Some Organizational Habits I've Attempted

In the spirit of April Cool's Day, I'm trying something new. This is not the usual topic I'd write about here (e.g., games or gamedev), but one that is only tangentially related: organization.

The Problem

For most of my life I've been an exceedingly disorganized person in most aspects. Time, space, thoughts, and habits are all cluttered to me. Lately I've been trying to be as intentional as possible in dispelling this aspect of myself. I've started with the root of the problem: my disorganized thoughts.

Note: I don't mean disorganized thinking in the clinical sense, but rather a tendency to be forgetful or absent-minded.

Tool #1: Obsidian Journaling

A while back, I came across this YouTube video about Obsidian and something called Zettelkasten. Though I didn't finish the four hour long(!) video series, and still couldn't tell you what Zettelkasten is exactly, I was intrigued by the idea of using Obsidian to organize my ideas.

I set it up along with some plugins to display a graph of my notes, and started writing. I've been doing this for a few months now, and I've found it to be a great way to organize my thoughts. I've been able to keep track of my ideas by using tags and linking various articles, and even come back to them months later to see how they've evolved. I've also been able to use the graph view to see how my ideas are connected.

In addition, I've set up Obsidian git-sync so that I can use git to sync my notes between devices. This can be fully automated so that the syncing happens in the background without needing to remember to enter any commands.

More like todon't list

One mistake I made midway through my Obsidian journey is that I started using it to keep track of todo lists for various things. This even included Mnemosyne and other game dev projects, which I already have a Trello board for, and work-related tasks that weren't kept in JIRA, and personal tasks around the house, etc. You can see how eventually that ballooned into every day's journal entry just being a massive, ever-growing todo list.

While Obsidian lets you create and check off items in a list, it's not the ideal app for that, which I'll get to later. Eventually I came up with a new approach to my use for Obsidian. Twice a day, I have a reminder to go to that day's entry and write my thoughts or ideas. Besides that, I add to entries as I remember. Finally, I resolved to spend some time weekly using a feature to "flip" through random entries to jog my memory and try to reflect on what I've written in the past. This has made opening Obsidian feel less daunting, and I've been able to keep up with it more consistently rather than risk burning out.

Tool #2: Google Tasks

So where did I move my massive TODO list(s)? Well, as implied before, I'm keeping my game dev tasks in their respective Trello boards, and my work tasks in work tools like JIRA and Notion. Finally, all of my personal tasks are in Google Tasks.

This has worked well because it lets me set a time and date to complete the task. I try to view this as a do date and not a due date; in other words, when the reminder comes up, I work on the task if at all possible, and complete it. If something urgent has come up and I can't complete it, I move it. By default, the tasks take up 30 minutes on my calendar, and if a task takes longer than that then I break it into a second task, and so on.

This is nice because it lets me see my tasks for the day in my calendar, and arrange them relative to appointments and meetings. I can also set up recurring tasks such as daily/weekly chores, including my twice-daily Obsidian journaling. In addition, viewing it as a "do date" means that I already have time set aside to work on it, preventing procrastination where I end up doing the task immediately before the "due date" anyhow.

Tool #3: Clockify

Have you ever reached the end of a day and wondered, "Where did all my time go? What did I accomplish?" -- that was me nearly every day until I started using Clockify.

I've been using Clockify for a couple of months to track my "productive" time. This means work-related tasks, and a few of my hobbies, though not all. In general, if there's something where I ended up putting in effort towards a tangible goal in a way where I risk feeling that I didn't achieve anything at the end of the day, I track it. This includes game dev, writing, going through tutorials, reading textbooks or newsletters related to my work, and music production. I don't use Clockify to track things like watching videos or TV for fun, playing games, exercising, or doing chores around the house.

This way, at the end of the day, I can look back at my total "productive" time, and easily see how it was divided amongst work projects and personal projects, specific tasks within those projects, and also tags which I use to cover things a bit more abstract than projects, such as "software development" or "research". I can look at a day or a week and see that I spent 8 hours doing research for my main work project, and 2 hours doing development on my side project, and 1 hour overall on music production, etc.

Clockify has desktop and mobile apps that sync between each other which makes tracking time pretty easy. Where it does seem to fall a bit short is in having easy-to-read reports and easy-to-create queries across devices. The website is best for reading reports, whereas the desktop and mobile apps are more squarely only for tracking. I have not found a great way yet to customize queries. And I'm also not sure if it's possible to consolidate tasks in case I accidentally create a duplicate. That said, it's worked for my purposes so far, and in fact I'm currently tracking my time writing this blog post (32 minutes and counting).

Time well spent?

Overall, thanks to these tools, I've felt a little more organized in terms of both my thoughts and my time these past few months, and it has helped impact my productivity in terms of my gamedev and my day job. Most importantly, though, it's helped me in my personal life to juggle all of my responsibilities and goals. I hope this helps you in your own journey to be more organized, and I'd love to hear about your own experiences on Twitter @muscarian_games. I'm always looking for more organizational tools and there are a few more that I'm trying out, so please let me know what you'd recommend.