How Just One Workflowy Bullet Helped Me Beat Procrastination

I grew up in South Africa, where hiking was super accessible… and now further along the path in life I find myself in Brazil. A different continent, a different culture, a different city. I got to thinking about how I’d love to go on hiking trips again – but my brain always short-circuited when I thought of the “complexity” of it all:

The more complex something appears to be, the greater the chance we’re going to endlessly procrastinate. Here follows how WorkFlowy helped me to stop procrastinating about a complexity that was mostly just in my mind…

A short 2 days ago I went on a hiking trail with Emma, my 12-year old daughter. The first in over a decade for me – and the first-ever for Emma. That’s a lot of procrastinating. And this was my embarrassingly simple process in WorkFlowy:

What are the bare essentials when it comes to breaking ground… to putting one foot in front of the other and making a start? Some people just need a spade. All I need is a WorkFlowy bullet. That’s an unstoppable start.

It all started a little over 10 months ago. The desire to be in wide open spaces and breathe fresh, clean air on forest trails lead me to simply type out:

I then zoomed in… and in an instant I had:

An idea takes on living color when you jot it down. The idea becomes an intrigue as you start digging deeper and carving out its shape and feel. Soon you have the beginnings of a project that takes on character and increasing depth each time you hit Tab – and expansiveness with each Enter stroke.

My Hiking outline grew to contain a simple list of gear to start off on day trips to parks, mountains and rivers outside of the city… including dates and details of upcoming trips, links to various social media profiles of hiking clubs and other basics:

Next up, I booked a day trip with a reputable hiking club.

And then life threw a Covid-19 curveball at me. At us all.

⏩ Fast forward 10 months.

Here’s the thing, though: The groundwork was all done and even though I had to shelve my plans for almost a year, it was as simple as picking up right where I left off – once Covid restrictions were lifted. My WorkFlowy list was still there. The mountains, rivers and waterfalls were still there. Our backpacks that’d arrived in the mail were still there. All that remained to do was to reserve our spots on the very next trip.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to go on a trail, clean up a paper trail or blaze your own trail and beat procrastination:

  1. Write down your goal/ project in WorkFlowy and zoom in (Alt+Right). Here begins your project: You’re really doing this! Believe it or not, you’ve already overcome a great deal of inertia to get to this point. The zooming in part means that now you’ve got your thinking cap on.
  2. Get everything out of your head. Whatever comes to mind. Don’t get caught up in thinking about how long it’s going to take to achieve or all the steps you need to do. Just get it down, one step at a time. Over-analyzing at this stage will likely lead to paralysis like I experienced – and keep you from even getting started.
  3. Single out a “next action”… a next concrete step: Get as specific and fine-grained as possible. Instead of “Find a hiking club”, break it down further: “Google ‘hiking clubs in the area'”. The more specific a directive is, the less chance you have of sidestepping it. This gets to the very heart of how to stop putting things off and start getting things done.
  4. Do that next action. Now you’ve got momentum! Suddenly you’ll find that you’re in the middle of a project and you’re picking up steam. You’ll be wondering what that hot, foggy vapor is all around you. It’s your steam!

WorkFlowy helps to intuitively craft an idea that will in due course come to fruition. The first bullet is the first step in your journey of a thousand miles – a project that will bravely take on a life of its own.

A bullet gets you started. A bullet gets you thinking. A bullet helps you overcome procrastination.

How far and wide you go – it’s entirely up to you. I hiked 12 kilometers up and down a mountain with a loved one. And the next trail is not too far from now…

9 thoughts on “How Just One Workflowy Bullet Helped Me Beat Procrastination

  1. How do you tag or identify the next action? I did not see that identified anywhere in your article. Do you tag and then search, or are you always just zooming into the bullet to view the list and make decisions about what is coming next?

    1. If you are using beta feature “mirrors” you could mirror the todos from this hiking list into your action plan. Everything you change in the mirror gets changed in all mirrors. Just have a look in settings, switch on mirrors and use (( to search for a node to mirror.

    2. I think there are many ways a WF user could identify a next action. WF is so flexible that it’s up to your imagination as you, the user. One way in a list of WF bullets is just to sequence the bullets in your desired order, so that your next action is at the top of the list. I use a symbol ” [n ” (bracket then n) to highlight my next actions. If I’m in a long list of sub-bullets underneath a desired task, I place that ‘[n” in front of whatever sub-task I conclude is the most effective next action. (using the lower-case bracket makes that bullet unique, and one easily identifiable in a WF search). Then at any time, including during my Weekly Review, I can easily identify all my next actions on my projects by putting ” [n ” in the WF Search Bar. And those few next actions could buried deeply anywhere in my thousands of bullets in my WF file, but the WF search will still find them quickly. Also, David Allen in his GTD methodology says a key part of a weekly review is identifying all your projects you’re stuck on – those that are a jumbled mess in your mind, and that you haven’t yet identified a next action. He calls them “… an amorphous blob of undoability”. So in my weekly review I enter a symbol I have for all my projects (#pz) and then – (the ‘minus’ symbol) and then ” [n ” – which will quickly show me all my projects that don’t yet have next actions. And I think just as Frank says, just taking that next step forward, by identifying a next action on those muddled projects can give you so much clarity on that project, and and on your way down the road to completing it.

  2. Dear Frank, you are back. Great!

    Thanks for this inspirational article. Going to start a similar bullet today.

    1. Thanks Daniel! Do share with us once you’ve done a tad bit of head scratching 🙂

  3. I have been using Workflowy for a couple of years now and love it! I can view it on any of my devices and make changes as I go. We have a small all-natural farm and I am an avid crafter so the ideas never end. Neither does all the work that constantly needs to be done. LOL Nice article – thank you for sharing.

  4. Welcome back, Frank. We were worried that something happened to you. Great article!

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