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Productivity System - Agile Board, Email, Bookmarks and Backlog

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Data Engineer at Financial Company4 months ago

I'm trying to improve my system of productivity. My system of late has involved running my life from Gmail, which I'm quickly realizing is woefully inadequate. For one, when it makes me reactive - what shows up in my inbox gets my attention. (After writing that sentence, I turned off Gmail notifications on my phone, so this question has already been productive).

A second aspect that makes it inadequate involves how I would not work on things that aren't high priority in a given day. My approach until now has been to snooze the email until a certain point in the future. The natural problem with this is I might snooze the number of days too early so I'll see the thing I should be doing before I should work on it or too late, in which case I'll see it after I should.

I think the solution to this is to use an Agile board for my tasks like I do at work. I'll have a lane for tasks I'm doing, one for "Done" and a backlog.

I've also recently been working on embracing the Just One Thing approach. I've struggled with trying to get too many things done and what invariably happens is I prioritize the easy tasks or tasks I want to do rather than the most important ones. By only having one thing to do in "Doing", I leave myself no wiggle room to procrastinate.

Does this system make sense? Is using Agile for oneself the best approach? I understand different things work for different people, but I'm really interested in a system that orients me towards important work and makes it hard to procrastinate.

The second part of this question involves the backlog of things to do. There are quite a few, some of which I will probably never get to for lack of time. What's a good method for clearing these? I'm thinking everything in the backlog is deleted after existing for X amount of time (e.g. 2 months). If it really is important, I will think to add it back to the backlog again.

Relatedly, I have a ton of bookmarks in Chrome with all sorts of wonderful material, including some from Taro. Again, the problem is between work, side-projects, fitness and life, I don't think I'll ever get to the vast majority of them, because watching and reading is consuming and usually the most important thing I can be doing is producing (coding or writing). I'm thinking of just deleting all these bookmarks because they present a temptation of how I should be spending my time.

An alternative is just to try and keep the most important ones (e.g. right now I have 100 bookmarks, and one can argue I should only ever have 20), but this means I have to go through and try and stack rank them against each other - a task of its own and not an easy one. Deleting them all is a one-time painful option, but actually the easiest one.

Happy to get people's insights!



  • 2
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    4 months ago

    I'm a huge fan of reducing clutter - The more organized your physical and digital spaces are, the clearer your mind will be. You can reduce your usage of Taro to just this:

    1. If you have a career question, start a discussion in Taro
    2. Go through the recommend Taro resources in the responses

    In terms of organizing your workflow, I wouldn't say you need "agile", just a nice task board. "Agile" is more defined by the processes surrounding everything (2-week sprints, story pointing, sprinting planning meetings, backlog grooming meetings) and not the tool. At Taro, we use Asana and have been pretty happy with it. Here's how it works:

    • We have 2 big "projects", which are effectively workstreams. We have "Current Sprint" and "Backlog". As a startup, we move fast so we do planning weekly instead of biweekly
    • When we make tasks, we either put them in the "Current Sprint" or "Backlog". Tasks have the following fields:
      • Title/description (basic stuff)
      • Priority (P0, P1, and P2 with P0 being the highest)
      • Due date - This is an optional field which we only use if we really need to get something done by a certain time
    • In our weekly planning meeting on Monday, we make sure everyone has enough tasks for the week, and we push each other to backlog things aggressively to force prioritization
    • We don't do anything else of the usual "agile" stuff (no story pointing, no backlog grooming, no kanban board)

    Lastly, don't feel any pressure to "clear" your backlog. I think hard deleting is actually a bad thing as it's entirely possible that you'll want to go through your backlog at some point in the future when things slow down (we did this every year at Meta during code freeze). You just need to get it outside of your mental space - You can create a "Backlog" project in Asana similar to us and just "banish" everything there.

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    Mid-Level Software Engineer at Other
    4 months ago

    I’ve been using Sunsama for a while. I started timing almost everything I do when I get out of bed and generated data viz to see where my time went, there’s also an archive. I’ll share a referral code if interested just DM me on Slack.

    GANTT charts, Notion and other product / project management systems help, so does body doubling and pomodoro technique to keep me a little more accountable and less lonely (tactic many Neurodivergent and ADHD folks use).

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    Mid-Level Software Engineer at Other
    4 months ago

    I also group by tag in Upnote (used to use Inkdrop and Quiver for this), and also use Skeema for bookmark archive by project that I can toggle through with search within the browser. It is helpful and nothing is ever lost.