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I Recently Became 10X More Productive & No Longer Have Stress [My Ultimate Productivity Guide]

Discussion in 'BlackHat Lounge' started by IGKing, Aug 19, 2019.

  1. IGKing

    IGKing Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    I’ve recently discovered a productivity system that is absolutely blowing my mind, and I just had to share it with everyone. I can’t stop recommending it to my friends and family, so now I’m recommending it to my fellow BlackHatters.


    Background

    Everybody wants to be more productive. That’s not a mystery. I’ve always struggled with finding the best way to be productive, and I’ve experimented with so many different methods in the past. I’ve finally found something that has really made me 10 times more productive. In the spirit of productivity and being efficient, I’m going to do my best to give you a quick overview of a very detailed system. So, let’s get started. Edit: This guide is about 3,700 words… be aware!

    This productivity system is a slight variation of the popular Getting Things Done (GTD) system/book created by David Allen, and I’ve tailored it to fit in the note-keeping app Evernote. I’ve detailed below how to organize a system like mine.

    The system, at least from my interpretation, revolves around “decluttering” your mind, and organizing every thought, idea, to-do, and project into a single, easily accessible system. I’ve chosen the app Evernote, but I’m sure you can apply this to your system of choice.

    Also, I'd recommend checking out this guide by @Sherb. His guide also motivated me to create this guide.

    I’m far from a productivity master, and I’m no GTD expert, but the system I’ve implemented has been one of the most effective methods I’ve used for making positive progress in my business and my life. I’ve only been using this system for…. about 13 days… but in these 13 days, I’ve absolutely dominated my to-do lists, completed projects, and have completed 10x the work than I normally do. I’m energized, focused, and absolutely in love with this system. If it works for me, it might work for you!



    Overview

    Long story short: Your mind isn’t very good at remembering things. It’s not good at planning things. It’s also not very good at knowing what to do next. Whenever you have thoughts floating around your brain (also called open-loops), it stalls you from being productive. These thoughts need “closure” if you want to be productive. That’s why we keep thoughts in our head… because we’re constantly figuring out what to do with them.

    This system is focused on closing open-loops.

    Open-loop: I need to wash my car today
    Closure: I’ll do that at 7 pm after I buy my groceries. I’ll make a note of that, so I remember.

    Open-loop: I need to email my clients at some point
    Closure: I’ll schedule that at 11 am after I organize the template

    Open-loop: I need to organize the email template for my clients
    Closure: I’ll download a quick template when I log in to my computer today around 9 am.

    Open-loop: I should watch the movie Inception again at some point.
    Closure: Watching Inception the next movie night you have…


    At any given time, we have a multitude of “open-loops” in our brain that are preventing us from focusing appropriately on any given task. So, this system is essentially the solution to open-loops. Every thought, idea, action, recipe, to-do list, household chore, reminder, schedule notification, workout, etc… is all going to go in a system so you can maximize your productivity. We’re giving our loops closure.

    Key point: Stop trying to overload your brain. Whenever you “close loops”, you’re freeing up extra brainpower to do the things you need to do.

    Now, the simple solution to closing loops is: “write everything down you’re thinking about and figure out everything you need to do”. That’s a great first start, but that’s not enough. You need to figure out what to do with everything you're thinking about, you need a plan for it, and you need to be able to retrieve that information on demand so it’s useful to you.

    The best way to figure out what to do with your thoughts is by putting them into a notebook. Like mentioned earlier, I’ll be using Evernote, and I’ll explain how to set-up Evernote after the first two steps are explained.

    The best way to break down your notes is by separating them into two categories: Action & Reference.



    Step 1: Action Notes

    Action notes are actionable ideas, thoughts, or specific things you would like to get done. For example:

    1. Need to re-design the website eventually
    2. Need to update the billing on Google Adwords before next cycle
    3. Need to take the dog to the vet today
    4. Need to update the company logo – once I hear back from the marketing department



    Now, there are more ways we can clarify these “actions”. The more ways we clarify actions, the more we’ll know what to do with them. We’ll need to know what exactly we’ll have to do to finish the job. This is all apart of “closing the loop” and being able to do things in a stress-free, productive environment.

    Essentially, you’ll want to categorize/tag every aspect of the action, so you know what to do with it. I like to categorize them with 4 different attributes.

