Noisy Deadlines

apps

Every year I review my digital tools to see if there is anything I want to change. One thing that often catches my attention is my tasks tool. So I did a little experiment the past few weeks and tried out Microsoft To Do. I basically set it up and ran it parallel with my current app (Nirvana) for a couple of days.

The verdict is that I still like Nirvana, but I wanted to register this experiment and how was the setup for future reference. I will completely delete the setup after writing this.

The thing about my MS To Do setup is that I had to work with 2 accounts: work and personal. My work environment is all around Microsoft, so technically I could use my work account for all my areas of my life. BUT, I'm not comfortable leaving personal information on my company's servers, since they manage and have control of that work account.

The other possibility would be to have everything in my personal account, but then I would loose all the integrations between Outlook and MS To Do from my work account. Also, I would need to have my personal Microsoft login in my work phone to make it work (not a fan!). Ultimately, I like to have these two areas separate anyway, so the 2 accounts setup made more sense to me.

Just for the record, this was my personal account setup:

  • Overview, Next Actions Contexts and Projects List:

  • Someday/Maybe and References/Recurring/Lists

My Work account had a similar setup, but with less items on Someday/Maybe and also less contexts, since it was all work related.

Why it didn't stick with me?

  • I still don't like that I have to use a bucket called “Tasks” as my Inbox. It creates a small cognitive dissonance in my brain. It's not a big deal, but sometimes it bothers me.
  • I don't like having 2 separate “Inboxes”. If I'm at work and want to add something to my personal inbox, I'd have to send myself an email to my personal account, or switch accounts on desktop app or log in to my personal account. On the mobile, I could use Braintoss to capture items in either of my accounts by email. And then the captured item would land on the email inbox where I could “flag” it to be turned into a task. These are all valid options, but it created a lot of friction for me to capture anything, so it was not ideal.
  • I not a fan of how MS To Do deals with recurring tasks. I notice there are less options to set up a recurrence period. I prefer Nirvana for that.
  • Managing projects and next actions with tags: so I used tags to create a link between projects and next actions and it always get messy after some time. I constantly create variations of the tag, and I end up having more than one tag for the same project. Very confusing! It required me to pay extra attention when tagging: not ideal!

🏠 So, in the end, Nirvana's still my go-to. It clicks with my brain better, offers more options that I enjoy: project linking to next actions, recurring tasks flexibility and start dates, and it just feels like home🏠.

Previous Setups:

GTD Journey: Back to Microsoft To Do with 2 accounts — June 2023

GTD Journey: Moving from Nirvana to Microsoft To Do — June 2022

Post 74/100 of 100DaysToOffload challenge!

#100DaysToOffload #100Days #GTD #productivity #MSTodo #apps

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I came up with some questions yesterday about my GTD system when I was bored. I will jot down some notes about the first one:

What do I wish my system to do to support me?

That's a good question because a productivity system should be there to support me. It's how I got into GTD in the first place: I was searching for a way to be more organized and less stressed. I needed a framework on how to deal with all my life inputs and dreams.

So, how exactly can it help me?

Here are some of the elements that I wish my system should do to support me:

  1. Ease of use: I want it to be simple to use. I don't want to spend too much time or energy on managing my system, but rather on doing the things that matter. A good thought experiment is imagining a day when I'm sick: will I be able to use my system then? Will it be easy enough to use it when I'm not feeling 100%? A simple system is more resilient and adaptable to different situations and moods.

  2. Digital and multi-platform: It should be digital, multi platform and sync between my devices (mainly laptop and mobile). I want to be able to access my system from anywhere and anytime, without worrying about losing or forgetting anything.

  3. Reminder system: It should be able to remind me of things. On days when I'm most distracted having a reminder pop-up on my devices really help me not forget important things. Sometimes I need a gentle nudge to get started on a task or to follow up on something. Reminders also help me keep track of deadlines, appointments, events, etc. that I don't want to miss.

