Something I have been thinking about in the past year, or really a few years, is the ways of being productive. Particularly in the online environment, with all of the distractions it can bring.
What does productivity mean? What does DIGITAL productivity even mean? I made this post to try and find out, and share what I have learned with you.
First and foremost I want to mention that it is technically different for every person. The dreaded desktop full of 60 icons that technology illiterate people do, is what most people probably think of in this case. Although some people like that do have an organized mind, and things get done. What I want to clarify is that, while it might be bad to do that, especially when folders make the desktop far more clean/minimal. That isn't the point, as the point is: When you have that layer of messiness, it prevents from being at a level that YOU COULD be at.
Imagine if you were blocked by the limitations of what your desktop allows, and then you cleaned it up. If you were already getting some things done before, then imagine what the change would improve in your productivity?
Structure and Philosophy
How you organize your data, from the lowly passwords in your browser or password manager, to the various files on your computer and desktop. They all have a place in your life, and need to be there in some capacity. How quickly do you actually need to retrieve them? Do you really need that document from 10 months ago on your desktop?
Those icons for the program you could easily type in the search bar for?
Moreover, are these items connected? Do they allow you to have an input and output system? Are you doing something with the stuff you learn? Are you putting to use your data and things online?
Structuring your computer is the first step, clean up your emails, clear your desktop, put a motivation quote on there if you want, and organize your folders into a simple system.
There isn't much your can do when you are using a limited OS like Windows (my choice), or MAC OS. There is a lot more you could do with a Linux like Zorin OS, but that requires a massive shift.
Point being: Work in the confines of what you have.
Your Operating System has a lot to do with this!
In Windows for example we use the file explorer, and well all it does is separate your harddrives, and keep track of your OS's folders.
From there it is really up to you. It is your Window into the digital world after all. That means besides the various music/videos/pictures folders, then you have to organize your own things.
A lot of people default to the desktop and downloads folder, but I strongly encourage you to keep those clean and minimal as possible.
From there create folders for your endeavors, like for me I have one for PolyInnovator, where I keep all the assets and files I need for it.
On another harddrive (simply because I needed more space) I have all of my interviews under a folder called discussions, which is under "Recordings". I also have my tools that I record with to automatically go to that said ^ folder.
Things like that to account for, and simplify your meta work as much as possible.
Horizontal vs Vertical or 2D vs 3D
There are multiple layers of abstraction, or distraction too (a typo I am going to run with), and how you organize them. Let alone use them, is really key here.
For example Windows allows you to have multiple desktops, think like a saved arrangement of icons and tools, with different backgrounds even.
The idea is that maybe you use your computer for gaming and relaxing, as well as for work during the day. Having that horizontal change can help your brain change modes, and boost your productivity or play time.
More importantly I think than that, is the vertical layers. The folders you employ for organizing your projects and data files. The digital structure you create, such as my structure I explained earlier for recordings > discussions > individual interview folders > finally the files.
Those are the layers I speak of, and how you put those together can make or break you. Some people I've noticed get lost in their own folders, at that point it is time to reevaluate the structure.
Given how this new web3 world that is being created is going, then a lot of what we do on the desktop and on the internet are going to merge. Much like how Chrome OS tried to forego the native desktop all together.
At that point you would have to keep track of your pods per se, but not necessarily the folders themselves. Or maybe your digital computer IN the metaverse, as it could be the other way around. Even more layers of abstraction. Food for thought.
Task, Project, Content Management Tools
I just rewrote a massive post of tools and software for this very thing. I'd check it out if you want a holistic view of everything available.
Keeping track of the things you need to do daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, and even over the coming decade.
People often only look at Todo lists in the micro, but the macro and supra layers are still super important as well.
"Most people often think they can get more than what they actually could done in a year, but underestimate what they could do in 10 years"
Still adding things like reminders to drink water, and do your daily habits via something like Google Calendar is very helpful. I recently rehauled my own calendar, and it has helped me do more of my basic items.
A lot of people see these as a corporate or team based thing. However I find that if you can bunch your tasks or items into sprints as an individual, then you can get more done over a shorter period of time.
I also think of sprints in the viewpoint of cycles, for example our nightly sleep. The circadian rhythm is different for everyone. There are actually MANY phases for sleep, although we are usually only taught REM and non-REM. Each one has their own importance, and we do a sprint each night through multiple phases.
Think of our nightly rest as a sprint, can help us optimize our sleep for example. Take the correct supplements for the phases we need to focus on, and use tools like the famous "ring" or an Apple Watch/Fitbit to track how well we slept.
Another example is our attention, and some weeks I am more focused on learning. Others are more focused on creating, and I don't really choose which one it is. I just have to go with the flow of what my subconscious is going towards. This is where self-reflection and self-understanding come in to play.
One last example as it came to mind a couple times, is that of CEO's like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerburg. They both structure their weeks between a few companies each, and they stay ultra productive despite the mental split. Mark for example aims for one big win each week, and so his sprint is optimized for that singular win.
This was actually my main reason and motivation behind increasing my productivity. I wanted to create my OmniContent everyday, as well as have the distribution and repurposing as automatic as possible. Whether that was through a tool, or even just my own system. If I made it easier for myself using templates or a system of creating them. Then the process goes smoother, even if I am a solo act.
I created my database in Notion, and that allowed me to consolidate like three tools into one, and more importantly create a template that can be EASILY applied to every episode. Using a Google doc and copying it each time just did NOT work.
