My Todolist Over Time | 2406

The moment I finished editing this weekโ€™s show about Cal Newport’s Slow Productivity, I realised to my horror that Iโ€™d made it before. Doing the things that actually need doing, when they need getting done? Finishing Projects? It turns out that this is probably the greatest challenge of my life. 

Iโ€™m at a total loss.

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Todolist Over Time

The moment I finished editing this weekโ€™s show, I realised to my horror that Iโ€™d made it before.

One of the wild things about making a podcast with a searchable public archive every week – especially one that touches on aspects of one’s creative life – is that after half a decade it can reveal recurring currents of thinking that might otherwise remain unexamined. 

2 years ago I made an identical show to the one I made today – pulling at the same threads, cataloguing my same issues. 

And so, through the magic of archives, todayโ€™s episode is about my ongoing struggle with personal time management and prioritisation going back to 2018.

Hereโ€™s the opening of todays episode to set the scene:

Iโ€™m currently reading Cal Newportโ€™s newest book “Slow Productivity” and Iโ€™m enjoying it very much. I must confess, I didn’t get around to reading “Deep Work” until the pandemic lockdown. My initial impressions of the book and its contents was soured by the haphazard and counterproductive implementation of some of its ideas at a company I was working at at the time of its release. However, “Slow Productivity” seems like a timely book, and its call for intervention in workplace culture, especially in this post-pandemic era is well met.

One of the reasons I picked up the book is because, since returning from Thailand at the beginning of the year, I’ve been re-evaluating my own work processes.

And hereโ€™s some of the opening from Episode 22-04

This is a thread Iโ€™ve been pulling on for months now. Do the Things That Need Doing and Dealing With Procrastination in November. The Urgent Anxiety of December and Januaryโ€™s Fear of Finding Out.

In fact, I can follow this thread all the way back to Episode 18-24. Where the first point for this episode is taken from. 

In 2018 I said:

Multitasking is largely misunderstood by everyone. Multitasking is holding a conversation whilst juggling, or walking along the road whilst speaking to a friend.
Multitasking can *only* occur when one of the behaviours you are โ€˜tasking onโ€™ is so automatic that you can just leave it to run whilst you do something else.
What most people call multitasking, especially in a workplace context (or whenever we are in front of a computer screen to be honest) is actually task switching. Moving between singular tasks rapidly.


This morning I said: 

In the last year or so, I have become a big fan of โ€˜eating the frogโ€™ first thing in the morning. In fact, Iโ€™ve found that the thing I’m most reluctant to get going on every day is usually the most important. So I’m getting that done as soon as Iโ€™ve finished my morning journal has been working really well. And then I reward myself with some time checking my RSS reader.   

But I’ve fallen into a bit of a trap, one that Newportโ€™s book has helped me clarify. 

My trap has been to think that I should work a little and often across lots of projects. Pushing them all forward a little bit, which ultimately means everything is trapped in a perpetual state of โ€˜the doingโ€™. And has meant that nothing actually gets finished.

And in 2022:

I use Todoist to manage my day to day. In the app I have a daily recurring task called โ€˜Push Things Forwardโ€™. I only tick it off if Iโ€™ve done either of the following things during the day. Write 300 new words or spent 20 minutes editing/noodling on something Iโ€™ve already drafted.

In order to qualify, the effort has to be in addition to all the things I had scheduled to do that day. Hence the taskโ€™s name: Push Things Forward.

The problem is โ€“ he says. And this is by no means a world shattering observation. Noodling on 15 things and having a further 27 things I could start on means that Iโ€™m not finishing anything. My behaviour is literally the lady sweeping the sea meme. Iโ€™m not making any significant progress in any direction at all.

I even mentioned Todoist this morning:

As I’ve written before, I run my life out of the todoist app with a GTD like structure

But then I went on to talk about Newports classification system.

Newport says that all self-directed work should be broken down into missions, projects, and goals. And you should only work on one project at a time, finish it, and then move on. 

To maximise my chances of it happening Iโ€™ve decided that Iโ€™m only going to do one thing at a time.

He says that all self directed work should be broken down into missions, projects and goals. And you should only work on one project at a time. Finish it and move on. 

Here was my proposed solution two years ago. 

For the rest of the year at the beginning of each month, Iโ€™m going to look at the ideas pile, pick one or two things on the list. Then work on them to completion, to the exclusion of everything else that would usually butterfly my attention away

Iโ€™m going to full screen the things that need doing, and then do them, one at a time.

And what I was proposed this morning:

Itโ€™s been very easy for me to classify and re-prioritise things I want to do at the project level. Iโ€™m going to focus on doing one thing at a time, completing tasks, achieving goals and finishing projects. Over the next few months Iโ€™m looking forward to seeing if things get finished.

2 years apart! Iโ€™ve also just search my blog and my plan for 2021 was โ€˜Plan to Finishโ€™ too 

If Iโ€™m being super honest, being unable to finish anything doesn’t just go back to 2018, but right the way back to young adulthood.

Yet mediation, the practice of sitting for long periods with nothing but oneself, simply experiencing the joy of being alive is something I have no problem with at all?

But doing the things that actually need doing – when they need getting done?

This Is probably the greatest challenge of my life.

Iโ€™m honestly at a total loss.

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