More ‘Zen’ in my productivity

Lately I have been slowly moving away from GTD towards something else, a more simplistic and ‘zen’-approach if you like.

The GTD Weekly Review was taking me more and more time to perform.
Why? Because I had just so much input for it. Especially my input for the Someday/Maybe-list got so overwhelming that I could not cope with the information stream anymore.
I was feeling like I was locked up in a tredmill going nowhere and I found out I had become an information-addict! Scared to miss out on the latest and the loudest, in fear of making the wrong choices of where to put my focus on.

What were my solutions to this feeling of impending doom?

Information Bankrupcy

I declared an information-bankrupcy by rigorously cutting back on my information sources:

  •  I am done capturing every nice shop or brand I want to check out on the web and putting them all in my Someday/Maybe-list for follow-up. I’m ashamed to say had become a slave to my ‘wants‘, a slave even to commercialism. I was reacting, not creating…
  •  I pruned my facebook and twitter contacts and declared total rss-reader bankrupcy.
  • I have been (re)reading Leo Babauta‘s books. ‘the Power of Less‘, ‘Focus‘ and I will also have a look into ‘Un-procrastinate‘. His views on living life mindfully, simply and fulfilling have greatly inspired me! Check his websites: Zenhabits and Power of less.

The Power of Less

I use Leo’s approach by working on 1-3 important things each day and simply list them each evening.
This keeps my head clear, my goals realistic and my focus strong. Leo Babauta is even moving to a goalless day at the moment. I know that life is so quicksilvery and fragile, I can make all the plans I want, but when I go with the flow and am flexible, yet not procrastinating, things get done in a far more easygoing, fluid way. Rigidity and complexity can frustrate things unnecessarily. ‘Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’… (cliche but true).

Waiting For list

I keep using the ‘Waiting For’-list. It’s still an awesome GTD tool.
I write the date and the person or organization who owes me: money, a reply, goods, a call or whatever and I occasionally look at the list. Voila, easy does it.


For Someday/Maybe stuff I use Evernote.
This is very convenient for me. My favorite things to clip off of internet are: quotes and nice pictures for moodboards or blog entries. Also I can easily clip info from different pages into evernote and compare for a quick but informed purchase decision. I don’t like to spend too much time on comparing stuff, but I also want to make a good (not perfect) choice. Just like the bike I bought recently.

Nothing beats pen and paper

For my daily lists I use good ol’ pen and paper (I have to admit that I even got rid of Nozbe, which I really liked at first and which I still think is a really good tool for GTD’ers, but too complex for my liking).
I am a stationary lover (not to say addict…) and I just love the tactile sensation of a Moleskine notepad with  my favorite pen: the Uniball Eye.

Simplifying things is making me feel reborn and renewed! More about simplicity, mindfulness and productivity in my coming blog-entries.

Tool #1 for simplifying my life:
I use a writing tool with the dodgy name of ‘Darkroom‘ (for Windows), which allows me to have a totally black screen with green writing without formatting for a focused and simple writing experience.
I highly recommend it.
For Mac-users there’s WriteRoom

If you like you can leave a comment below or find me on Twitter.

Declutter your input!

All year I have been carrying my ubiquitous capturing tool: my paper notepad everywhere, becoming a ‘Capture‘-ing blackbelt. But something kept nagging at me….

Eventually I noticed my Weekly Review consisted of a lot of Someday Maybe’s related to consumerist wants on the one hand and quotes for blogging on the other, which I was dutifully entering into Evernote and Nozbe. At some point I started losing sight of the bigger picture and didn’t have time to actually complete my Review.

My friends Tara Rodden Robinson and Augusto Pinaud suggested in my fun interview with them on @Context (episode 16) that I could buy an Iphone to make data entering easier. We even joked I would blame them if I eventually couldn’t resist buying one 🙂

…….Bigger – faster – harder – stronger!!!!!!!! was ringing in my ears….my head was had to stop!…….

“She said run, but I’m not running no I’m not running.
Let ’em come, let ’em come but I’m not running, no, I ain’t running no more.
No more!” Children 18:3 (@Youtube)……..

It turned out I didn’t need a more sophisticated capturing tool but an other view on what was actually worth capturing at all.
These were Fr. Roderick’s epiphanic words from the Health and Holiness Bootcamp-podcast episode 33 for me:

What is decluttering your life? Getting rid of anything you have in abundance, living a life detached from stuff. Because that can be hampering to living a happier and holier life. I mean, getting to inbox zero is amazing but I wouldn’t trade it in for more important things like family, workout, prayer(…)
Decluttering is also letting go of the desire to be always up to date with everything that happens, constantly mastering the stream of communication, keeping tabs on all that I have.”

