April 2022 Daily Notes

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I've got a friend who is looking for a task management app, and isn't necessarily wanting to pay the high price tag of Things 3. I've been looking around at different task management apps on their behalf, and have found some promising ones. One that intrigued me was called Sorted. The UI looks similar to Things, but where it differs is its focus on scheduling / time blocking. Time blocking is something I've tried in the past, but have struggled with it due to the fact that no matter how well planned the day is, something always interrupts that plan, causing me unneeded stress. It's also time consuming to actually set up the time blocking each day. Sorted has a feature that will automatically schedule the tasks you have set for today, and allows you to easily adjust the scheduling of items as the day goes on. They sound like good solutions to the issues I have with time blocking, but I'm also heavily invested in Things already and I'm not looking to add another app to my workflow. My friend does like time blocking, so Sorted sounds right up their alley. You can check out the app here if that's something that sounds intriguing to you too.


I finished the book I was reading, Teaching With Power, earlier this week. When I first started the book, I was taking notes from each chapter as I went along. This made it take a lot of time, so I decided during the second half of the book to just highlight things I wanted to take notes on, and then do all the notes after I was done with the book. While this helped me get through the reading faster, I now have a lot of highlights and notes to record, so I don't know that it really saved me much time. I think I actually like taking the notes as I go along better because then it's done and I don't have to spend a week afterward writing up all the notes. I love experimenting different ways of doing things with each book I read. I feel it's helping me to improve and refine my book note taking process. I feel it gets better with each book I read.


As I was doing my weekly review yesterday, I noticed a lot more items make it onto to my next actions list than make it off. I have some items that have been on there for longer than I can remember. I decided to set a goal for myself to clear out my next actions list by the end of the week. I'll do this by reviewing each task on the list and do one of 3 things:

  1. Complete the task
  2. Move the task to my backlog / do later list
  3. Delete the task if no longer relevant

After completing this process, I'd like to manage my next actions list better by not adding more items than I can reasonably get done within the week. Having too many items on the next actions list causes overwhelm, and I end up avoiding the list rather than working through it. Hopefully doing a reset this week will help me get back on track with it.


I received two new journals this past Christmas, and I've been itching to use them. I'm finally getting the chance to use one of them starting at the beginning of May as my current Bullet Journal is just about out of pages. I've been setting my new journal up, which is always an exciting process for me. It's an opportunity to start fresh and try new things. The journal I'm using is much larger than any of the others I've used, so it's been fun adjusting my spreads as I can fit more information on each page. The journal is from a company called Archer & Olive, and the one I'm using is their B5 size. I like how big it is so far, but I am curious to see how I like it once May rolls around and I start trying to take it with me places.


I finished making some revisions to my Second Brain diagram. I eliminated one of the apps I was using, Concepts, as it turns out I rarely use mind maps. They don't come as natural to me as a good old fashioned bullet list, so no need to force myself to use them. I also adjusted a couple things on Obsidian and Bullet Journal. Check out the updated version of the diagram here.


I've been fighting off a mild cold the last couple of days, and my productivity has been way down. I spent the day on the couch, and I felt guilty about not being able to get things done. I realized, though, that I really don't need to feel guilty about getting the rest my body clearly needs. We can't run at peak performance all the time. We get burnt out, and we need times of refreshing and recharging. Sometimes I have to get a cold to remember to take a break. It's been a busy year so far, and I can really use the rest.


I was reminded of the second Key to Productivity, Iteration, this past weekend. As I've mentioned previously, I teach Sunday School at church, and I've been reading a book titled Teaching With Power in order to learn how to be a better gospel teacher. There are so many great ideas in the book, and I want to implement all of them. I found myself disappointed after my lesson on Sunday because I hadn't immediately become the great teacher I see in my mind. I reflected afterward and realized I need to practice my teaching skills one at a time. I need to iterate. I need to choose one thing to focus on, and once I've improved on that thing, I can work on improving something else. The irony is the authors even say in the book to focus on improving teaching skills one at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say.


It's amazing how quickly one can get out of the habit of doing something. The last month or so has been busy for me, and I haven't been posting daily notes as consistently as I'd like. Mondays are the day I do my weekly review, so it's a good day for me to re-commit to my habits and goals. And, of course, tomorrow is always an opportunity for a fresh start.


At the risk of jinxing myself, I've never been more satisfied than with my current set of productivity apps, methods, and systems. I think I've finally hit upon my perfect balance of digital and analog tools as well. I continue to make tweaks to my systems within my chosen apps, but I don't feel the desire to switch to different tools. I've spent over a decade experimenting with different apps and tools, and it's amazing to finally be at a place where I'm happy with my toolset. I don't feel the friction with my tools that I've felt in the past. I don't feel that constant need to seek out new tools. In fact, I've been whittling down my list of tools so as to simplify my workflows, and have been working on updating my 2nd Brain diagram to reflect that. I'll be putting the changes up within the next few days after I finish them up.


