Two productivity tips that stuck with me


Personal productivity is all about finding things that work for you. In today’s post, I’d like to highlight a couple of tricks that I’ve been using for the last 7 years, yet don’t see mentioned as much as some other stuff, such as Pomodoros or two-minute rule. Perhaps these tricks will work for you, too.

The Circle

No matter what system you employ to organize your tasks, it probably boils down to a list of actions in the end. The Circle is a simple system of pictograms that you use to track the status of your to-do items. The full description runs up to a few pages, but the essence of it can be captured with a single image:

Summary of The Circle system

Original post also suggests some extensions, so go check it out. If you happen to read Russian, has a nice summary too.

The Circle system became such an essential part of me that the circle became my default list marker. (Other people seem to prefer dashes.)

Don’t break the chain

You probably have a task that you have to perform day after day, be it an evening run or writing 300 words for your novel. I review English words using Anki. But even though I know it’s good for me, I still don’t always feel like doing the work. On days like that, I look at this graph:

My Anki review graph for the last 30 days

It shows how many words I reviewed in the last 30 days. The bars in the graph form a chain. My life goal is to not let that chain break. (I already did, though. Multiple times. But as Churchill said, success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. I still feel enthusiastic.)

The chain idea comes from this Lifehacker article, which says a stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld used the same approach to write jokes. He had a big calendar on his wall and crossed the days out when he wrote. Isn’t that inspiring? Couldn’t you just do the same?

Of course you could. And can. And should. And will. Won’t you? Happy working!

UPD 10.12.2017: I am now also using Review Heatmap add-on, which adds an image like this:

My Anki heatmap for 2017

This proved to be an even better motivator, because I don’t even need to fire up the Statistics dialog anymore—the heatmap is right before me the moment I launch Anki.

Your thoughts are welcome by email
(here’s why my blog doesn’t have a comments form)