The world is full of nonsense, but here’s a slice of sanity including something you can buy. I’m writing this note to myself because I used it to finish proof-reading my dissertation, a task I find nigh impossible.
Write down all of the things you have to do that aren’t written down in a systematic way. Write them on a piece of paper. Or write them on index cards. Write until your brain feels empty. You can write down feelings or theories too.
Now do something with everything you wrote down. Evaluate it. If you can do it in less than two minutes, do it when you read it. Otherwise put it somewhere. Doesn’t matter where. Stacking up the index cards is just fine. Throw away or cross out the things that aren’t important. Save your feelings and theories somewhere. It’s important to reflect on those, if only as a map to see how far you’ve come through time.
Now you have a list of the things you have to do that are hard. Pick one. Now break it up, either on paper or in your head, into a list of actions in the world you need to take to complete it.
Download Forest. Set the timer for 25 minutes. Do what it says.
Don’t work more than three hours unless you feel possessed by flow and momentum.
From time to time, do the whole thing again. That’s it.
Which task manager or notes app you use matters so much less than the process by which you do things. Process matters. Your notes app and task manager matter only to the extent that they mesh with your process. (It is worth spending some time finding the right fit, but don’t confuse this quest with any kind of productivity. I find it relaxing and intellectually simulating to evaluate task managers; I’m searching for the right amount of complexity, visual presentation, and ergonomics. I’m far from finding one.)
Also, it’s nice to take time and write to yourself.