When You Can Snatch the Pebble from my Hand.
When Kwai Chang Caine (aka Grasshopper) was finally able to “snatch the pebble” from Master Kan’s hand, the student had become the master. He had proven that through his training, he’d developed sufficient skills and wisdom and was ready to venture out into the world. Insert awkward productivity segue here … My hope is for you to become a Pebble Snatching, Productivity Fu Master, effortlessly executing Keyboard Shortcuts at just the right time, whittling your endless list of todos down to the one you need to take action on RIGHT NOW.
Once the appropriate todo has been surfaced, the Productivity Fu Master punches said todo square in the face 🥋🤜💥💪😼 and gets back to being present … back to being in the NOW. The Productivity Fu Master walks the Earth, selflessly spreading the good word about the power of being Productive with a Purpose 😇.
Inbox + Purpose
In Head Zero, Inbox Everything, I waxed poetic about the importance of being able to trust your Productivity System. The Inbox sits at the top. Without the ability to immediately, consistently and repeatedly capture (big, small, daunting, exciting!) thoughts and ideas when they hit you, it’s impossible to ever truly be in the NOW. In another post, The Why is your Shark Repellent!, I took a huge step back and asked WHY? Why? Because being productive for the sake of being productive is pointless. Asking Why? forces Purpose into the conversation, ensuring you are focused on what’s important. If the Inbox sits at the top, the Purpose is the foundation that holds everything up.
I use Things3 by Cultured Code as my one true “Inbox” and day-to-day project and task management tool. (*Using Things3 isn’t a requirement to get value out of this post, BTW!) I’ve tried a bunch of other todo apps and Things3 is the bomb. I’m going to get weedy and share how I use the app … not to suggest you should do exactly what I’d do … but instead in the hopes that you can steal a nugget or two from this post, getting you one step closer to becoming a Productivity Fu Master 💪.
Tags & Shortcuts
Tags and Keyboard Shortcuts in Things3 eluded me for a long time … I think I was afraid they would “complicate” my system. I’ve since realized that there is incredible power in using a simple set of Tags and Keyboard Shortcuts. The visual below summarizes my basic Tag & Shortcut setup in Things3. Three quick takeaways: 1) Each of my Areas has a Focus Tag: Work, Home or Me (any new project or todo I create inherits these Tags automatically) 2) Each todo has a simple Action Tag: Quick, Focused, Journal, Errand or Call and 3) I do it this way EVERY SINGLE TIME. This is an absolute must for me to trust my system 💯.
Quick side note on emojis … I don’t care what anyone says, I am a huge fan of including emojis in my Tag, Project and Todo titles. Why? Because it’s hard for me to not want to tackle a todo (even something that’ll take time and effort) if sunglass guy is smiling back at me (😎 Focused!). It makes my todo list more fun to engage with!
Each morning, I grab a cup of coffee and run through my Daily Review in Things3. I have three goals: 1) Enjoy the heck out of my coffee ☕️🥰👍 2) Review each item in my Inbox (ending with it cleared out) and 3) Determine what todos I need to get done today. The visual below summarizes the five questions I ask + the Tags and Shortcuts I use when reviewing each item in my Inbox. The questions are: 1) WHAT should I do with this? 2) HOW much effort will this take? 3) WHEN do I need to complete this? 4) WHERE should I put this? 5) WHAT ELSE should I add to the todo that’ll help me complete it later?
Once I’ve cleared my Inbox, I review my Today List. There may be a few recurring or previously scheduled todos that pop up (I want to make sure they are still relevant). After reviewing my Today List, I do a quick scan of my Anytime list to identify any additional todos that I need to tackle today. I also make sure to review my 💪 Me items to ensure that a healthy dose of Purpose makes its way into my Today list each day!
Today View Focus
If I’ve done a good job during my Daily Review, I can literally live in my Today list all … day … long! I shouldn’t need to hop around from list to list, looking for stuff to do. I can simply focus on my Today list … everything I need to get done today is right there.
Here’s where the magic happens ✨. Depending on what I’m doing and what I want to focus on, I filter (i.e. shrink) my Today list to ONLY show me what I want to see. I don’t want to stare at a giant list if I can only take action on a few todos right now. You can see a few examples in the visual below.
Maybe I’ve only got 15 free minutes so I want to knock out a few quick work todos … Two seconds and Two Keyboard Shortcuts later and …💥 … I only see my Work stuff that I can complete Quickly. Or, since my brain tends to fire better in the morning, as soon as I’ve finished with my Daily Review, I may want to tackle a few work items that’ll require some focus … 💥 … my list has been condensed to only show my Work items that’ll take Focus. The same is true for ANY Tag that’s in my system … I may only want to see Me items …💥 … or items I can only complete at Home … 💥 … or I may only want to see stuff where I’m Waiting on Bob to get back to me … 💥 … it’s like magic.
The Power of Anytime
Once my Today list is clear and I’ve completed everything I need to get done today, my Anytime list becomes my new best friend 🤗. I pull up my Anytime list and using those same Productivity Fu Master filtering skills … 💥 … I whittle this list to show potential Bonus todos that I may want to work on.
Maybe I’ve got 10 mins before my next meeting and I want to see if there are any other Quick + Work items that I can knock out … or … I could followup on a few todos where I’m Waiting on people to get back to me. Maybe it’s the weekend and I don’t want to see any Work stuff at all! … I only want to see Me items that’ll bring me some joy.
I never used to utilize my Anytime list. I used to overfill my Today list with stuff I needed to do + a bunch of “I’d maybe like to do today” items. This is a slippery slope. What this led to most days was an unfinished Today list. It was defeating. I realized I wasn’t fully utilizing the power of the Anytime list. If you trust your setup and keep your Today list on a short leash of must dos, your Anytime list is a super powerful way to identify and complete bonus stuff you may not get to otherwise.
Thoughts on the Someday List.
Every Monday morning, I do a super weedy, Weekly Review of everything in Things3 (it’s my Daily Review on steroids). I go Area by Area and Project by Project, cleaning out junk and making sure everything is current. This includes doing a review of my Someday list. For me, the Someday list houses my Projects and todos that I don’t plan to take action on THIS WEEK. This leaves only ACTIVE projects and todos in my Anytime list (i.e. stuff I actually want to take action on this week). I know next Monday morning, I’ll have another opportunity to review my Someday list to see if it’s time to pull any of these Projects or Todos into Anytime 👍.
Download a PDF of the visuals.
I’ve included a downloadable PDF (see above) if you’d like to review the visuals in more detail. Getting to Pebble Snatching, Productivty Fu Master takes time … it’s definitely a journey! If fact, I’m sure there are folks out there who could taunt me with their Productivity Wisdom Pebbles 🤓. Regardless of what tool you use to track your projects and todos, I would encourage you to tinker with Tags and Shortcuts … tinker with your flow … eventually you’ll land on something that feels right. Once you can trust your Productivity System, you’ll be ready to venture out into the world and share the impact being Productive with a Purpose has had on you 💪.
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