Are our brains being hacked?

I ask that because I noticed one day I was working extremely focused. The whole day. My working hours were highly productive. I was in a state of flow. It felt good. And that meant I didn’t check social media. I checked my personal e-mail only 3 times the whole day. It was one of my most productive days in months!

And when I got home in the evening I sat down to read a book. And I just couldn’t focus! I couldn’t get past the first sentence. My mind was searching for something. CRAVING for something. And 15 minutes later of reading the same sentence over and over I realized I wanted to check news. Updates. New information!

It seemed like my brain needed stimulation before doing focussed work again. Does that mean I got addicted to the dopamine release related to the social media usage?
I got my mobile phone and looked at the shiny screen…
…I opened Twitter, but there nothing much there anymore.
…2 minutes later I checked my 2 e-mails accounts. Nothing of importance.
…5 minutes later I checked Whatsapp and Telegram. Read all the messages. Nothing major to reply.
…10 minutes later I opened the Discord app. Read all the messages of the groups I currently participate on. Didn’t need to reply anything. Done.

And then I was good to get back to my book.

There is one good thing happening here: none of the apps that I looked into had an endless timeline. Twitter could potentially have the never ending scrolling feed but I only follow 9 accounts there, so nothing much to see. And so I spent 17 minutes checking my “feeds”, which is not much considering that in the past I used to be sucked into the Facebook feed for hours.

I think I’m making progress…

But I still think my brain is not the same.
Why did I had this urge to check any of those apps?
I felt like a lab rat pulling the lever to get some food.

Weird… I wonder if I will ever get rid of this brain hack.

#socialmedia #addiction

Rediscovering GTD: the journey

Rediscovering GTD: the journey

My GTD organization has been a moving target for years.
GTD – Getting Things Done is a productivity method created by David Allen and I’ve been more or less applying its principles to my life for almost 6 years now.

7 months ago I wrote about sticking with one productivity system. At that point I had just started using Trello as my main app, applying Kanban principles and leaving Todoist behind.

But why?

Well, about a year ago my lists were overwhelming, I was trying to create filters in Todoist and apply the Eisenhower Matrix and it was a complete mess!

I started reading about Kanban and thought that that would be a good change for my organization system. Kanban is all about process and visualizing the work. It was created by Toyota as a scheduling system for cars lean manufacturing. Over the years it became a project management tool designed to help visualize work, limit work-in-progress, and maximize efficiency. Trello is a popular app that applies the Kanban board principles and it’s extremely user friendly.

I started using Trello and I liked it for a while. But I felt it lacked agility. See, I use GTD as a productivity method (which is list based) and Kanban is based on boards with focus of process flow. Using Kanban made me understand my process but adding next actions and processing them in Trello was too cumbersome. I spent more time organizing and making the system look beautiful than actually doing stuff. Trello is an amazing visual tool!

But after a few months with Trello I decided to go minimal. I understood the Kanban’s basic concepts of “backlog”, “doing” and “done” and I wanted a simple straightforward system but that still had some GTD structure.

I remembered testing an app called Nirvana HQ that was strictly based on GTD. So I started using Nirvana HQ again, which is a lovely app! It’s perfect for GTD and it’s the best digital implementation of GTD I’ve ever seen. Elegant, simple, to the point.
But there is not much customization you can make on the app and it’s lots of whites and light greys. Not too exciting. And there is almost none integration to other apps. It’s extremely bare bones.

Nirvana H

So after using Nirvana HQ in a minimal style I understood once more what GTD is all about. I had one of those Ah-Ha! moments just looking at Nirvana’s left menu. This menu is basically:

  • Inbox
  • Next
  • Waiting
  • Scheduled
  • Someday

And that’s GTD in a nutshell. Inbox collects any incoming information, Next is whatever needs to be done as soon as possible, Waiting are for things we are waiting for, Scheduled are things incubated that we will take a look in future date and Someday is for everything not current or not active in our defined time frame.

That’s the basics for GTD and on top of that we can create more granular lists with contexts, like: @home, @work, @errands, @calls, etc.

