My Current Productivity Workflow

From time to time, I receive questions about my productivity workflow, so I decided to write it down here. Keep in mind it’s a living thing and may change with time, but what I’m documenting here is what I’m using right now.

Tool

As you probably know, I work for Doist for some time now, and I’m a Todoist user since 2007, so the my tool of choice is quite obvious.

I love how Todoist brings simplicity to creating and managing tasks. Things become even better when you add filters to the mix. 😉

The organization for my top level projects looks like this:

  • Personal: Anything personal like money, investments, random thoughts, etc.
  • MyCompany: Bureaucracy of having a BR company, things to pay, people to reach, etc.
  • Work: Everything related to my full time job. It’s probably the one with more sub-projects and tasks
  • Hobbies: I have many, so I have a project for each. Examples: Drums, MTG, Cardistry, Photography, etc.
  • Me & Wife: A shared project with my wife. Anything we do together we add there.
  • Others: projects I could not fit in any other category. Example: todoist integrations

Most of these top level projects have have their own sub-projects.

Process

I use due dates to guide my life inside todoist. Every day I open Todoist and find what I have to do during that day.

When I have something in mind it goes to my Inbox project. It doesn’t matter if I’m at the computer or walking on the street, I just open todoist and add it there so I can do the triage later.

I try to apply the Getting Things Done idea, but my own version of GTD looks like Zen To Done to be honest. The principles are the same in the end, but the methods differ.

Both methods say you have to process your Inbox at least once a day, and that’s exactly what I do. Every task I add to my Inbox in project on Todoist will be processed and added to the right project with a possible due date so it will pop up in my Today list in the future.

It doesn’t matter much if I will finish all of the tasks or not, but they are there to remember me what I planned for that day and what is important to keep focused on. If I can’t finish at the end of the day I postpone for the next or find a due in the future where this task will it makes more sense to do it.

Everything I have to do is added to Todoist. I don’t keep anything in my mind because I don’t want anything asking for attention when I have to focus. If there’s something to do on Monday, I can rest assured that Todoist will notify me about that in the right day and time.

Routine

I love routines, but it’s important that I’m able to have full control over them, and that’s exactly what I have. I built my current routine based on my schedule, my wife’s schedule, the times I feel more productive, and other studies I did to myself through the years.

Every weekday I have at least 8 tasks that are fixed and define my routine:

  • [06:00] Wake up and prepare breakfast
    • I have some notes on this one. Sometimes I want to prepare a different breakfast and never remember how to do it, so it’s there
  • [08:00] Walk the dog
  • [10:30] Start the deep work session
  • [12:30] Go to the Gym
  • [14:00] Record body data
    • I try to quantify myself as much as possible. This is just a reminder to add my weight to the tracking app
  • [17:00] Start the deep work session
  • [19:00] Relax after a good day of work

These are the things I want to do. Sometimes people say things like: “You let your task app say what you have to do”, but is quite the opposite. I plan what I want for my days and I use my task list to keep me focused on what I want.

Some of these tasks trigger integrations that help me get laser focused on what I want to do. A good example is the Start the deep work session, as it triggers the “Focus time” of rescuetime and block sites I consider not productive.

Reccuring tasks

I have some recurring tasks that are not part of my routine and they are not related to work. It’s also important to make time for the things you care about, not just work-related tasks.

Here are some of them:

  • Check a Slack group of friends I want to keep in touch
  • Check the Discord of the conference/community I’m currently a core organizer
  • Remember to track my progress on Goodreads and write reviews

Track my reading progress help me to stay on track. Writing reviews help me to retain more information by reviewing it to myself.

Filtering to avoid distractions

I use Todoist filters a lot!

Filters are very useful to… hm… filter non-important tasks from your current focus mode i.e. if you’re doing deep work, you don’t need to know your routine.

I like to consume books, my average is 30 books a year, and every time I consume a book that mentions productivity I try the method with filters.

Let’s break down my filters and explain their usage 🙂

Peak, trough, recovery

  • Peak – @peak & today & (assigned to: me | !assigned)
  • Trough – (@trough | ([email protected] & [email protected])) & today & (assigned to: me | !assigned)
  • Recovery – (@recovery | @peak) & today & (assigned to: me | !assigned)

As you can see, I also rely on Todoist labels to mark the tasks I want to have in each of these chunks.

