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Ask HN: What do you use to align your daily todos with your long term goals?
379 points by mboperator on March 13, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 212 comments
Hey HN,

I'm trying to figure out how a better way to stay on track with my long term (1 year) goals.

Currently I have a list of measurable 1 year goals (eg: Explore and work out of at least 3 cities this year)

I also write daily work/life todo lists in a moleskine notebook to keep myself on track during the day.

Does anyone have any recommendations/tools for keeping these daily goals todo list goals in alignment with the big picture?

Advice from my physics professor: make a detailed plan and then discard the plan and do what you feel.

This doesn't mean the plan was unnecessary...rather the plan carves out the neural pathways in your mind. The feeling part is important too since if I am so rigid then I am going to be crushed by the randomness of life.

"Plans are nothing; planning is everything." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

I used to hear this a lot from one of my better bosses. I agree with it. It is, however, important to capture "planning". Any form is fine, whether scribbles or a list or a picture of a whiteboard. Trying to organize the raw info was usually a waste of time, but having it accessible as a reference wasn't.

I think there's value in relieving the mind from holding on to the context by writing it down, even if your intent of execution changes. The process of writing it down releases my mind from thinking about it.

What you said — writing it down to free your attention — is one of the main points from Getting Things Done.

They have a good lists of mind sweep / brain-dump triggers [1] that I think benefit everyone even without ever doing everything one writes down.

[1]: http://gettingthingsdone.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Mind...

The first casualty of any war is the plan.

As Mike Tyson put it: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

He who fails to plan, plans to fail.

A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.

General George S. Patton, Jr.

No plan survives contact with the enemy.


A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.


That's what I arrived at as well. However, sometimes it's good to make a new plan after a while and then discard that one as well and so one. One could call it "iterative creation of intention".

Exactly. This is also the conclusion I got to. Detailed planning is great in order to tell your mind the direction you want to go to but then it's important to discard it so that you don't get lost in the details or feel frustrated because you are unable to follow every step of it, which may lead to demotivation.

This strategy is an epic win. It totally resonates with my experience.

"Write a business plan to prove the idea is feasible, then throw it away".

A critical factor of success in achieving long term goals is to schedule corresponding daily todos on a calendar. Because if something isn't either obviously urgent or scheduled on a calendar, it never gets done.

For this reason, I sorely miss the Timeful app (bought and shut down by Google) which nailed the process perfectly, integrating one-off todos, habits (e.g. 3 runs/week) and calendar management in a single system. AI-based suggestions for scheduling todos was the icing on the cake.

To this day, sadly I still haven't found a decent replacement.

Google Calendar took the automatic habits scheduling engine from it but is otherwise inadequate for todos, and well-established todo managers like Things / Wunderlist stubbornly refuse to allow something as simple as drag+dropping todos onto a calendar at a specific time of the day (which is the critical bit), and they don't support habits ("tick this box n times a week")

Plan (getplan.co) seemed promising but is too alpha for daily use and development seems to have stalled. SkedPal nails it in theory but is over-engineered and bloated, its UI asks too many questions and cognitive load is high, it needs "Apple-ification".

Any other recommendations very welcome ! Even happy to beta test or collaborate on something new (I know the world already has too many productivity apps, but it lost the "right" one with Timeful IMHO)

I use org-mode for daily todo tracking (and more); I have it configured to auto-generate a TODOS.org file at every project root. I add these to my org-agenda and can easily capture todo items, schedule them (with a calendar view), view my daily/monthly/yearly agenda, and more (i.e. org-pomodoro) with a quick keyboard sequence.

I recently decided to start tracking my life todos in addition to the work projects, which was as simple as creating a life directory and running `git init`.

Org-mode does require using emacs, if it is too crufty for you or you don't like the learning curve, try spacemacs! Its org layer[0] is well configured, and it is also well suited for modal editing if that's your thing.

[0] http://spacemacs.org/layers/+emacs/org/README.html

I do wish Wunderlist will add more calendar integration, it is more useful for repeated or short-term goals for me. Basecamp works well for team collaboration, but it is getting quite busy UX wise.

For long term goals and planning, I prefer to break things down into bullet points, and categories, and check them off as I go. https://taskade.com has been great for that (though no calendar integration), especially with their Chrome Extension that loads your most recent list on each new tab.

Todoist is replacing Wunderlist for me with their more frequent updates.

Sounds like you've already tried plenty of productivity apps, but in case you haven't tried it, I've found Todoist quite good.

The "Apple-ification" as you put it is done pretty well. In place of drag + drop to set a time of day, tasks can be created with inline date parsing. So tasks can be created with something like: "Meeting with Tim at Tues 3pm", and it'd pick that up. It's missing direct support for habits aside from having recurring todos.

If you'd like, I've got a 3-month premium code left over I can send your way. Not affiliated with them, just a happy user.

The difference is that those apps use time blocking (e.g., block out an hour for a task in the middle of actual calendar events) and are usually automatic in nature. The ideal system blocks out the time for a task -- it's not just setting a due date.

I too have tried most if not all of the tools in @renaudg's post and have come to the same conclusion: nothing really matches Timeful.

Have you seen http://weekplan.net/ ? Might be a substitute for Timeful

Hi, I am the founder of WeekPlan, thanks for the suggestion.

Yes, WeekPlan allows for todos, repeating tasks and appointments to live together.

Additionally, you can set goals for each of your roles in your life (father, colleague, brother, etc...).

It doesn't help tackle longer term goals yet though, for that you could check OKR softwares.

If you use Apple's Reminders and Calendar apps at all, I highly recommend Fantastical. It works really well. I love being able to see my one-off todos and chores and appointments all in the same view.

The one thing it might lack is guidance to organizing projects/subtasks/dependencies. But luckily I don't need those in my calendar.

I'm creating a Timeful clone and collecting feedback for it. Here is the discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13861545 Hope it helps.

> something as simple as drag+dropping todos onto a calendar at a specific time of the day

moo.do just added that as a new feature. I've not logged back in to try it again but it might be worth having a look at?

Was Timeful rolled into Google Inbox, at least in spirit? Tasks/TODOs (single or repeating) can optionally show up in Google Calendar, though no AI-based suggestions, as far as I know.

Not sure if it has what you want, but you might check out toodledo.com, it has by far the most features I've ever seen in any todo/calendaring system.

The Timeful iOS app might still float around somewhere

It completely relied on the server, which has been shut down.

Teuxdeux does exactly this for me, but might be to minimal for you.

Have you tried SkedPal in 2017? The UX is completely revamped.

A frequent-ish review. About once a month, I get a nice coffee and cake and spend a couple of hours thinking about the last month, my current todo list and my long term goals. I try to remove anything that doesn't contribute to the goals, and intentionally put tasks which will move me toward my goals.

I also pray quite frequently (I'm Christian, but I believe some types of meditation are just as effective here). I look at my principles and ask myself whether I'm genuinely living up to them, and ask myself how I can improve.

I have tried using OmniFocus and MyLifeOrganised, but I found both tools got in the way of my thought process. Now I just use paper and coloured pens.

Yes, I'm an eclectic christian, I find 'the daily examen' an Ignation spiritual exercise - useful. Agnostics, atheists can perhaps use the same procedure and replace the first two steps with mindfulness and gratitude meditation and the last with goal attention. http://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/prayer/persona...

I have a trello board with the following columns:

"Good intentions" :- Things I think I'm going to do. I investigate then put in other columns.

"Next Up" :- Need to have a go at next.

"Working On" :- Actively doing.

"Done/Dead" :- Things that I did as well as things I failed at or discarded.

"Follow Up" :- Something happened, so need to wait on something/someone to then allow me to continue.

"Asleep" :- Sometimes things are not 'Dead' they are just really not worth looking at for another year or so. I evaluate these projects once a year or and move them into Next Up if viable again.

It's my home page when I fire up my browser. ;)

> It's my home page when I fire up my browser. ;)

That's maybe what I've been missing with this approach...I've set up very similar Trello boards in the past only to have them get stale because I only looked at them on a 'pull' basis rather than having them 'pushed' to me automatically.

That sounds great, but doesn't it get gigantic and hard to focus on at a certain point?

Hey, Random person on the internet here!

Your method just made me realise where I am in my life and how much more I need to accomplish.

Thank you!

This sounds very useful. I used to have something similar in a smaller scale on a whiteboard a couple of years ago. I guess a Trello board is just a better iteration.

