Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

What I Use to Organize Myself, 2017 Edition

A pen, a calendar, and a todo list

A major theme in my life in 2017 is simplify. That means eliminating as much of the physical and digital cruft from my life as I can. That, in turn, means getting rid of possessions that are taking up space. It also means dropping apps and software and services that I don’t use much or don’t use to their full potential.

It’s been an interesting exercise that I’ve been carrying out bit by bit, as time and energy allow. Luckily, it’s turned out that I’m not attached to much of what I’m dumping. That’s made the process easier than I expected.

The process started in January, 2017. I kicked off the cleanup by changing the tools I use to organize myself. In makeing that change, my goals were to:

  • Switch to simpler, text-based tools
  • Use as much open source software as possible
  • Take my information into my own hands

You Don't Need to Dominate or Crush Anything

A hammer crushing some nuts

There are so many blog posts out there telling us that we need to dominate our niches. That we need to crush … whatever it is we need to crush. Posts that, whether they intend to or not, fuel a hyper-competitive, win-at-all costs ethos in some readers.

That dominate and crush rhetoric steers you to treat everyone as your enemy. And what happens if you don’t dominate or crush? Popular opinion, for what it’s worth, says you’ve failed. It says they’ve beaten you. It says you’ve lost.

That’s not a healthy way to live or work. You’re always looking over your shoulder. You’re always worried or fearful of what the so-called competition will do. You’re driven to become more aggressive, more ruthless. Often, you wind up being someone and something you’re not. Someone and something you never wanted to be.

Instead of being that dominating, crushing juggernaut, why not be yourself? Why not look at others in a different light? Don’t treat them as enemies. Look at them as potential allies or colleagues or collaborators instead.

Up until a few years ago, I was considered a top technical communication bloggers. For whatever reason, people in that field considered me influential. I knew (and still know) several other bloggers in that niche. But I didn’t go out of my way to try to dominate that niche, to try to crush those other bloggers.

Instead, I worked with them. We exchanged guest posts, appeared on each others’ podcasts, and promoted and shared each others’ work. Sure, we had our disagreements but we were civilized about that and learned from each other.

Not only that, I encouraged and helped a few new bloggers in the technical communication niche. Many people wondered why, thinking that I was just giving the competition (their word, not mine) help that would let those new bloggers steal my audience (again, their words not mine). That never happened. There was a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation. Working with other bloggers made for a stronger, more diverse niche. Working with other bloggers made me a better blogger and, in a small way, a better person.

That strength and diversity helps everyone. You share and expose new ideas. You get thinking more deeply about what you’re involved with. You learn. You grow. Others learn and grow with you, continuing the cycle.

Isn’t that better than trying to scramble to the top of the heap, constantly looking over your shoulder, being perpetually worried about getting knocked back down?

Links Roundup - March 28, 2017

Understanding How Much Time You Really Have

A clock

How many times have you heard yourself say If only I had more time … Those words have passed my lips far too many times for me to remember.

If I only had more time … Well, you don’t. Period. And all those little hacks to save a few seconds here and a few seconds there have done little, if anything, to change that.

You have a set amount of time during the day. And to be productive, you have to understand how much time you really have, and work within that constraint.

Start With a Master Task List

The words 'To Do' spelled out in Scrabble tiles over a post it note

I don’t know how many people I’ve encountered who are overwhemled by their task lists. With many of them, those task lists go on for several pages.

With that much to do, you’d think those folks would be rushing to put a dent in their lists. That’s often not the case.

Far too many people are paralyzed by the sheer amount of what they need to do. And, often, what they think they need to do. They don’t know where to start. Looking at their task lists causes them to lose any motivation to continue or even just get underway.

The problem, besides having too much on their lists, is that their approach to task management is wrong. It’s ineffective. It’s the cause of their headaches.

Instead, they need to start with a master task list.