Personal Productivity / Prioritization


I’m good at dealing with the daily organizational stuff via a combo of Google calendar (for remembering when to go to things and meeting deadlines) and physical notebooks for to-do lists and creative decision-making.

Still working on setting and meeting longer-term goals. Feels like I’ve been failing at that for years now. Will look into some of the suggestions in this thread.


For me, long term goals just need to be super compelling. They tend to be the kind of things that you wrap your whole life around. You will change locations or jobs or relationships or anything you need to change to achieve them.

When you’ve committed that deeply to a long-term goal, so long as it’s a realistic and tractable goal (you possess the requisite skills and/or resources) it’s practically inevitable that you will achieve it.


This is a big topic, and it’s great to read people’s takes on it. I guess the main things I’d offer are these:

Everyone works differently. Or more to the point, there are different ways of working, and what works for one person won’t work for everyone. This means try lots of tools, systems, approaches, and just use what works for you.

Don’t imagine you’ll ever have a system that’s perfect and it’ll last the rest of your life. Just see it as ongoing iterative improvement. And see that as something of interest, not depressing.

Tool-wise, I have two main things I use: (1) One is Todoist. Some people are list-oriented, others calendar-oriented. After I’ve spent time trying a heap of tools over the years, Todoist, which combines list and calendar in a solid manner, is the one I’ve used the longest, and the only “productivity” tool I continue to use. I won’t bore you with its benefits. I will say that like any worthwhile habit, it requires (and rewards) dedication. Oh, and while I have the paid version, the free should be fine for many people. (2) The other is a daily journal (in a markdown document, but any format would work). Every day I have categories of stuff (projects, health, home, etc.), and I note things in them of importance that I got done or need to retain some information about. Since it’s searchable on my computer, it’s a great outboard brain. I find having one such new document each month works well. (Quarterly got too long.) And I do them in reverse chronological order, so the new day starts at the top of the document above the previous day.

I read some GTD stuff, and the main things I retain from it, the main things I act on, are two: (1) Every day there is one thing that is the most important thing, and if you don’t get Thing 1 done, then even if you get Thing 2, Thing 3, and Thing 4 done, you’re not going to have a sense of accomplishment. (2) You’ll only get things done if you break them down into smaller pieces.

Work has a meta level. Work about work — organizing, planning, collating — has to be scheduled (has to have time allotted to it) just like actual project work.

And you have to take breaks. That’s not laziness, or procrastination. It’s healthy. Email isn’t a break. Stepping away from whatever you’re doing is a break.

I’m gonna reread what people wrote above, and I look forward to what else people contribute to this thread.


(asking @jasonw22 as well)
why did you choose markdown over another format ?
what is you text editor ?


Inbox Zero keeps me sane.

I also have a todo.txt in the plain text format that I update with my preferred text editor.


I like markdown for the ability to add formatting as I type without needing a GUI or complex finger yoga.

I use the Mac and iOS note app called Bear for note-taking. Atom seems to be the code text editor I’m using most frequently lately.


I can totally recommend this: it’s the best of all worlds, markdown, WYSIWYG, minimalistic and modern.


Main reason I use markdown for my efforts-tracking documents is because many text editors automatically add color and bolding to #titles, which makes the lists more scannable/readable. I used to work only in .txt, due to its portability. Those .md files are almost as portable, but occasionally I come upon programs that can’t read it. I occasionally think of using some semi-closed system like Evernote, but then I try it out and the syncing isn’t what I’d hoped for or the program itself is too bloated for my needs.

I change text editors with some regularity. Lately I’ve been using Visual Studio Code. Now I’m gonna check out and


Oh, yeah, I recall That’s by Gina Trapani, who used to be the editor of It’s pretty darn cool.


I’ve used Ulysses for years. It’s not cheap, but it’s really good. Excellent markdown support, tags and folders for organization, direct publishing to Medium if you do that sort of thing, iCloud integration so I have all my notes on all my devices (only a benefit if you use Apple stuff…)


todotxt would be cool, except I don’t know.
It’s funny because the big and full-featured apps like Todoist or Asana usually have a big abundance of stuff that I don’t use and just make the whole thing more bloated and slow, while on the other hand the minimalistic ones are mostly pointless too me, because they lack the organization features that help me in keeping sane with the huge amount of tasks I have to deal with.
Also, as a side note, why should I buy out of a proprietary solution like Asana, to buy into another proprietary thing like Dropbox (which I like even less)?


