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Notes on Adulting

Table of Contents


For better or worse, I’m very attracted to the self-help genre. Not so much motivational speakers, but the bits that deal with productivity, fitness/training, coping with anxiety, how to build habits, and etc… This all started a dozen or so years ago when I found a book, Eat That Frog, in an airport and read through it before my flight. As suspicious as I was initially, it actually had some good advice in it and I realized there are useful things to get from these books.

There are many highly recommended books written in this genre. As I hurriedly read through these books so I can actually do things with me time, I’ll put my notes here.

“there is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself." ― Miyamoto Musashi

My Simple System

  1. Trello for project tracking
  2. Todoist for one-off todo items and a capture tool
  3. Clockify for time logging
    • Any project time is logged here then archived
  4. Standard Notes for note taking and capture tool

On Projects

Hearing David Allen define a project was very helpful for me. “There are no problems, only projects.” I document project states in Trello and store supporting documentation in Standard Notes.

Time/Project Management, Workflow, General Productivity

Since my career is a knowledge worker, a lot of this is specific to that path.

Getting Things Done / David Allen

Five Steps to GTD

  1. Capture - Identify information that has captured your attention and capture it in an inbox. It can be anything.
  2. Clarify results of that capture
  3. Organize things into a way they can be executed, e.g. put on calendar, etc.
  4. Reflect - Review things frequently
  5. Do - “You can only put your conscious attention on one thing at a time.”

Natural Planning Model

  1. Defining purpose and principles
  2. Outcome visioning
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Organizing
  5. Identifying next actions

Six Horizons of FocusGTD Blog Article

“Vertical and horizontal project focus”

*"take your job seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously"*

Rocks, pebbles, sand analogy for planning the day


Have a goal? Make sure it’s SMART

Zen to Done

The Zen Habits blog author Leo Babauta created a nice and simple system as a GTD alternative, or supplement. Either way, it’s helped me a bit. There is a book but a summary is available on his site.

The key habits that I took away

  1. Collect - get things out of your head and into an inbox
  2. Process - make a habit out of processing those inboxes regularly. Use the GTD workflow to decide what to do with these things.
  3. Plan - Plan out the day, week, month, quarter, etc. The farther something is away in time, the fuzzier the plan is. “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
  4. Do - Focus and do one thing at a time. Reminds me of advice from Deep Work
  5. Have a simple and trusted system for working.
    • Components of mine
      • Calendar
      • Todoist for one-off todos and a nice inbox for things in the future
      • Trello for projects
  6. Organize - This is a never ending habit. Is there something that doesn’t have a place? Make one for it.
  7. Review - Post-mortem for projects, keep a log and reflect on things.
  8. Simplify - Always keep iterating over systems, projects, workflows, organizations. Strive for further simplicity.
    • “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler” - Not really Albert Einstein
    • “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.” - Albert Einstein, the real quote

Deep Work

This book is related to the “do” sections from GTD and ZTD.

Deep work = “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

We are constantly distracted by our technology.

Strategies to perform deep work

  1. Monastic - Remove yourself from the world and work. A hotel room, cabin in a quiet place, airplane maybe? Long stretches of time to do deep work and not get distracted.
  2. Bi-modal approach - Schedule 4-6 hrs of time for deep work on a single thing. Lock the door versus go camping with a laptop.
  3. Rhythmic - Seinfield chain method, or do something at the same time each day.
  4. Journalist approach - Perform deep work whenever you have a spare moment. *(I can’t do this if it’s less than 15 minutes)

Make a ritual around deep work. Newport suggestions making rituals around where, how, and how long you work. E.g. In my office for two hours each day at 7pm.

“The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish” - Book: The 4 Disciplines of Execution

Act on the lead measures

** Have downtime ** Don’t burn out. Have a vacation. Doing deep, meaningful work, as a knowledge worker sets us up to be at a point when we can take the vacation. If you can NEVER take a fully unplugged vacation, then maybe it’s a bad work environment.

Think deeply about problems. Iterate over thoughts.

Quit social media. (Jaron Lanier agrees)

Use the internet for the “vital few” activities it excels at. Researching,

Eat that Frog

“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” - Brian Tracy

Book: Getting Results the Agile Way

Don’t set rigid goals, adjust as more is learned and situations change.

Taking action is the best thing for analysis paralysis.

Rule of 3
Pick three results for the day, week, month, quarter, etc.
Monday = Vision, Friday = Reflection
Define three daily outcomes to support the weeks vision, which supports the months vision, etc. These are the ugly frogs, the big rocks to do.
Hot Spots
Areas of life that demand focus. These are like roles that are mentioned in other systems.

Energy management > time management.

Technique: Eisenhower Matrix

I use this to prioritize tasks

Urgent Not Urgent
Important Do this stuff asap Plan and schedule these tasks
Not Important Delegate to a specific time/place/other person Why are you doing this?

Similar Method: MoSCoW

Automate repetitive tasks

If it can be automated, automate it. This is why I learned how to code.

Productivity Tools


I implement projects in Trello. Each role of my life has its own board with small-medium sized projects as a list. Each item to do is a card. The higher the card, the sooner it needs to happen. If the project is huge, I’ll make it its own board. Each project usually has a “waiting for” card that’s just a checklist inside the card.

Useful power-up: The calendar plugin for most boards. I’m on the free plan so its limited to one power up, and that’s more than enough since this is the only one I use.


Mental Models


Software Development/Knowledge Worker Specific

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development is based on twelve principles:[23]

  1. Customer satisfaction by early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even in late development.
  3. Deliver working software frequently (weeks rather than months)
  4. Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
  5. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  6. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress
  8. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  10. Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential
  11. Best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
  12. Regularly, the team reflects on how to become more effective, and adjusts accordingly

More to come!

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