I'll be trying this the next couple of weeks.

Is this roughly based on the David Allen's "Getting things done" method?

Sorry haven't read it. I just realised I can be out cycling or walking the dog, or even just commuting to work and come up with an idea, get really deep about it then move on with my life. The board gave me a place to put these ideas.

I also keep ambitions on there. So one of them is "Become a councillor". I don't plan to try and be a councillor until 2019, but it's nice to see it on there. ;)

I'm guessing the board is about dreams, ambitions, and even the odd big task.

Thank you for this. This sounds like a solid approach that I can benefit from.

I cannot possibly recommend Beeminder highly enough, if you happen to have the personality type that it works well with.

The basic idea isn't too far off from the million other "habit" apps out there. I say I want to meditate X days a week, tell Beeminder whenever I meditate, Beeminder gives me a pretty (okay, decently attractive) graph of how I'm doing, and they tell me if I'm not meditating as much as I want to.

The key that makes Beeminder stick (heh) is that it makes use of commitment contracts. I don't just say I want to meditate X days a week, I promise Beeminder that if I don't meditate X days a week, I will pay them $5 (or $10, or $30). You can cancel or decrease your goal at any time, but only with a week of heads-up, so you can quit for a well thought out reason but not because you just don't feel like it today.

I've tried to start a lot of habits in my life, but I've historically been very bad at sticking with them for very long. It's so easy to give into the "I'll just do that tomorrow" syndrome.

As an example, here's my Beeminder graph for "tidying up": https://www.beeminder.com/jds02006/tidyup

I love having a clean desk, but historically I'd have a clean desk every 6 months, followed by a slow accretion of messy crap. Now, if I don't spend 5 minutes tidying up my work area every few days, I'll have to pay Beeminder $30. Result: my desk area is completely clear.

It sounds crazy (to my wife, at least), but it's ridiculously good at bringing your long-term goals (and the consequences for not achieving them) into the present.

Disclaimer: I have no association with Beeminder, but they have sent me stickers for making bug reports. :)

Wait, do you pay the company Beeminder that money?

Or is it paid into a savings account or something for you to have access to later?

If you actually pay the company that money, and if their app is based around that pricing, that's a pretty unique business model idea.

Yep, I pay Beeminder when I fail! As I see it, it's a mutually beneficial arrangement: Beeminder gets an incentive to keep operating, and I get an incentive to do whatever it was I just dropped the ball on. Maybe I'd feel differently if Beeminder were a huge, super-profitable company, but they're a tiny niche product that is ridiculously valuable to me and I have no problem rewarding them for that.

The company making money when you fail a goal doesn't sound very mutually beneficial.

Take a look at what they've written on their site when you have time; it's more thought out than you might expect.

The gist is that they make money by a) selling a monthly subscription to give you more options and features, and b) charging you the amounts too small to motivate you so you can get up to the amounts that you take seriously.

They've set up their pricing so that you will pay half of the motivating amount to find the motivating amount, e.g., you might lose $5+10+30 over three weeks in order to find out that the threat of paying $90 motivates you. They argue that most people would never feel that $90 threat without experiencing the first $45 of losses because they'd either not sign up for $90 right away or cancel quickly since they hadn't sunk anything into the program.

Their more experienced users pay the monthly premium to skip the first few weeks of penalties and make progress faster since they already know the level of financial risk that motivates them. They also let you adjust the number down since circumstances and habits can change your ideal wager.

do you have any particular blogposts in mind that go into details of what you explained here?

They've written a lot. I suggest the early essays on akrasia.

I guess all I can say to this is that Beeminder has been worth many, many times what I've paid them (hence the evangelism), and I've paid them quite a lot. You might worry about perverse incentives, but they're going to make a lot more money by creating happy customers like me than by somehow tricking their users into failure for a one-time cashout.

Yeah the money goes to beeminder. I've paid several times but it's been worth it since I can make a credible commitment to myself to do something. And the enforcement is very forgiving - if you decide you don't want to do something you can let yourself quit in a week. Also every time I've had to talk to support (I forgot to put data in or there was some issue) they've been pleasant and refunded me completely.

At this point I know my limits fairly well and set goals I'll actually want to achieve. I still pay for the premium features, though, which let me use beeminder as a capable generalized scheduling and tracking system for irregular tasks (e.g. remind me if I haven't called my grandmother in three weeks).

Three questions:

How much have you had to pay beeminder?

How do you make payments (escrow, credit card, PayPal, etc)?

Is it a non-profit?

It seems like this would be a great opportunity for a non-profit. Although it may reduce the incentive a bit. I expect it will be psychologically similar. Especially if the non-profit overhead is something like 10%. You are effectively losing 10% of what could have gone directly to your non-profit of choice.

> How much have you had to pay beeminder?

about $300 or so, much of it front-loaded towards early on when I was still gaining some necessary meta-habits, like "check beeminder carefully every morning/night."

> How do you make payments (escrow, credit card, PayPal, etc)?

They're credit card only for now.

> It seems like this would be a great opportunity for a non-profit.

I have no problem rewarding Beeminder for a service I find many times more valuable than what I pay them. Paying Beeminder my pledges is voluntary and mutually beneficial--they get an incentive to keep the service running, I get an incentive to improve my behavior. I like giving to charity too, but I'm fine with my Beeminder contracts strictly rewarding Beeminder.

I've probably spent about 300$ on beeminder in the last 2.5 years in payments on goals and a premium subscription for some added features. It has helped me lose weight, finish academic work and deliver projects. It's been worth it.

That said, you can be conservative in your goals and spend zero $ on the service. It's all up to you.

Their FAQ is here: https://www.beeminder.com/faq

1. You set the payment amount, but the default is exponential. (Edit: didn't read your comment thoroughly enough the first time to know you were referring to the OP, not the general policy.)

2. Payments are done via credit card, although Paypal support seems to be in the works.

3. It does not appear to be a non-profit. It looks like a business where Beeminder's living is made off of people paying when they fail their goals.

Their company's success depends on their product's failure. Pretty funny if you ask me.

Oh man, we really need to bump this to the top of our FAQ :)


But maybe the best way to refute that is that we've been around 5.5 years and our long-term churn (not counting short-term churn of dabblers which is embarrassingly high cuz Beeminder is super nerdy and intimidating-looking!) is only 2%/month.

PS: Huge thanks to enoch_r for the beautiful testimonial!

Premium seems really pricey as the only one that has a "give to charity" option. I expect some increased options to give to charity (10,20,40,60) would be a significant boost to good will / advertisement. "50% but only if you pay us $30+/mo" comes off as kind of greedy.

Super valuable feedback; thank you!

I realize your feedback is about the impression it gives, totally separate from how greedy we actually are, but we're still tiny ($22k/mo revenue with 3.5 FTEs). And like enoch_r and mgiannopoulos have averred, paying the penalties to Beeminder generally feels super fair. So that's why we've limited the charity option to the ultra-VIP plan. (We're super open to more feedback about this though. We tend to get a highly biased sample of opinion from our users, i.e., the people who weren't immediately put off by our apparent greed. :))

David Allen's getting things done hands down. You don't even need to read the book to implement it, although it's a great read. here's the 15-minute summary that will get you going right now - https://hamberg.no/gtd/ - I have used Trello to implement it - here's a screenshot. http://i.imgur.com/dbH8yGq.png

specifically answering your question - this framework makes you regularly review your task list and ensures that you have a quantifiable next action for every large scale (1-year project) that you can do to reach your final goal.

The problem with GTD is that it explicitly discourages you to schedule tasks at a specific time unless strictly necessary : you're always supposed to do whatever is "next" in the "context" you're in. You're never done, and this can be taxing and make you want to give up.

Newer research (Dan Ariely's IIRC) has shown that having tasks on the calendar improves the chances of actually doing a realistic number of them.

Personally, I've found that if I put something on my calendar that I don't do, it really starts to spoil my calendar.

When I "trust" my calendar, I eventually have become able to put something on there, at a specific time, that I'll actually do as if it's a committment to someone else.

I do think there is a psychology about how you approach your work. My personal anecdote is that because I believe that I'll always have more committments, more work, and more tasks than I can ever get done, GTD works wonders for me. I put things in their relevant contexts, and I do whatever the next most important is. As long as I know I'm doing the next most important thing in the context I currently am in (including NOT doing something from my lists), then I have a calm confidence in what I'm spending my time.

