One of my great pleasures is noticing parallels in different parts of my life.
Recently, I built the habit of lifting weights in the gym three times a week. I’ve tried to do that before, but I never previously succeeded. Some past obstacles included:
Then, earlier this year, I finally had enough of my excuses. I joined a fancy, expensive gym—so there are fewer meatheads and it isn’t busy. I downloaded and set up an app (Fitbod, for the curious) that generates a different workout each time I go, according to my preferences—so working out is not boring and so I don't have to think about what to lift. I also stopped bouldering and stopped going to yoga classes for now, as I am building this new habit.
Put differently: I’m keeping it simple. Not much thinking.
Building the habit of lifting is challenging enough: for me, it requires eating more, learning new lifts, finding the willpower to go even when I don’t feel like it, and so on. By using an app and lifting on the same three days every week, I don’t have to think. I can just execute. It’s much simpler.
Perhaps it isn’t the optimal way for me to gain muscle, but it works. So far, I have stuck religiously to my new habit of lifting every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. And I credit this to the simplicity. I didn’t try to do too much at once.
The parallel I noticed is that many of you have recently told me that, while you found my YouTube videos or my courses very helpful, you’ve had trouble sticking with your task manager. People say that they started off enthusiastically, but that for one reason or another, they didn’t stick with OmniFocus, with Things, or with whatever their task manager is.
Perhaps that’s because you're trying to change too much at once?
I see plenty of people getting stuck in how to organize their projects, which perspectives or tags to use, how many tasks to pick to work on today, etc. Those are important to think about, but only if you’ve got the basics down.
Maybe—be honest with yourself—you don’t quite have the basics down? If so, there is no shame in that. Just start small. Keep it simple.
In my courses, I deliberately teach simple workflows. But perhaps even these simple workflows are more than you need right now. That’s okay. Start even simpler and work your way up.
For example, if you’re having trouble actually using your task manager—literally having trouble opening the app each day and writing down and checking off tasks—then use just one task list. Only use the app’s inbox. Each morning, write down what you’re planning to do today. That’s it. Forget about projects, sub-tasks, etc. Build the habit of creating that one simple list every morning and referring back to that list throughout the day.
Can you successfully do that for a week? Great. Then take the next step.
This might sound excessively simple. Perhaps it isn’t your problem at all. If so, ignore this advice. 🙃 I know, though, that many of you are struggling to stick with your task manager. If you are, then simplifying even more is the first thing you should try.
Much better to use 20% of your task manager 100% of the time than to use 100% of your task manager 20% of the time.
Start small and keep it simple. Just like my new workout routine. Good luck!
Every Sunday, I send an article on productivity to my email list. People say my articles are useful, insightful, and relatable.
When you subscribe, you’ll receive my weekly article on productivity every Sunday. I will also send you a few emails about my productivity philosophy and about how I can help you. You can unsubscribe anytime.