The “Keep It Together” Challenge

GoalIt’s now officially month 2 of the 12 habit challenge. The challenge, to summarize, is to create and maintain a new habit every month…with the help of some pretty strict accountability systems.

Now it’s time for me to take on a second habit. This one is going to be really hard, but I’m committed to it, because I know it’s going to be a game-changer.

And the new habit is. . .

OK how do I explain this? Well, the new habit is mostly staying on top of my “to-do” lists. But more importantly, it’s using the process I outlined here.

Right in front of me at my computer you’ll see this sign:

To-Do System

If you can’t read it, here’s what it says:


E-mail Zero -> EN: Process Inbox/Review and Update To-Dos -> Important Dates Check -> Calendar Check -> Deferred and Waiting Check -> Daily Goal Reminders and Affirmations -> Daily Plan

What is all of that?

Well the initials “EN” above stand for “Evernote”. . . as in my Evernote task list. Otherwise you can probably make sense of the process. First I clear my e-mails, then I process my inputs, etc. etc. (I go into more detail in this post.) The culmination is is that all possible inputs are reviewed every day, and a daily plan is produced.

I’ve been running this entire process once a day for a few days now. The first few days were not fun. But now that I’m getting the hang of it, I can usually get through everything in under an hour.

The upside of all this is pretty extreme.

Since I’m clearing all of my inputs every day, a ton of my mental resources are freed up. In particular, I’m never trying to plan and act at the same time – a mortal sin in productivity. Instead, all of my planning and sorting is done as a large chunk (or chunks).

Plus I’ve already noticed some other benefits. A huge one is that I don’t repeat the same task over and over. When I hit “e-mail zero” for instance, I close my e-mail programs and never look at them again! An astonishingly difficult habit to break.

Here are the payoffs I’m hoping for this month:

  • More clarity and focus while working
  • Higher overall productivity
  • Far less stress
  • A general sense of effortless purpose

It’s a lot to ask, so I’m sure I’ll have some results to show soon. There are some things I’m scared about though.

For instance, what happens on a particularly busy day? Do I just crash and burn? Or another problem: What happens when I have a huge “input”, such as a project deadline coming up. Will it throw the entire system off?

We’ll find out.

So as you guessed, the challenge is to stay on top of my stuff . . . all of it . . . every day.

For those days when I want to pretend I never put this in writing, here’s the rule: “Run the system for one full loop every day except when traveling or sick. Minor improvements are allowed, but never cop-outs or shortcuts.”

I stand to lose a lot of money this month – So wish me luck.

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