First off, I’d like to address anyone who says “what the hell, Eden, why would you name this The Eden the Cat Method™ to Being Kind of Productive”. Look, I have watched nearly 12 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy since January 1st, and if Ellis Grey can name her biggest accomplishment after herself then so can I.
Most people don’t have any idea what I do. Every time I meet someone, they stare at me in awe at my grace, humility, and ability to do too many things at once. Look, I’m not entirely sure what I do either. I just kind of make time for things that I like or need to do and continue to push through it.
Quite frankly, if you hate everything you’re doing in life, this isn’t going to work for you. No email app or todo list will fix your existential dread and/or that nagging feeling that nobody likes you. Only you can do that. Make time to do that while slowly implementing The Eden the Cat Method™ and you’ll be set.
This isn’t really a method. I just thought it would be funny to call it a method. It’s just kind of a bunch of stuff I do that works for me. It might not work for you. Actually, it probably won’t. Sorry.
Go buy a notebook.
A couple of months ago I went on a Tinder date with a guy that really enjoyed doing mushrooms and making art. He was really nice. Things didn’t pan out romantically, but I was reintroduced to journaling and meditation.
The first thing you need to do to be really productive is decide what the heck you’re going to do. Sit down and reflect on who you are, where you want to be, what you hate about your life.
Clean up your deceitfully negative thinking and foggy aspirations. What’s wrong? What is making you feel like you can’t get any work done? What is making you not want to get any work done?
Identify these problems, figure out what is important to you right now. It’ll put you in a good place to figure out all the rest.
The reason that I say you should work in a notebook is that, if you’re like me, you’re constantly looking at a screen. Treat your journal as a time to relax. Drink some coffee. Play some relaxing music. Sit by a window. Do not look at a screen. Do not tweet. DO NOT TWEET.
Make some lists and stick to them
I use Trello to manage my todos. I’m not 100% amazing with it yet, but it’s starting to work. The thing about to do lists is that they’re incredibly personal, and quite frankly it’s rare that any todo list app is going to meet all of your needs.
I like Trello because it’s flexible and lets me do what I need to do. This might not work for you, but maybe you’ll be inspired.
This is what my Trello board looks like.
The first column is a list of every project I have going on. It’s colour-coded, so that when I make tasks, I don’t have to provide as much context. I just put the label on it and eventually I built up colour-association. I can quickly look at it and see what I need to focus on for the day.
I keep Trello open throughout the day and use Pomello to cycle through my tasks and get them done. Pomello is just an app that uses the Pomodoro technique and ties in to Trello.
I have an incredibly hard time staying focussed if I don’t use the Pomodoro technique, simply because I have too many things on the go at once. I basically need something else to manage my focus or else I get flustered.
If you aren’t familiar with the Pomodoro technique, basically you’re setting a timer and focussing on a specific task for a set amount of time, then you’re taking a break. Breaks are important. That’s when you poop! You can get Pomello here, or just use your microwave or whatever.
I use Sunrise. It’s basically just an upgrade to Google Calendars, and integrates really nicely with Facebook. This is important only because I’m a musician and every single show my friends’ bands play are put into Facebook, so it’s just easier to have something that throws those directly into my calendar.
I keep everything colour-coded and in specific calendars, so that I can turn things on/off when necessary. But honestly, my calendar-itself doesn’t matter.
The thing that matters is that everything goes into my calendar. If I have a particularly busy day, I schedule my tasks as events (oh hey! There’s Trello integration too!). If I am getting groceries delivered, it goes into my calendar. If I’m meeting a friend for lunch, it goes into my calendar. EVERYTHING GOES INTO MY CALENDAR. THAT IS ALL I AM SAYING HERE. REPETITIVELY BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT.
Does your email look like this?
— Pᴜᴍᴘᴋɪɴ Fʀɪɢʜᴛ (@DrPizza) March 18, 2016
— NintendoFanGirl (@NintendoFanGirl) March 18, 2016
— Chris Davies (@c_davies) March 18, 2016
Not to be judge-y but:
- Shame on you
- Shame on you
- Shame On:
- Chris Davies.
