✯ Mike's Site

Get things done or die trying

Nerds, creatives, and knowledge workers in general seem to gravitate toward productivity schemes and methodologies. If you're anything like me, and I know some of you are because that's part of why we get along, you might jump from thing to thing over time.

One of the first "named" systems I can remember getting into is Getting Things Done, probably through early tech blogger Merlin Mann (now perhaps more well-known as co-host of a podcast with a guy who later became "Bean Dad"). The system worked well for me for a while when I worked from home, freelanced, and had no kids. What Mann and others who jumped on the train might not have really grasped is that David Allen (not the guy from Gong) designed it for executives with assistants and both the time and power to lock themselves away for effectively days at a time while they did weekly reviews. The book came with a door hanger. Imagine your kid respecting a door hanger that says "Weekly review in progress."

Lately, I've been working with two systems that are more geared toward creative minds: the bullet journal and the second brain.

A friend turned me on to the "bujo" after I asked about the notebook she carried everywhere. The thing that its creator, Ryder Carroll, says about it is that it's a "mindfulness practice masquerading as a productivity method," and that's very true. Sitting down with a paper notebook and doing both your todos and your actual journaling is a great way to focus, be present, and stop farting around with the external for a minute. It's also great for people with focus issues or who have trouble sticking to systems, because you can just pick it back up if you flop for a while. Start journaling again where you left off. No biggie.

However, I have years of notebooks stacked up and one thing they're not good at is indexing and re-accessing information and insights that you've achieved. This is where Tiago Forte's Building a Second Brain comes into play. The core thinking behind his system is almost the opposite of the bullet journal: It's only digital tools that can store and search in a way that enables us to truly offload a lot of data from our first brain.

That makes a lot of sense, of course, and it's what tools like Evernote, Joplin, Roam, whatever were originally designed for — but it also brings me back home to a reason that GTD worked for me: David Allen's core slogan was "If it's on your mind, it's not getting done." The second brain philosophy extends that to statements like "it's not able to be accessed," "it's not creative fodder," or more generally, "if it's on your mind, it's not doing you any good."

There's a lot more I love about the method but that's another post. But I still feel like I owe a lot to David Allen and his insane flowcharts designed to take things "off your mind" and turn you into a robot that always knows what to do. in this stupid-ass world where we have strayed pretty far from whatever-you-believe-in's light, it's a gift to be able to stop worrying about stuff for a few minutes.