is releasing this but being unable to fix all of these bad habits that plague my ability to actually complete any large project. I have piles of them that have been started and never finished. All this is extremely demoralizing and makes me feel incompetent like I waste my time doing stuff without having anything to show for it. So, this part had to be changed and corrected first. I watched countless productivity videos, read articles, books, and anything I could get my hands on just to find some type of system that would help me achieve all that I wanted. I have tried a lot and nothing seems to stick. I feel like something is wrong with me, that it is my fault that a particular productivity system doesn’t work and if I spend more time researching and implementing a good step-by-step system, I could finally do all the things I wanted. I believe I was wrong with this assertion and finally found something that could actually help me.
A lot of productivity systems are big and complicated. I noticed that many people, who come to the point where they share their knowledge, have already created a complex and intricate system that works only for them. These systems are often too difficult to implement and require way more effort to uphold them than to just do the task they were created to help you with. I believe that there is no “good” system for productivity, there is only your system for productivity. What you need to do is simplify your work as much as possible, to go to the core of what needs to be done, do it, and after completing it look at what went well, what didn’t, and improve. You should build on top of what you know and are capable of, not start from the already “perfected” system. This way it is way easier to keep healthy work habits as you fully understand why they are useful to you. After releasing this for myself I stripped down what seems most important to me and created a baseline system for myself, that only after I have mastered it, I could improve it. This system is a basic one but I firmly believe in it. It is having a calendar, a to-do list and some way to keep/take notes.
There is a lot going on in modern life, so it is no wonder that one of the first things that most productivity advice give is to create and manage your calendar. In order to do a lot, you need to be able to keep track of all the different obligations that need your attention, to plan the limited resource that is time. So, I believe that one of the single most powerful tools you can have is a well-crafted and maintained calendar. Like with many things, there are countless ways and techniques to use a calendar, there are numerous apps and systems, but a basic setup is all one needs to stay productive. For me, I try not to fill my calendar like crazy. I store only required meetings, social obligations like meetings with friends or family, important activities that will happen sometime in the future, celebrations and birthdays of course, and deadlines that are given to me or that I make for myself. I am able to see ahead what is required of me, when and what I can plan to do, and how my day/week/month will look. For planning and executing your plan - this is the most important tool to have and use.
Just do it list
Nothing beats a simple to-do when you want to manage your tasks. Yet somehow, today even to-do lists became complex. There are so many apps that are way too complex and bloated. A simple pen and paper to-do list is all you need to increase your work output immensely. You don’t need an app or a technique to create a to-do list, you just need to keep in mind some rules and practice using them in order to achieve more. As with many things, creating a good to-do list is a skill that needs to be practiced.
Write precise and actionable sentences. A task should be easy to understand with a specific action that needs to be done in order for the task to be complete. Task “study math” is a terrible one, as it isn’t clear enough what exactly in math you should study, how much of it, or for how long. A better one would be “Learn the first paragraph” “Read 10 pages” or “Solve problem 1”. In creating actionable and precise tasks you know when they are done, so it is harder to complete them without fully doing what you intended to do.
Don’t overdo it with the list. A good daily to-do list should only contain no more than five items, some do eight, some do three, but filling out that list with a full page of tasks is unrealistic to complete and at the end of the day you will only feel bad for failing to complete them. A better approach is to have the top task be the one that you must do and if that one is complete you have had a good day, and the rest be those that come as a bonus. It is not about doing as much as possible in a day, it is about doing tasks each day, keeping consistency with doing them, and with time they compound into great amounts of work done.
A bigger and longer list can be made for bigger projects. In those lists separate and minimize tasks into ever smaller parts that can be done quickly. So, a task “Write a blog post” can be further separated into “Write initial draft”, “Edit and improve draft”, “Create final version”, “Create the web template of the post”, and so on. Again, it is about tackling smaller and smaller chunks, one task at a time. The biggest joy is after months of doing this, finally realizing that you have completed it all and have finally finished that big and scary project you always dreamed of doing.
As I mentioned in my first post, writing is essential for someone trying to improve. So, it comes as no surprise that keeping notes and tracking anything you deem important is essential. Yet for this part, I have no advice I can share. Note-taking is such a unique and subjective activity. Everyone has a style, a method, and ways to write notes that there is no real advice I can give, only that go and experiment. Write with pen and paper, write in word, write with some new and exciting app like “Obsidian”, ”, write on napkins. Whatever works for you. I write in pen and paper, in apps like google notes, notion, obsidian, apple notes, in word. I have my thoughts scattered all around me with a huge variety of systems and tactics. The whole point is to experiment, to try things, and see what you like most, perhaps, the constant change in the way you do things is the system that works best for you. The most important part is the activity itself. It doesn't matter how you do it, what matters is that you do it and that you find it useful from doing so. If you don’t, perhaps it would be a good idea to see how other people write and journal. But do write - it is essential to think and to improve.
So, these are the deathly hollows of productivity that I use and that I find most helpful. They are the core from which anything else I create comes. They are not perfect and far from efficient, but they are mine and they suit me. They have helped immensely. All I hope is that at least some part of what I shared sticks with you and enriches your life, at least a little bit. It sure did mine.