More on Productivity
1 year ago
The Last To-Do List Template I'll Ever Need, Years in the Making
The holy grail of plain text task management is finally within reach
Plain text task management? Are you serious?? Dedicated task managers exist for a reason, you know. Sheesh.
—Oh, I know. Believe me, I know! But hear me out.
I've managed projects and tasks in plain text for more than four years. Since reorganizing my to-do list, plain text task management is within reach.
Data completely yours? One billion percent. Beef it up with coding? Be my guest.
Enter: The List
The answer? A list. That’s it!
Write down tasks. Obsidian, Notenik, Drafts, or iA Writer are good plain text note-taking apps.
List too long? Of course, it is! A large list tells you what to do. Feel the itch and friction. Then fix it.
But I want to be able to distinguish between work and personal life! List two things.
However, I need to know what should be completed first. Put those items at the top.
However, some things keep coming up, and I need to be reminded of them! Put those in your calendar and make an alarm for them.
But since individual X hasn't completed task Y, I can't proceed with this. Create a Waiting section on your list by dividing it.
But I must know what I'm supposed to be doing right now! Read your list(s). Check your calendar. Think critically.
Before I begin a new one, I remind myself that "Listory Never Repeats."
There’s no such thing as too many lists if all are needed. There is such a thing as too many lists if you make them before they’re needed. Before they complain that their previous room was small or too crowded or needed a new light.
A list that feels too long has a voice; it’s telling you what to do next.
I use one Master List. It's a control panel that tells me what to focus on short-term. If something doesn't need semi-immediate attention, it goes on my Backlog list.
Todd Lewandowski's DWTS (Done, Waiting, Top 3, Soon) performance deserves praise. His DWTS to-do list structure has transformed my plain-text task management. I didn't realize it was upside down.
This is my take on it:
D = Done
Move finished items here. If they pile up, clear them out every week or month. I have a Done Archive folder.
W = Waiting
Things seething in the background, awaiting action. Stir them occasionally so they don't burn.
T = Top 3
Three priorities. Personal comes first, then work. There will always be a top 3 (no more than 5) in every category. Projects, not chores, usually.
S = Soon
This part is action-oriented. It's for anything you can accomplish to finish one of the Top 3. This collection includes thoughts and project lists. The sole requirement is that they should be short-term goals.
Some of you have probably concluded this isn't for you. Please read Todd's piece before throwing out the baby. Often. You shouldn't miss a newborn.
As much as Dancing With The Stars helps me recall this method, I may try switching their order. TSWD; Drilling Tunnel Seismic? Serenity After Task?
Master List Showcase
My Master List lives alone in its own file, but sometimes appears in other places. It's included in my Weekly List template. Here's a (soon-to-be-updated) demo vault of my Obsidian planning setup to download for free.
Here's the code behind my weekly screenshot:
## [[Master List - 2022|✓]] TO DO ![[Master List - 2022]]
FYI, I use the Minimal Theme in Obsidian, with a few tweaks.
You may note I'm utilizing a checkmark as a link. For me, that's easier than locating the proper spot to click on the embed.
Blue headings for Done and Waiting are links. Done links to the Done Archive page and Waiting to a general waiting page.
Read my full article here.
Dr Mehmet Yildiz
11 months ago
How I train my brain daily for clarity and productivity.
I use a conceptual and practical system I developed decades ago as an example.
Since childhood, I've been interested in the brain-mind connection, so I developed a system using scientific breakthroughs, experiments, and the experiences of successful people in my circles.
This story provides a high-level overview of a custom system to inform and inspire readers. Creating a mind gym was one of my best personal and professional investments.
Such a complex system may not be possible for everyone or appear luxurious at first. However, the process and approach may help you find more accessible and viable solutions.
Visualizing the brain as a muscle, I learned to stimulate it with physical and mental exercises, applying a new mindset and behavioral changes.
My methods and practices may not work for others because we're all different. I focus on the approach's principles and highlights so you can create your own program.
Some create a conceptual and practical system intuitively, and others intellectually. Both worked. I see intellect and intuition as higher selves.
The mental tools I introduce are based on lifestyle changes and can be personalized by anyone, barring physical constraints or underlying health conditions.
Some people can't meditate despite wanting to due to mental constraints. This story lacks exceptions.
People's systems may vary. Many have used my tools successfully. All have scientific backing because their benefits attracted scientists. None are unethical or controversial.
My focus is cognition, which is the neocortex's ability. These practices and tools can affect the limbic and reptilian brain regions.