    1. When
    2. Where
    3. Project
    4. Effort


    These specific tags will allow you to pull relevant information whenever it’s necessary for you. The tags can also be completely customized to you and your business.

    When

    1. Today – if you tag the action “Today”, that means you need to do this action today.
    2. Next Action – If you tag the action “Next action” that means you don’t need to do it today necessarily, but it’s something you need to do.
    3. Someday/Maybe – If you tag the action “Someday/Maybe”, that means it’s something you’ll like to do, but you’re not super concerned when it needs to happen.
    4. Waiting – If you tag the action “Waiting”, that means you’re simply waiting to proceed on this action.


    Where

    1. At office – If you are able to complete this action in the office, use this tag.
    2. Calls – If this action requires you to make a call, use this tag.
    3. Errands – If this action requires an errand (somewhere to go in a vehicle), use this tag.
    4. Other – If this action requires something else, use this tag.



    Project

    1. Business – If this action is related to your primary business, use this tag.
    2. Freelance – If this action is related to any of your secondary businesses, use this tag.
    3. Life – If this action is related to general life activities, use this tag.
    4. Other – If this action isn’t related to anything above, use this tag.


    Effort (Optional)

    1. High effort – If this action requires a lot of energy to complete, use this tag.
    2. Low effort – If this action is a low effort task to be completed, use this tag.


    So, here is how all those notes from earlier would be tagged.


    Action note: Need to re-design the website eventually
    Tags: Someday/Maybe, At office, Business, High effort


    Action note: Need to update the billing on Fiverr before next cycle
    Tags: Next action, At office, Freelance, Low effort


    Action note: Need to take the dog to the vet today
    Tags: Today, Errands, Life, Low effort


    Action note: Need to update the company logo – once I hear back from the marketing department
    Tags: Waiting, At office, Business, High effort


    You may be wondering… what’s the purpose of tagging all these “to-dos”? Why can’t I just “do them” and not waste time tagging?

    Tagging allows you the convenience of being as productive as possible… that’s why. When you tag notes in this format, you’re able to oversee everything you need to do in the appropriate manner.

    Wanna see everything you’re “waiting” on? Just pull up the “Waiting” tag.

    Wanna see what you need to do for your freelance business? Pull up the “Freelance” tag.

    Wanna see everything you need to do when you’re running errands? Pull up the “Errands” tag.

    Did you have a long, hard day? Wanna do some quick easy tasks? Pull up the “Low effort” tag.

    By tagging notes, you’re essentially putting your brain on steroids. Instead of trying to remember all the calls you have to make, you can just pull up the “calls” tag. Instead of trying to remember all the tasks you wanna do today, just pull up the “Today” tag and get to work!


    The Golden Rule for Action Notes:

    If an action takes less than 2 minutes, don’t write it down… just do it now! Don’t waste time writing down a note if it’ll only be a few minutes. The 2 Minute Rule is an essential part of this system.


    Q. Do I need to tag the notes the second I write them?
    A. No, not necessarily. All my notes by default go into the Evernote “Inbox”. I then can move them into the proper section whenever I settle down and review all my new notes. I’d go through and “clean” my inbox a few times a day, so I make sure all my notes are well categorized.


    Q. This seems like a lot of work tagging and writing down your thoughts... Isn’t this counter-productive?
    A. This is an insanely productive and easy system once you get in the routine of it. Don’t let the “newness” of the system intimidate you. By writing down and categorizing your notes, you’re able to free up your mental space which makes completing the actions easier.


    Q. What do you do with notes after you completed them?
    A. The easiest thing for me to do is delete them from Evernote. Although, I know some people move them to a “Completed” folder/notebook. I would rather just remove them because that’s quicker. Every week I flush out my deleted folder, so it doesn’t get too crazy.


    Q. How do I know what actions I should complete?
    A. There are a few different ways to approach this. For me, I’ll tackle all my notes in the “Today” tag first, and then I’ll go into my “Next Action” folder and see what else I can get done today. I’ll change the tags from “Next Action” to “Today” and work on completing those. If I’m in my car, I’ll pull up my “Errands” tag and see what I can get done. If I’m waiting for other people to respond over Skype, I’ll pull up my “Calls” tag and knock out a few calls.


