One of the lines in the first Batman movie with Christian Bale is when Bruce Wayne is pinned under a huge timber and Alfred says “what’s the point of all those pushups if you can’t list a silly log?”.
The same goes for your notes. What’s the point of all those notes if you’re not producing something?
Many people just get caught up in taking notes and assume that taking notes is the end goal. I say that you should stop taking notes because most of them are useless.
Or, if you want to get something done here are my tips to make forward progress on some projects.
You Need Time
The whole process starts with setting aside time to produce something. One of the best books I’ve read recently on this topic is How to Write a Lot by Paul J Silva. Chapters 2 and 3 cover the excuses we make for not writing and the single remedy for it.
A writing schedule.
It doesn’t matter if you only have one hour one day a week to write. Make that appointment and stick to it. It’s better if you have the same hour every day of the week, but I get by with Monday and Friday mornings as my main writing times.
Put this time on your calendar and don’t deviate from it. It’s a firm appointment with yourself. One big tip inside this time comes from Neil Gaiman who says that during his writing times he doesn’t have to write, but the only other thing he can do is sit there. At some point, writing becomes far more interesting than simply sitting looking at nothing so he writes.
Setting Weekly Priorities
Once you have a time established, here is the method I use to make sure that I’m staying on track with obvious goals.
I start with the Periodic Notes plugin for Obsidian and have a weekly note setup. All that gets managed in my weekly note is the writing projects for the week. The first thing I do on Monday morning is sit down with my weekly note and make sure that I have my writing week organized.
My weekly note starts off with these items in it.
# Projects - [ ] next video - [ ] [[K - Paid Newsletter]] - [ ] PKM weekly - [ ] [[Books to Process]] - [ ] [[K - Explainers]] - [ ] process inbox notes - [ ] (big project)
My first job is to choose my next video and make sure that the writing is done for it. This is the most crucial task because Monday is the day I have set aside for recording and editing the video. If it doesn’t get done Monday then I likely won’t have a video ready for YouTube.
The second most important task is my member newsletter which goes out on Saturday mornings, so this is the second task on my list.
My third item is the weekly Knowledge Management Newsletter that I write. I usually don’t finish that until Saturday, but I want a reminder to keep an eye out for any good links during the week.
I admit the rest of my list is a bit of a muddle. I usually work on what I feel like at the moment. Lately, it’s been my course on Obsidian Task Management because more courses earn me more money and buy me more free time to work on my own stuff without needing to work for programming clients.
Tracking my Progress
One of the crucial steps in pushing your projects forward is honest tracking of what gets released. For this, I use the Activity History plugin (see how to use it), which shows me at a glance if I did any writing in a day. As you can see by looking at it, I generally do make some writing progress most days of the week.
Don’t let yourself fall into some airy definition of moving your projects forward. You either took a concrete step to push a project forward or you didn’t.
There are tasks that are required to publish your work that count as “good” work but are not writing. This is publishing a post to my site or creating a thumbnail. I must do these to get my writing out, but the tasks are not writing. They count as moving projects forward.
The biggest danger item is pushing your notes around. Yes, you likely need to do some research, but if you’re vaguely “taking notes” on stuff that’s interesting, this doesn’t count. Your writing time can only be given over to notes if you have specific notes that need addressing that pertain to the most important project you should be working on.
No random note-taking is allowed.
So that’s it, set aside a writing time. Build a note that prioritizes the writing tasks you have to do. Each week sit down and work on those tasks in order until they’re done.
Repeat it next week.
That’s how you make progress.
Getting Started with Obsidian
If you want to learn your way around Obsidian so that you can build a great note system then this course is for you. I’ll cover basic folder structure when to use tags or links, and the plugins I think everyone needs to make their Obsidian experience excellent. Plus much more. If you want all my courses, become a member.
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Getting Started with Zettelkasten
If you’ve been wondering about what Zettelkasten is and how to start organizing your notes with this excellent system then this course is for you. I’ll cover the basics of choosing which tool to use, how to take notes, how to deal with linking your notes, and much more. You can also become a member to get all my courses.
$99 USD (30-day guarantee)