A previous article discussed brain health's biological aspects. This article focuses on psychology.
Thinking, learning, and remembering are cognitive abilities. Cognitive abilities determine our health and performance.
Cognitive health is the ability to think, concentrate, learn, and remember. Cognitive performance boosting involves various tools and processes. My system and protocols address cognitive health and performance.
As a biological organ, the brain's abilities decline with age, especially if not used regularly. Older people have more neurodegenerative disorders like dementia.
As aging is inevitable, I focus on creating cognitive reserves to remain mentally functional as we age and face mental decline or cognitive impairment.
My protocols focus on neurogenesis, or brain growth and maintenance. Neurons and connections can grow at any age.
Metacognition refers to knowing our cognitive abilities, like thinking about thinking and learning how to learn.
In the following sections, I provide an overview of my system, mental tools, and protocols.
This system summarizes my 50-year career. Some may find it too abstract, so I give examples.
First, explain the system. Section 2 introduces activities. Third, how to measure and maintain mental growth.
1 — Developed a practical mental gym.
The mental gym is a metaphor for the physical fitness gym to improve our mental muscles.
This concept covers brain and mind functionality. Integrated biological and psychological components.
I'll describe my mental gym so my other points make sense. My mental gym has physical and mental tools.
Mindfulness, meditation, visualization, self-conversations, breathing exercises, expressive writing, working in a flow state, reading, music, dance, isometric training, barefoot walking, cold/heat exposure, CBT, and social engagements are regular tools.
Dancing, walking, and thermogenesis are body-related tools. As the brain is part of the body and houses the mind, these tools can affect mental abilities such as attention, focus, memory, task switching, and problem-solving.
Different people may like different tools. I chose these tools based on my needs, goals, and lifestyle. They're just examples. You can choose tools that fit your goals and personality.
2 — Performed tasks regularly.
These tools gave me clarity. They became daily hobbies. Some I did alone, others with others.
Some examples: I meditate daily. Even though my overactive mind made daily meditation difficult at first, I now enjoy it. Meditation three times a day sharpens my mind.
Self-talk is used for self-therapy and creativity. Self-talk was initially difficult, but neurogenesis rewired my brain to make it a habit.
Cold showers, warm baths with Epsom salts, fasting, barefoot walks on the beach or grass, dancing, calisthenics, trampoline hopping, and breathing exercises increase my mental clarity, creativity, and productivity.
These exercises can increase BDNF, which promotes nervous system growth. They improve mental capacity and performance by increasing blood flow and brain oxygenation.
I use weekly and occasional activities like dry saunas, talking with others, and community activities.
These activities stimulate the brain and mind, improving performance and cognitive capacity.
3 — Measured progress, set growth goals.
Measuring progress helps us stay on track. Without data, it's hard to stay motivated. When we face inevitable setbacks, we may abandon our dreams.
I created a daily checklist for a spreadsheet with macros. I tracked how often and long I did each activity.
I measured my progress objectively and subjectively. In the progress spreadsheet, I noted my meditation hours and subjective feelings.
In another column, I used good, moderate, and excellent to get qualitative data. It took time and effort. Later, I started benefiting from this automated structure.
Creating a page for each activity, such as meditation, self-talk, cold showers, walking, expressive writing, personal interactions, etc., gave me empirical data I could analyze, modify, and graph to show progress.
Colored charts showed each area's strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths motivate me to continue them. Identifying weaknesses helped me improve them.
As the system matured, data recording became a habit and took less time. I saw the result immediately because I automated the charts when I entered daily data. Early time investment paid off later.
Mind Gym Benefits, Effective Use, and Progress Measuring
This concept helped me move from comfort to risk. I accept things as they are.
Turnarounds were made. I stopped feeling "Fight-Flight-Freeze" and maintained self-control.
I tamed my overactive amygdala by strengthening my brain. Stress and anxiety decreased. With these shifts, I accepted criticism and turned envy into admiration. Clarity improved.
When the cognitive part of the brain became stronger and the primitive part was tamed, managing thoughts and emotions became easier. My AQ increased. I learned to tolerate people, physical, mental, and emotional obstacles.
Accessing vast information sources in my subconscious mind through an improved RAS allowed me to easily tap into my higher self and recognize flaws in my lower self.
The brain loves patterns and routines, so habits help. Observing, developing, and monitoring habits mindfully can be beneficial. Mindfulness helps us achieve this goal systematically.
