We live in a pretty cool time. We’re surrounded constantly by gadgets, are in constant communication with each other and new technologies that improve life come out every day. One thing that’s worse though, is the anxiety that comes with always being connected to each other.
I grew up with the internet, so I can’t relate too many firsthand experiences, but I’m told before the Internet was around, when the work day ended, you were expected to go home and not think about work!
A Brief History Lesson with Dr. Adams
In Algorithms to Live By, Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths talk about the creation of the Internet and how the communication layer of the world changed. Basically, the internet works similar to FedEx. Your computer will ship out a package and another computer will eventually receive it. Your computer then waits for a receipt, an acknowledgment that the other computer got it. Then your computer will send the next package. If no receipt is returned, your computer can keep sending the same package over and over too (think of this like a ‘return to sender’ in the mail).
Before this, phones (like those old ones with the cords!) followed a different model. In order to send data, both lines need to be active. If you’ve ever been hung up on, you know exactly what I mean. You can talk and talk, but the other person won’t ever receive it.
What does this mean, in the context of productivity? Well, think about your email inbox. A lot of us myself included, are obsessed with “Inbox Zero”. But since work can come in at any point in the day, we’re never really done (asymptotic to zero). We’re expected to stop drinking our margaritas on the beach. We’re expected to look at our phones compulsively every five minutes to make sure we didn’t miss a “package delivery”.
This isn’t all bad though. The very cause of our troubles can be used to facilitate processes so that we finish things we need to do, or things we said we’d do.
Our goal is to decrease the load on our physical brains, by taking advantage of tools (our digital brain). So let’s jump into it!
Todoist is a really powerful to-do list. The main selling points for Todoist for me are:
1) The ability to use natural language processing to add scheduling to todos
2) The ability to track past and completed todos with filters
3) A pretty intuitive project structure
That said, trialing this app to see if you like it isn’t really a thing. Their free tier is garbage, but you can occasionally find a code on Reddit to give yourself a free month (or use a referral, email me if you want one!)
Todoist is my “first line of defense”. When something comes up that I’m not ready to deal with, or if I’m busy doing something else, I’ll add it to Todoist. There have been times when I’ve been scrolling through my unfinished todos and I’ll realize that I forgot to do something small from months ago. Context matters. Sometimes you need to be in front of your home desktop to do something!
Back before todo lists were a thing, I honestly don’t know how people just didn’t forget to do things. I know I forget constantly. But maybe that’s just because I get distracted, I digress.
Habitica is a gamified way to keep track of habits. Habits are extremely important for productivity for multiple reasons. For one, habits when practiced every day, leads to major growth over time, but only when done consistently. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your meditation habit.
To quote Atomic Habits:
Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you repeat.
I treat my habits as static if possible because it allows me to plan my day around the ~30minutes it takes for me to finish them. By externalizing my habits into a game, the feeling of accomplishment has a tangible existence. Habitica also allows you to feel like an RPG hero while you do them, which is really fun. This app kind of reminds me of level progression back in my World of Warcraft days, but is much healthier.
Usually people say that they save the best for last, but I actually did.
Notion is amazing. It’s kind of like Evernote, Trello, and Google Docs had a baby. But this baby was born strong as f***. Notion has a very intuitive UI, and I use it as my goto “long term” planner. Because everything exists in one space, I can easily context switch from one project to another. I can’t say enough positive things about Notion, it really feels like one of those apps that change the way you interact with your computer/phone.
Their offline support is pretty buggy, though.
These three apps didn’t change everything in life for me, but in tandem they make me a much more productive human. One who gets s*** done!
If you’re interested in productivity, check out my post on blocking distracting websites with Python or sign up for my mailing list below.