noisydeadlines

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."- Douglas Adams

This year I tested lots of task list managers, project managers and to-do list apps. I was not happy with my current system which consisted of Evernote + Todoist + Google Calendar and Google Drive to store files.

You see, I've been using the GTD method for 5 years now. It all started in a moment in my life when I was feeling extremely overwhelmed. I had a full time job and taking courses for a masters degree in Civil Engineering. I felt disorganized. I didn't have a clear view of my life. And so I started looking for ways to get in control.

Phase 01: Evernote

I started having everything inside Evernote: contexts, references, projects lists, checklists, areas of focus and all the higher horizons of GTD. That worked for a while but soon I felt that I needed a dedicated app for task management. Evernote didn't give me the satisfaction to cross off a task, per se. It was all done with tagging, so not very practical. I spent a lot of time tagging and untagging notes.

Phase 02: Todoist+Evernote

Then I started using Todoist. I kept my projects in Evernote and created the tasks in Todoist. In GTD actions are the most important part of the system: we only complete project by executing actions. So the “contexts” idea of GTD is kinda the central pillar of the system. Actions are always inside a context. And so I had a huge list of actions inside contexts, as we all do. And even though GTD tells us to prioritize actions based on context, time available and resources, I could never do it without getting overwhelmed.

The other issue I had was having the actions separate from its projects. There is a recommendation in GTD that it is better to keep actions separated from projects so that you keep focused and engaged on doing, rather than planning. Since I had all my projects in Evernote and tasks in Todoist I felt like this always created a duplicated effort: list the next actions inside the Evernote's Master Project Note (MPN) and then copying them to Todoist. I've never thought this was a practical approach to project management.

So then I tried to use Todoist as a project management tool, with the tasks associated with each project. BUT, since the notes section in Todoist is quite simple, I still had the MPN's inside Evernote. And it was not working well. The final straw for me was the inability to install Evernote on my computer at work when I got a new job. Long story short, 2018 was the year I started to desperately search for other solutions for my productivity system.

Testing Tools and Apps

Todoist-Filters-08-2018.jpg

First of all I tried to customize Todoist to my system. I read dozens of articles on how to create queries for filters in Todoist. I tried the Eisenhower Matrix method, I tried creating custom filters, combination of tags, minimal tags, priority flags and nothing seemed to work right for me.

I then went out on a frenzied testing sprint:

  • Nirvana HQ

    • Full GTD.
    • I like the minimalist look, simple and only focused on next action.
    • I like both the mobile app the web version.
    • I like that I can set up “Areas” and filter all tasks according to these areas. So I can have “PERSONAL” and “WORK” and “BLOG” or whatever. Seems nice! The advantage is that the filtering is already built into the software, so I don't need to create specific filters.
    • Doesn't have integration with Evernote or Google Drive. But I can add links to a task.
    • I like the schedule function (it's the implementation of the “INCUBATE” in GTD.
    • Parallel vs Sequential tasks in a project: love this! It's something I've always wanted to implement specially for sequential tasks. That way I don't have unwanted tasks out of order showing up on my lists (I know I could solve this with tagging and weekly reviews, buy sometimes I had these tasks coming up during the week). It's a very handy feature!
    • I like the “Zen” aspect of Nirvana. Really, I don't feel overwhelmed with it (like I always did with Todoist).
    • Features:
    • Filter by area (it hides the rest)
    • Easy to tag and filter for context (I really hate Doit.im's Context vision.)
    • project template
    • sequential/parallel options for projects
    • Reference Lists that can be turned into a project (eg. grocery list)
    • easy recurring task
    • the focus tab for actions with a deadline, or things you tag with a star (= things you will do today)
    • the Later tab, for things between Next and Someday
  • Doit.im

    • Full GTD.
    • The mobile app is okay.
    • Says it has integration with Evernote. I tried and it didn't work.
    • Keeps saying I have to confirm my e-mail address but I never get their confirmation message.
    • Can't export data.
    • The company is hosted in China.
    • Seems like they are not very active in developing the app.
  • Toodledo

    • List based.
    • Seems more complicated than it needs to be.
    • Lots of manual configuration/filters to be done to be a GTD system.
  • TickTick

    • Looks like a simplified version of Todoist. Very similar, with date based tasks.
  • Remember the Milk

