Rethinking productivity

Hello friends,

It goes without saying that I haven’t been on this website much lately. You would maybe expect that the explanation would be that “I’m busy” because I got a new job and moved countries. But while it’s certainly been a moving year (pun intended), that’s not quite it. I had time to blog. I just didn’t want to.

This goes against what I used to be recommend to others from this very website, such as doing a little bit each day. I still agree that’s a good way to get started with a project and to get things done. But I realized it’s not the best strategy for me on a larger scale of things. Even with all my productivity ideas (coping strategies?), my brain gets tired of doing multiple projects at the same time. And with everything happening this year, there was time – but no space – left for other things. But things are slowly converging, which is why I’m writing this 🙂

In general I think quite a few things changed in how I approach productivity compared to a few years ago. I tweeted a bit about this recently, and as you can see, the thought process is still ongoing. But here are things that I’m leaning more towards now, or some things that didn’t work quite as expected.

Having a few focus projects

I need to have only a few things I’m doing on a given day or week. I already liked the idea, as described in my Kanban post. But I try to take it into account more now, and I think I’ve been mildly successful with not starting new projects before I finish existing ones.

In a way, this also means I cannot keep up with all the daily habits I would like to have. If I start writing the first thing in the morning, I will probably end up writing for hours, and maybe forget to eat (and definitely “forget” to exercise). On the positive side, I get more done in that type of day, than if you would just take the hours put together, so I think I’m just going to run with it.

No work email on my phone

I was a big supporter of the “one inbox” principle, but ten years into academia, I decided to give it a try when I started at ITU, and finally use Outlook without forwarding mail to my Gmail. The headspace this gives me on my days off is excellent.

The disadvantages are that Outlook is not great with search, and although there is integration with Todoist, the URLs that are created out of tasks often fail. But if I cannot 100% decide how I want to do email, this will have to do.

Scheduling tasks on the calendar

I already tried to do this with Getting Things Done but I think that level was too fine-grained, and difficult to keep up with. Since I also leveled up to actually using my work’s Outlook calendar, I reserve 3-6 hour blocks to finish tasks which are important and coming up soon, such as preparing talks or grading exams. It often ends up being less hours and ends up getting moved around, but it helps me see how much I have to do in a particular time period.

(Not) capturing everything

Again in the Getting Things Done category, I was happy to have a system to capture everything I might need to think of later. I have relaxed this a bit, some things don’t need to be captured – at least by me. I am still saving a lot of papers I probably won’t read in full, but otherwise I’m not using Evernote quite as much as I used to.

Except Fitbit for health purposes, I’m also not using any previously-tried “productivity apps” that track how long I am using which app, how long I am using my phone, etc.


That’s all I have at this point, but I’m planning to come back a bit more often, so let me know if there’s something specific you’d like to hear more about. For now, I’ll get back to my focus project of organizing my apartment 🙂

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