I follow the blog baty.net in which Jack Baty continuously finds new tools and new ways to improve his productivity. While I usually scoff at people who are always changing things up, I will admit that I am the exact same way. It would be great to just stick to something tried and true and never have to think about changing but there is just so much out there that it’s hard for me to resist the temptation to not try everything I can see. I have gone through Filofaxes, Bullet Journal-esque planners, Google Calendar, regular paper agendas, post it notes, back to Bullet Journals, etc.
“Bullet Journals” and Paper Planners
In it’s simplest state, the Bullet Journal is an analog system for rapid logging. You have a thought or task, you write it down, and (hopefully) come back to it later to deal with it. Without a few tweaks, it’s not the greatest for future planning. It’s real use case is capturing at the moment. I have tried both minimalistic Bullet Journal and all out “unrecognizable as a Bullet Journal” planning and I found it too hard to keep up with and check on regularly, especially with the latter. I would write something down and never look at it again or I would be too daunted with drawing out daily/weekly/monthly layouts.
For a period I did somewhat automate dealing with layouts by printing a whole year during my Winter break. I would meticulously design a layout in Photoshop, export it to a PDF, print it, cut it, and punch holes. It was a lot of effort for a system that I only ended up using for a couple of months but when I did use it, it worked well for me.
I also had success with store bought planners. My second year of university I used a planner for the entire year. However when the school year ended, I was bored with the system and wanted to try something new. I was lured in by the Filofax craze and fantasized about using a planner that could also be my wallet. Even now as I look at the Filofax website after not visiting it for so long, I’m drooling over the pretty planners (someone please take my wallet away from me). However that was even more short lived and I converted my would be planner-wallet into just a wallet.
What I loved about Google Calendar was seeing my entire week at a glance down to the last hour. However, the way I used it, it was unsustainable and lacked the detail I needed. While it was easy to change things around, sometimes an unexpected event would throw off my entire day and a result, throw me off from my productivity. Taking away time from something else gave me a little bit of an existential crisis that I didn’t have with other productivity systems.
Still, it was great getting those notifications and being able to sync across device and basically have my entire life without me wherever I go. I haven’t forgotten my phone at home for many years now and I recently got data in my phone plan and a rechargeable battery pack so it really is with me 24/7. Eventually though, I just stopped using it and went for a while without using any sort of productivity system at all.
As I have mentioned before, I recently started using emacs and got sucked into the world of Org mode. The customizability of Org mode excites me and I love having everything in plain text and available at the terminal. Like Google Calendars, it’s pretty much with me everywhere I go, with the help of Dropbox and SSH-ing into my private server. I love the task and habit functions built in and while it was daunting to learn at first, I quickly got the hang of it.
So, for now, I am using Org mode. It’s working well for me but who knows what ship I’ll jump onto next? Maybe one day I will find the one that works for me until the end of time but I doubt it.