130: Toxic Productivity

Given my recent spirit quest for the perfect note taking application, as well as writing application, I am really not sure I want to listen to this. I have a feeling it’s going to pile on much deserved guilt. :slight_smile:


Shall we start doing the Things vs OmniFocus dance next @Bmosbacker ?!!

I’m just about to start my seasonal migration back to OF. No reason other than boredom.


No, I’m not going there!! :slight_smile: Enough is enough. I just want to finally settle on my writing app. :slight_smile: The odd thing is that I have, not withstanding this struggle, made progress on the book because I time block the writing and research time and have copies of the text and research in iCloud with easy access to the same text. :slight_smile:

Sorry I couldn’t tempt you :wink:

Best of luck with the book.

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@MitchWagner Thanks for posting that. I just finished it, it is a great stimulating read. I’ve just add it to my Obsidian productivity research folder. :slight_smile:

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Turned out that the NYTimes podcast episode I linked to really had nothing to do with the Focused podcast episode. Other than being on the general topic of productivity.

I found it fascinating and very relevant to my own life.

“Think frameworks, not systems”.

I was attending a session at a conference last night in memory of Dr. Peter Fox (Remembering Dr. Peter Fox | ESIP). One of the things Peter spoke about in the context of his work (informatics) was “think frameworks, not systems”. I think that’s a key part of what David and Mike are trying to get across in their talks. Toxic productivity, as one example, is where we get hung up on a system, instead of taking a step back and thinking frameworks – What are the approaches and philosophies that allow me to be productive, rather than the specific incantations I’ve copied from someone else.


Welcome and great post!

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About time for gurus to quit describing people, and folks to quit thinking of themselves, with mechanical metaphors. “Productivity”, “workflow” – terms that have always driven me batty. I feel sad every time I read someone write or talk about “improving my workflow”, or “I’m figuring out what software fits my workflow”. I don’t remember what happened in 1990, but the term just exploded onto the scene then (see Google Ngram Viewer for “workflow”) – for the worst.


There’s absolutely NO reason to feel guilty for trying to do something better.

Probably if you listen to the podcast you will discover you are hardly alone. You might hear ideas about how to better manage your info.

I have a plethora of note apps but I’m ok with it. Different apps do different things. I enjoy experimenting.

Which one do you like the best?

I use Agenda a lot. The UI is gorgeous. I also like Good Notes. I have a planner set up there using materials I discovered in Etsy.

Also which do you prefer for writing? I use Pages and especially Scrivener.

There is an app I seldom use for writing stories called Story Planner. I have had it on my iPads and my iPhone but didn’t use it too much although I liked it.

I have all sorts of stories going, especially for kids. And I do write non-fiction as well. Anyway, I bought Story Planner for the Mac a couple of days ago. It is $10. I already have been "going to town’ on the stories. For me it is easier to type on a Mac. There are all sorts of features in that eg you describe characters and add all sorts of detail; you can even put a photo in. At the rate I’m going, I should be able to finish lots of them as they are gelling.

Good luck in your pursuit on which app you are going to concentrate on and especially in your book!!! If you don’t care for it or are dissatisfied with an app, move on to another or just try another one out on the side… You learn by experimenting. Honest!

And you are making great progress in your book so you are on the right trail


What a nice reply to read. It made me smile. :slight_smile: Thanks!

As to which note taking app I like best, boy, that is a can of worms for me! :slight_smile: I like Craft the best. But, I still find myself leaning toward Obsidian for notes because every file is native plain text/md, reside in my iCloud folders, and are able to be manipulated by lots of applications. I also find that plain text/MD files sync fast and are easy to copy/paste/move as needed.

As to writing apps, I abandoned Ulysses because it lacks a key feature **on the IPad (**my preferred writing platform) I need-the ability to temporarily “glue” multiple sheets together. At the moment, I have defaulted to Scrivener (does not require a subscription which Ulysses does , but Scrivener also lacks the scrivenings feature on the iPad. So, part of my dilemma is that BOTH Scrivener and Ulysses lack the iPad feature. This then brings up the question, IF I’m going to do most of my writing on the iPad (as I am incidentally doing for this reply), then Ulysses, Scrivener and Obsidian will work. Again, I like the idea of plain text/md files for writing but Ulysses and Scrivener on the iPad have more features for long form writing than Obsidian, not withstanding the lack of feature parity with the Mac versions.

How is that for a non-answer! :slight_smile: The bottom line: I’m leaning toward Obsidian for note taking and research and Scrivener for writing.

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You made my day! Thanks!

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Nothing like quoting a guy on a boat while discussing the value of being able to schedule margin in your life :man_facepalming:t3:

I would be interested in hearing how long people give to a system before tinkering. My ADHD brain needs frameworks and simple steps to hold on to before I start tinkering. It’s like my college music professor said in response to someone asking why we have to learn counterpoint and voice leading, “Beethoven broke rules because he knew the rules.”

As I have learned concepts, it has given me the ability to be more content in the decisions I’ve made and why I make them. I think that’s the beauty of productivity, which ultimately comes down to being aware of how our brains work to exist in this world.


Great point Jeremy. Separating the “what” from the “how” provides the opportunity to be more flexible and move your methods across tools and platforms with relative ease. Make sure you follow a method makes total sense to the way your brain works, then implement whatever tool support is needed.


Michael Hyatt wasn’t “able” to schedule margin - he embraced it out of necessity. If you know his story, it was a mandatory change because overwork (“toxic productivity”) was causing some scary stress-related health problems.

I used him as an example because I respect him a lot and we had him on the show to talk about this very thing awhile back: Focused #110: Focus with Michael Hyatt - Relay FM

I personally thought the boat was irrelevant. The point: no one gets to the end of their life and wishes they had worked more. Take/Make time (margin) to enjoy it while you can.

I respect Michael as well. I’m always captivated by him when he speaks. I’m happy for his ability to embrace that space.

Everyone’s journey is different and unique, and I am not taking away from the need of break from chaos and burnout. I am totally on board with that (i.e. Sabbath).

But people often wish they had accomplished more.

I’m not arguing with the need to schedule downtime. I’m just picking on this particular statement of that goal, which I’ve heard elsewhere and in other variations.

The other variation I’ve heard is that nobody ever dies wishing they spent more time at the office.


My thinking on this is heavily influenced by Karl Pillemer’s 30 Lessons for Living.

If by accomplished you mean took a chance you were afraid to take, then yes, I agree. But if you simply mean did more, I’m not so sure.

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