Productivity in 2015: Save Your Sanity

We’re barely two weeks into 2015, and if you’re anything like me, you’re exhausted already. I just realized that I spent the entire working day being hugely productive. But I didn’t do my most important task. Productivity isn’t easy. You can be immensely productive, doing things that while important, aren’t essential.

My solution: My 1-3-5 List

I LOVE my bullet journal, but its tasks exist as lists, and it’s all too easy to migrate tasks. You jot tasks down as you think of them. You can prioritize, but you get used to glancing at the day’s list, and are lulled into complacency. You’re aware that you should be doing your Priority One task, but you get caught up in less important tasks, and before you know it, the day’s over. I’ll be implementing the 1-3-5 rule from now on.

If you haven’t heard of the 1-3-5 rule, basically, it’s this:

Complete One Significant Task Before Lunch (Your Least Favorite One, if Possible)

Here’s a website where you can list your tasks.

I’ll keep using my bullet journal, but I’m making sure that my main BIG task for the day gets done. Before lunch. I’m listing it right beside the day’s date, and am drawing a frame around it in red ink. If that doesn’t help me to remember, I’ll write the task on my hand.

If your task has many tasks, it’s a project

I made a fatal error with the big task I didn’t get done; I wrote it down as a task, without thinking about it. Since it’s comprised of many tasks, it’s a project. I should have created a plan for it, and then itemized the tasks. Obviously. Now I can see that. :-)

So that’s my next task: turn the “task” into a project. Then… create a plan for the project. And put a big red frame around it for tomorrow.

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Freeform Bullet Journal Tips

Freeform Bullet Journal Tips

Several readers have asked me for bullet journal tips. I said: “Do it the way that makes the most sense for you.” That’s the beauty of bullet journaling, you can do what you like. You’re not constrained to dinky little boxes, or even to a day per page. And you can use as many pages as you like per day, and can be as messy, or as structured, as you please.

If you’re new to bullet journaling, check out the website; it will get you started.

Here’s why I love bullet journaling: it’s totally freeform. Some people paste monthly calendars into their journals, others develop their own signifiers, and others have a home journal, and a work journal.

You’ll decide whether you like the system within a day or two. You should be more productive, and less stressed, and you’ll soon develop little strategies that work for you.

So here are some tips which work for me, after a few months of bullet journaling.

1. Be Messy, if It Works for You

This morning, I glued a page of notes into my bullet journal, and for just a moment, I thought: “Oh no — I shouldn’t be doing this…” I got over it very quickly. You can do anything you choose. It’s your journal. Paste on sticky notes, paste in pages, use tabs prolifically, as I do, or not.

Your bullet journal can be all business, or you may doodle across the pages… it’s up to you.

2. Keep Your Index Up to Date, if You Journal a Lot

Although I don’t journal in my bullet journal, I do make lots of notes. This means that often I’ll use three or four pages for a single day. That’s OK.

I also have lots of collections. (A collection is a two-page spread devoted to a single topic.)

Currently my BuJo is a Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines A5 notebook. Originally, my intention was to snap BuJo pages into Evernote, for a digital record. As it turned out, I’ve only snapped two pages into Evernote, and those didn’t turn out well, because I used coffee-colored ink on the pages. (If you use Whitelines Link, the pages reproduce more effectively if you use dark blue or black ink.)

Leuchtturm1917 notebooks usually have numbered pages; this A5 hasn’t, so I’ve had to write them in. It’s not a big thing, but if the pages weren’t numbered, I wouldn’t be able to find things easily. Each week, I add relevant material to the index, and review my collections.

Which brings us to the most important tip…

3. Review Your Bullet Journal Regularly

I review at the end of each week. I draw a diagonal pencil line across collection pages if the notes have been copied elsewhere, and if the tasks have all been done. I also cross out a completed collection’s entry in the index.

Each Sunday, I created a new “This Week” collection, with appointments, tasks and notes for the coming week.

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Writing Journal 45: It’s Friday

Writing Journal 45: It’s Friday

My writing journal for Friday, September 26, 2014. You can find all the writing journal entries here.

I’m eager to get the ghostwriting client’s final novella off to the contract editor, so I make a determined start on that this morning. I’d like to send it off by Monday, if I can. This morning, I focus on the big picture. There are a couple of holes in characters’ arcs, so they need to be fixed.

For my nonfiction push this morning, I’m working on the company history, and the ebook freebie, with 1,000 and 2,000 words respectively. Julia can proof the draft, and send the freebie to the client for feedback.

Next, Honey’s breakfast. She’s turning into a fussy eater; she has her favorite brands of dog food, but she insists on human food too. (She doesn’t get it.) Then my own breakfast, while reading email. I save a lot of it for Julia to manage. Just a few more memos to students tonight, and I’ll be all caught up. Happy days. :-)

The book proposal I’m ghostwriting for the memoir is coming along well. I create an overview, so that Julia can send that to the client for feedback.