I discovered I don’t need too many contexts (@home, @work, @errands, @calls is all I need) and that a simple Next Actions list differentiating between Personal and Work areas of focus are enough for me.

Enter Todoist + Evernote (again)

I’ve decided to (ironically) go back to using Evernote and Todoist.

I’ve been an Evernote member since July 31st, 2010!
That’s a lot of time!
And when I decided this year to move to Onenote I exported the most important notes but basically left everything else in Evernote. I told myself I would reorganize, review and gradually move everything to Onenote (which never happened, all the old notes are still there).

The only reason I moved to Onenote was that at my new workplace I couldn’t install Evernote for desktop and Evernote’s web version was horrible. Now, a year later, Evernote Web has become quite similar to the desktop experience and I discovered last month that I could (finally) install Evernote on my work desktop. I don’t know what happened, but I got to the Windows Store and I could install and launch Evernote without any trouble.

So… I’m moving back to Evernote and Todoist!

I think I’ve been a Todoist user since 2016. It has been evolving since I saw it the first time and I was surprised to find out now that it only got better during all this time.
It’s sleek, simple and works well on all platforms. I did move my tasks from Nirvana to Todoist quite quickly because it provides a frictionless way of adding anything to its Inbox.

Todoist in July 2019

And this the list setup I’m now using on Todoist:

What about Nirvana HQ? (which is still awesome!)

So why I left Nirvana HQ?

I still think some Calendar reminders, specially for milestones, are useful to my workflow. The secret to not be overwhelmed using GTD is not going crazy scheduling all the tasks we see and adding them to a Calendar or adding dates in to-do list app. That will make the system extremely cluttered and you’ll discover that you underestimated the amount of tasks you accomplish in a single day. We are not good at estimating how much time a task will take.

So, only things that are taking place in space and time should go to the Calendar. Hard due dates can go to the Calendar or can be added a date in a To-Do. And that’s about it!
All the remaining tasks are simply: Next Actions. No hard due dates.

So Nirvana HQ made me understand this. Made me believe I don’t need to add a date to everything. If you’ve ever used Todoist or any other To-Do list app you know they are basically built on dates. They encourage you to put a date on every single task.

So Nirvana HQ is great if you just want neatly well organized GTD lists.
But if you’re like me who likes to have an integrated system with options to go to the Calendar, set reminders, link projects to notes… well, then Nirvana HQ might be a little bit disappointing. Also, I need this whole system to work in sync on at least 2 computers and my phone.

It’s all about being comfortable with the tools

Going back and forth using all these tools made me understand a little bit more about myself. It’s a process and whatever organization system is being used, some trial and error will always happen.

Some people will live happily without any need to organize ideas and actions in a board or to-do list. I’m not one of them. Lists and writing down ideas is essential to my well being.

One of the positive aspects of GTD is that it can be applied in any tool, it can be paper based and it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You just have to understand the principles.

#productivity #GTD #trello #kanban #Todoist #NirvanaHQ

No more Facebook 👎

Yesterday I deactivated my Facebook account. Yes, I didn’t delete it yet, but I deleted my photo albums. I decided to be away from Twitter and Facebook this month inspired by Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism.

The thing is: there is so much information available on the internet and I don’t want to let an algorithm show me what to see. That’s why I always love [moderated] discussion forums. It’s theme focused and generally people there are looking for information and trying to help each other. Social media has some of it too, but 99% of it is just showing off.

I remember it was not used to be that way. It really was a more personal approach where we could connect and share ideas with close friends. Now it’s an ad driven world where quantity matters more than quality. I used to love social media. I joined the first “connect to friends” websites back when “social media” was not even a noun. I used to have an account at SixDegrees.com. It was launched 22 years ago. It was shut down in 2001. Then I used MySpace (not my favorite), Orkut (2007, I remember there were hundreds of useless groups and hate speech started to build there) and then, Facebook (2009).