Others really like to have a "daily calendar" where they put what they think they should get to in the day, and then work through the list to "finish" the day. I tend to get too many interruptions, and too many bombs from others at work and home to really trust that I can say I'll get any specific action done today, and certainly not in what order. Day specific events in the calendar I have found very useful though.

Schedule things that have to be or can be scheduled (meetings with others, classes, whatever), create projects with priorities and contexts for everything else. I "schedule" time to read each day, but it's not fixed to any specific reading, but rather a set of reading projects (presently cookbooks, soon math books mixed with programming books). But I have other things that I want/need to do that sometimes takes over that reading time (learning Spanish is higher priority).

GTD isn't dogma, pick the right approach for you, but it is a good toolset/approach for many things. It can be very flexible to fit your particular motivators and environment and constraints.

Any todo has a context (work, project, hobby) which prescribes a set of time ranges at which you'd do the todo. You might not plan a specific time, but an order/priority and estimated time. Then an algorithm can show those on a calendar. These entries are also used to capture the results of the todo. That way your list of todos is also a calendar and diary.

GTD has tickler files.

Easiest way to handle this is a seperate calendar in Outlook or Google Calendar. Set recurring reminders for a day of the month. Done.

The fancy tools can be a real distraction. Start with something cheap and easy and build the habit.

Well I think part of GTD is that brain dump of tasks. So that they are captured some place other than your memory.

The whole 'Next Action' is what really makes this method work for me. What is the one thing you need to do next to move this goal or project forward? Keeping goals actionable transforms them from ideals to reality.

Google calendar and an hour each morning to move actions related to long-term goals into your short term todo list (notebook in your case).

However, bear in mind that plans are rarely followed to execution perfectly. You may meet someone who wants you to stay, or you may get a really good offer. You might experience financial hardship and need to settle down for a while.

When I go on a hike, I spend a good hour or two studying maps (topographical, orthophoto, etc) before picking a trail. It means that I can decide on a whim to follow another trail halfway through if conditions call for it (mud, rain, wild animals, etc). Planning is about mapping out all possible outcomes, and not so much about following one plan to the letter.

I agree that regular assessment sessions are crucial.

If you, like me, are vaguely afraid of facing the future, it's enormously helpful to have a todo list, and to set aside a small part of every day for tending the todo list.

It's hugely helpful to have a moment in the day when you tell yourself you're not actually going to do any work (you are off the hook), but you're going to look at your list and poke and prod it in advance of such time as you're ready to work again.

Simply forgiving yourself the need to actually take action on any given item, and focusing on organizing what you've got, is immensely freeing, and sets you up pretty nicely for the next morning.

Thanks for this. I usually rush through planning/organization because I think it shouldn't take long, especially just for day to day things. But you mentioning that you give an hour is eye opening. Do you do this at work or before? How do you stay motivated/consistent to do it everyday?

An hour seems quite a bit much for day to day. If you have trouble organizing things, a Bullet Journal might bea good starting point.

In any case, long term goals often don't require much day to day action. Let's the long term goal is to save money for buying a house. That involves making a budget and sticking to it. Once a week you go over expenses and see if you need to make corrections.

If the goal is to travel the world, you start by planning where to go to. Then you figure out what medical actions you need to take, what VISA you need to apply for, ect. All of this requires some timeframe - you have to plan this and put it into you calendar. And once every month you go over what you need to do this month, and every week you go over what needs to happen this week.

The motivation to do this is the end goal. I wish I could tell you something magical, but it is dedication and deciplin. Make it easy for yourself, do it while you have a nice cup of coffee or whatever you like.

An hour is a bit of an exaggeration. I come in to work early every day, and sift through operational alerts/clear out easy tasks in that hour. I do this while eating cereal, making and drinking coffee, etc. If I have some time left over, I read the news (usually finish everything up in about 20-30 minutes).

Of course, we do a technical rotation, and there's a lot of small tasks to do, most of which require a very quick grep of the logs.

> moleskine notebook

Ok. That's a weird detail to bother hipsterbragging about.

Anyway, I have a post it on my monitor that says. "Just do the fucking thing and stop doing busywork". I have a second one that says "Successful people have better things to do than arguing on reddit/hn"

Tldr; constant visible progress, cut distractions

Consider for a moment that it might not be a "hipsterbrag" and just a colloquial name for a type of notebook. The concept of "Syncing" to paper is quite common[1][2].

[1]http://robertgreiner.com/2013/03/sync-to-paper/ [2]https://www.hanselman.com/blog/TotallyStressedOutSyncToPaper...

I've been going through notebooks (both lined and plain), doodling and journaling on and off for a long time but I've never owned a moleskine. I generally just go with whatever notebooks they have in stationary stores or Daiso.

What type is "moleskine" a colloquial name for, exactly? I had thought they were just pricey notebooks with hard covers but I've never seen one except in ads...

> What type is "moleskine" a colloquial name for, exactly?

All notebooks with black covers, at least in some circles. (As in, anything that looks somewhat like the products by the brand moleskine. Which are nice, but as you say pricey and not necessarily better than other brands, even if you care about details in your notebooks)

They generally just look a bit more professional than regular notebooks. I see a lot of people with them (in banking), typically consultants or management.

They're really nice notebooks and look awesome. People have them for the same reason they like nice watches; good quality, a status symbol and signalling.

> Ok. That's a weird detail to bother hipsterbragging about.

> "Successful people have better things to do than arguing on reddit/hn"

That wasn't arguing. This is arguing.

"An argument isn't just contradiction."

> "Successful people have better things to do than arguing on reddit/hn"

A priori ad hominem. Very clever. I think I am going to end all my posts like that from now on.

Remember, kids! "Successful people have better things to do than arguing on reddit/hn" -nzjrs

I like the 4dx approach. Lead measures vs Lag measures.

you pick a long term goal and associate a metric to it.

Example: weight from 180 to 170 That's your lag measure.

Your lead measure are the activities you get done daily.

- Daily caloric intake

- sleep schedule

- exercise routine

- water intake

- intermittent fasting

Your lead measure influence your lag measure but as the name indicates, it takes time before you notice the effect.

Focus on your lead metrics and adjust when they are not working.

I read about this in the book, Deep Work. I guess there's a book just about it (that my boss forwarded to me once).

Beeminder (https://www.beeminder.com/) is mentioned below, I've been using it for 2.5 years. The last 3 months I'm also doing some planning in a digital form (but all manual) of the paper-based Bullet Journal method http://bulletjournal.com/

Train yourself to think the following:

Any day in which I do not make progress towards one of my Big Goals is a failure. Any day in which I do make progress is a success.

Remember this when you decide what today's todos are. Remind yourself of this when you have to juggle priorities and ditch half of your list for today because something came up. And forgive yourself for the times you fall off the wagon; shit happens. But let that little bit of "I got fuck-all done today" guilt carry over to the next morning to spur you to the Big Important Projects.

This is how I kept myself working on long projects, first one that took a year, then one that took five years. Some parts were slower than others. Some were interrupted by life.

The fewer Big Things you have to juggle, the easier it is to keep returning to them.

Use whatever todo list makes you happy. Personally I use a lightweight version of the Pomodoro method; I write down 3-5 things to do with my day on a post-it, with 4-8 checkboxes total next to them, each representing a half an hour. I usually never check all of them because Things Come Up. This post-it stays on my desk, and gets the next day's stuck on top of it. Every now and then I look at old ones and toss them.

Stop focusing on long-term goals (outcomes) and focus on daily habits (process). For example, rather than focusing on learning French, do 15 minutes of Duolingo every day.

Ahh how could I forget the "systems based" approach.

Relevant: http://blog.dilbert.com/post/102964992706/goals-vs-systems

I think aligning daily habits with long term goals could be beneficial

Long term goals should be the basis for what to focus on as a daily habit.

You can apply the concept of OKRs [0] for this. Think Objectives as your long term goals and Key Results as your routine tasks. When you pick a daily task you should be able to point to the objective it'd satisfy.

I've been ignoring it thinking it's corporate BS and doesn't really apply to personal life. But I tried it in last year (where I quit my day job to bootstrap my own startup) and felt having a systematic thinking is actually productive.

[0] https://library.gv.com/how-google-sets-goals-okrs-a1f69b0b72...

Someone once said look after the molehills, and the mountains will take care of themselves.