I listened to his words, sitting on the side of a canal in Amsterdam, dangling my feet and smelling the Summer air, my eyes unfocusing on the water.
Then and there I decided to slow down and change my ubiquitous capturing to not writing down every detail, every shop I want to visit, every restaurant to remember, every thing I want to have and buy buy buy, but instead go for the quotes and ideas that come up in my creative mind and not to obsess over collecting everything like a teenager keeping pictures of her favorite boyband.

So there it is! Now I am very relieved! But it’s only the first step. I want to set my mind on:

“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—anything excellent or praiseworthy” (Phillipians 4:8-10)

“Let ’em come, let ’em come but I’m not running, no, I ain’t running no more.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Please leave a comment below or tweet me @E5ter

GTD with Nozbe

Today I found a little gem in my inbox from a reader named Daniel who posed me some interesting questions via the comments on this blog. He says he’s ‘dating different GTD apps’ in search for the perfect one — which may not even exist. True that! Daniel loves the Evernote/Nozbe integration though, like I do.

I’m going to answer his questions about GTD and Nozbe first, followed by a recommendation for the folks at Nozbe to make me ‘marry’ Nozbe instead of simply ‘dating him’ — to keep with Daniel’s metaphor 🙂

1) how do I use Nozbe‘s inbox?

As some of you may know, Nozbe’s inbox consists of a project that always stays on top of your projects list at the left of the page. Here’s how I use it:
True to GTD, every time I do my weekly review (preferably once a week 🙂 ), I empty my physical inbox and dump all the tasks I define out of that amorphous blob in Nozbe’s inbox. I do the same with my e-mail inbox, where my action items are already red starred for easy recognition.
It’s also also possible to add a slew of tasks in one go:
go to: + new action > actions > options > add more actions at once > then enter every task with an asterisk in front of it so it’s recognizable as a bunch of tasks.


  • Then I start dragging and dropping tasks into the appropriate contexts on the right side of the page (like @Computer, @Home, @Errands etc).
  • After that, I star the next actionable items for the coming week with a cute little green Nozbe star.
  • Then, while still being in the inbox, I drag and drop my items to projects or create new ones. There are always a bunch of tasks that don’t have a project attached to them. Today Daniel’s comment got me thinking and I tried out something new: I created a new project called: batch tasks, where I dump all the orphan tasks (tasks without a mother: a project). I make an exception for the waiting for items who are going in a waiting for project and my someday items which find shelter in a someday do project. Note: so the waiting for items and the someday items are both in a project and a context of the same name! I know this sounds awfully intricate, but it totally works for me and it keeps my Nozbe inbox clean and crispy!!!
  • Last I go to projects and see if there’s any other tasks I need to add to projects which are not next action items (for the coming week, being green starred), but still need my attention.

2) how do I sort my actions in Nozbe?

Nozbe hasn’t got any default sorting options, so what I’ll do is I go to all my contexts and drag-and-drop starred items to the top (in no particular order) with the rest (unstarred) underneath, although this manual dragging and dropping is quite obnoxious…
I’ve got a great idea though to improve this. See the last paragraph about my recommendation to Nozbe.

Apart from sorting between next action/action, I don’t sort at all.

I just glance at my list (one context at a time or sometimes the whole next actions list at once if I’m feeling audacious) and pick whatever suits my time, energy and fancy.
GTD is not about prioritizing; just follow your intuition and just go for it. Do!

3) how do I handle Areas of Focus in Nozbe?

I have two Nozbe accounts (within my Family account): one for work and one for home. I’m liking this a lot! It helps me to set healthy boundaries.
Here are a few of my current areas of focus:

  • church
  • faith
  • friendships
  • household
  • writing
  • finances
  • marriage

When I first defined my projects list in Nozbe, I attached a tag to every project with the name of the corresponding area of focus. You can find them on the left side of the page @ Project Labels. This showed me that they were well balanced, so right now, to be honest, I don’t bother attaching project labels with my areas of focus anymore. But there’s always the option.

Recommendation for Nozbe:

My recommendation for Michael Sliwinsky and his team, who deserve immense kudos for their fabulous product, is the following:
Please, please create a filter for next actions (starred items) which we can apply within a context or within a project, so that there will be an option to see the whole bunch of items (starred and unstarred) and also an option to filter out the visual clutter of the unstarred items, so we can fully focus on our next actionable items by context or project! Thank you in advance for considering this!

Dear Daniel and all my other readers, I hope this post was insightful and of interest to you.

Please leave a comment or question in the comments section. I’d be ever so happy to reply to them.
You can also post your comment or question via Twitter.
Thank you!

Note: I don’t get paid by Nozbe or anything 🙂 I just love the way their app boasts my productivity and peace of mind.