Having a large amount of emails in your inbox seems to be a point of pride for some people. It shouldn’t be. Getting your email under control means that you’ll probably have a much better grip of upcoming opportunities and events. Clean that shit up so that you can stop finding yourself telling everyone that your dog had to go to the vet and then you were on an airplane and then you had to go to whole foods and then it was raining and you had no umbrella and therefore you fell behind on your email or whatever.
Respect other people’s time. Nobody likes writing emails. Someone went out of their way to write you one, the least you could do is archive it.
The shitty thing about email is that nobody ever sat down and meditated on the goals of Email. No one asked Email “What are your intentions?”, no one asked Email “Who is your god?”. Email is 23 years old and doesn’t know it’s purpose and, as a result, it’s causing destruction in everyone’s lives as it tries to figure it out. Just like me when I was 23!
You have no time for Email’s mid-twenties bullshit. Tell your friend Email what the fuck it needs to do and get on with your life.
I use email for direct communication between myself and another person. Not between myself and Banana Republic. Not for group communication (when it’s possible to avoid). I use it almost strictly for conversations that are best left with a paper trail. Everything else, I try to have exist in a Slack group or make it a phone call. Sidenote: fuck using Facebook Messenger or Twitter DMs for business. Email me or call me, please.
Probably every single blog post about email management in the past 46 years has included a shout out to Unroll.me.
Unroll.me puts all those LinkedIn notifications and emails from Forever 21 into one email that you can easily archive. Look, you’re not reading every single email from Everlane. Putting all of these emails into a shame corner will probably keep you from overspending, and will stop them from overwhelming your inbox. Just do it, okay?
Again, you don’t have to use Google Inbox. It’s just my preferred email client for my personal workflow. This is how I use it.
The great thing with Inbox is that it makes labels actually useful in terms of managing your incoming emails.
I use bundling similarly to how I use labels in Trello:
Every project of mine gets a label. I filter my emails into these bundles based on who they’re coming from, what the subject line is, etc.
Snoozing, Answering, and Archiving
Between bundling and using unroll.me, this is roughly what my inbox looks like in the morning. This was taken after I had cleaned out my inbox the night before and before I’m usually bombarded with 40-50 emails in the afternoon.
Let’s go through and pin the things that I am actually going to have to respond to:
Now I can use those cool check marks to the right to get rid of all the junk:
Anything I can’t deal with right now get’s snoozed, and anything that’s left and unbundled, gets bundled:
THIS IS HELLA MANAGEABLE AND NOT OVERWHELMING. The less that I’m overwhelmed, the more likely I’ll deal with at least one thing.
Make your email inbox be about what you can deal with right now. So that you might, maybe, actually get something done right now.
All of these tools are garbage, especially if you are!
Look, tools are great. Having a workflow is wonderful. But truly, the thing that they do is that they make it easier to manage time for self-care. When I get depressed, which I do, I use that nice little snooze button in Inbox and I snooze every email to be dealt with the next day. And then I keep doing that, and then I order some fried chicken and I lay in my bed and I eat it and I wonder if I’m ever going to get my life together. This happens often. Too often.
It’s happened less frequently now that I’ve spent more time focussing on managing my energy and wellness rather than managing my time. Most daily tasks and projects don’t actually take that long, if you have the energy to complete them efficiently and to be motivated to try. Most of us waste most of our time being overwhelmed with ideas like “I can’t do this” or “I don’t have time for this”.
Rather than wallowing, focus on what is making you wallow all the time. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating properly? Are you in pain? Are you lonely? Are you drunk or high? Why are you reading blog posts about productivity when you are high. Seriously, what the fuck.
Having great email management and a great-looking calendar and using a Trello board is most effective if you use it as a way to make more time to take care of yourself. Go to yoga. Plan a work date with a friend. Go on a real date and maybe get some smooches. Take a trip. That stuff matters much more than most other things. Stay busy with the things that matter to you, and try to find ways to reduce the time you’re spending frustrated.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can’t gauge your productivity against other people. I have no children. I have no partner. I am self-employed and make my own schedule. All of these things mean that I have much more time to make stuff than a parent, partner, or employee might in their free time.