    Q. What if I want to be reminded of a certain note on a specific day?
    A. You could write a reminder in your calendar (I’ll show you about calendars later), or you can arrange a “tickler” system that notifies you on specific days of specific notes. You may need a third-party program for this if you are using Evernote.



    Step 2: Reference notes

    Reference notes are thoughts you have that you’d like to store away for future reference. For example:

    1. This cookie recipe looks delicious

    2. This website is interesting: https://www.blackhatworld.com

    3. I like navy blue suits. Next time I do a photoshoot I should wear a navy blue suit.


    Reference notes are a bit easier to manage then action notes since there isn’t necessarily as many attributes that go along with each reference note. Here’s an example of what your reference tags might look like.
    • 1. Life
      • Cool Sites
      • Entertainment
      • Home Improvement
      • Life
      • Reading
      • Recipes
      • Reminders
      • TV/Movies
    • 2. Work
      • Goals
      • Resources
      • Projects
        • Business
        • Freelance
        • Life
        • Other
      • Taxes

    Categorizing reference notes are just as important as categorizing action notes. Even though references aren’t a typical “productivity/to-do” note, it’s so incredibly important to free up your brain and have zero open loops running throughout your thoughts. The beautiful aspect of tagging reference notes is that it essentially “closes the loop” completely. You never have to worry about forgetting important things, which will almost instantly reduce the anxiety in your life. It’s essentially making “bookmarks” for your brain.

    It's also a good idea to create reference notebooks for all your projects. Your projects will often have notes that aren't necessarily "actions". They can go here.

    Now, you may be wondering… how can this all be set-up in Evernote?

    Well, I considered making a video specifically towards my unique system, but I figured I’d send you the exact video I used to construct my basic “Getting Things Done” setup. Once you are familiar with his setup, then you can learn about the few things I’ve done to tweak it to make it a bit better, in my opinion.


    Important: How to set up action & reference notes in Evernote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoCyKJn9tjo


    This video beautifully explains how to set up the first 2 steps in Evernote, and I would 100% recommend you watch it before continuing on to the next sections of this article.

    If you watch the video mentioned above, you’ll have 2 notebooks in Evernote. The video names the action folder “GTD” and names the reference folder “Reference Material”. In my Evernote, I call these folders “Action” and “Reference”. I then have a third, fourth, and fifth folder which will also be discussed.

    The third folder is called “Essential”.


    Step 3: Essential Notes

    The Essential folder only contains a few different “master notes”. In this folder, I have a Calendar, a Weekly Routine checklist, a Shopping list, and a Vows list.


    Calendar

    It’s important to have a Calendar in your note-keeping software. Having a Calendar will allow you to make notes on specific days that you’d like to remember. Obviously, if you already have a preferred calendar app, you can continue using that, but I never had a reliable and useful app that I could refer to. Now, whenever an important date comes up, I’ll mark it on my calendar and move on.

    Evernote comes with a bunch of helpful templates that you can use (they even have some GTD templates!). One of the templates is a Calendar template which you can find here: https://evernote.com/templates

    Evernote makes it very easy to import templates into your notebook.


    Weekly Routine Sheet

    A weekly routine sheet is essentially a spreadsheet of weekly things you’d like to get done every specific day of the week. Here’s what it looks like.

    There are bound to be a ton of different things in your life that only need to be done or executed once or twice a week. It’s best not to clutter up your Action folder or your Calendar with repetitive things. Having a weekly routine sheet can help you not procrastinate on the little things, and it can free up more brain space by having all these routines in a viewable format.

    Important: Tag the Weekly Routine “Today” so you always remember to check it daily. I tend to check my Today tag several times throughout the day, so having the Weekly Routine in there will make sure you stay on track with things.

    I split up my Weekly Routine to have a “Morning” routine and a “Nightly” routine. I would recommend you do something similar.

    Examples of things you can put in the “Weekly Routine” list:

    1. Mow the lawn on Tuesdays
    2. Exercise every other day
    3. Write a blog post every Thursday
    4. Volunteer every Thursday and Sunday
    5. Update accounting software every Wednesday
    6. Check to update plugins on Wordpress site every Friday night


    Shopping List

    I also have a shopping list that looks something like this.

