Micro-Journaling Needs To Be A Thing

Over two years ago I wrote this blog post about a productivity experiment I was conducting. The idea was simple: take short notes throughout the day about the things I was working on, what I was thinking about, places I went, people I talked to, what I had for dinner, etc. Then, at the end of the day, copy those notes into my DayOne Journal so that I could review them during my weekly and monthly GTD reviews. I mixed business and personal notes so that I didn’t have to worry about recording things in several places and I kept each entry very short (maybe a sentence or two) so that it didn’t take up a lot of my time.

I found that copying and pasting the entries every night became tedious, so I created a simple app that allowed me to record notes via Slack and save them into a database. On August 11, 2015 I wrote my first entry into this new system. Now, over two years later, I have 13,317 micro-journal entries that document the last 787 days of my life.

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Hack, Refactor, Repeat


I’ve been writing a lot of code lately. And I mean A LOT. Between AlertMe, some side projects, and an open source project I’m working on, I’ve been pumping out a ton of code. Luckily, it’s mostly been using the same programming language (except AlertMe’s Symfony app), so I’ve been able to really focus on producing some solid output. The problem comes down to my constant struggle between perfectionism and actually shipping something. In this post I’ll discuss some strategies to ship code faster, without compromising quality.

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The One TO DO List Hack that will Maximize your Productivity

Most of the time when we look at our TO DO lists we get overwhelmed. It doesn’t matter what software we use: Asana, Trello, Todist, etc., your lists just keep getting longer, making them harder and harder to stay on top of. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of techniques out there that help us break down our lists and organize them. We can categorize them into projects. We can mark them as “someday”  or “later” and hide them from our view. We can assign priorities, give them context, and schedule them to reappear later. But ultimately, our ability to stay productive comes down to the actionability of the tasks themselves.

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What Did I Do the Other Day? A Productivity Journal Experiment.

I often find myself trying to figure out what I did the other day. When I was a bit younger, it was easier to think back a few days and remember what I worked on, where I went, what I had to eat, who I spoke to, and so on. However, now (that I’m older), I find my job requires me to jump around so much that all the days seem to blend together. Tasks on my TODO list remain incomplete and I find myself incapable of remembering what I did a yesterday or the day before, never mind three or four weeks ago.

I’ve kept journals in the past. In fact, when I was building Lifeables I used to keep a running journal (using MaxJournal) that I would update periodically during the day. That was very handy for looking back to remind myself why I did something a specific way or for noting ideas as I had them. I kept that journal going for months and it was an incredibly valuable tool. The problem was that it had a very definitive scope, and I only updated it with things that had to do with Lifeables development. At one point I tried to expand it to include general Lifeables business related topics (fundraising, product meetings, etc.), but since I kept them in a separate journal, I almost never remembered to add entries to it.

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Creating Systems with Asana

Ever since reading The E-Myth Revisited a hundred years ago or so, I have become a huge proponent of using systems to help run and optimize business processes. No matter how big or small the task, if it is something that is repeated, there should be a system. Having good systems in place not only makes training easier when mitigating turnover, but they provide measurable processes that can be constantly tweaked to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

We started using Asana at ShopAdvisor about a year ago as part of my ongoing war to eliminate email (but that’s another story). It took some getting used to (even now we still have a few holdouts), but once we migrated completely from JIRA, we had much greater participation from all team members, not just the developers. Asana also gave us a lot more flexibility around tasks lists, prioritization and recurring tasks. This made it extremely easy to implement and manage systems with complete transparency to the whole organization.

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Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity (2015 edition) by David Allen

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Let me start by saying that I’m a big fan of the GTD method. I read the first edition of this book back in late 2007 soon after I had finished The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. At the time I was running my web development firm and was in desperate need of some operational clarity and organization. While I didn’t commit myself fully to GTD all those years ago, I certainly wish I had. The principles taught in David Allen’s book are simple in theory, but sometimes hard in practice, especially for those of us that have had our own “systems” for so many years. It took me awhile, but once I moved on from my web development firm and began committing myself to more narrowly-focused startups, I found the GTD methods easier to apply. It was partly my own maturity, but more likely the fact that we had a project tracking system at my web development firm that was ingrained into my daily life, that made adoption so difficult. Once I started using the core principles of his system, I found my ability to stay organized and make more progress immeasurable.

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Curating Your Social Streams

Getting valuable content from your social streams has become increasingly more difficult with all the noise out there. Learn how I curate my content feeds with a few tips, tricks, and interesting (Twitter) analysis, to get the most out of each platform.

Reading versus Filtering

Whenever I have a free minute (usually during my morning coffee, stretching after a run, or waiting for my burrito order to be ready), I’ll take out my phone and look for something actually worth reading. Between Facebook, Twitter, Medium, CNN.com, TechCrunch, Mashable, and others, I always have plenty of content to choose from, but often my few minutes of reading time turned into my few minutes of filtering time. My ability to consume content, rather than just read the headlines, became a crap shoot. Most of the time if I find something even remotely interesting I start to read it, and then quit after the first few paragraphs if I misjudged it. Great, more time wasted.

Lately, I’ve been trying to rid my life of as much noise as possible by either better curating the content on the platforms I use, or by stop using the platforms with subpar content. First up, rid my life of useless content.

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