Ever since I was a kid I've dreamed of writing books. I used to write and draw picture books in elementary school, and as a teenager I developed an idea for a series of novels. I spent a long time drawing maps of the world these novels would take place in, and wrote a few drafts of opening chapters. As an adult I've shifted my focus to nonfiction, the dream being to write and publish a book about productivity. I wrote an almost complete draft of a book a couple years ago where I tried to relate the process of building a productivity system to the Hero's Journey. The concept sort of worked, but things didn't blend together as well as I'd like. I've recently been exploring another concept that I think will work much better, and will be writing more about it here in due course. I'm still in the early stages, so I'm spending time brainstorming ideas, and doing some research on how to best approach writing a book. I'll be sharing my writing journey here as I go along.


Now that the sketches for my new website design are done, I took some time to plan out the various stages of actually building the site out. I've broken the building down in the same way I did the sketches: page by page, section by section. I'll be doing more personal sprints to get it all done. My goal is to have the new version of the website launched by the end of May. With my sprints being 1 week long, that gives me about 6 sprints to get it all done. Hopefully that'll be enough time to get it all done. Having done my sketches ahead of time will hopefully help to make it go faster.


I've been spending a lot of time in my yard weeding and planting. I talked before about how weeds had grown up amongst the clover I'd planted in the fall, and I had intended to rip them out and plant more clover to fill in the holes. The plants amongst the clover have all flowered, however, so I now have what looks like a mountain meadow full of little purple and white flowers. As a result I've been changing my mindset in regards to the yard needing to look perfectly manicured. I actually really like the mountain meadow look. It's a reminder to me that we have the power to choose how we look at something. We can look at things negatively and see a bunch of weeds, or we can look at things positively and see a beautiful mountain meadow. Seeing the beauty has certainly helped my mind be less stressed when it comes to the yard.


I've mentioned previously how I'm trying to be more intentional about using (or not using) my phone, and I'm happy to say I've got my phone usage down to less than 30 minutes a day! It's really been helping me achieve another of my goals which is to read more. I've been reading out of actual books much more than I used to, as well as studying scriptures using my physical set. I feel it's been much easier for me to gain insights while I'm reading physical books, and I've been able to retain much more of what I read.


I'm a Sunday School teacher at church, and the next lesson I'll be teaching falls on Easter. I'll be talking about the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I realized my post yesterday could be a good analogy for the change that comes as we utilize the power of the Atonement in our daily lives. We all have parts of us that are undesirable (weeds), but the Atonement (gardening tools) can help us remove the undesirable parts of ourselves. It takes a lot of time and intentional effort to remove the weeds, but as we diligently work on removing them, and have faith and trust in Christ, we'll gradually improve and become more and more like Him. The Savior often used object lessons and parables when teaching His gospel, and by sharing my example of removing the weeds in my yard, I can teach the lesson in His way.

This is also another great example of using the personal knowledge base I've slowly been building up to create larger content.


As Spring begins to bloom, my mind has naturally been turning to my yard. I have historically not been great at keeping plants alive. Last fall we spent a couple days (along with some angelic volunteers) ripping out the dead and decaying sod I had planted 2 years before, which had been attacked nonstop by pests the entire time we had it. We planted clover in its place as it takes much less maintenance (no need to fertilize, takes much less water, doesn't need to be mowed as often, and stays green all year long). The clover has grown really well, but so have the weeds. That is one advantage sod has over seed: it's already grown so the weeds have a harder time taking hold. With the clover we've had to grow it from seed, so the weeds have been able to grow along with it. Luckily, the clover is the majority of what's in the yard, so it's a matter of removing the weeds and filling the holes in with more clover seed. It's most likely going to be impossible to 100% eradicate the weeds, but I've decided that's okay. I figure as long as the majority of the yard is clover then I'm content with that. I'll continue to fight the weeds back, of course, but I'm not going to stress if a few end up surviving.

Just like my yard, we don't have to be perfect. As long as we're striving to be better, removing the weeds and filling the holes they leave with better things, then we're going to be okay in the long run.


The personal sprint I ran this week to get my website sketches done was a success! I am now ready to take those sketches and use them to start building my new website template. I feel I came up with some good ideas, and can't wait to put them into practice. Putting the tasks into a sprint in my task manager, Things 3, really helped me to focus and get them done. I plan to do more personal sprints in the future because this one was a huge success. I even finished it a day early!