    • So ugly!
    • I still had my account that I set up to try in 2012!
    • I hated the side bar menu.
  • GTDNext

    • GTD focused.
    • It seems it doesn't have any mobile app yet.
    • Seems old fashioned.
    • Kinda ugly.
    • No new Twitter activity since April/2018.
    • Lots of “problems” in the community forums.
  • Amazing Marvin

    • It's more like a daily planner that you can customize.
    • It's a different concept but I think that after years trying to get GTD right, I am going to go full GTD with the simplest and straightforward configuration possible.
  • Any.do

    • Simple.
    • Has a nice feature to filter by time or area of focus.
    • But it doesn't have sub-tasks.

Phase 03: Nirvana HQ

I really liked this app! I used it for about 2 weeks but then the lack of a good notes field and no integration with Google Drive or Evernote let me down.

Phase 04: Enter Kanban and Trello

My-Work-Trello-Board.jpg

I have never used Kanban but I knew it was a thing. So I decided to test Trello. And I read articles and the book about it Personal Kanban.

I loved the approach!

Trello is easy to use and the visual aspect of it is great. I transferred my work and personal related projects to Trello. And I decided to stick with it.

Until today, when somehow I was curious to know how Asana, Meistertask and Zenkit worked. Just in case they were awesome and I was missing out. So I spent about 1 hour today testing those apps and reading articles about them. They aren't for me. They are more business/teams oriented. But I had to see!

And so that made me wonder why am I always searching for a new productivity app? Why can't I just be happy with the tools I have?

So I decided: I will stick with my latest Trello installment, which combines GTD principles with Kanban and be happy. I think 6 months is a reasonable amount of time to test my system and make it work for me.

We will see!

#productivity #GTD #trello #kanban

At the beginning of this year I set a goal: read 50 books in 2018. I actually started wanting it to be 52 (1 book per week) but by the middle of they year I saw that I was behind. I adjusted course, so now I have 16 days left to read 2 books to reach my goal! I am halfway through one book so I still can do it!

It's my last home run!

2018-books-goodreads-Capture.jpg

Yes, I did it!

I was by no means an Instagram heavy user but I became more and more annoyed with the amount of ads appearing on my feed. And since Instagram is focused on the mobile interface, I couldn't find any workaround to remedy this annoyance. I've managed to tweak my Facebook so that it became less overwhelming to me but I couldn't find any workarounds for Instagram.

And you know what? I don't miss it. AT ALL!

Sure, it was a kind of an outlet for me to explore my amateur photographer side but the model of “likes” and “follows” and ads really irked me. Even if I was not following anybody the ads were there draining my attention. I've been using social media less and less. I still have a Twitter account that I use to check the weather and traffic conditions occasionally. My Facebook is heavily tweaked so that the only reason I go there is to participate in some Groups I find value in. And that's it. No feeds. No ads. Nothing popping up and demanding my attention.

I love this interesting article distinguishing between “social internet” and “social media” by Cal Newport: On Social Media and Its Discontents.

So, almost 4 months without Instagram and life is beautiful!

I am not a writer. I am an introvert. I spend a lot of time with my own thoughts. A L L the time! And it seems that writing helps me to quiet down those voices in my head. I have a Wordpress blog but somehow I don't feel the urge to write there. It seems too noisy. Too flashy. Too much attention, even though nobody reads it. So I haven't written on my blog for more than 6 months now. But that itch to write something has been on the back of my mind for months. Am I a writer? Should I be a writer? I think probably not. But writing is a kind of therapy to me. It gives order to chaos. It silences the worry, the anxiety, the fear that haunts my thoughts. I never know if the thoughts create anxiety or anxiety that creates anxious thoughts. Are they the same? Anyway, I just needed a blank empty space that welcomed me to write. I think I found it here. I am not afraid of being judged. I feel free!

I have been decluttering my life for some years now. In terms of material possessions I have reached a point where I consider I have enough. I have the essential now. I have a capsule wardrobe that works for me. I don't own physical books or CD's anymore. I prefer not having decorations on the walls of my home.

Right now I am focusing on the less corporeal items of my life. I've been critically evaluating my online activity for quite a while now.