As body and mind are connected, we must consider both when building habits. Consistent and joyful practices can strengthen neurons and neural connections.
Habits help us accomplish more with less effort. Regularly using mental tools and processes can improve our cognitive health and performance as we age.
Creating daily habits to improve cognitive abilities can sharpen our minds and boost our well-being.
Some apps monitor our activities and behavior to help build habits. If you can't replicate my system, try these apps. Some smartwatches and fitness devices include them.
Set aside time each day for mental activities you enjoy. Regular scheduling and practice can strengthen brain regions and form habits. Once you form habits, tasks become easy.
Improving our minds is a lifelong journey. It's easier and more sustainable to increase our efforts daily, weekly, monthly, or annually.
Despite life's ups and downs, many want to remain calm and cheerful.
This valuable skill is unrelated to wealth or fame. It's about our mindset, fueled by our biological and psychological needs.
Here are some lessons I've learned about staying calm and composed despite challenges and setbacks.
1 — Tranquillity starts with observing thoughts and feelings.
2 — Clear the mental clutter and emotional entanglements with conscious breathing and gentle movements.
3 — Accept situations and events as they are with no resistance.
4 — Self-love can lead to loving others and increasing compassion.
5 — Count your blessings and cultivate gratitude.
Clear thinking can bring joy and satisfaction. It's a privilege to wake up with a healthy body and clear mind, ready to connect with others and serve them.
Thank you for reading my perspectives. I wish you a healthy and happy life.
Jumanne Rajabu Mtambalike
1 year ago
10 Years of Trying to Manage Time and Improve My Productivity.
I've spent the last 10 years of my career mastering time management. I've tried different approaches and followed multiple people and sources. My knowledge is summarized.
Great people, including entrepreneurs, master time management. I learned time management in college. I was studying Computer Science and Finance and leading Tanzanian students in Bangalore, India. I had 24 hours per day to do this and enjoy campus. I graduated and received several awards. I've learned to maximize my time. These tips and tools help me finish quickly.
I don't remember when I read the article. James Clear, one of my favorite bloggers, introduced me to the Eisenhower Box, which I've used for years. Eliminate waste to master time management. By grouping your activities by importance and urgency, the tool helps you prioritize what matters and drop what doesn't. If it's urgent, do it. Delegate if it's urgent but not necessary. If it's important but not urgent, reschedule it; otherwise, drop it. I integrated the tool with Trello to manage my daily tasks. Since 2007, I've done this.
James Clear's article mentions Eisenhower Box.
Greg McKeown's book Essentialism introduced me to disciplined pursuit of less. I once wrote about this. I wasn't sure what my career's real opportunities and distractions were. A non-essentialist thinks everything is essential; you want to be everything to everyone, and your life lacks satisfaction. Poor time management starts it all. Reading and applying this book will change your life.
Essential vs non-essential
Most of us make corporate calendars. Peter Njonjo, founder of Twiga Foods, said he manages time by putting life activities in his core calendars. It includes family retreats, weddings, and other events. He joked that his wife always complained to him to avoid becoming a calendar item. It's key. "Time Masters" manages life's four burners, not just work and corporate life. There's no "work-life balance"; it's life.
Health, Family, Work, and Friends.
The Brutal No
In a culture where people want to look good, saying "NO" to a favor request seems rude. In reality, the crime is breaking a promise. "Time Masters" have mastered "NO". More "YES" means less time, and more "NO" means more time for tasks and priorities. Brutal No doesn't mean being mean to your coworkers; it means explaining kindly and professionally that you have other priorities.
To-Do vs. MITs
Most people are productive with a routine to-do list. You can't be effective by just checking boxes on a To-do list. When was the last time you completed all of your daily tasks? Never. You must replace the to-do list with Most Important Tasks (MITs). MITs allow you to focus on the most important tasks on your list. You feel progress and accomplishment when you finish these tasks. MITs don't include ad-hoc emails, meetings, etc.
Most people don't journal or plan their day in the developing South. I've learned to plan my day in my journal over time. I have multiple sections on one page: MITs (things I want to accomplish that day), Other Activities (stuff I can postpone), Life (health, faith, and family issues), and Pop-Ups (things that just pop up). I leave the next page blank for notes. I reflected on the blocks to identify areas to improve the next day. You will have bad days, but at least you'll realize it was due to poor time management.
Time or money? When you make enough money, you lose time to make more. The smart buy "Time." I resisted buying other people's time for years. I regret not hiring an assistant sooner. Learn to buy time from others and pay for time-consuming tasks. Sometimes you think you're saving money by doing things yourself, but you're actually losing money.