  4. Punch list: It should be easy to narrow down next actions into a “punch list” so that I can plan which tasks I will work on each day. One of the key concepts of GTD is breaking down projects into actionable steps that can be done in one sitting. This helps me avoid procrastination and overwhelm by focusing on the next thing I can do. Having a punch list of these next actions also helps me prioritize and schedule my day according to my energy, context and goals

  5. Aesthetically pleasing: It should be fun to use and visually appealing. I think having a system that I enjoy using makes a big difference in my motivation and mood. I like to customize my system with colors and emojis and also it is rewarding to hear a sound when an action is completed. These little things make me happy and keep me engaged with my system.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but after reflecting on this question, I'm rethinking some of the tools I use. I knew that the visual appeal was important to me, and I feel that lately it has become even more important.

Here is a quick diagnostic of the tools I currently use:

  • Calendar/Email => Outlook: I see no issues here. It's easy to use. I use the web version of Outlook in both my work and personal accounts. I like how it looks, it sends me reminders, it's available on all my devices. I can sync my personal and work calendars to see whole picture.
  • Task Manager => NirvanaHQ: It's relatively easy to add things to the Inbox. If compared to other tools, processing stuff is not that easy because there are drop downs menus and selections to go through each time. Aesthetically speaking it is not my favorite. Adding emojis to it make it less boring. I like it for its neat organizational buckets and multi platform sync. I can make a punch list using the Star feature.
  • Reference system => OneDrive/Standard Notes/One Note: I enjoy using all these tools. They are multiplatform and accessible in all my devices. I enjoy their user interface; I see no issues. I don't need reminders in these tools.

🧐 So, I am looking at you, NirvanaHQ! I will give it some thought. More later.

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Post 73/100 of 100DaysToOffload challenge!

#100DaysToOffload #100Days #GTD #Productivity #journal #apps #Nirvana

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

For the surprise of absolutely no one, I'm back with the Nirvana app for my tasks and projects. 😏

I lasted roughly 2 months with my 2-accounts setup in Microsoft To Do. All the integration features offered by MS To Do that I thought were detrimental to my daily setup ended up not being that important.

Drawbacks of Microsoft To Do

Over the past two months, I've found myself utilizing the file attachment feature only once.

Although the option to flag emails in Outlook and synchronize them with Microsoft To Do seemed promising, it didn't significantly impact my workflow.

The handling of recurring tasks also posed a challenge – the lack of separate copies meant that altering the due date by a day affected the entire task series.

While Microsoft To Do serves me well during less hectic periods, I've noticed a pattern: when faced with complex projects at work, I tend to feel overwhelmed. This is where I remember the effectiveness of the Nirvana app to deal with it all. Nirvana just makes more sense with how I compartmentalize multiple projects and next actions.

This brings to mind the classic GTD (Getting Things Done) discussion about linking projects to next actions.

The truth is: there is no right or wrong way to do it.

The fundamental principle is: maintain a a list of current projects to review weekly and assign one next action to each project to move them forward. That's it. But for some people (like me) it is beneficial to group next actions by project. Occasionally, the project itself defines my entire focus for the day.

Microsoft To Do attempted to facilitate this organizational aspect with hashtags, but it felt somewhat loosely structured for my taste. Without a centralized list of hashtags, I found myself typing various versions of the same hashtag for a single project, leading to confusion.

Also, the pop-up hashtag list that appears when adding a new task doesn't work when editing a task post-insertion, requiring me to recall the correct hashtag or go search for it.

The 2-accounts setup also was a bit cumbersome, because in my head I didn't have one unified Inbox. I prefer having no friction at all for capturing things. Capturing tasks should be effortless and instinctive, without any unnecessary cognitive load. However, I often found myself contemplating whether a task belonged to my work or personal account, disrupting the capture momentum.

It took time and experimentation to determine what truly suits me. Through trial and error – as you can see documented in my GTD Journey blog posts – I've gained clarity (finally!). Microsoft To Do is undeniably a great simple app, yet Nirvana resonates more closely with the natural functioning of my mind.

All that being said...

The little things that make me come back to Nirvana:

  • Nirvana guides me towards a more disciplined GTD approach by neatly categorizing everything into predefined sections. This alignment with GTD principles removes the need to invest excessive time in personalizing settings (a big win, especially for someone like me who can get lost in endless customization choices!).
  • Nirvana handles recurring tasks better than many tools, since it doesn't bother me with them until the start date. This clever approach involves creating new instances of tasks for their upcoming occurrences. I can even adjust individual due dates without disrupting the original sequence. Also, I appreciate the option to set deadlines and determine how many days in advance tasks appear in the “Focus” section (I use that a lot!).
  • The way Nirvana integrates next-actions with projects is amazing.
  • It has Start Dates (very hard to see in other apps).
  • I love how Scheduling works by keeping a next action hidden until they are ready to appear in the “Focus” section.

