Me

All the “Things” 2020

I’ve been using the Things app to track all my personal todo’s and projects for a couple of years now. I love this beautifully simple Mac-assed Mac app and use it all the time.

I recently discovered how to get access to the Things database and was finally able to answer some questions about how I have been spending my time.

So, with that, here are some highlights of all my “Things” in 2020.


In 2020, I completed 108 personal projects. A project can be something small like “πŸ“ Declutter 2nd floor”, medium like, “πŸ›³ Renew passport”, or big like “🎸 Convert my guestroom to the studio”. (I always include an emoji in my project name because somehow it helps motivate me.)

Some favorite completed projects of 2020 were “πŸ—³ Vote”, “πŸ€Ήβ€β™‚οΈ Plan for best self”, “🧠 Mental reorg”, and my favorite for 2020: “🦠 Corona?”

I canceled 9 projects, including “🌢 Home Gardening!”, “πŸ“˜ Journaling”, the weird exercise kick of “πŸ§˜πŸ»β€β™‚οΈQi Gong” and “πŸ₯‹Grav maga”, and the most fitting cancellation for 2020: “πŸ¦ƒ Holiday family plans”

I completed 11 projects to “fix” things, including “🐍 Fix that slot under my door”, “πŸ₯ Fix drums”, “πŸ”§ Fix that broken drawer in the kitchen”, and “✍️ Basic blog fix up”


On a finer level, I completed 2565 individual tasks in 2020, or about 7 per day.

I canceled 521 tasks in 2020, about 1.4 per day.

At year’s end, I currently have 62 projects in progress. πŸ€”


For reference, here is a sample SQLite query to find all the projects created and completed in 2020.

SELECT title, date(creationDate, 'unixepoch') as start, date(stopDate, 'unixepoch') as stop from TMTask
WHERE type = 1
AND status = 3
AND date(creationDate, 'unixepoch') BETWEEN '2020-01-01' AND '2020-12-31'
ORDER BY creationDate

Practical · You

Things and the 5 Second Rule

I recently came across this book on Audible called The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. I didn’t end up buying the book since I don’t want to send 7 hrs and 35 mins listening to a book about a 5-second strategy. The math just didn’t add up for me. πŸ˜†

But I saw there was a short TED talk on the 5 Second Rule plus an even shorter YouTube video on the topic.

The basic idea is that as you go through your day, you have things constantly popping into your head. These are fleeting things that you should do, would like to do, useful ideas, and so forth. Mel says you have 5 seconds to act on that idea or it’s gone, or at least you won’t do anything about it. And acting on those ideas is the difference between making the life you want and not. 🀯

I like that idea. But what can you actually do in 5 seconds? I mean, you’re probably driving or out for a jog or playing Wii. You can’t necessarily write down a note or call up your cousin right then and there and invite him to lunch. You can’t go adopt a dog in 5 seconds. And you sure as hell can’t write a book in 5 seconds.

Mel has other suggestions on how to handle this 5-second period, but I’ve been dumping things like this into the appropriately named Things app on my iPhone. It goes like this:

Hey Siri, using Things, remind me to invite my cousin to lunch

That’s it. Now it’s in your inbox. You can figure out the details later, but at least now you have a placeholder / reminder. My Things inbox has grown way too long to be useful in the past (way into the hundreds), but I eventually fought it down, gradually turning this list into projects or reference notes or calendar reminders. I’ve also turned more than 400 fleeting thoughts into a database of book ideas (thanks to Evernote).

The only way I keep my Things inbox under control is to clean out the inbox once a week on Sundays. Usually I have about 40 things for the week to act on, organize, file, or discard. It takes about an hour a week.

And by the way, both this very blog and this specific post came out of a 5-second thought. πŸ€“

Hey Siri, using Things, remind me to check out Mel Robbins and The 5 Second Rule

You

The Artist’s Hierarchy of Needs

I’ve been taking on some creative projects lately (music and writing) and found this idea of an artist’s needs really helpful. I makes me want to create!

πŸ‘‰ The Artist’s Hierarchy of Needs

(I’m not sure this is technically a “hierarchy”, but still it’s a good list.)

