Productivity Revelations

So the new school year is upon us and that means my professional obligations have ramped back up. I am determined to be much more productive and took a hard look at what I am going to use this year. Being frustrated with my task management (no matter the app lol) I began to look at different ways to be productive. I remember in high school and college using only the calendar so I looked into a combo of reminders and calendars so it would all be visible in something like Fantastical and BusyCal. Very quickly it grew past any organization.

Then I got into calendar blocking. It didn’t make sense at first because I was trying to get too specific in my calendar. I watched a video about blocking from The Art of Manliness (his moustache drew me in) and for some reason it just made complete sense. The revelation was my task management was hindered because a certain app was garbage but because I wasn’t using my calendar. I know @MacSparky has written about this on his blog but it wasn’t until going back after watching the video did it make sense. All of a sudden his flagging of today items in Omnifocus wasn’t crazy. I had been trying to use my task manager as a calendar and my calendar held appointments but it wasn’t vital to my workflow.

So Sunday night I fired up my calendar and task manager (Todoist) and put my big rocks in the week and planned everything else around those and my appointments. Then today I woke up early and promptly switched everything to Things 3 because of some workflow issues in Todoist (not being able to turn ideas into projects easily). It was weird though, the switch wasn’t to try and get a handle on my work, but to pick the best tool for the job.

So that’s my ramble. What revelation have you had that changed how you were productive?

Calendar = Peanut Butter
Task Manager = Jelly
Far too long I was trying to have just a peanut butter OR jelly sandwich. Now I think I have discovered my peanut butter jelly set up>


Years ago, I wrote reviews of Android apps for my site. Took a while for me to grasp differences in To-Do lists, project managers, task managers, and even calendars. Not that that’s sophisticated but…

Now, I’m building triple deck sandwiches… Life is better.


The big revelation I had with task management that made it work for me was that it needed mangaging.

The first part was that it wasn’t a “set it and forgetting strategy”, I needed to maintain it to keep it relevant, pushing things back if they didn’t need doing, or I couldn’t do them now and moving things toward the top which do. The second part was not to let your task list dictate what you’re doing, it’s a reminder of what you need to do not the boss of your actions.

One of the big reasons it’d failed for me in the past was that I’d just keep adding things and never reviewing what I’d added so the list just grew and got to the point I was ignoring it as it seemed like a list of things I’d never get to doing so what as the point in looking at it. The other reason was that when I did look at and there was something I’d put on there at the top of the list but I knew I wasn’t going to get done that day I felt like I was failing the list. I felt like as I’d added to the list I wasn’t allowed to move it.

Reading David Allens Getting Things Done book certainly took these fears away and that the time I’d spend reviewing and managing my to do list was a productive part of my day not time wasted I could have been doing something-else.

When I’m working on a project and a get to a sticking point I find stopping and reviewing what still needs to be done and filling in any blanks (sometimes in minute detail) or reorganising what’s there spears me into action and get’s me working agin.


Sounds like you went from PBR to PBJ


My big revelation was that I was wasting too much of my time thinking about systems for task management, and realizing that I needed to have more decision control over my schedule. My current, downgraded, less-than-automated setup:

  1. Calendar (I use Google Calendar) for setting up specific times to do specific things. Calendar is for scheduled items, not generalized tasks.

  2. Trello for managing tasks that have multiple parts to them, which I visually track in ToDo/Doing/Done columns.

  3. Google Keep for lists of all types, big and small. (Though I use Anylist for groceries.) I like seeing open lists all at a glance.

  4. Due app for loud reminders of things that I might miss from relatively quiet alerts on my phone.

And I simply LOOK at my items, several times a day. Instead of setting up procedures for a task manager to alert me, having to remember to use tags, dealing with reminders and deferring items, dealing with GTD review sessions at the end of the day/week etc, I simply take a look - multiple times a day - at my calendar and my lists (but not Due) and decide what I need to do given my available time at the time.

By the way, Google Calendar also has a fantastic, unrivaled feature called Google Goals, in which you tell it what you want to do (eg practice French, do some reading, etc), when you want to try doing it next, and how many times/week you want to do it, then it will try to populate additional times to do that given free time on the calendar. You can accept or reject (or adjust) proposed schedules, and it learns from rejections, and if you have something scheduled you decide not to do you tell it and it will find a new time for that item. A truly useful example of personalized machine learning.


Yea I’ve probably confused sophisticated with complex. I think I’ve wanted to fit into a certain mold that when I just do what has less friction, even if it isn’t hip, it’s just better for me individually, which I’m sure is the same for everyone.

I love seeing how everyone’s brain works and the journey it took them to get there lol.

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