Productivity Notes I

Published: 2022-02-15
Tagged: productivity writing work

Last November I decided to become more intentional about how I go about work. The reasons for this are legion, so I'll save them for another post. Today, I just want to describe the system I pieced together and have been using since November.

The system is split into two parts: one for work and one for my personal life. That's because these two modes are fundamentally different.

My personal life moves slowly. There's a lot of exploration and careful iteration. That means I often find myself coming back to ideas or projects weeks or months after having worked on them. For example, my whole writing practice moves through long cycles of gathering-organizing-writing-reviewing, so each note helps future-Matt pick up where present-Matt left off. This whole thing feels like gardening, really.

But at work, I move through brisk, chaotic streams of tasks. These I try to capture, evaluate, and close out, at least as much as possible. There's less value in pondering things and more in simply not losing track of everything--an ok decision now is worth much more than a perfect decision later. It's also important to note who is involved so I can stay on top of communication, especially since I work remotely.

Anyway, let's dive into the details.

The Personal System

If you count just the administrative parts like organizing notes and writing reviews, I spend around an hour per month on this system.

The Work System

I spend about ten minutes in the morning on the Day Plan and another ten before I finish work on the Score and Value/Progress parts. The weekly review adds ten more minutes or so, which means keeping this system running costs me about an hour and forty minutes per week.

What does all of this get me?

Three months in, I feel like a lot. Among small benefits like providing me with a place to collect notes and work through writing blog posts, I see two major improvements in my life. First, my procrastination seems to have gotten better. Earlier, whenever I hit a patch of ambiguity, I would get stuck and seek out distractions. But because now I have to break work down into small chunks, most ambiguity is revealed right away, essentially making it just another task to tackle.

Second, the practice of keeping logs has made visible my tempo and its limits. Normally, I would plan to do many things and end up finishing only a few, which made me feel guilty. But now, when I can track the decisions leading up to that state, I see that they often make sense--like taking it easy after an especially tough day at work. And when they don't, I can now do something about it.

It's also made me realize something important: there's very little slack in my routines. When something unexpected happens, it puts every item on my plan at risk, so I usually tighten my jaw and borrow time from other things, usually sleep, to avoid falling behind. But unexpected things happen all the time, so this attitude keeps me in a constant state of overdrive. Has done so for years, actually.

I don't know what to do about it yet. But I can certainly appreciate any productivity system that would help me arrive at this kind of realization.


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