The best thing I ever did for my to-do habit was to get rid of the backlog. I don't backlog tasks now. I only track things I am working on now, or will be working on immediately after. The backlog caused an urgent-vs-important conflation that led to a lot of analysis paralysis.

If something isn't important enough to stay at the top of my mind, it's not that important.

Interesting because I looked at goal setting some time ago. If you Google "goal setting doesn't work", you'll find as much against it.

Having a rough idea of where you want to go and setting yourself a number of small wins in the right direction could help you. Get into the habit of daily small wins that you know is moving you towards your true north.

As another point, I see systems and habits referenced below. Interesting because I'm midway through Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. Here is what he did:

He worked out a set of virtues that he thought he ought to have, such as temperance, industry, silence, etc.

Using that, he then used the calender method that's proposed a lot on each virtue to instill​ them as habits!

I'm inclined to say he was an early self-help author but also one that has something other than success in self-help as a justification for his methods.

I've found todo lists help, but "done" lists help almost more. It gives me a larger sense of accomplishment.


Complice is aimed at exactly this problem. Integrates a bunch of other productivity hacks as well, I love it.

The founder was interviewed on indie hackers recently: https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/complice

It takes some time to get used to but is completely worth the investment.

If you want to know if I had a productive day or not ask if I started my day in Complice

It doesn't try to reinvent the productivity wheel, it uses what works. Pomodoros, long term goals, tracking, weekly / monthly reviews, positive reinforcement, optional social accountability.

Plus the guy building it is always adding new things while keeping it familiar.

You can also use Complice in a group setting, using rooms, if you think you might need accountability buddies.

Here's the Hacker News room, for instance: https://complice.co/room/hackers

(Not a lot of people in it lately, but we could change that ;) )

hey not to derail a thread recommending your app (which I think is pretty nice! I drop into the lw coworking room sometimes), but I've never quite figured out how to take advantage of it, despite feeling like I should be the kind of person who can (I do daily intention / outcome logging, I have a premium beeminder sub, I do pomodoros and stuff like that). I've done the free trial a couple times but never managed to get it into my flow in a way that quite justified the cost.

Anyway this post isn't going to give you enough information to recommend anything highly specific, but do you have any ideas what I might have been missing?

Maybe I've just already got that kind of thing well enough sorted, but then, I'm not entirely satisfied with my current approach to self planning.

I use Panda Planner, a physical notebook designed to help you with monthly, weekly, and daily prioritization. I have found that the process of physically writing down and tracking goals each day forces me to sort through my mental clutter and decide what is important.

For me, this priority-setting process is really a separate domain than daily task tracking, project-level organization, and so on. As long as I do that daily review, it doesn't really matter where I keep my task breakdowns. I actually use several of those to keep tasks separated based on the project domain -- Visual Studio Online for development, Todoist for marketing, and so on.

Knowing nothing else about this planner yet, you really gotta give it up to the founder for what he's persevered through to launch it:


> For over five years of my life, I was hampered by Lyme Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and most recently, Cancer. Each of these on their own was enough to knock me on my back and render me mostly useless, but the combination resulted in a perfect storm of depression, anxiety and inability to think clearly. Naturally this was something of a bummer!


I started looking at GTD and then just thought, some of these ideas are good, others I don't need, so I just made my own version of it.

So I have the following Cards in a Trello Board;

1. Inbox -> Things I can reasonably expect to complete in a day or less 2. In Progress -> Limited to 5 per day 3. Projects -> Working on an app? Put details in here 4. Reminders/Waiting -> I've sent a form in, waiting a response before next action 5. Some Day -> Things I would like to tackle some day (Good for reviewing long term goals) 6. Complete / Split into smaller tasks

Not sure if this will help but one way I have helped map my todos with my long term goal is: - Get a large white board or sheet of paper, the key here is a lot of space to write/draw. - Draw a circle and write one of your goals. - Now think of everything you need to do to accomplish that goal and create circles with those things written in then and draw a line to the main goal. - Now repeat the same process for each of the smaller circles and keep going till you have a feeling that everything is in bite sized chunks. (These are essentially your todos) - Now create a timeline and add milestones (eg: Monthly milestones) figure out how many circles you need to get done before each milestone. - Now you should have a good idea of what you need to have done and by when to be on track.

it doesn't work very well for goals that are hard to measure but it can be applied in a lot of situations. Good luck tackling all your goals :)

Awesome idea. A good mind-mapping app should do the trick for this as well. I'm gonna give it a go tonight!

For me, it involved making the big picture big, vivid, specific, and tangible.

I was introduced to the idea of a Painted Picture. It is a goal setting methodology that involves heavy visualization. This particular incarnation was developed by Cameron Harold, as part of his coaching activities.

It made a big impact on my life.

The gist is that you write down, in narrative form, what your day will look like exactly 3 years from now. You write in the first person form, diving into various areas of your life. It should involve as much detail as possible. Ideally, these should be very optimistic goals which you dream of, rather than safe ones you are very likely to hit. It's OK if all of them don't materialize.


On March 13, 2020, I will be sitting in my comfortable arm chair in my living room. A fire will be roaring in the fireplace, and I will be looking over my emails. The kids just left to school. My wife drove them in our BMW VJ850. She is currently at work at MegaCorp, giving a presentation to the board about the XYZ initiative, which has a huge chance of success and will give her a real chance at the CXO position.

You continue on for two pages or so, going into minute details. Talk about your kids, your home, your relationship with your friends, the kind of food you want to be eating, professional activities, health, hobbies, charitable activities, political activism, and whatever else you want to affect positively. To keep it interesting, you can talk about what just happened ("We recently returned from a two week cruise in the Bahamas") or what is coming up ("I will be spending a week with a new client doing KJI advising. This is the biggest deal I've landed thus far. They have agreed to my $2,000 per diem rate. I'm confident they will be happy with the value I provide for them.")

Dream big. Share it with your significant other, if they're in it. Encourage them to write one of their own.

How does this help with the day to day goal setting and decision making?

It's uncanny! The imagery is so vivid that it permeates my daily life. My wife and I talk about it regularly. Whenever daily decisions need to be made, the painted picture comes to mind and guides me towards my goals. When I need decide what to do today, this week, or this month, and choose between the infinite possible activities I could be doing, having this powerful visualization in the back of my mind aligns me with my goals.

Disclaimer: This is my startup.

We're building Jell (https://jell.com) to tackle this problem. We have 2 sets of core functionality: OKR tracking, and "checkins" which can act as a daily/weekly/monthly "standup".

You can add plans/tasks to your checkins (and mark them as complete), and link these items to your OKR's.

We've seen a lot of companies have success with our tool (many replacing daily standups with it). We'd love feedback.

What does Jell do better than https://www.workingon.co/?

For my personal life I don't write down long term goals, because I want to live in the now and not in the future.

Professionally, I use outlook's todos with three priority classes: some time (low, where long term goals go), soon (normal), and today (high). Each list is organized like a backlog with most important first. I also color-code them by type (coding, process improvement, personal, and delegated). I scan the list regularly, and promote, split, join, add, remove or move down items as needed.

> For my personal life I don't write down long term goals, because I want to live in the now and not in the future.

These are not mutually exclusive.

They might be for this person.

Sound like you are scared of the future. I am the same, don't have long term goals...

Sound like you are scared of the future.

Depends on what you mean with future. I also don't have long term goals and you could say I'm actually not scared of the future because it's impossible to know what it will be (well, only death is a certainty) so to me it is illogical to be scared of it. Or you could say I am scared of a 'known future'. Like, If I'd set a goal to finish the renovations on my house in 1 year, I'd feel somewhat uneasy because I would know there is a possibility I might get bored over a year becasue there's no more renovation work to do. At the same time though I'd realize such a goal is unrealistic at best (again, impossible to predict what you'll encounter, delays due to physical problems, ...) so I wouldn't be scared about whether the goal would be reached.

No, I'm not afraid of the future and I do have long term goals, but I try to avoid being so bound by them that it precludes me being present.

I have a LIFE trello board for big things, and various other trello boards for individual things which will have daily tasks on them. So one card on the LIFE board will spawn an entire other board when I actually start properly planning it, and the initial cards will also multiply into many as I actually start doing them and breaking them down into their smallest component parts (ie. if it was programming, some thing I could do in one sitting if possible)

ps. In terms of timelining stuff I just make schedules in my notebook. Each line in my notebook might be a day or a week or a month depending. They usually dont last very long and I am always sketching new ones. I do tend to write and sketch a lot and draw the aforementioned timetables and also diagrams which really help me think about stuff. I try and keep that in chronological order in my notebook (rather than just be drawing on random scraps of paper), so only the last few pages are really relevant to me now but I can also go back and look at older long-term timelines.

