The Kaizen Newsletter #45 (12/05/2020) - How I help my future-self

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on how I became more productive by implementing a version of James Clear's Habit Loop.

Basically, at night, I would list out the tasks that I wanted to accomplish the next day and every time I was able to cross-out an item, I would reward myself with one episode of Haikyuu (a really good anime I started watching). Now on most days, I'm able to cross-out all of the items before the day ended.

I was super happy because I always struggled with getting things done and I finally found a way to accomplish that.

Although I felt more productive on a day-to-day basis, whenever I looked back at my week, I still didn't seem to accomplish as much as I would want to.

That's when I realized that I was too focused on my daily tasks. I never took the time to ensure that I was also working on tasks that would help my future self and only rewarded my present self.

I had to find a way to implement a system that would allow me to have a broader view of the tasks that I am doing and to make sure that I’m able to work on my recurring weekly tasks, but also introduce tasks that would help new projects I want to start and finish.

So for this, I needed to do two things:

  1. A list of the projects and goals I wanted to focus on

  2. A system that would allow me to incorporate them into my day-to-day tasks

I had already purchased Nat Eliason's Roam course and thankfully he has a section on task management that shows how he manages his goals and projects in Roam Research (the note-taking tool that I use) so 90% of this system is based on his.

List out your projects and goals

I actually already had a list of my goals and projects but decided to optimize them to what I'm currently working on.

I define a goal as anything that would take me more than a month to accomplish and I define a project as anything that I can accomplish within a month (but most often than not it would be within one or two weeks).

I usually start listing everything off as a project, but when I realize that it would take me longer to complete (more than a month), I would change it to a goal instead and then break-up the goal into smaller pieces which then become individual projects. The main reason why I want to break-up my goals is to make the projects easier to accomplish so that my tasks are less daunting.

Once I finished listing out all my projects, I would then list out an outline of all the tasks that I would need to accomplish to complete the project. This helps give you an idea of the amount of work you will need to put in for the project.

I usually don't like planning things out, since I feel it's a waste of time, but I really enjoyed this process as it forced me to break down my goals and projects into smaller and more achievable tasks.

Implementing the task management system

In Nat Eliason's system, everything is based on the weekly plan.

The reason why a weekly plan is so effective (much more than just listing out tasks the day before) is that it forces you to be intentional with the tasks you assign yourself throughout the week. This is how you can include tasks from projects that are not "due" this week to advance in them.

This is my weekly plan for this week looked like.

You basically include all of the projects that you want to work during the week under the "Top Weekly Goals" and then list all the broken-down tasks defined in the earlier section.

Then you distribute each task to a day of the week.

This was challenging because if I wanted to get things done for this week AND for my future projects, I had to include a lot of tasks per day (usually 3+).

This is where I'm thinking I should deviate from Nat's system because I usually underestimate the time it would take me per task, so it's very likely that I don't finish all the tasks that I need to do.

To use a sports analogy, I feel that assigning myself detailed tasks to achieve during the day is the equivalent of telling myself "Today, I'm going to score 2 goals during my hockey game", and even though you'll try your best, sometimes it just won't happen. Instead, I would want to tell myself "Today, I'm going to shoot 5 times on the goalie", which is still pretty hard to do, but it's a lot more achievable. And I know that if I keep "making 5 shots" then the goals will eventually come.

This was actually inspired by Nir Eyal's (author of Hooked and Indistractable) system on how he avoids distraction. This is how he describes his system:

In this system, I only have one goal: to work on whatever it is I say I’m going to work on for as long as I say I’m going to work on it.

What you’ll also notice is that I don’t set a word count. Word counts are terrible. It’s really hard to use things like word counts because study after study has shown that people are terrible at predicting how long it will take to do something. We’re awful at it.

So on a daily basis, I should set myself a time-boxed goal to just work on the task itself instead of setting myself a goal to completely finish my task. This will alleviate the pressure to complete finish the task, while I still make sure that I work on current and future projects.

And at the end of the week, I can adjust for the following week if I find that I set myself too many goals during the week or if I just didn't dedicate enough time to hot my goals.

My current weekly plan is still based mainly on Nat Eliason's system, so I'm looking forward to seeing the results I get at the end of the week. If I set myself too many goals, I'm going to try the time-boxing method instead and see what it results.

In any case, I definitely believe that if you want to make sure that you work towards your goals and complete projects, you definitely should have a system in place that will help you progress.

Now, on to the newsletter.

Weekly Favourites

📃 Articles

  • Stop Trying to Make Hard Work Easy - When people talk about habits, what they're actually saying is "I want something that's difficult to become effortless." and "I want the benefits of the habits, but I don't want it to be hard". What Nir Eyal is saying is that developing habits ARE hard. One of the hardest parts about developing habits is that you always seem to be distracted or you procrastinate instead of doing your task. In this article, he shows you his strategy to eliminate distraction. The biggest thing I learned from this article is to be more intentional when planning my days. You want to actually plan for traction (opposite of distraction) so that you can work on what you actually want and use the system that he lists to then avoid being distracted.

  • How to write and what to write about - This article was a reminder for me that it's normal to feel discouraged whenever you are writing because most of the time you would prefer watching Netflix or surf Twitter. But, the reason why we write is that we eventually want to get to a point where you can produce an output that's closer to your ideal or standard in your head. You want to write because you want to be able to express your ideas and beliefs in a way where they are understood by your readers.

📚 Book

  • Inspired by Marty Cagan - This is a must-read if you're in the field of product management. Apparently this is also given to every new employee that starts at Facebook. Loved this book since it taught me how to be a great product manager by using real-life examples of how the best product teams function at companies such as Facebook, Netflix, Google, etc.

🎙 Podcast

  • A conversation with Naval Ravikant - After a year of refusing to do any podcasts, Naval finally decided to take the spotlight. As with every podcast he does, he always has something interesting to share.

    • One thing he shares that I really liked was that you have to find a system that you truly love - since that will be the easiest for you. For example, if you want to have a good diet, then find a diet that contains healthy food that you actually enjoy. Don't go vegan just because "you should" if you actually hate eating greens and beans all the time. The same thing for exercise. If you dislike going to the gym, then find a healthy activity that can keep you in shape instead.

    • Another thought I subscribed to is when he says "Build your own garden...tend to your own household and make sure your household is a paragon before you go out and try to fix the world" In reality, everyone is trying to make the world a better place. Try to save your little corner of the world first.

🐦 Tweets

  • As a Viet dude, I felt this.

  • Some more X Æ A-12 jokes 😶

🎧 Music



🙏 Shoutouts

  • It was mother's day this past Sunday, so I do want to shoutout my mom for being the best mom ever (yes she is better than yours).

👋 End Note

If you want to know what I'm up to now, you can check it on my website here.

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