After I read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport  in 2016,  a light bulb turned on inside my head that made me think: Am I too distracted? Are we too distracted?

And the answer is “Yes, we are distracted!”. The combination of cellphones and social media has dramatically changed my behavior towards technology and that is scary! I love technology, don't get me wrong. I grew up in the non-digital world and I remember when I connected to the Internet for the first time. The Internet was a marvelous unexplored space with enormous possibilities. It meant freedom! Democratic access to information! Connection!

And now I feel entrapped when I am online. I feel like I don't have control. I feel like I am inside a weird experiment where my choices are not my own. I feel like a victim. So I decided to take some action!

The Process


My decluttering process was like this:

  1. Make a list of all the social media account that I have.
  2. Log into the accounts and check the status: Have I been using it? Do I like it? What do I use it for?
  3. Make a plan for each one of them, listing their purpose and what I want to do with them.
  4. Delete the accounts I no longer use or update.
  5. Reevaluate the accounts that I still use: can I unfollow/unfriend people/profiles? Delete/minimize the amount of information feeding my timeline.
  6. Repeat step 5 regularly (I did every 2 months from 2016 to 2018).

The idea was to be less distracted by minimizing the amount of information I was receiving. It is a curating process, and it takes a while. Every time I was in the “deleting” mode I wondered if I really needed to receive that update from a particular profile.

My plan for each account looked like this:

1) Facebook

  • Messenger, contact with family and friends.
  • Discussion groups.
  • Want to: clean timeline, mass unfollow, to use it actively and not passively

2) Instagram

  • Inspiration; yoga
  • Want to: reduce input/distraction, mass unfollow

3) Pinterest

  • Visualization board; inspiration; yoga classes and series; minimalism
  • Want to: delete it. It's too overwhelming.

4) Twitter

  • Micro blog; meet people; share ideas
  • General news and info
  • Want to: mass unfollow, keep only what brings me value

5) Google +

  • Never use it.
  • Want to: Delete it.

The Results


twitter

instagram

1) Facebook

  • 10.02.2016 — Disabled all notifications. I left only the notifications from “Close Friends”. Left groups I wasn't using anymore.
  • 18.02.2016 — Stopped following 138 pages on Facebook.
  • 21.03.2016 — Deleted Facebook app from my mobile.
  • 26.04.2016 — Disabled all updates on my timeline and unfollowed everything: 100% empty timeline. If I wanted to see something, I would have to go to my friends lists.
  • 01.11.2016 —  Installed News Feed Eradicator for Facebook on my browsers https://www.facebook.com/NewsFeedEradicator
  • 2017/2018 — Continued to “unfriend” people I didn't have contact with anymore.

2) Instagram

  • 2016-2018 — Continuous process of unfollowing/curating. See the results in the graph below.

3) Pinterest

This one was a long process. I started deleting boards I wasn't updating anymore. From 2016 to 2017 I was still deleting boards.

  • 2016 — I had 28 boards.
  • 2017 — I had 11 boards.
  • March, 2018 — Account deleted!

4) Twitter

  • 2016-2018 — Continuous process of unfollowing/curating. See the results in the graph below.

5) Google+

  • 25.01.2017 — Deleted my Google+ Profile and all its content. I was not using it anymore.

The Numbers — Summary!


So, I still have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Throughout my curating process I mainly registered the number of following profiles or friends I had. My summary log for the past 3 years looks like this:

Social media accounts I follow

As a result I minimized my social media inputs by:

  • Facebook: — 35%
  • Twitter: — 65%
  • Instagram: — 64%

This reduction cut down my FOMO feelings and since I kinda knew which type of information I was getting from each account, I could use them more mindfully. Also, I feel less overwhelmed by not being bombarded with information.

The only social media app installed on my phone right now is Instagram.

I only log into Facebook to check out my Groups discussions once or twice a week.

I still log in to check Twitter 3-4 times a week. The best part in having less than 100 following accounts is that I get fewer information on my Timeline and it drastically reduces the time I spend scrolling each time I access it.

What's next?


I am still reflecting on how useful social media is to me. After this decluttering process, I feel like I really don't need it as much I thought I did.

I still want to experiment deleting or suspending my accounts to see what happens. More and more I feel that I prefer to consume less and in a more curated way.

Food for thought: should I delete my social media accounts?