It mainly comes down to doing it
Today's post is not about money per se, but it is about getting more from your day to day.
Recently I've found myself becoming more productive. Or at least, I feel like I am more productive.
This has come from some specific habits I have implemented.
The most important of these are annual planning, using a notebook, and a gamified to-do list.
Annual planning is probably familiar to most people that work in large companies. You make a plan at the beginning of the year, and review it at the end of the year. At work, it's probably just work projects, but I make a personal one including health, relationships, work, creative projects, exercise, habits, travel, bucket list, money, and basically anything else I can think of.
The magic comes from two big effects: thinking about what you want to do and where you need to change your life while planning, and looking back at what worked, what didn't, what made a big difference, and what was disappointing during the review.
I normally write my plan in January and review in December. This is arbitrary but fits in well with the end of year holidays in Japan.
I also write these for my blogs. For sendaiben, you can see an example of a review here, and an annual plan here.
I also write them for this blog, and you can see an annual plan here.
My personal annual plans run to about four pages of A4. I write them in Google Drive, and tend to glance at them every few months as I go through the year.
Using a Notebook
This has been a big one for me. Since I started seriously using a notebook (which basically means carrying it around everywhere and writing in it constantly) I have found ideas come easier and I am much more organized.
I do three things with my notebook. The first is daily planning. I'll write the date, then a list of tasks I want to focus on. Note (ha ha) the extremely important nice pen, coffee, and computer.
Check out Sebastian Marshall's fantastic post to see why this notebook lives next to the computer.
Another is thinking and writing about something. I find putting words on paper really helps me get my ideas straight.
Finally, taking notes in meetings or lectures. I don't tend to review them much, but writing key points down helps me remember them.
When I finish a notebook I read through it to look for missed ideas or unfinished projects, then throw it away.
I prefer plain notebooks with nice paper (buying notebooks is my secret vice) but in a pinch anything will do.
One interesting thing is that since starting to use a notebook I have begun noticing other people with notebooks, and if someone pulls out a notebook and pen my estimation of them will tick up a couple of notches ;)
Gamified To-do List
I have struggled with to-do lists, both paper and electronic versions. The main problem I have is that they get too long and I didn't use them enough. Once they get too clogged it gets discouraging to look at them.
I may have found my solution though. Recently I've been using a site/app called Habitica to keep track of my habits, daily tasks, and to-do list.
Basically Habitica is a role-play video game built around to-do lists. It is surprisingly effective (at least if you have a history of role-playing or playing video games, and I have both).
Habits are things I want to do more of or less of. In Habitica, good habits give you rewards in the game and bad habits do damage.
Personally I found that bad habit tracking didn't really do much for me, so I only use positive reinforcement.
Daily tasks are things I want to do every day. I only have three but they are all very important to me (especially the third, as one of my major goals this year is to get enough sleep consistently).
In the game, doing your dailies gives you rewards, and not doing them does damage.
To-do list is just things I want to get done. The great thing about Habitica is that it is really easy to add things to this list using the smartphone app, then you can curate them later when you get back to your computer.
These strategies are all about being more deliberate, thinking about what to do, and tracking whether it gets done. They have made a huge difference to my life, and I am looking forward to improving them going forward.
I guess it's a bit like personal finance: the key is to become aware and make a start. Spending a bit of time figuring out how to improve your processes could have a large effect on your life.
Are you happy with your planning and tracking system?