So my 'what to do' and 'when to do' are seperate. Thats makes sense imo, as the way to do the best job would just be to work through the what to do in order and take as long as it takes. The 'when to do' is often an external artificial deadline or whatnot

One thing I think is missing from a lot of processes or tools is feedback of some kind comparing expectations to reality to help you set more achievable goals and better timelines in the future.

If I have a goal to do X within a month and it takes me two instead, I should look back and see where the discrepancy was. Did other things come up I didn't account for, or did the process take more manhours, or was more research/training required to have competency to complete the task?

Have you looked into Getting Things Done? It's a methodology for managing your tasks based on dumping everything in one place (I made a Google sheet) and then prioitizing. Part of it is that you make lists of your goals for different time frames (e.g. 1 year, 3-5 years) and revisit them regularly.


I made a trello board, lot more fun and you can use an android widget to add things quickly into the inbox :) http://i.imgur.com/dbH8yGq.png

I also struggled with sticking to bigger goals.

Just wrote a post about the approach that worked for me -- http://claudiu.dragulin.com/2017/03/14/how-to-align-your-dai...

Short version: - Make a list on a sheet of paper with clear, simple, manageable steps to your goal - Have it on your desk next to you at all times - Watch the magic happen

I also tried different tools and software-based approaches (reminders, checklists, etc) but I found that they were mostly distracting.

The simpler the solution, the better -- therefore, plain sheet of paper.

Key thing here was to always have it in front of me, next to any other todo list I may have for the day. As long as I did that, I never had to worry about updating my daily todos, or aligning them with my goal, or anything like that.

So I use 3 trello boards and break my goals/todos into cards. My long & short term todo boards are sorted by icebox, work in progress and done. My daily agenda is sorted into 3 lists, morning, afternoon and evening. I've been using this for almost 6 months and it's pretty simple to manage.

Similar here. I use 2 boards, Todo and Objectives. Todo has several lists; Done <Month>, Waiting For, Now, Next & Backlog. Cards moves right to left and each month I archive the done list and create a new one. Things in Waiting For are suspended. Objectives has 12 lists one for each month. I review Objectives every week or so and see if I need to add more stuff to my Todo backlog. Cards in Todo are constantly in motion.

I really appreciate the visual focus of Trello as I'm a visual thinker - I really wanted to like taskwarrior and todo.txt (or just vim and a text file) but I'm just more effective with Trello. The clutter free interface and wide app availability is a real help too. There are a number of nice Stylish mods that can help tweek the experience too.

Pro tip: The tools only help solve the problem. Regular review is the only way to keep the work flowing in the direction of your goals. If you don't do this your work will be dominated by the tasks you get from others.

How does daily/afternoon/evening work? Do you archive them when they're done, rather than moving to 'done' as in the other boards?

Most of the cards are fixed. So for instance my morning list has checklist cards like: Exercise, Daily reading, To Read etc.. The only exceptions are cards based on things I need to do for that day, i.e send email to x or call y, these cards will get archived and deleted.

In terms of higher-level concepts, I've recently been thinking​ a lot about identity-based motivation. This is basically the theory that we should expect, even welcome, difficulties encountered when engaging in activities that are relevant to our ideal future self. The initial step is to elucidate who we want to be, and then bring that identity to mind when we encounter failure. This reframing might be more effective than, say, believing I am dopamine deficient, that I'm lazy or that I'm not talented enough to complete the task at hand, etc. If I know the path to who I want to be (a well-traveled explorer, to use OP's example) will be difficult and I suddenly encounter a difficulty, instead of feeling dejected, the difficulty will motivate me instead, as it is a signpost that I am becoming who I want to be.

Some of this may seem obvious, especially to people who are already super achievers, but I've been finding it a worthwhile way to think about my behavior.

Here are some links if this sparks any interest:



The research conclusion so far is a bit convoluted. I don't know if any popular writers have run with the idea yet.

To sum up:

1. Pick who you want to be in the future (ex: a good friend),

2. Expect to encounter difficulty on the path (ex: my friend needs help moving, it's gonna suck and I'm not gonna be able to work on my project today, but I know sustaining close friendships will be hard),

3. Take actions that will be congruent with your future identity (ex: I went out of my to help my friend move to his new apartment, I did it because every day I try to take advantage of my opportunities to be a better friend)

I've been pretty obsessed with this topic for quite some time, I implemented my own todolist, kanban, and other productivity tools and my conclusion is that in the end what gets you far is routine/habits. In other words, doing it every day. If in your case the goal is to explore 3 cities this year, then have a list of small things you can do in that direction and do at least one every day. And don't add dumb things to the list to have a false sense of productivity, it's better to have days off than to fool yourself.

Coincidentally, I just made my own habit tracker this week to help me in this direction too, http://everydaycheck.com in case you want to check it out...

Looks like there's an issue rendering the page in Firefox.


edit: or better, it should be working now, care to confirm? THANKS

hmm that's very bad, thanks for letting me know!

It does seem to work properly on firefox here for any screen size, would you mind sharing which FF version are you using? thanks again!

It is indeed working now!

and you haven't read getting things done? https://hamberg.no/gtd/ even the book :)

I did a long time ago, but maybe I should go through it again :P

I draw on my window a dashboard with a kind of life's game. I needed 1 million of points to get a price (allow myself to startup another company). I can earn points and bonuses doing things like workout, travel, launch with my family, rock climbing, party with friends, develop small projects,... I had some additional rules. All mornings I spent a minute puting strikes near the icons of the things I did past day. Everyday I look the picture of how well I was doing on my life's game and once in a while y added the number of strikes to totals and got bonuses, etc. It worked for me for a while and it was funny but I stopped my count when I moved to other place where my window is smaller than the previous one.

I draw on my window a dashboard with a kind of life's game. I needed 1 million of points to get a price (allow myself to startup another company).

If you've recognised a pain that you solve for people and that could turn in to a viable business, waiting until you completed an arbitrary number of other tasks seems like a pointless exercise.

On the other hand, if you don't have a solution to a pain point, this might be a brilliant way to productively put off starting something you (sub)consciously know is a bad idea.

Start a business is really hard here (Spain). With my last one I learnt a lot, but I also lost a lot: all my savings and money from family and other people. I invested a lot of time so I didn't spend that time with my family and friends. Here, you can lost the rest of your life if you fail. I failed and now I have a lot of problems for this reason. For example, I have some open cases with government yet. I knew that it was a possibility but I chose and lost.

With all of this, I don't think that an idea is really important. Execution is more important. Nevertheless, I know that I will start another company someday, but I need to be sure that I regenerate my self before value a new idea or start the execution of one.

I made a web app exactly for this- for staying focused on your most important 1-year goal. It reminds you of your goal in every new browser tab (with the accompanying browser extension), so that your goal always stays top-of-mind. It also reminds you to record your daily progress and to track your goal-related habits.

It has other productivity tools as well (pomodoro timer; habit tracker; brainstorm tool) all dedicated to your top 1-year goal.

It's called Focal Point (https://focal.pt), check out a demo dashboard here: https://focal.pt/demo

This looks pretty much what I'm after. Do you offer any sort of data export?

I've added a data export feature for journals, habits, and pomodoro sessions.

Not yet, but an export feature is on my list. I launched it recently- any feedback much appreciated.

Every time I'm faced with a decision, I close my eyes and see the same picture. Whenever I consider an action, I ask myself, will this action help to make this picture a reality? Pull it out of my mind and into the world? And I only act if the answer is yes.

- Little Finger

Deliberately add your to-dos. Before adding a to-do (to asana / on paper) ask this question: Does this to-do get you closer to what you want to accomplish? If no, do not add it. If yes, prioritize first (no two to-dos are equal, choose the ones with the most impact) and then bucket it according to Eisenhower Decision Matrix.

As your morning routine, review your matrix to stay on track.

For the big projects in my life right now, I just keep track of my time spent, on a daily basis, in a text file. I've found that if I spend enough time, things get done. A simple breakdown of 30 minutes on this, 90 minutes on that is enough.

Looking back at what I've been doing this week, it's pretty clear what areas I've been neglecting.