Cheat sheet: creative physical space, creative imaginative space, creative peers / community, creative fuel (filling the well), being active / taking care of your body, creative edge / challenge, faith and belief in yourself and your work, having your work responded to, certainty (confidence?), and time.

Here’s just one of the ten artist’s needs that I really liked: The need for your creative edge:

Solving problems, pushing boundaries, developing something new is at the heart of the creative process. Rather than despair about how difficult it is, embrace the challenge of your craft.

Screenshot 2019-07-04 07.47.42.png
You

Rest, Leisure, and Mental Crop Rotation

This article talks about taking time off from a difficult problem to get some distance and perspective so you can make a breakthrough.

I also really like the idea in here of “mental crop rotation” where you intentionally work on a different hard problem for a while to clean your head before you come back to the first hard problem. Actually, that’s from Kierkegaard. (I used to make fun of people who quoted Kierkegaard in college. πŸ˜‚)

πŸ‘‰ Using Incubation to Unlock Your True Creative Potential

Creativity is about connecting dots. But if we try to force it, if we’re too focused on it, all we ever do is connect neighboring dots, resulting in a rigid grid of stale thoughts. To really see the interesting connections we need to get a new perspective and gain some distance. Then the truly interesting connections will reveal themselves.

Music · You

The Best Music for Working

According to research on the effect of music listening on work performance, music can indeed help your brain work better. But it depends what you are listening to.

πŸ‘‰ 5 Types of Music That Increase Your Productivity, According to Science

Official Recommendations

Classical music, especially baroque, can increased mood and concentration – see Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel πŸ‘‰example

Not really music, but nature sounds can increase cognitive function and concentration – rain, water, etc. πŸ‘‰ example

Epic music can inspire you if you’re feeling unmotivated πŸ‘‰ example

Video Game Music – this music is designed to help your brain feel better! πŸ‘‰ Sim City, Bastion, or pick a game! (Zelda?)

Ambient music can reduce stress (I’m not a huge fan, so no example πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ˜‚)

My Own Favs

I personally love classical adaptations of rock and pop, such as Kashmir: Symphonic Led Zeppelin or the Vitamin String Quartet.

I also like some of the Apple Music concentration playlists such as Swift Concentration.

And even though it breaks some of the rules above, I just find KUTX relaxing.

Also, Miles Davis. And the Isle of Dogs soundtrack.

Duke Ellington: Black, Brown, and Beige.

Shostakovich: Jazz Suites Nos. 1 – 2 – The Bolt – Tahiti Trot

For some chill beats, try Trappin in Japan (YouTube) (ο£Ώ Music).

Also, just any classical waltz music seems to work.

What Doesn’t Work

Not surprisingly, complex musical structure and lyrics don’t help. In fact, they make it harder for you brain to focus. (*Still, I can work to Johny Cash music, probably because it’s so familiar.)

Also, any music may hinder the especially difficult tasks.

And you have to be in the habit of listening to music to make it helpful. If you only do it sometimes, it doesn’t help.

Me · You

The 50/50 Rule and Why I Blog

My blog’s current tag line is “This is not a blog.”

Originally, this site was intended as a way to keep track of links to interesting or useful things, like glorified bookmarks. But since then, it has evolved to serve another purpose: to make me think and communicate about stuff.

See, as I was bookmarking stuff, I found myself adding little bits about why I liked the link or context about how I found it. Over time, I found that when I would link to an article, I would sometimes want to add a summary about the article to help me process it and remember it better.

A better way to learn, process, retain and remember information is to learn half the time, and share half the time.

If I take two seconds to effortlessly save a bookmark, then the information is saved and soon forgotten. If I add even a quick post about it, giving it a title and some context or a summary, then that post is now a part of me. And as a bonus, I get to share it with other people.

So I was happy to see this article, which makes me think I am not wasting my time.

πŸ‘‰ The 50/50 Rule (How to Retain And Remember 90% of Everything You Learn)

It basically says that if you make yourself talk about something, then you come to understand it or appreciate it better. Spend half you time learning and half your time explaining what you learned.

According to the article, I would be serving myself better by writing out my notes by hand. It seems people type too fast for their brain to absorb what they’re doing. And simply by writing that, I now remember that fact. But I’m typing this anyways because you can’t tag, search, and share your paper notebook. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

And yes, this article is so meta.