After years of back and forth I've come to this conclusion: Nirvana aligns closely with my personal work style and preferences, making it my preferred choice over Microsoft To Do or any other task managers.

At the end of the day it's all about trusting the system and regularly reviewing my lists (weekly reviews!). Consistency is key – the more consistently I engage with my system, the more reliable it becomes, reinforcing my confidence in it.

I feel that I completely trust Nirvana right now👍.

So, I’ll renew my promise: I will stick with it for at least a year and re-evaluate.

#GTD #productivity #MSTodo #Nirvana #apps

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I changed my task list manager again! 😆

I know I promised I would wait a year before rethinking my use of Nirvana but… I got some more pressure from the company I work for, where everything is becoming Microsoft 365. Considering that I use Outlook 365 for work every day and I also have a personal account, I decided to switch back to Microsoft To Do.

Here is why:

  • Integration: my work teams started assigning tasks to people and they are showing up in MS To Do. I didn’t want to have to copy tasks to another app, and then loose track or get confused about what was on my plate. In this case the integration makes things consolidated in one tool, making my life easier. Also, there are work periods when I deal with a lot of back and forth emails, where I’m waiting for something and/or have to follow up. The Outlook integration here makes things less confusing. (previously I had to forward the email to Nirvana, and manually add a link to the message so that I could find it later… some things fell through the cracks on a couple occasions, so the process was not reliable).
  • Having multiple accounts on iOS: Now we can switch between multiple accounts on iPhones. Just until recently this was only possible on Android phones. This solves one of my earlier issues with MS To Do, where I couldn’t access my work lists using my personal phone and vice versa. I know I could solve this by having everything in one account then sharing the lists, but I prefer to have them separate.
  • The looks 😍: I really LOVE Microsoft To Do aesthetic. I love using emojis and honestly I missed some colours in my daily tasks.
  • My Day: This functionality is great to manage my attention/focus deficit! And because it resets everyday, it forces me to select the focus of the day.

Now, the setup!

I follow the GTD Methodology Official Guide and my system didn’t change much from last time. I have similar setups on both my personal and work accounts. Here is my personal setup overview:

Lists without groups:

  • 📥INBOX (Shared): I created this as a shared point between my personal and work accounts so that I can move things I captured on one account to the other. The idea here is that when I’m capturing it doesn’t matter which phone or account I have on my hands, it has to be quick and easy to capture something. I’ll deal with it later.
  • 🎯My GTD Dashboard: This list is a quick reference link to documents that are outside the task manager, like my dashboard spreadsheet (used for planning), my system overview (a description of my system) and master project lists. These master project lists are long time records of my projects that I update once a month or so.

Groups of Lists:

  • P R O J E C T S: I separate them between active projects “Projects-Personal” and “Projects-Inactive”. Inactive projects are the ones that I started but for some reason were put on hold, or I am waiting for something, so they are not active. I revise this list during my weekly review.

* N E X T A C T I O N S📌: each list is a different context, classic GTD

  • L A T E R 🔒: I created this “LATER” list for actions that I don’t want to engage just yet, but soon (next week, maybe). It’s a middle ground parking lot between Someday-Maybe and Next.
  • S O M E D A Y: Lists to group different topics for all Someday/Maybe’s.

  • Noisy Deadlines: I capture ideas for blog posts and have links to my archives folder where I store images, file references, etc.
  • Recurring: All of my recurring tasks, including Daily Reviews, My Routines and GTD Reviews.
  • References: various lists that are non actionable items.
  • Checklists: Travel and GTD Checklists.

Using hashtags to identify Projects

I’m still using hashtags as a way to search similar items. So for example, in my projects list I have a keyword to identify that project and so I can use that same hashtag on my next actions. Clicking on a hashtag will show all related items with it.

