I haven’t written much over the years about what people call “productivity,” partly because I don’t have a lot to say. A few years ago I thought I would permanently be a Zettelkasten kind of guy, but then I discovered that I need different methods for different projects. But some things have remained constant:
- I have two guiding principles;
- My only task-management tool is a calendar; and
- I use that calendar to schedule regular times for reviewing my notes and drafts.
I haven’t written about that third one before, but it’s really the key ingredient. Many people think that having the right note-taking tool is essential to productivity, but I don’t. Sometimes I make notes on my computer in text files; sometimes I write in notebooks (of various kinds and sizes); sometimes I make voice notes on my phone. I just use whatever happens to be easiest at the moment — though when my mind is overfull I always sit down with a notebook and hand-write my thoughts for at least an hour. But I could probably do that with a voice note just as well.
No, the tools don’t really matter to me, and I have learned not to fuss about them. What’s essential is scheduling time — I set aside an hour each Monday morning and a whole morning on or near the first of every month — to go over all of those notes and do a kind of self-assessment. I sit down with my notebook and my computer and ask: Where am I in my current projects? What did I accomplish last week? What do I need to think about further? Is there any research or reading I need to be doing? What should be my priorities this week (or this month)? That kind of thing.
I could have the best note-taking system in the world and I’d still be lost if I didn’t have regular periods for review and reflection.