    You could possibly create individual notes for everything you needed and then categorize them under a “Shopping” tag, but I think it’s easier to just have a master “Shopping List” with several different tags.

    It’s really nice to have a “master” shopping list that I can pull up on my phone whenever I go shopping. I never forget anything anymore when I’m at the store.

    You can also tag this document under any reference tag you wish. I tagged this under my “reminders” tag; however, I think it’s easier just to pull up the Essential folder whenever I’m shopping.


    Mission Statement Documents

    This is optional, but I created simple “mission statement” documents that I have written for myself. These can be any significant document that you want to be reminded of. I have a document in my Essential notebook that reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing, what my ethics are, and what my ultimate goals are. Looking over this document every week helps keep me motivated.



    Step 4: Weekly Reviews

    Weekly reviews are weekly roundups that are completed in order to recap the past week and plan for the week ahead. It’s essential to frequently revisit what you’ve completed and what you’d like to get done.

    I use a modified template I found on Evernote.com to recap my week. You can find this under the GTD section of the Evernote templates. I simply write my weekly reviews from my modified template once a week and then place them in the Weekly Reviews folder. I also keep a reminder in my Weekly Routine note to write a Weekly Review every Sunday.

    Weekly reviews are also a good way to “destress” from the past week. It’s time to put the past week behind you and move forward. It’s also a good idea to clean up your desk, your inbox, your messages, your reminders, take a look at next week’s calendar. I like to have my weekly reviews on Sunday so I can have a fresh start on the new week.

    Some things you can include in your “Weekly Reviews”:

    1. What projects did you complete last week?
    2. What projects are you going to complete next week?
    3. Check-in on your “Someday/Maybe” tag. Is there anything you can get done this week?
    4. Check-in on your “Next actions” tag. Is there anything you can do tomorrow/today?



    Step 5: Daily Recharges

    Daily Recharges are similar to weekly reviews, but it recaps your day instead of your week. It helps you move from day-to-day. I complete my “daily recharges” at the end of the day. It forces me to recap my day honestly. Was I productive? Was I healthy? Did I get what I wanted to get done? Did I learn anything? What can I do better? What am I going to do tomorrow? These recaps take only a few minutes to fill out, but it helps me immensely put things into perspective.

    One of the biggest things I’ve realized about productivity is that I’m motivated by responsibility. If I’m not doing anything in a day, and I don’t write anything down in the “achievements” section of my Daily Recharge note, I get super motivated to do something the next day. You definitely become uncomfortable if day after day you’re writing down that you had an unproductive day. Having incredible, amazing, productive days that you can write about before you go to bed will 100% motivate you to “keep the streak” going into the next day. It’s also just a great way to “unwind” after a long day.

    I use a modified template I found on Evernote.com to do my daily recharges. You can find this under the Personal Well-Being section of the Evernote templates. I label my daily recharges “Day 1”, “Day 2”, “Day 3”, and so on. It’s fun looking back and seeing how far I’ve come in just a few days.

    Now that we’ve covered all 5 steps, here’s what my Evernote sidebar looks like currently. Yours will inevitably look different. I’m still somewhat new to the system so I don’t have a “huge” database of references and actions yet, but this should give you a good idea of what to expect if you follow this system (or something similar).

    Tip: Make sure you keep your inbox as clean as possible. Whenever you have a new note, it’s bound to be entered in the Inbox folder by default. Whenever you’re ready to sort the note, you can move it to the Action or Reference notebook, and then tag it the appropriate tags.

    Tip: Every Evernote account comes with a unique email address that you can use to forward important emails to your Evernote inbox. This can be greatly useful. Instead of creating notes for specific emails, you can just forward the entire email to Evernote and then tag it appropriately.

    Tip: Evernote isn’t the greatest, most up-to-date software in the world. I’m fully aware of that, but I’ve been using it for a long time, and I’m familiar with it. I’m sure there are better apps out there. Don’t feel confined to Evernote if you’re not a fan of it! The GTD system is flexible with most systems.

    Tip: If you have Evernote on your smartphone, their app has a notification bar that allows you to make quick notes by tapping on the notification and entering a note. This makes taking notes extremely easy, and I use it several times per day when I’m away from my computer.



