How I use Robot Mode and non-digital creativity to accomplish more in the day

Lifehacker posted my article about how I make my daily task list and how I get through it.

I've never had myself tested for ADD, but I know for sure that I'm very easily distracted. The fact that my job requires me to sit in front of the computer with an Internet connection all day means that tempting trajectories ("I wonder if YouTube has a commercial for Six Finger?… Yep!") are just a click away. For years I suffered with distractions that diminish my daily productivity. But in the last year or so I've refined a simple system to keep me on track throughout the day.

I keep a master list of everything I need to do. As soon as I think of something that I need to do, or if I have a meeting and am assigned an action item, I add it to the master list. The list is divided into different categories, such as Make magazine, Boing Boing, Gweek, personal business, etc. I've used a lot of different list managers over time, and I find that Wunderlist serves my purposes very well. It works with my desktop computer and my smartphone, synchronizing between the two. It's important to have a
system to capture everything. (I learned that from David Allen's Getting Things Done, of course).

Read the rest at Lifehacker


  1. Hah, I’m writing a webapp for Master List making right now! I have been for the past few months, since pieces of paper always get lost and are so fragmentary if you’re not constantly re-listing, and existing “Remember the Milk” type list helpers are not quite right for what I want it to do and Evernote seems like too much. Good to see a little consonance!

  2. Thanks Mark – some good tips.
    David Allen’s system specifically prohibits building an ordered “stuff to get done today” list. I, too, struggled with that and finally realised that my life (which does not involve any man management, involves very few business decisions, and involves lots of content-creation and 8 hours of sitting in front of the computer) differs from the middle-management target of “Getting Things Done”, and that manually creating a “should get done today” list (while it does have the issues Allen warns about) is a step I just can’t skip.

  3. I developed an ultra-simple system for myself using nothing but a whiteboard, marker, and eraser.  I called it my “5 minute task list”.

    I keep a small whiteboard at arm’s reach.  I write down a list of tasks that I think I can accomplish in the next 5 minutes or so.  If I have a task that takes more than 5 minutes, I try to break it down into individual parts that take < 5 minutes.  As I accomplish them, I erase them and add more.  Sometimes a task that I thought would take 5 minutes becomes more complex.  No problem, break it down into smaller chunks.

    The constant flow of things-to-do/things-got-done keeps me moving right along, keeps me on task, gives me natural breaks when I've finished a larger chunk, and maintains momentum with lots of short-term "I did it!" accomplishments.

  4. Some believe that many creatives are prone to ADD, owing to the transmissions between brain hemispheres. Rather than it being a deficiency, it could be thought of as a different wiring. The native skill set may have more to do with invention than with organization, which can be problematic in an educational system geared toward organization and memorization. Rather than ritalin, perhaps these students could be placed in an alternative program in order to thrive.

    People who can manage both inv and org may be the inventors and entrepreneurs who make things happen.

  5. Is there a place on the list for things like Deep Thinking? Specifically, not meditation-style non-thoughtful activities, but open-ended mental browsing, examination, and analysis,  that skews away from framework-oriented goals and results, regarding, say “the nature of things”?And if yes, how is that represented on the list? And what happens if you feel you are close to some type of particular revelation or intellectual occurrence, but your allotted time is up?

  6. What font is the list above in with the various robots?  I feel like using this as my actual list would improve the productivity by making the list itself more fun. 

  7. Speaking as someone who actually has ADD, lists usually don’t work. Doing stuff you like and doing them immediatly does. If you can’t plan it you can’t screw it up. Besides that, killing your internet connection does awesomeness, unicorn awesomeness…

  8. Hi Mark, I make mini desktop building block sets out of my garage from reclaimed wood. If you want to give them a try for part of your 15 minutes of analog creativity, I’d love to send you a set. They come in a nice recycled cotton pouch too!

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