Brain & Background Processes

During the pandemic, I have found a nice application called Pagico, which allowed me to dump everything in my mind, divide them into projects and actionable items. This process enabled me to plan my short term and medium term workload effortlessly, and see what I'm doing with my life.

One of the things I done with Pagico was to create deadlines for almost all the tasks I added into it. Combined with the built-in Gantt chart, this method created a nice way to plan the week ahead. I was able to use this method for almost three years without any big problems.

However, life being life, some tasks slipped, some went into back burner, but I never removed the dates from them, converting my tasks into a big rolling ball of mud, keeping it approximately the same size via disciplined effort.

Recently, I started noticing problems about concentration, deep work and completing the same amount of tasks, causing this ball of mud to grow. I am not a workaholic, but my baseline performance slipped for this long for the first time and, this was bothering me a lot.

After a week-long work travel and week-long vacation back to back, I returned to office and decided to write most important tasks into a list, on paper, returning to my old ways. I didn't open Pagico once, and used that list to finish my tasks. At the end of the week, not only I was able to finish them all, but I squeezed in what happened during that week, too. This made me remember a study I read, and gave me an idea for trying.

The study has found a simple yet impactful fact: "Even if you don't see/use your open browser tabs, your mind is aware that they are there. In turn, you leak your concentration power with this awareness". Maybe, the same was true for my Pagico tasks, I concluded. They were not urgent, yet I attached dates to them, creating a sense of urgency. Because of this, my brain was trying to schedule these tasks at the background. In other words, I was making myself miserable by overloading myself for no reason.

After realizing this, I removed dates from all tasks in Pagico, except a couple of hard deadlines I have about work, and I feel liberated. I am aware that these tasks are there, yet I have a much clearer vision about urgency of things at hand. I can visit the lists once a week, order them by urgency, add deadlines to things I want to tackle in that particular week, and leave the rest alone, inside Pagico. On the other hand, I'm not afraid to cancel things which are not progressing, because I don't have infinite time and selecting the battles I want to fight is an important part of resource planning. Because at the end life is a resource management and strategy game.

Next, I have to prune my 500+ open tabs at the office and bookmark what's important and close the rest.

This small experiment and its profound effect made me remember that productivity is a journey, not a target. The ways, methods and strategies we use have to evolve after they fulfill their roles and carry us to the next level, to allow us to grow further and hopefully live a more fulfilling and enjoyable life.

Until next time,

Be kind.