Shared Lists

I shared some lists between my personal and work accounts so that if I update one the changes will be reflected in both accounts:

  • INBOX
  • My GTD Dashboard
  • Recurring
  • Vacation Dates
  • Checklists

Final thoughts…

I’m getting used to this new system which feels to me a bit more focused on executing (via next actions by contexts). In Nirvana I tended to let things parked in my next actions list longer and it wasn’t as engaging for me to act on them. It seems now that capturing and processing is faster.

I’m exploring the integrations available between Teams/Outlook/MS To Do to start using them to my advantage, including the “Flagged email” list.

Also, I really like “My Day”!

So, I’ll renew my promise: I will stick with this system for at least a year, unless it becomes unbearable. 🙋‍♀️

#GTD #productivity #MSTodo #apps

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Yes, I have a confession to make: I went back to Nirvana. Again. After spending time customizing MS To Do, being excited about colorful emojis, backgrounds and all sorts of integrations with Outlook… I went back to the good old Nirvana.

I probably said it before, but Nirvana is still the best GTD implementation for me. It's simple and elegant. I like it because it allows me to have neatly well organized GTD lists. It is the only app that gives me a clear and straightforward view of all my commitments. And you might wonder why is that important?

Well, I worry a lot about things. My mind is constantly thinking, re-thinking and planning. One of the things that attracted me to GTD was the idea of “unloading” my thoughts, stepping back and making sense of them. But all those unloaded things need to be processed, and for my mind to be at ease, they need to be in an organized trusted place. So, Nirvana is the best digital tool to take care of all that stuff.

“You can only feel comfortable about what you're not doing when you know what you're not doing.” — David Allen, Brandon Hall. The Getting Things Done Workbook: 10 Moves to Stress-Free Productivity, 2019.

Maybe it’s because Nirvana has a more fixed structure, things are either in:

  • Inbox
  • Next
  • Later
  • Waiting
  • Scheduled
  • Someday
  • Reference

And that’s it. My brain enjoys having these well-defined buckets. And also because Nirvana allows a bird’s eye view of everything, distributed in all those buckets, or views filtered by Personal or Work areas because of the global filters. I have better control of projects states, so if a project becomes inactive, it’s easy to drag and drop it to the “Later” or “Someday” folder and all its next actions will be inactivated as well. No need to go back to the contexts list and move inactivated actions individually (something I would have to go through in MS To Do).

I liked my setup on MS To Do. I think it might work for a lot of people. But there were some details that bothered me:

  • NOT having ONE Inbox to rule them all. I was using two accounts, one for personal and one for work, so I ended up with 2 inboxes (that is not an issue if you use one account for everything). The process of having a thought, recognizing it as something to be captured and then having to decide in which instance I was going to capture it created some friction to my capturing. I tend to capture a lot while I’m on my computer, and I would pause to switch accounts and get distracted. I kept remembering how ubiquitous and easy it was to add something to the unified Nirvana Inbox with a keyboard shortcut. And also, how Nirvana syncs between my personal and phone mobiles, so no friction at all.
  • Not having the Projects linked to Next Actions. Yeah, I tried to let go of it linking next actions to projects”). And it turns out my preference is to have everything linked. I’ve heard it is a cognitive preference, some people are okay with having things separated, and some people don’t. I’ve tested it for real, so now I know. Linking actions to projects is a must for me.
  • The hashtags drop-down selection only appears when adding a new task. So, I was using hashtags to identify projects keywords. When creating a new task in MS To Do I could type “#” and a list of hashtags terms already used would appear. But if I have already captured something and I was processing it to add a hashtag later, the drop-down menu wouldn’t show up and I ended up creating variations of the existing hashtag because I didn’t remember exactly the word I used. It’s a minor detail, but when you start having too many projects, this can be an encumbrance. Of course, this problem is avoidable if you’re not worried about linking next actions to projects, which is NOT my case (see the previous item).

It’s a journey…

I feel comfortable now with my decision. I was triggered to experiment MS To Do because of a change in my work (which recently shifted everything to Microsoft). So I used MS To Do for about a month and realized it was not exactly all that I expected. I still think it’s a great app.

And that’s okay. I know I will change my system based on my experience level, current needs, and changes in the available tools. And Nirvana still works for me, so I’ll stick with it a little bit more!