All these systems have their shortcomings. You just need to find what’s right for you. I’ve found lots of things that work, but then I either outgrew them (got better, needed less of whatever they offered) or they outgrew me (which is to say, in most cases, got bloated).


I used Omnifocus and read GTD religiously at one point. Followed it exactly, but that only lasted for about 2 months. The problem with it for me was that it seemed very guilt driven - “don’t fall off the productivity wagon!”. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and gleaned some ideas from it - especially do something immediately if it takes 2 minutes or so. The idea of ‘context’ was also good - why worry about things you can’t do at work or at home?

I would recommend people use built in tools as I have lost track of which version Things or Omnifocus is on now. It seemed like there was always a new version coming out. Nowadays I use the built in Reminders application on the Mac and on iPhone. This works pretty well for most things.


great topic!

I’v been using trello boards for goals/todos/notes. allthough I do some color coding, it’s just groups of sorted lists where I can move around the entries quickly. been looking for specialized alternatives, but always come back to just using lists. omnifocus looks nice. but their pricing clearly isn’t targeted at me. don’t get me wrong, I love to pay for things I use/enjoy, more so if for everyday use. but 2*40$ for a mac/ios combo is hard to justify imo.

I sometimes use the pomodoro technique trello based chrome app pomello. but as much as I want to love the rigid concept, it’s not the way I work and it’s often just a kickstarter for initially kicking my ass.

zero inbox is gold. though I admit I only do it at work, where the stream has a certain bandwidth/importance.


This has all been said already on here, but I’ll add my perspective. I used to be a GTD junky, but really haven’t thought about it all that much these days. I’ve been an on again off again Omnifocus and Evernoye user, but I’ve always used them for a few weeks in a rigorous manner, then stopped.

Here’s what works for me lately:

  1. Inbox zero + one or two
    I usually keep a handful of ongoing things in each inbox. I have one account for work, one account for personal.

  2. No Facebook or Twitter during the day
    I only go on each once a week, if that. Instagram and YouTube are ok for me, because I use them mostly for educating myself about topics I want to learn about.

  3. Open a browser tab, then forget about it
    This is basically my version of the GTD inbox. When I hear about something that I need to look into, I’ll open a browser tab, and either Google the thing to look into, open the page of a web app I need to use to do it, or go to whatever site it is. I’m an Apple user for the most part, so I use a combination of iCloud tabs and Reading List to sync all these sites across my phone, two Macs (one personal and one for work), and iPad.

  4. Write out a daily to-do list on very busy days
    I only do this when things really stack up. There are days when I have a ton to do, and on those days, I write out (on paper) a checklist for myself.

  5. Set time and location based reminders when needed
    If I have something that’s really time or location sensitive, I’ll use my iPhone’s reminders app to set a reminder. I use these incredibly sparingly.


Thanks for the Typora recommendation. It’s solid.


The responses from all of you have been tremendous…still sifting thru each option and recommendation but I appreciate what has been shared already



speaking to myself…
productivity is a cultural construct
we all have a part of the truth

we get good at what we do everyday :slightly_smiling_face:

sleeping, waking up, making coffee, meditating, driving the freeway, talking on the phone, using the computer, making money, making dinner, practicing tai chi, or yoga, running sounds through the robot, watching tv, loving, arguing, drinking, disco dancing, playing music, doing chi gong, caring for our moms, thinking in english, wondering about the spirit world, etc…


you’re not crazy
we believe :sparkles:
you’re a great artist!


I fully support this.

Well, I can’t say I got good at ukulele over five or so years, but I got better, and that’s good enough.


I think I’ve gone through every todo system there is at this point. Read GTD a few times. I currently use Things + Reminders for todo and capture. Streaks I’ve been enjoying lately on iOS, which is about maintaining streaks of doing something every day. But the really interesting think I’ve started using this year is a spreadsheet. There is a saying among business product design that what you make has to be easier to use than just doing it in Excel. So I started a Google sheet called “Life” where I just outboard my mind in different grid based structures, opening new sheet tabs as I go. I’m really enjoying it. Information is structured, archived and synced everywhere.

Oh another one, I have an apple note checklist of song names when I think of a dumb name for a song I put it on the end of the list, then check it off when I’ve used it on something.