The folks at Freedom have a helpful tutorial about “how to be more productive in the afternoon.” The same principles, though, will apply also to the mornings or whenever one’s preferred time is for focused work.
Kristina Malsberger discusses managing oneself and one’s commitments amid what can be a hectic whirlwind of incoming information and requests. According to Malsberger,
there’s a simple, centuries-old solution: the daily to-do list. Sure, checklists have their detractors—folks that claim they constrain creativity or induce undue guilt—but when done well, a to-do list functions like a trusty aide-de-camp, greatly improving your ability to remember, plan, and prioritize.
Malsberger then provides several practical recommendations about using and managing to-do lists. Among these are not “treating your to-do list like a junk drawer for all your ideas, wishes, and reminders.” Instead, a someday-maybe list that’s regularly culled for dead wood is much more helpful.
Cal Newport outlines the basics of how he reads when working on a project. According to Newport,
The key to my system is the pencil mark in the page corner. This allows me later to quickly leaf through a book and immediately identify the small but crucial subset of pages that contain passages that relate to whatever project I happen to be working on.
For various reasons, focus can be difficult in a whole host of contexts—at work, at home, or during recreation. One contemporary culprit that can all too easily hamper efforts to “lose” oneself in the “play” of the real world are the digital devices and media with which some of us are constantly surrounded. As a helpful set of “training wheels” to foster better focus amid such distractions, enter Freedom.
For a quick overview of how to configure and begin using Freedom, see the clip below.
from the University of Texas at Austin [and] suggests that having our cell phones within reach – even if they’re powered off– reduces cognitive capacity, or ability to concentrate.
The cognitive pull of our devices is something that can be difficult to recognize, present with us as they often are. But the possibly deleterious effects on concentration that derive from having too much access to novel stimuli is certainly something that bears careful consideration.
deep and singular focus is just what the doctor ordered, but in our hyper-connected world, it isn’t always easy…. You could chuck all your gadgets and move to the woods, but luckily you don’t need to get that drastic. Experts say you can begin to retrain your brain and take advantage of deep focus by concentrating on one thing at a time, managing your use of technology, and reframing the “instant-response” expectations of your colleagues—and yourself.
Inbox and Reminders integrate with Google Calendar, but can be difficult to adjust in Calendar. Any tasks scheduled at the same time group together in Calendar, and the group is tied together unless the tasks are individually rescheduled to different times (no dragging-and-dropping allowed). In addition, Inbox’s ability to schedule email is quite nice, but retrieving a list of all the email needing a response is sometimes cumbersome. Also, snoozed email doesn’t get added to Calendar unless some specific “remember to” text is added for it. So, daily planning seemed somewhat encumbered by the still-evolving implementation of integration among Inbox, Reminders, and Calendar.
OneNote is a tool I’ve been using and have found very helpful for some time now. But, sometime’s I’d forget to copy tasks over to a new day’s page, and planning out what emails needed to be written when proved not to be the easiest thing either (i.e., copy-and-paste the URL in Gmail to get back to the email later).
Thus far though, Todoist has been a happy medium for a lot of this, and they’ve recently rolled out a robust, user-friendly two-way sync with Google Calendar. The implementation with Google Calendar is really quite transparent and helpful. The Todoist for Gmail extension for Google Chrome also makes planning when and how to address incoming email quite straightforward.
For a survey of the Todoist’s new integration with Google Calendar, see the following YouTube clip:
For further discussion of Todoist and its use with GTD, see Todoist’s site and the following YouTube playlist:
It’s certainly not new, but I recently came across the GTD Times blog run by the David Allen Company. The most recent entry is the first part of a keynote in which Allen overviews his approach to “getting things done,” as covered more fully in his book by the same title. If academia should ever manifest itself as an environment with an overabundance of demands, Allen’s advice may be a helpful starting point in adequately coming to grips with that situation.
Why? Because focus is rare and distraction abundant. As Hyatt comments,
Even when we think we are focusing, we usually aren’t. When we work intensely on one problem but do quick “check backs” on email, social media, and the like during breaks, we run into the problem of “attention residue.” Those things come back with us when we return to our core work and make it harder to focus on our most important tasks.
For the balance of Hyatt’s summation of the interview, see his blog. Or, for the full interview, see the recording below: