Actually Getting Big Things Done is a series of guest posts on how to make things happen from those who know how to… well… actually get big things done. Today’s post comes from Mike Vardy of Productivityist.com. Vardy is also my co-host for Mikes on Mics and we share a joint newsletter called Mike Techniques. I give Vardy a fair amount of grief, but I have tremendous respect for the man and for the work he does. In the past year, he has really stepped up his game. A big part of that, at least in my opinion, is having the guts to call himself what he is, a writer and a student of productivity. Ever since fully embracing these facets of his personality, he has been making bigger and bigger things happen. Here’s how…
Turns out, I am a writer. Acknowledging this may not seem like a big deal, but embracing this fact has played a big roll in my ability to get things done regularly. I’ve struggled with the idea of getting writing done, and a lot of that stems from the time where I didn’t fully accept myself as a writer.
I put words to screen every day. I put words to paper nearly as often. If I don’t write regularly, I feel a sense of incompletion. Not just the sense that things are being left incomplete, but that I’m somehow incomplete. And that’s a very odd feeling to have.
Getting this idea through my head was almost as big as the idea itself. I’d always known I liked writing. I had a knack for it in grade school. As I grew up, I wrote as a hobby. I clearly didn’t have the responsibility I have now—being a husband and father of two—which made it all the easier to get it done well.
Turn the page to present day. I’m 38 years old, and I spend my week focused on being the best stay-at-home father I can be (I also fall down on this more often than I’d like) while trying to deliver top-notch writing on several platforms. This alone is a challenge. As if this wasn’t enough, I decided to write a book—apparently I like challenges—and got it done.
So, what does this have to do with you? By embracing myself as a writer, I freed myself up to create a system that lets me be a writer while still managing to be a good parent and good husband. Once I stopped obsessing over my role, I had far more energy to focus on making everything happen. I was able to establish a workflow (or system) to actually get things done. If you haven’t done this for yourself yet, you really should. Embrace what you want to be or to do and then determine the best way to go about doing it.
Need an example? As a writer, I needed to think about how I manage my tasks and how I actually create my words. This may seem complicated to some, but it works for me and continues to be a short-term and long-term solution for all of my productivity needs. Here are the elements of what I use to manage my tasks—including writing—and why:
- OmniFocus: I use this as the hub for all of my stuff. Everything that is just for me and can’t be done immediately goes here, captured from a variety of sources and other apps. I use Shawn Blanc’s OopsieFocus script and the Safari web clipper for the Mac, and I use Launch Center Pro (in fact, I use Mr. Schechter’s setup) and Drafts on my iOS devices.
- Asana: For team-based stuff, I use Asana. I also love Flow by MetaLab because the interface is similar to OmniFocus’s, but the cost is prohibitive for those who are on my teams. Asana does the job well, so I stick with it for that reason (although I’m working with some folks on a way to get Asana stuff into OmniFocus in as seamless a manner as possible).
- My Minutes: I use this app to track all of the time spent doing what Cal Newport has called “deliberate practice.” So when I spend time writing, it goes here. Same thing with practicing guitar. Anything that I want to focus on getting better at over time is tracked using My Minutes.
- 30/30: I use this app to grab the repeatable tasks that I do throughout the week. I tend to use 30/30 for my light-lifting days now more than my heavy-lifting ones (which I spend mainly writing). As of this writing, 30/30 gets filled with the mundane tasks, so that I can focus on what I really need and want to have my mind on during the light-lifting days—which is spending time with my kids.
That’s my task management workflow. Here’s my writing workflow.
- Drafts: Here’s where I capture my ideas for posts, as well as anything I may want to use for research for future products and books. Everything starts in Drafts (some things become tasks that go into OmniFocus, although post ideas never go in that repository) and some things actually get completed there these days.
- Byword: This has been my main writing tool for the blog. If I start a post on my notebook, I use Byword to create a publishable draft for the weblog, though I’ve tended to stick with Drafts if I start a post on one of my iOS devices.
- Scrivener: The book was written in Scrivener. Only books and workbooks get written in Scrivener—nothing else does. I like to keep Scrivener as a focused writing zone for big projects only. If you’re going to write a book, it’s the best thing you can use to get that done in an effective and pleasurable way.
- WordPress: Productivityist.com uses WordPress and serves as my weblog. When I want to post from iOS (or am going iOS-only while traveling), I use Poster for WordPress. If I’m on my notebook, I simply go straight to my site, copy the post from Byword, and post it.
- Squarespace: I use Squarespace over at MikeVardy.com, which serves as my overarching website. It is a portal to everything that I do. I don’t often make changes to the site, so I rarely use Squarespace’s iOS app. When the need arises, I make changes through their web app.
That’s what writers do. They write and write and then they write some more. They want their words out of them and many they want them to be read. I have that need. I am a writer. And in calling myself that, I found the best way to fulfill that need.
So whatever you are, define it, figure out how you can do it best, and once you’re done, turn your attention to the thing that matters most: doing the work.