This post is a summary. See the full post here.
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1 year ago
Flywheels and Funnels
Traditional sales organizations used the concept of a sales “funnel” to describe the process through which potential customers move, ending up with sales at the end. Winners today have abandoned that way of thinking in favor of building flywheels — business models in which every element reinforces every other.
Ah, the marketing funnel…
Prospective clients go through a predictable set of experiences, students learn in business school marketing classes. It looks like this:
Understanding the funnel helps evaluate sales success indicators. Gail Goodwin, former CEO of small business direct mail provider Constant Contact, said managing the pipeline was key to escaping the sluggish SaaS ramp of death.
Like the funnel concept. To predict how well your business will do, measure how many potential clients are aware of it (awareness) and how many take the next step. If 1,000 people heard about your offering and 10% showed interest, you'd have 100 at that point. If 50% of these people made buyer-like noises, you'd know how many were, etc. It helped model buying trends.
TV, magazine, and radio advertising are pricey for B2C enterprises. Traditional B2B marketing involved armies of sales reps, which was expensive and a barrier to entry.
Cracks in the funnel model
Digital has exposed the funnel's limitations. Hubspot was born at a time when buyers and sellers had huge knowledge asymmetries, according to co-founder Brian Halligan. Those selling a product could use the buyer's lack of information to become a trusted partner.
As the world went digital, getting information and comparing offerings became faster, easier, and cheaper. Buyers didn't need a seller to move through a funnel. Interactions replaced transactions, and the relationship didn't end with a sale.
Instead, buyers and sellers interacted in a constant flow. In many modern models, the sale is midway through the process (particularly true with subscription and software-as-a-service models). Example:
You're creating a winding journey with many touch points, not a funnel (and lots of opportunities for customers to get lost).
From winding journey to flywheel
Beyond this revised view of an interactive customer journey, a company can create what Jim Collins famously called a flywheel. Imagine rolling a heavy disc on its axis. The first few times you roll it, you put in a lot of effort for a small response. The same effort yields faster turns as it gains speed. Over time, the flywheel gains momentum and turns without your help.
Modern digital organizations have created flywheel business models, in which any additional force multiplies throughout the business. The flywheel becomes a force multiplier, according to Collins.
Amazon is a famous flywheel example. Collins explained the concept to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at a corporate retreat in 2001. In The Everything Store, Brad Stone describes in his book The Everything Store how he immediately understood Amazon's levers.
The result (drawn on a napkin):
Low prices and a large selection of products attracted customers, while a focus on customer service kept them coming back, increasing traffic. Third-party sellers then increased selection. Low-cost structure supports low-price commitment. It's brilliant! Every wheel turn creates acceleration.
Where from here?
Flywheel over sales funnel! Consider these business terms.
1 year ago
How to properly price SaaS
Price Intelligently put out amazing content on pricing your SaaS product. This blog's link to the whole report is worth reading. Our key takeaways are below.
Don't base prices on the competition. Competitor-based pricing has clear drawbacks. Their pricing approach is yours. Your company offers customers something unique. Otherwise, you wouldn't create it. This strategy is static, therefore you can't add value by raising prices without outpricing competitors. Look, but don't touch is the competitor-based moral. You want to know your competitors' prices so you're in the same ballpark, but they shouldn't guide your selections. Competitor-based pricing also drives down prices.
Value-based pricing wins. This is customer-based pricing. Value-based pricing looks outward, not inward or laterally at competitors. Your clients are the best source of pricing information. By valuing customer comments, you're focusing on buyers. They'll decide if your pricing and packaging are right. In addition to asking consumers about cost savings or revenue increases, look at data like number of users, usage per user, etc.
Value-based pricing increases prices. As you learn more about the client and your worth, you'll know when and how much to boost rates. Every 6 months, examine pricing.
Cloning top customers. You clone your consumers by learning as much as you can about them and then reaching out to comparable people or organizations. You can't accomplish this without knowing your customers. Segmenting and reproducing them requires as much detail as feasible. Offer pricing plans and feature packages for 4 personas. The top plan should state Contact Us. Your highest-value customers want more advice and support.
Question your 4 personas. What's the one item you can't live without? Which integrations matter most? Do you do analytics? Is support important or does your company self-solve? What's too cheap? What's too expensive?
Not everyone likes per-user pricing. SaaS organizations often default to per-user analytics. About 80% of companies utilizing per-user pricing should use an alternative value metric because their goods don't give more value with more users, so charging for them doesn't make sense.