These filters came from the book When. I used the Daily when tracker to check when was my peak, trough, and recovery times:

A sheet of paper with something that looks like a chart showing the times I feel more productive

I also use the concept of Deep work described by the book with the same name.

This is the reason why I have the task “Start the deep work session” in the morning and at the end of the afternooon.

Deep work filters

Based on the same Deep work book mentioned above, I also use @deepwork labels on Todoist so I can filter the right tasks depending on my current mode.

If you don’t know the concept, it basically tells you to reserve chunks of your day to work on things without distractions. It means: no cellphones, no social media, no chatting, no email, etc.

I usually have the following filters as favorites:

  • Deep @ Work – (today | overdue) & (assigned to: me|!assigned) & @deep_work & ##Work
  • Shallow @ Work – (today | overdue) & (assigned to: me|!assigned) & [email protected]_work & ##Work

The “Deep @ Work” filter gets all tasks from projects under my “Work“ project that should be done today and have the “@deepwork” tag.

The “Shallow @ Work” filter is almost the same but it takes everything without the “@deepwork” label. Everything else without this label is considered shallow work.

Priority filters

I also have some filters based on the tasks I set priorities, so I can quickly see what should be a priority for my day instead of just reacting to what is going on. It doens’t work all the time because urgent and important things sometimes pop up, but it gives me a clear view of what my priorities are.

Here are the filters I have:

  • Priority today – ``(today | overdue) & (assigned to: me|!assigned) & p1
  • Priority @ Work – (today | overdue) & (assigned to: me|!assigned) & (p1 | p2 | p3) & ##Work

These two helps me when I just want to focus on the work I have to do today. Sometimes I have personal things that are also priority, so I keep both together, but I mostly use the Priority @ Work.

Integrations and automation

I mentioned the trigger I have for rescuetime’s Focus mode but it’s not the only automation I have. Here are some others:

Shopping list

I keep a shopping list in Todoist shared with my wife. Every time we see that something is missing and have to be bought, we try to add it there right away.

I have the location reminder enabled for Todoist in on my phone, so it reminds me to check that list every time I’m nearby a local supermarket, which happens almost every day because of my daily routine.

Every time I check a task, IFTTT sends a message to a group chat in Telegram, informing my wife that it’s done so she will not buy it again. Sometimes we forget to check the list, so it’s helpful to get a reminder that it was bought already.

Weekly snippets

Every week at Doist, we post a list of important tasks we did during the past week and what we plan to do during the next.

I add a “@snippet” label to every task I want to report. When a task with a “@snippet” label is completed, IFTTT creates a new task in a project called “Snippets” with the completion date and the task project in the task title.

When I want to report that, I go the the “Snippets” project, click on the menu, Export as a Template, and Export as file. I have a note in the same project with a command the does the job of formatting that:

cat ~/Downloads/Snippets.csv | grep -v project_note | grep "task," | awk -F "," '/1/ {print "- " $2}'; rm /home/pothix/Downloads/Snippets.csv

So I can just post it to Twist.

How a tipical day looks like

I wake up early (because that’s what I want for myself, I don’t have to), prepare the breakfast, and take some time to eat and chat with my wife. We try to not waste our time together looking at cellphones.

After breakfast I check my Todoist and what has to be done for the day, just to be sure there’s nothing pressing for the next 1-2 hours. If it’s OK, I take these 1-2 hours for myself. I’m now writing this blog post. ;)

After that, the routine I described starts. There are many other tasks that are not part of my routine, so I use filters to focus on what I think fits better for that time.

At the end of the day, I postpone my tasks (if any) or just let them become overdue to be postponed quickly via Todoist on the next day. I usually don’t have anything pressing from 6-8 a.m. so I don’t have to check my plans for tomorrow every night.

Final notes

I’ve been doing this since 2007, when I started looking for a productivity tool and found Todoist. It’s a lot of practice to have a working system/process.

I used different tools along the way (Remember the milk, Toodledo, Habitica, Thingking Rock, Google keep, and the list goes on) but I always came back to Todoist because I really like it. It’s not by coincidence that I’m working for Doist, I think about that since the beginning, but decided to apply for it in 2017.

I love Todoist and I recommend it, but keep in mind that it’s not about the tool, but your mindset, and how you organize your process.

Keep in mind that persistence is important. Your process will certainly fail (as the one I described do), but you will improve it and make it (and yourself!) better in the process. If it’s not working, just think about it and adjust it to match your way of doing things.

Stay focused and productive 😉

PS:It took me 2h27 to write this blog post