It's getting summer; more time for audiobooks again. The last time I mowed the lawn, I decided to relisten to Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.
This book is packed with advice. It's one of the best, if not the best, books on the market about productivity and time management. It's not about cramming more hours into the day; it's about using your day for the right thing and then be done with it.
The last part "Reflect" is mostly about how to experiment with the Scientific Method. It's all about (1) observing what's going on, then (2) guessing why things are happening the way they are, (3) experimenting to test your hypothesis, and (4) measuring the results and decide if you are right or wrong.
I decided to observe myself and the changes that I make to my routine, schedule, and behavior.
Keep it Simple Stupid
I hate Excel, that's for sure. It's just ugly and not user-friendly at all. Plus, it sucks to use it on mobile.
Even though it sounds like the obvious choice, I was certain that I wouldn't stick to it if I used Excel. Since my spouse switched to Notion, I thought I would give that a try.
The database functionality is really nice and straightforward. Plus, it works perfectly on mobile and has a simple UI.
Every day I create a new entry in my daily tracking database with around 30 fields that I'll fill as the day goes on. It's either a number (from 1 to 10), a checkbox (did something happen or not), a text field (for example, about my highlight or a timestamp), or multi-select fields (for tags).
The cool thing about Notion is that everything is always a page. So if I want to take deeper notes about observations on a day, I can always put them below. I created a template for each day:
## How did you sleep? ## Cups of Coffee - ... - ## Was it a good day? ## Would you change something? ## Did I learn/try something new today?
Mostly I don't use these questions, except something feels strange, or I think that a change is necessary. Or if I feel a particular event could change the course of history (how dramatic).
I started with around 10 fields, now I am at 30.
Still that it has grown, the most crucial requirement is that it remains brief and straightforward. Otherwise, I would skip it.
Grow it as you go
Every time I had another idea for data that could be valuable, I added that field to the table.
Your database won't be perfect from the beginning, accept that and go on. Start with the fields you think are most valuable and add over time what's interesting for you.
These data points I am currently tracking:
- Tags for things that I did on that day, like Writing, Friends, Movie, Gardening, Cleaning, 9to5, etc.
- Time: Woke Time
- Number: Sleep level
- Checkbox: Workout
- Number: Mood Morning
- Number: Energy Morning
- Time: First Cup of Coffee
- Text: Highlight
- Checkbox: Highlight Achieved
- Checkbox: Time Blocking
- Time: First Food
- Number: Energy Afternoon
- Number: Mood Afternoon
- Number: Cups of Coffee
- Checkbox: Snacked
- Checkbox: Clean Eating
- Checkbox: Bed on Time
- Checkbox: Napped
- Time: Nap Time
- Time: Last Food
- Number: Focus Overall
- Number: Meeting Hours
- Checkbox: Alcohol
- Number: Phone Screen Time (Minutes)
- Tags: Things Tried
These attributes are pretty stable, even that I am thinking of expanding the energy levels (maybe in a separate tracker).
If you are filling out these fields for a month, I promise you, you will learn a lot about yourself. And how for example, alcohol can influence your next day, even if it's "only one beer."
It's not about deprivation
I am not doing that to deprive myself and become more efficient or anything alike. I am doing that to understand myself better and how I can get more out of my life. For example, yesterday's highlight was to enjoy the afternoon with friends, which worked out very well. I had the feeling I was present all the time, which was the goal.
Or I can clearly see how my nap times and eating habits affected my energy level and mood in the afternoon. Which, in the end, improves my life, not "my work."
It's about being intentional with your time and your energy. Of course, I enjoy my work and like to have fun while doing it and that works better with more energy and a better mood.
I am a huge nerd when it comes to productivity tools and data as well. So, if you have any questions, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Furthermore, I prepared a notion template that you can get here. Duplicate it into your workspace, mess around with it, extend it, change it, feel free to do with it whatever you want. If you have questions, let me know.