Productivity and Me - Vol. 1

I have always been a bit embarrassed to say that I've been a big proponent for productivity stuff. It's embarrassing specifically because it can so quickly turn into crack-pot self-help garbage that you get sucked into, not to mention how it's always hovering right above "here's how to be a productive cog in the capitalistic machine," which is also gross.

But for me productivity stuff was never about maximizing my output or anything like that. In the very long chunk of time where I was undiagnosed with my ADHD, I needed productivity tools to learn how to function as a human being. So I would turn to things like Evernote and to-do list apps to try and get me to focus on the work I needed to do. Turns out it only half-worked until I got that sweet, sweet focalin, but the habits I built are still useful today. In fact, they're the only reason I'm able to write this blog, or do any of my other creative stuff.

So I figured I'd talk a bit about the tools I use to convince my brain to do things, even if it doesn't want to do them.

Thinkin' Bout that Work

A big part of figuring out how to start and finish things for me was determining how to think about completing projects in the first place. For example, I've spent time using just regular to-do lists apps, then tried calendar blocking, and a few other methods to keep track of what I wanted to work on. But it's easy for me to let to-do lists fall by the wayside, and I'm bad about blocking time because the minute I go off-schedule (which happens often), my whole plan falls apart and I don't finish anything.

I've found my niche with ClickUp. It's pretty versatile and can take some getting used to, but I like it for a few reasons. The first is that you can separate stuff by projects, which is how I think about work. The flow and process I have for creating a game in GB Studio is different from writing a blog post or creating an album. On that note, my absolute favorite part of ClickUp is how statuses work. Each project can have statuses associated with a task, letting them flow along a timeline of completion. So for a blog post, I have Ideas -> Writing -> Editing -> Published, while for music I can have Ideas -> Drafting -> Mastering -> Uploaded. This is especially helpful for my day job, where a task might be finished on my end, but I can then have a status called "Pending Approval," where I'm able to follow up on whether it's done and ready to be officially completed.

There's a lot of different views you can have for tasks in ClickUp, from regularly lists to Kanban Boards to Calendars to Timelines. I use different ones depending on what sort of mush my brain is like on a given day. The home view is nice because it shows you everything due today, what's coming up, and what's unscheduled. And if I do want to block time, usually for my day job, I can just drag a task from the Home view to the calendar on the right side of the app.

You can get as granular as you want with ClickUp, including writing all your docs right in the app, or even tracking time for specific tasks. I don't, but the nice thing is that once you're set up, you can basically move it out of the way and forget about it. There's even a cool little extension you can download for your browser to quickly capture tasks, add screenshots to said tasks, yadda yadda yadda. There are multiple pricing tiers for upgrades, but I've been using the Free version this whole time and don't feel like I've been limited at all. I almost feel bad, it's a bit of a steal to be honest.

As far as cons, I feel that the dark mode is a little too much grey on grey which can make visibility a bit of a problem. The onboarding is adequate, but if you do want to get into the nitty-gritty of the app, you'll be figuring out of a lot of it yourself. The biggest drawback for some might be how ineffective the mobile app is, but I don't do much work on my phone anyways so that's not an issue for me.

So yes, ClickUp lets me get to tasks, but at some point I have to work on them. So now what?

Zettelin those Kastens

Dunno about y'all, but my brain is terrible at storing information. This is true in pretty much every aspect of my life. I'm bad at capturing thoughts, and I'm bad at keeping them in mind after I've captured them. This is a problem because I write a lot, and I need to be able to keep track of my research, note-taking, and everything else I'm working on.

The way I've improved that aspect of my creativity is realizing that there are two types of writing I do:

The first is database / documentation writing. This is stuff that's just collecting information and retaining it. Whether it's the settings, characters, and plots for a tabletop game I'm running, or capturing important references or instructions, it's the things that I constantly refer back to.

The second is Zettelkasten writing, otherwise known as Slip-Box writing. This is information that I quickly capture, then link back to in order to create my work. Visually it usually looks something like this (i.e. a mess to you but makes sense to me):

Zettelkasten_paper_schematic.png
Zettelkasten_paper_schematic.png

I have one tool for each of these methods.

Craft

This is the tool I use for database writing. It's a very smooth, high-quality app for Mac and iOS, with a browser-based version that I've never used myself. It's perfect for database writing because everything is structured into folders. So my permanent notes and pieces all live there.

You can see I have all sorts of stuff that is essentially permanent information that I can go back to. Another nice thing is that Craft connects to lots of other apps. So I can put a finished blog post in Craft, and then import it so that I can publish it directly to Ghost.

It's great for collecting links to. Here's a look at where I keep a lot of my UI / UX Resources:

Images and links all look good in Craft, and with the right organizational structure I can always go back to them when I need to.

However, Craft for me isn't great at quickly capturing stuff that I might refer to later. That's where Mem comes in.

Mememememememem (It's Fun to Say)

Mem is weird as hell and that's why I love it. When you start it, it opens a blank page that you can type into for the day. This is where I capture all of my quick thoughts, from ideas fro blog posts and music, to notes I have on a game I might be playing and want to review. Afterwards, I put that text into my Slip-Box by tagging it. All my main tags are on the left side of the app:

These tags are then further subdivided. For Work and Meetings I have the various projects I'm working on as tags connected to them, and for Writing I have stuff like Mint's Café and Short Stories as their own tags.

All of these tags are then categorized and searchable.

This is when stuff gets really fun! You can grab any of these pieces (or Mems, as the app calls them) and have them sitting side by side with whatever you're currently writing about, or even switch their places. This is perfect for my flow. I build out a bunch of notes for a piece, then make a separate Mem to do the actual writing while I have the notes on the other side.

Mem can also intelligently show you relevant and related Mems based on the tags of your current Mem, too.

All these aspects combined let me keep all my work interconnected, which keeps me from losing track of what I want to do. You just have to be careful with your tags - too few, and you won't get enough granularity for searching for and keeping relevant info together, but too many and you'll be doing a lot of clicking to get what you want. It's good to come up with a system beforehand!

When I'm done writing in Mem, I'll shoot stuff off to ClickUp if it's a task, or Craft if it's a final / database document.

So, yes! This is currently how I think about the things I would like to finish. There's other stuff too, like how I use Opera GX to separate my tabs between project sections, which I highly recommend, but this is the gist of it. Maybe it will help you too! I certainly hope so. One thing I can say for sure though is that if you don't feel like you're getting the stuff you'd like done done a couple of apps aren't going to immediately make things easier for you, of course. As I said before, I needed to do a lot before I could even begin to think about a structure to complete my creative tasks. But once I did, it's been really helpful for me. So I hope you can do the same!


That’s all for now! How do you get stuff done? Let me know @mintmakesthings! And if you enjoy my work, please consider supporting me on Buy Me a Coffee! Till next time!

mint

mint

I love writing, music, my friends, and food. FAAFO.