I hope you had a great first month of 2022. As I look back on mine, I am pleasantly surprised at how I actually ended up doing most of the things I said I would... Because I set the bar really low. 😆
Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with a new time management app, Sunsama, which opened my eyes to how I consistently plan an unrealistic workload for myself, which leaves me feeling frustrated and unaccomplished. I guess I didn’t need an app to tell me this, but over-scheduling things didn’t make me more productive, it just made me feel worse about myself.
Over the years, I’ve purchased and tried out a number of time management apps and templates, including GTD (Getting Things Done) based Notion templates, but none of them really stuck. I always felt overloaded with work and I was constantly overestimating how fast I could get things done. Last year, I started using Sunsama based on a friend’s recommendation, and I realized why so many of the other apps didn’t work for me, and why this one seems to be working:
Interface: I guess I could be a little picky about the interface, but just like how having a good pen can urge you to sketch more, a good, thoughtful interface will make you want to use your system more, and a major factor in productivity is building a routine out of regularly checking in with yourself. Because I have followed the GTD methodology for many years, I wanted a system that reflected that organization strategy. Notion was my default choice, since there are many GTD templates that you can purchase online, but trial after trial, I found them overly complicated, clunky, and just overall, not a very pleasant experience. I think a great time management system should include only the essential features, but present those features really well. I’m a simple gal, and I found that a clean, visually pleasing interface made me excited to regularly check in with my productivity tool.
Task - Calendar Integration: I’ve mentioned this in my videos, but I like to schedule out my days. There’s a huge difference between the days I schedule my tasks and the days I don’t. What I’ve done with apps like Taskade or Notion is, I’d create a manual list of the hours of the day, and assign tasks to that list. This was annoying because it didn’t schedule it directly into my calendar and because it’s not a native calendar function, it was clunky and added friction to scheduling my days. Sunsama lets me assign “estimated” number of hours, which I can schedule directly into my daily calendar, and at the end of the day, I can assign the “actual” number of hours I spent on each task, so I can add it to my time tracking database.
Time Tracking: An essential part of a productivity system needs to help you assess why you’re feeling overwhelmed and why you’re not able to get certain things done. We can do this by tracking our time, every single day. I did have a on again, off again habit of tracking my time, but the intermittent nature of my time tracking meant that the data was not very useful. I think in order to remove the friction from tracking your time every day, it needs to be embedded into your time management system. When an app spits out a graph telling you exactly how you spent your time yesterday, and the week before, it can be a real eye opener, and it can give you insights into how to schedule your time in the future. Remember, “you can't manage what you can't measure!”
Prioritize: At the start of each week, I try to ask myself: “What are the three outcomes I want this week and celebrate on Saturday?” (yes, as a full time architect, part time content creator, my week doesn’t end on a Friday...!) But sometimes, my Saturdays blend into Sundays, which blend into Mondays, and I don’t sit down to properly reflect and assess my weeks. Having this feature directly built into the system has really helped me build this into my routine, and regularly go back to it throughout the week to make sure I’m on track.
In the end, productivity is not about doing things faster, but about identifying and focusing 80% of your time and energy on only the MOST important things. A system that can help us do this by removing friction, tracking our progress and asking us prompts that help assess our priorities, that’s the system we should choose.
Sunsama is more expensive than other productivity apps, and I do wish it had a better way of tagging my tasks, but for now, I’m definitely seeing the benefits of a simpler, more mindful system. It’s helped me prioritize my deep work sessions (I have a video on the importance of Deep Work here) and I feel like I have a more balanced approach to work. Maybe one day, I will come across an app better suited for me, but it seems to be serving all my needs, for now.
If you’re interested, give it a try. You can access their free trial period here. If anything, it could help you understand your own preferences in a time management system. (I’m just glad my search is over!)