At the beginning I used Facebook to connect to a group of international colleagues from a course I’ve taken abroad. Facebook was not about news or companies profiles. There were only people. There were ads, yes, but they were less obnoxious. At some point all these companies started to show up on Facebook and ads started to overflow our timelines. And then viral videos. And then the non-chronological timeline. That annoyed me a lot. A timeline where you had no control of. Then I started to realize something was wrong with Facebook and with what my contacts were publishing there. It was all fake. It was all just for show. And I include myself in this madness.
It’s time to stop the madness.

I’ve long deleted my timeline on Facebook, meaning: I don’t see anything on my timeline. I was occasionally logging to Facebook to check out some groups. And that’s all I did there.
I deleted my photo albums. And I’m still trying to delete my comments and likes but there’s no way to automate that. I have to go to every single post and delete it manually. I’m still searching for a better solution.

I wonder if I delete my account, all my data will be deleted or Facebook will still have that data in their servers. I wanted to do a full delete from their servers. I don’t know if that’s possible yet.

For now, I deactivated my account. I’ll be away from Facebook for 30 days.

#socialmedia #facebook #digitalminimalism #personal

Decluttering my Notes on Evernote

Decluttering my Notes on Evernote

I’ve been using Evernote for almost 10 years now!
And because of a job change I was unable to use the desktop version on my computer so I started looking for alternatives. I tried Evernote Web at the time (this was last year) but the web version was full of bugs and many Evernote’s functionalities weren’t available yet. It was frustrating to try to use the web version.

So I started using Microsoft’s Onenote and I kinda liked it at the beginning. I enjoyed the notebooks structure without tags. And that actually made me realize that my Evernote tagging/notebook system was over complicated!

Recently, with the new web version and the ability that I have now to use the Evernote desktop version on my work computer, I decided to get back to the green elephant.

So a great decluttering began and it’s still ongoing…

My idea is to have a few generic tags and use notebooks for the major structure (just like Onenote). I think it’s easier to just file a note in a dedicated notebook than processing it and choosing tags. Tags can become very messy and out of control! And that’s exactly how my system is now! Totally out of control. So many random tags!

I’ll not use so many tags for references anymore. The search function on Evernote is so good that I don’t need perfectly organized tags.

I have notes that were automatically generated (using IFTTT) of every post I published on Instagram. I’ve deleted my Instagram a while ago already (and I have a backup of the pictures I posted). So I’ll delete a notebook called “Timeline” with 292 notes generated from Instagram in it.

This cleaning process will take a while. I’l handle the big ticket items first (like the Timeline notebook).

Deep inside I think I want a brand new Evernote account. Clean slate. Start again. So, that’s it! Purging mode on! I’ll make Evernote as clean as I can.

I also have some old notes from the time I used Evernote as my GTD system (including To-do lists), and I have notes for each action I had to do and now it’s completely useless. I’ll delete them all.

#evernote #organization #notes

Being outside biking

We had a sunny and warm day today!
I think it was the first warm of the year, actually. First weekend with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius.
There was one thing I’ve been wanting to do for more than a year now: go bike in one of the roads they close on Sunday mornings.
I finally did it and it was great!
I knew I was bit out of shape to go for long bike rides so 20km was just about right.
Good day!

Sunday bike ride

#bikeride #personal

Yoga every day with Down Dog

I do yoga mostly everyday.

It’s part of my morning routine because I think it’s a great way to wake my body up with a combination of stretching and strengthening. It’s a great way to train focus and breathing. I love it because I can do it anywhere! No need for shoes or equipment. I only need some space and a mat. Well, even a mat is not mandatory. I can do standing poses series if I happen to be somewhere where I can’t lay down on the floor.

Last year I started using an app called Down Dog for my yoga sessions at home. It was perfect for what I wanted: choose a duration and a style and just go with it without too much thought. Without the talk. Just a series that I could follow. And with variety and difficulty levels. I can do a relaxing slow session or an intense Vinyasa flow. It can be as short or as long as I want.

Along with meditation, Yoga is my sanity check. The thing that I do to ground myself. Adjust perspective. And be ready to face my day. It can also be the thing to calm my mind after a stressing day. Moving and breathing.

Remember to breath.

Yoga headstand

Photo by rishikesh yogpeeth on Unsplash

#yoga