At least 3:1 LTV/CAC. Break even on the customer within 2 years, and LTV to CAC is greater than 3:1. Because customer acquisition costs are paid upfront but SaaS revenues accrue over time, SaaS companies face an early financial shortfall while paying back the CAC.
ROI should be >20:1. Indeed. Ensure the customer's ROI is 20x the product's cost. Microsoft Office costs $80 a year, but consumers would pay much more to maintain it.
A/B Testing. A/B testing is guessing. When your pricing page varies based on assumptions, you'll upset customers. You don't have enough customers anyway. A/B testing optimizes landing pages, design decisions, and other site features when you know the problem but not pricing.
Don't discount. It cheapens the product, makes it permanent, and increases churn. By discounting, you're ruining your pricing analysis.
1 year ago
War's Human Cost
War's Human Cost
I didn't start crying until I was outside a McDonald's in an Olempin, Poland rest area on highway S17.
Children pick toys at a refugee center, Olempin, Poland, March 4, 2022.
Refugee children, mostly alone with their mothers, but occasionally with a gray-haired grandfather or non-Ukrainian father, were coaxed into picking a toy from boxes provided by a kind-hearted company and volunteers.
I went to Warsaw to continue my research on my family's history during the Holocaust. In light of the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, I asked former colleagues in the US Department of Defense and Intelligence Community if it was safe to travel there. They said yes, as Poland was a NATO member.
I stayed in a hotel in the Warsaw Ghetto, where 90% of my mother's family was murdered in the Holocaust. Across the street was the first Warsaw Judenrat. It was two blocks away from the apartment building my mother's family had owned and lived in, now dilapidated and empty.
Building of my great-grandfather, December 2021.
A mass grave of thousands of rocks for those killed in the Warsaw Ghetto, I didn't cry when I touched its cold walls.
Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, 200,000–300,000 graves.
Mass grave, Warsaw Jewish Cemetery.
My mother's family had two homes, one in Warszawa and the rural one was a forest and sawmill complex in Western Ukraine. For the past half-year, a local Ukrainian historian had been helping me discover faint traces of her family’s life there — in fact, he had found some people still alive who remembered the sawmill and that it belonged to my mother’s grandfather. The historian was good at his job, and we had become close.
My historian friend, December 2021, talking to a Ukrainian.
With war raging, my second trip to Warsaw took on a different mission. To see his daughter and one-year-old grandson, I drove east instead of to Ukraine. They had crossed the border shortly after the war began, leaving men behind, and were now staying with a friend on Poland's eastern border.
I entered after walking up to the house and settling with the dog. The grandson greeted me with a huge smile and the Ukrainian word for “daddy,” “Tato!” But it was clear he was awaiting his real father's arrival, and any man he met would be so tentatively named.
After a few moments, the boy realized I was only a stranger. He had musical talent, like his mother and grandfather, both piano teachers, as he danced to YouTube videos of American children's songs dubbed in Ukrainian, picking the ones he liked and crying when he didn't.
Songs chosen by my historian friend's grandson, March 4, 2022
He had enough music and began crying regardless of the song. His mother picked him up and started nursing him, saying she was worried about him. She had no idea where she would live or how she would survive outside Ukraine. She showed me her father's family history of losses in the Holocaust, which matched my own research.
After an hour of drinking tea and trying to speak of hope, I left for the 3.5-hour drive west to Warsaw.
It was unlike my drive east. It was reminiscent of the household goods-filled carts pulled by horses and people fleeing war 80 years ago.
Jewish refugees relocating, USHMM Holocaust Encyclopaedia, 1939.
The carefully chosen trinkets by children to distract them from awareness of what is really happening and the anxiety of what lies ahead, made me cry despite all my research on the Holocaust. There is no way for them to communicate with their mothers, who are worried, absent, and without their fathers.
It's easy to see war as a contest of nations' armies, weapons, and land. The most costly aspect of war is its psychological toll. My father screamed in his sleep from nightmares of his own adolescent trauma in Warsaw 80 years ago.
Survivor father studying engineering, 1961.
In the airport, I waited to return home while Ukrainian public address systems announced refugee assistance. Like at McDonald's, many mothers were alone with their children, waiting for a flight to distant relatives.
That's when I had my worst trip experience.
A woman near me, clearly a refugee, answered her phone, cried out, and began wailing.
The human cost of war descended like a hammer, and I realized that while I was going home, she never would