Why Notion Checks all the Boxes
Look many of you knew this was coming, as this is a tool I preach about daily. It is like a lego system for your digital life. Consolidating your data is the first thing, then organizing it based on layers of abstraction. From your custom dashboard, to the various databases of your life. From your expenses to your workout plan, and learning with the Modegree, to the content you create from it.
It all can be linked together into a system, and placed on top of your computer experience. Meaning it doesn't have to be the same layer, and it can be accessed from anywhere.
Why I have used it: A Life OS or Second Brain
The idea of a second brain is what really caught my eye, and being able to brain dump. Sort of like I alluded to earlier, and focus on the task at hand is monumentally a gamechanger.
Creating a life os or PolyInnovation OS, is a key step forward. You start off playing with the legos, and build something. Eventually you realize what you built is not good enough, and then you tear it down. Build it again, and again. Then you see a YouTuber like myself or August Bradley or Thomas Frank, and you see what we created. Then you realize that you have even more optimizing to be done, or maybe you take one of our courses, etc.
In the end your dashboard and digital brain is 10X better than before.
I used to do this constantly with my Legos, as I wanted to create the best spaceship I could from the parts I had. I ended up creating some of the most intricate and impressive ships ever for a Lego hobby. That same mindset is what I use for Notion, so you could say I have been doing it all my life even...
How have I used it: The PolyInnovation OS
It all leads up to this ^. I struggled with productivity over the years. I started out learning and learning, just more and more, and eventually you get to point where you can't learn anymore about the subject.
Everything just keeps coming back the same: "eat the frog", "trick your brain using the 2 minute rule", "a clean environment is a clear mind", etc etc.
They are all true, but when you start to hear that again and again. You start to think what's next? What hasn't been discovered yet? What is on the fringe or frontier of digital productivity?
Notion.so has been becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. Even Microsoft announced their Notion-like "Loop" recently, and Coda is an popular alternative as well.
I created my system to track the macro AND micro focuses, and on every layer of abstraction. From Supra to Pico in the levels, or in other words the Yearly to the hourly.
More over I created my own templates for "INPUT" like my Modular Degree, and for "OUTPUT" such as my OmniContent Sprints.
How I go about my content and life is far different than most people. Again not bragging, but stating a fact. I don't think everyone needs to copy me, but if some do then they will see a great massive increase in what they get done.
Please keep an eye out for when I make the PIOS a public tempalte!!
How does this all fit in YOUR productivity?
It is all about learning, and at this point I figure you are either entry level, or mid level looking for the next level up. Just an assumption for you could be a productivity guru yourself.
No matter where you are, I think this post's macro philosophy is unique, and that can help you process the next step yourself hopefully. I want to get you thinking differently, and hopefully more optimized as well!
From Get Things Done to Eat the Frog
In our society it is ALL about OUTPUT output output, and so forth; Which is great, but if you keep outputting without inputing as well then it doesn't matter. You are just regurgitating at that point.
The GTD system is all about getting the tasks done efficiently through a flow.
Eating the frog is about getting the hardest thing done first in the earliest possible time. From there it is smooth sailing.
However the snowball method is completely opposite. Having you do one small task, then a slightly bigger one, and so forth until the big task is just another checkbox checked.
Which one do you choose? How do you know? Not to mention is one better than the other? The answer to all of those is no, and yes? You must decide in the present moment. I woke this morning, took far longer in my morning ritual (probably was because of my less sleep), and snapped to working. I finished my Tool list post mentioned before, and in the past hour wrote 2500 words. All while letting my interview upload in the background, and render the audio as well.
I had no "big task" or frog to eat, I just had a bunch of things bundled together. Partly because of my procrastination this week with my interview, as it became the frog over the week. Something I didn't think about till now, that the eat the frog mentality isn't just on the daily level, but also on the other levels as well like weekly tasks.
The reason why is that my editing software failed to show the audio waveforms, which made the task of editing 3x harder. Got it done late last night, too late to post, and today my "hardest" task was writing this post. However it has come out through FLOW, which made it easier.
Optimizing your day and life around the Flow Cycle is a highly reccomended action you can take. Like I mentioned earlier with my sprints, as some weeks I'm towards learning, and others more for creating. Going with what that week naturally feels like is the Flow inducer. Making me far more likely to get into flow by going with the sprint. If I chose to work on creating during a learning week I'd be far less productive.
Thinking Digitally, so that you Don't Have to think Organically
Take the pressure off your noggin, so that it can focus on the task at hand or being in the present moment. I literally had a conversation like this the other day with someone, as she had said she couldn't even focus on her projects because of all of the books around her. Preventing her from focusing on the present task.
Having a digital system to keep track of the various things that don't truly need to be held in the brain. We can only juggle so much, and things take a long time to go into the long term memory. Which means that if we carry too much in our heads our jars are full, and nothing more can be added. Let alone completed.
Use Technology as the Tool that it is
I see a lot of people getting caught up in the streams of content, and the laziness that the internet allows. Do not let it fool you...
Personally I am a prolific content creator, which means I am on these digital platforms almost daily. However I strive to not let myself be succumbed to them, and regardless if I fail or not; have the systems to keep my productivity going in some ways.
Even on my worst days I am often getting more "done" than most people. This isn't a brag or humble boast, but a matter of fact. It is purely because I optimized my life in such a way, and of course a lot of that comes from my physical environment. Which in of itself could be a post too, but by being minimalist in my belongs, or by decreasing the importance of food/drink. It all allows me to focus on my work, which happens to be mostly digital. However when we all start being more and more online, which we saw during the quarantine, then we will ALL be online far more.