“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.” – Bill Gates
The works on a smaller scale as well. People often plan more than they can possibly manage to do in a day, but then underestimate what they can do in a week or month. This is due to our poor natural ability to predict how much time a task will take to complete so we calculate that we could complete more tasks. On the other side, we fail to take into account The compound effect which leads to incredible results in the long run (even if we don’t complete as many tasks).
Improving our day to day predictions
Two time management techniques can help us avoid overestimating what we can do day to day.
Estimating the time of tasks before we attempt a task, and then time tracking to evaluate our predictions so we can improve our predictions in the long run.
Making the most of the compound effect
Understanding the compound effect should encourage us to focus on regular small actions (or Atomic Habits) that we regularly do and provide these compound benefits. If we do that, we can gain the long term benefits of tiny actions.
The Big Rocks is a Productivity framework to help you get the most important tasks done. It is sometimes called the Most Important Tasks (MITs) system.
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The analogy of filling a jar with rocks
It is based on an analogy of filling a jar with rocks of different sizes
large – Important tasks that take a long time
small – less important tasks that take less time
and sand – small things that take only a minute or two.
If you start with the sand, then the small rocks and finally the big rocks, you’ll discover that your jar can’t fit everything in. That means that one of the most important tasks you have will not get done in a day.
But if you start with the big rocks first, then the smaller ones and finally the sand, you can fit everything in.
The reason the real example works is because the smaller rocks and sand fill the gaps between the bigger rocks. When you put them in first, they form a compact layer with the rocks sticking out.
It’s the same with our time.
When we put unimportant tasks first, they consume our time, energy and attention from important tasks.
How the Big Rocks system works for Productivity
Like the rocks in the jar, you should start by planning when you will do your most important tasks.
You need to make time in your day to focus on them. Once you have prioritise these tasks, you can let the smaller tasks fill in the available gaps left.
In practice, I find that some smaller tasks don’t get done and fall by the wayside. But as they are less or unimportant, it doesn’t matter.
How to apply the Big Rocks Productivity System
Every morning (or the night before) set the three most important tasks that you must complete for that day.
Estimate how long each task will take to do.
Block time on your calendar to do them
DO what you planned.
That final point is the trickiest, especially if you have limited control over your time. But my experience has been that prioritising and trying to follow this approach has benefits even if I suddenly find that my time table is ruined for the day with unexpected meetings.
Give the Big Rocks Time Management System a Go
Now you have all the information you need to start doing this system. You can do it with a digital app but I like keeping a small, index card size piece of paper on my desk. It provides a constant reminder all day long.
I’ve listened to podcasts for years. Although I’ve changed podcast apps (and the shows I listen to) more times than I care to remember, in the last couple of months my system for how I listen to and take notes on podcasts has undergone the most significant change since I first started 14 years ago.
And it all centres around a new a podcast app and how it works with Readwise.
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My old system for listening and taking notes from podcasts
I suspect most people had a similar approach to my podcast listening system.
I used a podcast app on my phone (My weapon of choice was pocket casts as it has a Mac app as well as a phone version)
I listened at 2x speed (I blame Ali Abdaal for this)
If there was an interesting point, I would pause, grab drafts and take a note. Sometimes I would re-listen to make sure I got the important parts (especially if it was a quote).
At the end of the episode (which I might listen to over several days) I moved the note to Obsidian and cleaned it up.
Airr is a podcast app designed for saving key moments from episodes. It provides a large button (or a triple tap of a headphone button) to save an “Airr Quote”. You can tailor how long is saved by default and you can edit any Airr quote later so it matches the moment you wanted to save.
This makes it easy to go back and find key points that you want to remember later. And thanks to Airr, I have a new podcast listening and note taking system.
How I listen to podcasts now
For pure entertainment podcasts, I still use pocket casts, but for informational podcasts, I have moved to Airr. This means I can only listen with my phone, but that’s an acceptable compromise.
I still play episodes at 2x speed (sometimes only 1.5 if it’s very dense on information).
If there’s an interesting quote or point, I either
Triple tap the button on my Beats flex
Press the Air Quote button in the app
or use a Siri shortcut by saying “Hey Siri, take an Airr Quote.”
Once the podcast is over, It’s time to start the note taking process.
How I take notes on podcasts now
With my Airr Quotes, I have a starting point for my notes.
Either immediately or at the end of the day, I start my note taking process.
I go back to each Airr Quote and adjust it to capture the text I want. Then I give each Airr Quote a title.
My Airr Quotes are automatically saved to readwise. This is both my integration layer and resurfaced as my saved notes later.
Thanks to the Readwise sync with Obsidian, these quotes are saved to my Obsidian vault when I reopen the application.
In Obsidian, I review the quotes and make add a summary about the episode I’ve listened to.
Next, I create Atomic notes in Obsidian based on the key points or ideas in the episode.
This new system allows me to enjoy episodes more, take better notes with specific quotes (I can even share the audio if I like) and helps with creating notes. Plus, it works similar to my other note taking processes thanks to Readwise.
However, it is not without faults.
My problems with Airr
I have experienced a couple of frustrating issues with Airr that I haven’t experienced with any other podcast app.
Airr logging me out randomly so I have to log in multiple times a day
Saving an Airr Quote using the Airr Quote button in the app has caused the episode to end and be marked as played.
The second is certainly not something I experience a lot as I tend to use other methods to take an Airr Quote, however both can be very frustrating.
Alternative podcast note taking options
There are two alternatives that might be worth considering. One is Snipd, another podcast app that also integrates with Readwise and allows you to save clips. I have no experience of this app so I can’t vouch for it.
The alternative is to use a system like Ev Chapman in her video below.
While I would like to try her system, I have been a pocket cast user for a long time which doesn’t include the option to save a clip from an app.
I know this is ironic as I moved to an alternative podcast app anyway, but the built in quote system works very well in my experience and doesn’t have a stop-start process that Ev’s system would be.
What about you?
Have you found a different system to take podcast notes? I’d love to know and see if I could steal some inspiration from it. In the meantime, I’ll stick to using Airr.