Anything more than this would not get updated regularly. My time log also works like Jerry Seinfeld's Xs on the calendar; I'm motivated to put in a minimum of effort today to avoid breaking the chain.

> I'm trying to figure out how a better way to stay on track with my long term (1 year) goals...Does anyone have any recommendations/tools for keeping these daily goals todo list goals in alignment with the big picture?

Here's my approach: Define the goal, measure progress, complete todos.

Define the goal: I use Onenote. It's so freedom enabling (click anywhere, type) that it's perfect for jotting down all parts of your long term goals. At this stage a todo list is too rigid to record something this abstract. A mindmap is also good but the Ctrl + E search in Onenote is the best. You'll visit this once a week or so.

Measuring progress: Again Onenote, list the months and add new checkboxes (Ctrl + 1) under each month for each subgoal you want to get accomplished. You'll visit this a couple of times a week.

Completing todos: This is where your todo app comes into play. Map your subgoals to todos and record how much time you spend on them. At the end of each week all your completed todos should see you tick some of the checkboxes in Onenote. You'll visit this as often as you're working on the goal.

For me, this is a simple but visual method of progress spread across just two pieces of software.

May I opportunistically suggest https://lanes.io as that second piece of software. It's a todo app I've built to help support this approach - timer, charts etc.

It's good to have an interim time period. I usually set my rolling To Do list weekly. Early every Monday morning (like today) I figure out what I need to get done, and it gives me a chance to look at the bigger picture. Some people do this monthly, but I find weekly works better.

I use Evernote to keep track of list, but that's not based on any tremendous amount of research. Someone else told me that's what they use, and it's easier for me to find things there than on paper.

Make sure that working on your long term goals gets priority over working on the rest of your todos. It sounds simple, but it is not.

How to do that is different for everyone. What worked for me is the "Deep Work" method as described in this book: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25744928-deep-work

Hi, I had exactly the same problem and was also using a moleskine journal/calendar kind of notebook for every day. I couldn't find any apps supporting my style of workflow, so I designed NotePlan (http://noteplan.co) for Mac, iPhone and iPad:

NotePlan is a daily planner app based on markdown. You can

- fill a note with todos and other text for every day (just like moleskin).

- You have a calendar with an overview of all your notes.

- Store reference material, backlogs, checklists, etc in separate project notes.

- Link everything together with Markdown. Use markdown also to format your text and segment it through headers into different projects

- NotePlan pulls your data from Reminders and iCalendar events automatically into the calendar and every note.

- Everything is saved and backed-up in plain text files inside your iCloud Drive. Nothing hidden and nothing on our servers.

Learn more here: http://noteplan.co

And besides using this tool, I'm writing a lot of notes. I'm writing down everything coming to my mind. Then sorting it into project notes and finally scheduling it into days, if those are actionable. Most importantly I'm reviewing all notes each sunday, at least 2 hours. See my article here for more details: https://hackernoon.com/turn-your-todo-list-into-a-productivi...

Let me know, if you got questions, happy to answer :)

My tips:

A) the next step is more important than the final goal. Always work on having a next step not for immediate work, but for what you do after finishing something.

B) Coop with others who are important to achieve your goal, who share your goal, or who have your well being as one of their goals (i.e. life partner). Have regular meetings, e.g. once a month, with that topic. Meeting to eat something with the goal as headline helps to start talking about status updates.

C) Have multiple goals. Often we get stuck at one goal, but at the same time opportunity at another goal opens. It is inefficient, but that's life. Usually we don't have to work hard to figure out multiple goals. Health, family, language learning, holidays. There are already goals in your head you may not currently think about.

The rest basically happens on its own. E.g. if your "next step" is too complicated, you can't explain it to your wife in your monthly "goal X dinner". If you can't progress with "goal X" you will automatically switch to "goal Y" out of laziness and frustration.

I use remember the milk https://www.rememberthemilk.com.

I have one list called Goals. These are my major long term goals that are very rarely termed complete and I use more the notes functionality to mention progress.

Then I have other lists for work, life, and personal projects.

It works pretty well though I imagine you could do the same thing with a notebook.

The system that works well for me is to think (as in really think, focused and uninterrupted) every morning and decide what I should be working on today. Dedicate 10 minutes to this before I head out to work and get distracted by the emergencies of the day.

This, for me, greatly helps aligning daily work with long term goals. I can still get sidetracked, but usually not too much. YMMV.

I usually do something similar, but write it out the night before along with my journal entry for the day. It helps me cut down on my list of things I should do, but aren't urgent/have deadlines. I guess it works because I'm just more optimistic about my productivity ahead of time and commit myself to more than I would in the moment, but get it done regardless.

I use a tool that I wrote, evolved from a Trello board: https://github.com/ioddly/meditations

Specifically, there's a daily, monthly, and yearly list, all on the same screen. So if your goal for example is to exercise, you'd be tracking things day by day, but get a monthly summary (e.g. I exercised 75% of the days I was supposed to this month).

I do have some goals in mind, but I find that tying them to time is the wrong way to go. i.e. I'd like to get back to a 2x bodyweight deadlift, but it's better to try and make 100% of my lifting sessions and complete the programs I am on than it is to worry about when exactly I will hit that goal.

So the actual todos are derived from a system that should eventually lead to that goal, rather than achieving the goals. I then evaluate my progress monthly and yearly. (did I do everything I was supposed to? Am I closer to the goal? If not, how should I change the approach?).

I've put a lot of thought into year-long planning. I've surveyed 5 of my friends and here's the answers i got:

Q: How do you visually plan out your year and keep track? A: I use the calendar app on my mobile phone My issue: logging stuff in a mobile device that is really small, doesn't allow you to see big picture and serve as a constant reminder

Q: How do you visually plan out your year and keep track? A: I use a calendar book that i purchased My issue: the book itself doesn't give a year-long summary, it is more of a monthly/daily note jotter.

My solution: look for something i can use to place in my room and serve as a reminder of my year-long goals. It should be something that i can use every year and something i should be able to modify/remove/add as days go by (goals change, people change).

My options:

Option #1 - a real electronic device that is large enough for me to plan out my year. Thoughts - this is not feasible. I remember back in the day when they first tried to market "Microsoft Surface". This is before they came out with the surface products, it was initially marketed as an electronic table board that was large enough and interactive enough for you to comb through many problems milennials face today (illustrating thoughts, long-term planning and design).

Option #2 - a hard surface non-electronic annual calendar that will immediately visualize my year and allow me to strategically segment my annual plans visually. So i found this product listed below, and decided that i would pin it in my room with half-inch steel top pins (these also exist) and use dry-erase markers.


i just realized AR/VR would be a 3rd option.


* have occasional roadmap meetings with decision-makers from the department/greater org

* * discuss growth target/expectations for 1-2 years out

* assuming the growth, identify what will prevent us from hitting it

* * systems+processes that can't scale

* * long-term migration plans

* use these as long-term goals

* every quarter, look at the goals and identify something we can achieve in 3 months to get closer

* * write it down with deliverables

* * work out who is available to do the work

* do sprints/agile/etc. until the end of quarter

* review


* come up with the 1-2 year goals

* * remember them (or write them down)

* make Trello tickets in a Some Day list for things you can do right now that get you closer to your goals

* * rank them by importance/deadline (do this whenever you feel like it)

* take one from the top and put them into a Today list

* do them

* * if something stops you, put them in a Waiting… list with a deadline & indication of who you're waiting on

* * * e.g. Open a Stock Trading Account [waiting for response] [due 3 weeks] "sent off the paperwork to trader & waiting for account details"

* move them to a Done in 2017-03 list when they're done

* * archive the list at the end of the period

I guess the thing that makes both of these work is the periodic reprioritisations + limiting the number of tasks to manage

edit: also not allocating time for a task to be done: tasks take as long as they need to, there's no "I will have updated my IRA investment preferences by 2017-03-14" because you'll miss those dates and then train yourself not to be worried about them (and ignore them), OR have an introspective fugue on where exactly you went wrong as a person who can't even complete a simple task that other people could do in 5 minutes what is wrong with you

I stopped relying on tools. Discipline is what it all takes.

Every year from Christmas I do a retrospective for all 52 weekends, my year goals, personal progress and professional progress. I try to find out where my money goes and my time as well. How Happy I was etc.

Make a year plan and print it and put it in your cube (in your home). Yes, please set up an office space in Home. It works.

Then make detailed plan for 52 weekends and weeks aligning to your yearly goals.