#GTD #productivity #Nirvana #apps

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By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, introvert, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

After several false starts the company I work for is finally migrating to Microsoft 🥳. No more sync issues between Google Calendar and Outlook for me (yay!).

I remember taking a quick look at Microsoft To Do last year and liked its simplicity, but because I only had one account I thought it was cumbersome to deal with personal and work stuff all together in one app. One of the reasons I liked Nirvana was the global area filter, so I could switch from personal to work mode, and keep a minimal number of context tags that were shared between personal/work .

Now I have 2 Microsoft accounts so things can be organized separatedly. I can switch from one to the other using the Microsoft To Do desktop app, both on my personal and work computers. I also have 2 mobile phones, one linked to my personal account and the other linked to my work account.

The 2 setups are similar, I’ll get into more detail about my personal one.

Read more...

I started using Standard Notes by the end of 2020. I loved the simplicity, the privacy focus, and the syncing between devices. I subscribed to the 5-year extended plan at a discounted price then.

I had thousands of notes in Evernote that were accumulated during 7+ years of use. When I realized that all that information was trapped in one proprietary application, I asked myself: “What if I wanted to move these notes around?”. Also, Evernote got increasingly slower and bulkier. After learning about Markdown and Standard Notes, I exported all my notes from Evernote to the markdown format.

Starting over (almost) from scratch

So I had all my notes backed up in markdown, now what?

I didn’t actually re-imported all of them to Standard Notes. I archived my old notes because I noticed that most of those notes were assorted clippings from the internet. I realized I was a hoarder of information created by other people.

So I started over, copying only a dozen notes that had information I wanted to continue having access to.

As of today, this is how I’m organizing my notes:

(Note: I use nested tags, a feature only available on paid plans in Standard Notes)

Read more...

I'm moving all my notes out of Evernote. And I have a notebook there with all my e-books notes and highlights for the past 7+ years. A total of 276 notes. One note per book.

I've always used this free service my.clippings.io to export my Kindle highlights to Evernote. It also exports to .txt, .pdf and .doc. But, the only way to have separate files (one note per book) is when I use the Evernote option.

My issue here is: how can I convert all these Evernote notes to markdown??😕

Read more...

I have never asked that question before. But suddenly I felt like I was overwhelmed and that I was spending too much time and energy to manage my lists. So this year I decided to sit down and write a description of my GTD system to understand what was going on.

The inspiration came from a post from Cal Newport in which he describes his Rooted Productivity document. For him, it's a one page document that he keeps in a plastic sleeve on his desk. The idea is to have a “root commitment” that includes all your productivity habits.

GTD is based on 5 steps, which are:

  1. CAPTURE: Collect (Inbox)

  2. CLARIFY: What is it?

  3. ORGANIZE: Put it where it belongs

  4. REFLECT: Review and Update

  5. ENGAGE: What is the next action? Do it!

Based on Cal Newport's idea, I came up with a description of my system based on the following questions:

  • Which tools do I use for each of the 5 GTD Phases?
    • What are my Inboxes? Where are they?
    • What are my list managers? (including tasks and project lists)
    • How do I organize the stuff that comes into my inbox?
    • What is on my Calendar?
    • What is my reference system? How do I file non-actionable things?
  • Core habits and routines: what are the habits that are important to me?
  • Periodic Reviews: what are the reviews I have scheduled to keep the system up-to-date?
Read more...

💾For a complete summary list of my blog posts grouped by year, click here.

🎈 Things I write about :

Sections:

🎨 #NoisyMusings: a little bit of everything 📂 #Productivity: organization, methods, apps, GTD 📚 #Books: everything book related

Some Topics:

#apps | #Nirvana (the app, not the band) | #Todoist | #GTD | #MSTodo | #notes | #journal | #journaling #BookReview | #ReadingList | #Reading | #ReaderGoals | #BookWyrm | #TheStorygraph | #weeknotes | #podcast | #GTDnotes | #100DaysToOffload

#internet | #socialmedia | #attentionresistance #minimalism | #digitalminimalism #outdoors | #Hiking | #winter | #iceskating | #music | #heavymetal | #puzzle