My Habit of Noting Timestamps

Over the years, I gained the habit of noting timestamps on items like to-dos and projects in Things.1 Now I’m wondering if that’s overkill now that I’m getting comfortable with TaskPaper.

Generally, I prefer including timestamps with every task, project, or note for the following reasons:

  • “Then you’ll have it”2. (i.e. You never know if that will help in the future.)
  • When reviewing my tasks and projects, the timestamp is a gentle nudge to moving something forward.
  • If something is super stale, I’ll feel more comfortable deciding to punt it.

A penny for your thoughts! Does it really matter adding that information with to-dos and projects? Despite using snippets, am I still wasting time?


  1. With clipboard snippets in Alfred, seven keystrokes will paste 31 characters of the current date and time (including seconds and time zone). I have three other variations with the same keyword that appends one of these words: start, added, and done. 
  2. Arrested Development reference! 
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TaskPaper: Next Actions search query

Last week, Matt Gemmell included six searches when he shared his OmniFocus-inspired TaskPaper theme. I noticed that the “Next Actions” search includes the first line of the project, even if it’s a note.

Next Actions @search(project *//((not @done\) and (not @search\)\)[0])

I usually have a line or two of notes in my projects in Things, so this wouldn’t work if I need to display the single next task for each project.1

The following change adds the desired item type, which means the next task (not note) will be displayed for all of your projects:

Next Actions (improved) @search(project *//((not @done\) and (not @search\) and (@type = task\)\)[0])

You can see more details on Formatting Queries in the TaskPaper User’s Guide.


  1. I’m migrating from Things to TaskPaper 3. More to come about that process in the next post. 

Merlin Mann discusses GTD on Back to Work

Why would you use a source of input as a way to decide how to spend your day?

Merlin discusses GTD with Dan Benjamin in their podcast, Back to Work: 261: The Illusion of Ease (starting at 1:23:00). I’ve listened to this several times. Super insightful, and perfect timing in combination with my earlier post, Keep todos out of Slack.

They also reference earlier episodes that were great, so here’s a search at 5by5 for podcasts referencing GTD.

P.S. If I don’t have weekly reviews, I’m not following GTD.

Keep your todos out of Slack

I read through a P2 thread at work discussing Slack and productivity, and figured I should share my thoughts and practices here.

These were some ideas mentioned for Slack messages:

  • Star if you need to take action.
  • Mark as unread until you respond.
  • Open the Slack archive page in a browser window.
  • Slackbot reminders.

I’ve done the first two, but these all blur the primary purpose of Slack: communication and collaboration.

Embrace your task manager and calendar. When used properly, these are your spam-free lists of time-specific events, todos, and projects. When I’m unsure what I should be doing next, I check these.

Embrace your inbox, and “empty” it often

A colleague asks for a favor that isn’t time-sensitive while you’re in the middle of something. What do I do?

Next, designate a few blocks of time daily to clarify the items in your Inbox3, which leads to organizing them out of your inbox. 😉

Now what?

When you need to settle down for deep work, communicate that with your team, then work from your calendar and task manager!


Also highly recommended: The five steps of GTD Methodology


  1. Reference — Quick Entry for: OmniFocus, Todoist, Wunderlist (called “Quick Add” 
  2. This could also be a prompt to gain clarification. For example, “Ask David for sanity check re: documentation update”. 
  3. See also: Battle To-Do Debt 

Using a Productivity Journal

I listened to the following podcast a couple of times today, and it features Mike Vardy and Shawn Blanc:

The Fizzle Show, episode 99: 2 Experts Share Exactly How to Use a Productivity Journal (& Increase Productivity by 23%)

At the end of each workday, Mike writes a freeform journal entry in Day One. His intent is to describe what did or didn’t work, then describe whatever is next. Minimal friction.

This time investment gives him a head start for weekly reviews. I dig!


Initially, I set five reminders1 in Day One for iOS. Then, I moved three work-specific reminders to Day One on my Mac, and kept two other on my iPhone.

To simplify, I’ll try writing daily in the evening — tagged “Daily Review” — with the help of a scheduled todo in Apple’s Reminders app.2

My goals for developing this new habit are to help me:

  • Summarize what I’ve done for the week more quickly (versus reviewing my Logbook in Things and my calendars).
  • Make weekly/monthly/yearly reviews less daunting.

  1. Three reminders for work (beginning, middle, and end of each day), then two personal. That’s too much, even at five minutes a pop. 
  2. This should be a calendar entry. Since I could punt it for a few minutes/hours (when needed), I’d rather not see it on my calendar. I’ll experiment! 🙂 

Simplenote: Embed Ideas and Tips

I was reading an internal P2 at work1, and saw a note beautifully embedded in a post. I’d like to share some thoughts on doing this.

Add a tag for quicker reference. When I don’t want to search for these by typing.

Tagged “siteEmbed”, place one note on your WordPress.com site to keep an ephemeral realtime status. I have date and time buttons in my custom keyboard when writing in Drafts for iOS, and a snippet in Alfred for a time stamp (keyword: “fts”). Copy to clipboard, paste in Simplenote.

Your team can display the status of their projects or active to-dos on a single page. Each member embeds their published note. Rather than wading thru the text from other members, you’d only see your own items when editing in Simplenote. Tag: “TeamEmbed”. (I just thought of this.)

Another note can be your Logbook, which could be on another page in your team P2. Each member embeds this published note, too. (Tag: “Logbook”.)

Once a week, the completed items from the previous note — active projects and to-dos — get cut and pasted into this note (Logbook) with dated headings. At the end of the year, those get copied permanently, and a new Logbook page/note is created for the new year.

Keep a team status page (working, ticket queue status, AFK, errands, nap, jog, vacation2). Editing your own status in Simplenote on your phone is quicker than editing the P2 page. And, again, you wouldn’t need to edit the status of your other colleagues.

Wow. That all sounds great! 😎


  1. Automattic. We’re looking for Happiness Engineers — join us
  2. I need to test Markdown image support. I could use Cloudup from my iPhone, then share a photo while on vacation or something. Update: Markdown images won’t auto embed within a Simplenote embed. Not a deal breaker for me, it would’ve been fun. 😄