    How It All Comes Together / TL;DR

    The theory behind my modified GTD system is simple. Write everything down you’re thinking about. Migrate every action/input to a single system. Categorize it extensively. Create a system that allows you to be productive by pulling information whenever you need it. Remind yourself weekly of your goals and what you want to get done. Keep track of what you do every day so you can stay focused for the next day.

    This system has benefited me immensely, and I don’t ever see myself straying from this system, but I’m sure I’ll tweak it down the road. Maybe that seems silly of me to say considering I’ve only used it for a couple of weeks, but it’s truly been lifechanging.

    For me, a system like this makes sense. I’ve always had a hard time focusing on my work (I have terrible ADHD and get distracted easily), and I think figuring out a way to “close the loops” has been the key to my recent productivity. I’ve never been more excited about my productivity, and I’m thrilled to get more things done.


    Links / Resources

    Here are some awesome links you should check out if you want to be more productive:

    Getting Things Done by David Allen – On Amazon

    Getting Things Done Book Review & Summary

    Sherbert Hoover's Ultimate Efficiency Guide: Working at 100% Productivity And Making $$$

    Evernote Templates

    Evernote Setup Video (First 2 Steps)
     
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    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
  2. William702

    William702 Jr. Executive VIP Jr. VIP

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    I saw the title and thought "Yeah I need that"

    I will be reading this later and re reading sherb's thread too, thanks for the share.
     
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  3. topakins

    topakins Regular Member

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    Is system like this possible with a notebook and a pen?
     
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  4. kindablack

    kindablack Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    I use ZTD for last 3 years from zenhabits which also a GTD upgrade. But, I feel it’s limiting me and not suitable for my current cases so I am trying to update my system woth own custom twists. This big article will definetely help me a lot. Thanks a lot for your effort! That is unbelievable. Sooo much information. Thanks a lot.
     
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  5. fazsnatch

    fazsnatch Junior Member

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    I have been using OneNote which has been working for me over the past 5 years. Unfortunatly recently I have had a dip but hopefully can up productivity again soon.
     
  6. Imz

    Imz Junior Member

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    I'm going float this method in my brain on an open loop and maybe come back to it lol just kidding.

    Good write up, comprehensive, well written and very generous of you to share your personal strategy to a more efficient you.
     
  7. Facebook_Master

    Facebook_Master Junior Member

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    Great article/method, thanks a lot!
     
  8. TwentySix

    TwentySix Newbie

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    I love this! Ive been looking for some way to organize my very messy life and i think i just found it. Thank you for the share!
     
  9. SirTop

    SirTop Power Member

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    A long ass read , At first when I saw 10X - I thought are going to mention Uncle GC. Glad to see your own perspective on maximizing output finally.

    Thank you
     
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  10. zreon

    zreon Newbie

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    Currently reading getting things done. Will give this a read once I am done to see if anything else you are doing will be helpful.

    Thanks! Bookmarking for later.
     
  11. SirTop

    SirTop Power Member

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    I will also recommend 10x Rule by Grant Cardone if it would come easy adding it to your arsenal.
     
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  12. zreon

    zreon Newbie

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    Thanks. I'll check that out as well.
     
  13. paydette

    paydette Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Great book
     
  14. omnirand

    omnirand Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    This is a great guide. I just sped read a little and found a ton of useful knowledge. Will definitely be coming back for more.
     
  15. IGKing

    IGKing Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    I'm gonna check out ZTD! Thank you!
     
  16. TheVigilante

    TheVigilante Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    BHW needs more posts like this gonna help me a lot!
     
  17. Advertising Manager

    Advertising Manager Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Nailed it! Very nice
     
  18. SEOzack

    SEOzack Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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  19. JayMay

    JayMay Regular Member

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    Awesome guide, will implement it very soon as I've just recently been getting into Evernote and I love the feel of the software.

    For the past 2 months, I've been using the Bullet Journal system, and it's been going pretty well but I feel like this method can declutter my head even more. Do you think a notebook can somehow work with the system you laid out or is Evernote the only tool you need for maximum productivity? Or what do you think are critical differences between having to-dos and notes in a physical notebook/journal or something like Evernote?
     
  20. jenyasimon

    jenyasimon Jr. VIP Jr. VIP

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    Amazing concept about moving your thought process in corner so that one can have more room for more creative ness. So far I never expected this kind of information on BHW to speed up my productivity. Thank you for explaining it in depth.