It’s Friday, so we need to get in touch with clients to let them know how their projects are progressing, as well as work on clients’ blog posts. That will take me most of the morning, and some of the afternoon.

I blog for an hour, then head out for my walk. The sun’s shining after yesterday’s rain.

More blogging, and then it’s time for our Friday lunch. I need to call in at the library too, to check a couple of databases.

I’m back again; more blogging, then a couple of proposals.

A marketing plan for a client’s new business

This proposal is for a marketing plan for a new business which is opening next month, just in time for holiday sales. I need to do some research about his market first. I make a few notes, so that I can do some research over the weekend.

It’s Friday, which means the usual wrap-up of the week’s projects and events. I make some client calls, and send quick reports to a couple of clients.

Yes, the bullet journal’s amazingly useful

A reader asked about my bullet journal — does it really work? Yes, it’s working brilliantly. I like to see my tasks, appointments, and notes in a notebook. Well, the overflow, of them anyway. Evernote is still my home, so to speak.

However, I retired OmniFocus out of my management tools yesterday. So now I have: Evernote, the bullet journal, Things, and DevonThink.

Here’s the workflow for handwritten notes I need to keep: photograph into Evernote, trim the note in Acorn (image editor), save the note to the desktop, and drag into DevonThink. I’m using DevonThink again for the AI benefits.

A couple of years ago I did three books which were research-intensive; DevonThink’s artificial intelligence made the work easier. I did my thinking in DevonThink, and the writing in Scrivener. :-)

The day’s done, and so’s the week. I do my daily review, and total my word count.

Yes, I love questions, please ask!

I ramble on, and from my email and chats, I know you’re shy about asking questions. Please ask me anything you like. I’m happy to share.

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Productivity Tools: a Bullet Journal Makes You Smarter

Productivity Tools: a Bullet Journal Makes You Smarter

If you want to be productive, you need good productivity tools. Not only can the right tools save you time, they can make you smarter as well. I’ve always been interested in productivity software; I used to review software for computer magazines, back in the day.

Hands down, my favorite productivity app of all time is the dear departed Lotus Agenda. Agenda fans have been looking for a replacement for 20 years. The program had a steep learning curve. But once you’d figured it out, with the help of a couple of thick manuals, Agenda did what no other software has done as well: it made you smarter. You shoveled information in, and it showed you what you need to know when you needed to know it, as well as making connections between bits of information for you.

I think I’ve found my own replacement for Agenda, and it’s not an app. It’a a bullet journal.

I’ve written about my bullet journal here, and here. I won’t cover the same ground. Watch the brief video on the bullet journal website, and try it for yourself.

You might find as I do, that it fills a gap in your time management and productivity efforts. Or it may not be to your taste all all. However, as the days go by I’m more and more impressed by how elegantly simple a bullet journal is.

Bullet Journaling: Am I Going Totally Analogue?

A reader asked this, and my answer is: NO, of course not. I have so much material in Evernote, OmniFocus and Things that that could never happen. Evernote is my general business Inbox. I use OmniFocus for client stuff, and Things for everything related to my writing students and ebooks/ books/ programs. I need the repeating tasks in those apps, otherwise I’d never keep track.

I’ve always used paper journals; my bullet journal is an enhancement to my collection of productivity tools and time management apps.

My bullet journal helps me to see what I need to do NOW, today, and what I need to do over the next few weeks. I don’t duplicate tasks and appointments I’ve entered into apps at all, there would no point. The bullet journal emphasizes what I MUST focus on throughout the day, and collects sudden rushes of blood to the head. :-)

Here’s how this works in practice. It’s mid-morning on a Sunday. I’ve worked through everything scheduled for the day in OmniFocus; I have four tasks left in Things; and I have four tasks and several notes in my Leuchtturm bullet journal. One of the bullet journal tasks I decided against doing after I’d entered it, so that has a line drawn through it.

I’m not looking to replace my apps with the bullet journal. It’s an added safeguard so that I won’t miss anything. The Collections are brilliant. I’m a big list maker, and most of my lists are in Evernote. I tend just to scan them, then delete them. Writing a list by hand helps me to remember, so I’ll be keeping my lists in the bullet journal going forward.

The bottom line: for whatever reason, the bullet journal helps me to feel in control. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s fun. What’s not to like? The “fun” comes from my obsession with fancy fountain pens and inks. :-)

I get the same feeling of comfort and security from my bullet journal that I once got from Lotus Agenda, and haven’t been able to find from any app since. I feel more in control of my schedule, and I even imagine that it’s making me smarter. Who knows, maybe it will. :-)

, and on Twitter: @angee.

You can find Angela on Pinterest, and on YouTube, too.