Now buy 1$ yearly calendar from dollarstore and fill it up. WHen I turn it each month I know what I should be doing this month. Also I align or change it with some buffer time.

Mostly I miss my deadlines, because my estimations are wrong or the new technology or programming language I am learning takes more time than I expected.

At the end I am happy that I am two steps ahead by planning compare to some one who has never planned.

Now if you ask about the results between a planner and non-planner, I don't know what to say.

I have never in my life made long term plans and I don't know many people that do. Maybe making long term plans is a cultural thing? Despite not having a plan, life seems to work out just fine.

For those that do cherish long term plans: don't you get fed up with the perpetual feeling of "being not quite there yet"?

Never? You never planned to start and finish university? You never planned to make a large purchase (like a home)? Never planned a project that was going to take longer than a few months, possible requiring years of time? Never had a long-term relationship, which often requires identifying shared or compatible life-goals to make it sustainable?

At some point, like budgeting your income, planning has the effect of reducing the rat-race feel of life. I always had enough money, but once I started budgeting it, I had an abundance of it (recognized needless spending, directed my goals more effectively). Losing weight was a long-term goal for me, I got there, and then it become a long-term goal of being truly fit, not just a healthy weight but a truly healthy body, which is a lifelong commitment.

Hmm to that I would say, I expected to finish college (and I did) but It wasn't something I planned. I did it one semester at a time until i was able to leave. Also, I put money away, but I am not planning for anything (at least at the moment) - I would say you can budget for possibilities in the future without directly 'planning' them.

Savings in a straight savings account? CDs? Investments? If the latter, you're planning (even a little bit by selecting the right date-targeted funds).

And you just winged it in college? No clue what the next semester would hold? Never selected classes because they were needed for future classes and/or graduation requirements?

The Franklin Covey system is somewhat outdated (especially when GTD came on the scene) but it's designed to do this.

They start from long term goals (they call it vision or something similar) and then break it down into smaller and smaller items which you schedule on a weekly and daily basis. This ensures that everything you do works towards a larger goal. There will be smaller interruptions and things but the overall direction is quite clear.

This has fallen by the wayside with our rather disruptive lives but there are still lessons which are useful. Larger targets (e.g year goals) can be broken down into manageable monthly targets. Then you can work towards these and make sure that you always progress towards your larger vision.

Investigate OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). A lot of tech companies use them internally to align objectives and work across the organization and all teams.

I work solo (as a freelancer and solopreneur) and I have found OKRs invaluable in aligning my weekly and daily work to my quarterly objectives (and in keeping me honest about my capacity).

Recently, after moving in this direction in a more ad hoc manner, I started using http://weekdone.com to bring some it together and streamline things (WD is built around quarterly OKRs and weekly accomplishments tied to those KRs). The process has been wonderful.

Just signed up for answering this. I recently had the same issue and found a fantastic (and hackable via JS/CSS!) tool: https://gingkoapp.com/app

Highly recommended. I use it for creating my daily todos out of life goals (I use the template/concept of Ray Dalio's Principles (https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsd...) for this).

Recently I've found a TODO app that doesn't suck and is multi-platform (windows phone and linux included) - short review here: http://lukaszkups.net/2017/02/07/Shortie-2-I-ve-finally-foun...



Also, I've written what I do to be more productive: http://lukaszkups.net/2017/01/29/In-search-of-the-Golden-Gra...


At TINT we use https://takeaim.io and https://small-improvements-hrd.appspot.com

I like setting a schedule to review monthly/quarterly goals. Friday is always an alternate schedule for me, either hackday or story grooming/backlog work/paperwork etc. I review the goals, AND whether I have been even working on it, using https://takeaim.io data.

I developed a chrome extension, Hey Habit (bit.ly/heyHabit), to help me with this. I add my long term goals as projects and then set up reoccurring tasks to make them happen.

There's also a web version at heyhabit.com.

Beeminder. Everything from exercise to posture to meditation to work. It's one of the most clever pieces of software I've used, in terms of domain-ideas embedded in it.

Hi. Thanks for tip, I just registered. Care to elaborate what you mean by embedded domain ideas? Sorry Im not native speaker.

Wow, thank you so much for the kind words! (I'm a Beeminder cofounder.) I'm actually also not sure what you mean about embedded domain-ideas, or I hadn't heard it put that way. Do you mean the domain idea being aligning daily to-dos with long-term goals by use of a commitment contract? And then our clever implementation is how we tie the commitment to datapoints on a graph? That's what we think is clever. But I'd love to hear your take on it (also I'm sure it would be more compelling from a user than a founder :)).

I just meant, that, not only is the premise of commitment contracts well thought through, the smaller choices, like the 1 week delay on changing a goal setting, to why the exponential increase in punishments is closer to tripling than doubling, are all thought through and justified on the blog and have been clearly tweaked over time.

You guys even have super transparency, and iirc mention you provide it because commitment contracts would incentive you to encourage failure, and that's not what you want at all.

Compare that against e.g. Trello, which is good looking and usable, but it's kanban without queue limiting. That defeats the whole point! (I explain this in more detail here: https://gen517.com/queue-limiting-the-whole-point-of-kanban/ )

The difference between trello and beeminder (to me, at least) is that the beeminder people think about how to provide anti-akratic tools a lot, and embed their thoughts and discoveries into their product. The Trello people basically provide nice CSS for a tool so flexible it has nothing to say at all. If I want digital paper, sure, Trello is nice. If I want _actual help with something_? I'd prefer software developed by people trying to help me.

Thanks! [glow!]

And really excellent point about queue limiting and kanban! Now I'm wondering if there's a hack or plugin or just a convention to make Trello work that way...

Or maybe the answer is Beeminder's Trello integration, to enforce limits on Trello cards. :)

I'm currently working on an iOS app to address this issue exactly. There's still plenty of improvements I want to make but this is the app so far: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/agenda-to-do-lists-tasks/id1...

Basically I wanted an app that let me quickly add and organize items into different time periods.

The key is to develop a habit with your ToDo system. I use Todoist but in order to be successful with it, you have to consistently schedule your tasks as well as postpone any that you didn't complete that day. I also have a recurring task in Todoist scheduled every Monday that reminds me go to through all my projects and prune/schedule/unschedule/delegate.

The biggest issue I have with Todo lists and systems is focusing on urgent tasks instead of important tasks.

It is too easy (and satisfying) to prioritise 10 small urgent tasks, complete and check them off, and feel productive. But this can lead to indefinitely postponing long-term important tasks that aren't a top priority for this week on any week.

Tasks like keeping in touch with old friends and new potential clients, learning a new skill, checking that your backup-restore system works, planning a holiday, and so on.

I used to have a similar problem. One thing that helped me (which I won't take credit for): I categorize my todo list into four groups.

* Urgent/Important (Fill out the kids' immunization forms for school)

* Not Urgent/Important (Call old friend)

* Urgent/Not Important (Pick up package from post office)

* Not Urgent/Not Important (Wrap up loose coins for bank)

It works surprisingly well, so long as you follow these rules:

1) You have to constantly re-evaluate. Urgent and important are two adjectives that are extremely subjective and change over time.

2) You absolutely must tackle tasks in the order above.

3) Spend a lot of attention on group two (not urgent/important). You'll be tempted to put gigantic, overwhelming tasks on there ("Learn a new skill") as opposed to something actually accomplishable ("Go through React tutorial part 1").

You really have to be honest about what "important" means to you. Especially group two (not urgent/important). Group one is usually pretty easy.

I'll deal with the hassle of my package being returned by the post office if it means I can talk to an old friend instead. You may feel differently. Be honest about it. If you find you're not accomplishing group two tasks and procrastinating on them, maybe they're not that important to you. "Call an old friend" sounds like something important, but maybe you've both moved on and the friendship really isn't that important to you anymore.

> It is too easy (and satisfying) to prioritise 10 small urgent tasks, complete and check them off, and feel productive

Very true! I avoided this by doing all the unimportant tasks I could as early as possible, or by ruthless prioritisation (since the person I'm cheating by focusing on busywork is me).

If you have a constant stream of urgent tasks always pushing down the important tasks, you have a workload problem & need to address that first (i.e. by hiring an assistant or reducing your obligations).

Passion planner or bullet journal methods worked for me. Passion planner asks the good, tough questions that get you moving with your project, breaking down from years, to months, to weeks. Bullet journal is much more flexible, forgiving, but not as effective. One can incorporate passion planner ideas and questions into a bullet journal, you just have to do it manually.

I recently discovered Noteplan after trying and failing to find a good notes app for years. It's geared towards programmers and techy folk, and it lets you make simple Org-mode style notes with markdown, and integrates pretty well with your other calendar apps. http://noteplan.co/

Been trying to do this, tis year and currently using Trello.

Current organization is 52 list mentioning every week and every week has 8 cards.

First 7 cards are individual days of the week, every day card includes a checklist in trello and the eight card is target for the week. Depending on the schedule 1 entry from the target card is made into a checklist item in any one of the day card.

Literally align them -- whenever you make up a to do list, place it under one of your long-term goals. That way, every time you are doing something, you are working towards one of your goals. And if you find yourself putting together lists that do not fit one of your goals, it is a red flag to yourself that you are not aligned.

Find a coach. Find someone who can keep you on track, someone who is independent, who knows what he or she talks about, who knows what you do and what is good for you, personally and professionally. This is probably a professional (life) coach with IT knowledge (assuming that is your profession), so that means paying for it.

Have you tried http://focuster.com?

It automates scheduling your to-do list in your Google Calendar so you're always working on your next top priority.

Don't finish it? It moves it forward in your calendar until you get it done so nothing falls through the cracks.

I write down things I want to do but am liable to forget, which are almost always <1 day of work. The rest is in my head and the details are worked out on the fly.

It helps to not worry about racing to a practical product as fast as you can. Take your time and do it right. A practical product will come with time.

BulletJournal.com and the companion app that reminds you to reflect and to Think(tm) once in a while.

Agreed. I too think that the bullet journal is a great wat to keep track of todos and goals, both medium and long-term ones. I do not know about the app though.

Setting goals is fine but goals are more attainable through milestones.

Set tasks and tie them to milestones that finally achieve goals.

Any todo list supporting hierarchies can allow you to achieve this. e.g: Asana.

Then you can add more complexity like setting dependencies among tasks, adding dates, priorities, etc.

A lot of my long term goals involve daily engagement, so I use a recurring reminder service(http://coach.me) to stay on top of them. The app reminds me to check off items and promotes streaks.

use this chrome extension Limitless. "One thing I found for myself is that simply being more aware of where and how I’m spending my time dramatically improves my focus" writes http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/limitless-chrome-ultimate-produ...


I use 3 lists: first for the "big picture" long term goals, the second is for weekly goals, and third are daily todo lists. For all my planning I use paper and colored pens/pencils.

I've found OneNote to be very good for journaling and plans. I have a tab for daily journaling for each year, and I have a tab for my current long term goal with steps broken down.

Easy, construct your daily todos based on your long-term goals list. That is, a task does not even get to sit on your daily todo list unless it supports a long term goal.

I used Habitica for a few months. It's an RPG but you progress your character by meeting self-defined goals. It's much better if you have a group to do it with.

I have three text files: todo.txt, thisyear.txt, life.txt.

Anybody using todoist/rememberthemilk with success? Whenever I try I can not get my self to update it regulary so I stop at some moment.

I've tried many times and failed just as many times. I just cannot keep an electronic todo list. Paper on the other hand works fine for me, so I always carry my journal with me.

This post has me worried this morning. I don't have any long term goals. Curious to see what other people have.

Set a short-term goal (a month) and set aside some time (weekly?) to spend focusing on the task of discovering your long-term goals? :)

Index cards. Frequent review of projects and goals, much revision of each.

Checkout this book called The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

I'm actually working on my own personal management software in arc, Paul Graham's dialect of lisp.

I will probably open source it in April.

Mostly because I'm the best/only person who can write software that is really for my life. It will of course integrate with many tools.

Why do you plan instead of living your life ?

Because the unexamined life is not worth living.

But a life well lived is not worth to examine.

I agree with the others here that constant reflection is critical. But for me, keeping track of resolutions with a calendar to do is a recipe for disaster; good for the first two weeks then eventually it gets neglected.

So for this year, I started thinking about a tracking and recording method that is personalised to my needs, and that includes taking account of good and bad habits. I set up a personal website which is basically a learning log/folio, where the front page displays my five learning projects in arty thumbnails. Aesthetics is really important to me so a good design that I'm proud of is one way to keep me visiting the website.

Let's say that one project is French. Now it's really important to clarify your goals further. It's completely unrealistic for me to be fluent in French by the end of this year so I set a couple of goals, such as studying Candide to the point that I can understand and internalise the meaning without looking at the English parallel text. I emphasise that this goal is only for this year, which means I can still keep going with French next year - so no need to kick myself why I can't be as good as those polyglots.

OK, so far so good, I've got some fancy projects that show to the world that I'm a keen generalist, and goals to clarify their scope. But how do you keep track of them?

Because I've come to like writing, and it's one goal to keep practicing it, I decided to link every goal to my blog. Meaning, I need to write about my findings, achievements etc and tag the post to a goal.

I created a category hashtag and placed it under each goal. So say that one project is Blender 3D and one goal is to get used to the different modelling techniques - my hashtag would be something like #blender3dmodelling. This means that I must write something about blender modelling, which means I must study it and practice it. Otherwise if someone clicks on the hashtag, it will display no posts ... and that looks a bit bad. (That 'someone' is usually me haha.)

So far this little technique has kept me more focused on my resolutions aka learning projects. But it's not enough because there's still the danger of gradual neglect - and I've reflected enough to realise why this happens. What if I have absolutely no time to study Blender 3D because of other commitments? I can see myself paralysed by guilt by July. So, for balance, I decided that every month, I will write a post that reflects the previous month, and realistically set targets for the current month. The reflective part is particularly important as it not only keeps you true to your desire to learn, you're also being honest about yourself and your current situation.

So, that's the gist of it. It's not really scientific, the way I keep tracking and motivating myself with writing and showcasing, but it works for me. But this is an example; you may find it too much or too little or just completely unsuitable. That's OK. For yourself, you need your own method, and this means a great deal of introspection to understand your needs and habits. Good luck :)

Balanced score card!

Design documents.

Common sense.


In lieu of todo lists, schedules seem like they help me get things done better. To back up what people are saying here, I find making the schedule each morning is helpful, even if the schedule proceeds to go completely to shit throughout the day.

Also, I think it's hard to have goals. I prefer systems. Rather than have my primary driver be, "I want to work from someplace other than my home office 3 times each week" (I work from home), I say, "I work from places other than my office sometimes." and then work that into my schedule. That way I'm not checking a box so much as just "being" who I want to be. The externality of a goal is gone, and "Who I am" now incorporates "work from a place not in my home".

I dunno if any of this helps. It sometimes doesn't help me. It sometimes does, though.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13855957 and marked it off-topic.

The rubber duck doesn't talk back either[0] but he always helps me solves my problems when I explain them properly to him.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging

Not OP, but as a person raised in Christianity - personal prayer is talking with God; it's not really about asking for supernatural favours, but about maintaining your personal relationship with the Almighty. Reflecting upon your own life is often a part of such a prayer.

I can't speak for him, but I can read his comment. The paragraph structure of his comment suggests to me that, to him, prayer involves self-reflection, not handing the wheel to Jesus.

I get what you mean, but I think it's interesting to think about the seemingly simple question "do you believe in the power of prayer?"

My reflex was just to say no, because I don't think anyone hears you and offers help. On the other hand, I believe strongly in the power of thinking and visualization of goals, and isn't that a lot of what prayer is?

As per definition "Prayer (from the Latin precari "to ask earnestly, beg, entreat")[1] is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication." i would say no.

If you talk to yourself/think about your life, i would call it something like 'time for self reflection' or something but not prayer.

What you're talking about is 'intercessionary prayer', which is one type of prayer recognised by Christian theologians. There are also 'affirmation prayers', 'prayers of confession', amongst others.

I figure prayer is essentially meditation. There are many distinctions to be made between them, but no difference that I can see.

It makes perfect sense when for example one defines God as the best part of oneself.

That's not very Christian though.

Perhaps not Christianity as practised by literalists and derided by militant atheists.

But it’s perfectly compatible with forms of Christianity that have always been widely observed, which are far more symbolic and metaphoric, and primarily focused on maintaining inner strength and compassion, similar to Buddhism or Taoism.

Jordan Peterson (University of Toronto Psychology Professor) is someone worth following for deep insights on this topic.

That's not your place to decide.

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