New Mark Forster system

I’ve had a bit of a blogging spurt, but it’s tailed off again now as I’m going on holiday tomorrow!

Just popped in to say that Mark Forster has devised a new system (he’s been teasing the amount of tasks he’s been doing with it over the last couple of weeks). Looking forward to trying it when I get back!

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Starting a new productivity system

Duck taking off from waterI hope you enjoyed my recent series on the Anatomy of a Productivity System. You’ve probably realised by now that I’ve tried a few, and I’m a bit of a productivity nerd ūüôā It started as a quest to be more efficient, but I soon realised I like the process of using a system, and I like starting new ones every so often.

Starting a new system can be exciting, or it can be daunting. It can be somewhere in between, or even both at the same time! The first piece of advice I have is that starting any new process has overheads: definitely time, probably decisions and thinking, and sometimes money. It’s important to not put too much of any of these three into starting a system, else you’ll cause more problems than you solve.

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Anatomy of a productivity system. Part 4: The random bits

Part 1: Inputs
Part 2: Processing
Part 3: Doing

In this post I cover some bits that don’t fit into my model: Batching,¬†backlogs and when it all goes pear-shaped.

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Anatomy of a productivity system. Part 3: Doing

Desk with electronic devices

I spent 5 minutes on Pixabay looking for ‘work’. Why do so many people associate coffee with work? I want coffee now.

Ironically, this post nearly didn’t get written this week because of a wall of inertia. This post follows on from part 1: Inputs and part 2: Processing. I think many people can benefit from using a productivity system and the spectrum of these people has two extremes: those who have a lot to do, but don’t know how to prioritize so they are always busy but not working towards their goals; and those who procrastinate even if they have a clear idea of what they should be doing, but instead do busy work, or just trawling Facebook (I’m in the latter category mostly, but have periods of the first). Some productivity systems are obviously written with the first category in mind, and assume that once you have a clear list of things, you will have no problem doing those things. Other systems are more geared towards the doing.

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Anatomy of a productivity system. Part 2: Processing

You might remember from last week that there are 3 strands of a productivity system: Inputs, Processing and Doing, and the last post covered Inputs. In part two of this series I discuss Processing.  Continue reading

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Anatomy of a productivity system. Part 1: Inputs

Productivity, or to-do, systems, have at their heart up to three strands: Inputs, Processing and Doing. A published system might not have all three, but a successful system in use will have these strands. Some systems work well with a pick and mix approach, so the Inputs from Getting Things Done, the Bullet Journal for Processing and the Pomodoro technique for Doing, for example.

In this first post in a short series, I’ll cover Inputs.

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Current to-do system

I change my system fairly often. I find that the most perfect one becomes stale, although the better ones will be revisited later. Sometimes you just need a fresh look at things. Here’s a look at my current system.

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Malware schmalware

This website was recently affected by malware, for which I apologise. Best if you go run a virus/malware check, especially if you clicked ‘ok’ to download any font packs.

Note to self and all other website maintainers: keep your software updated. And check that you have auto-updates enabled even if you thought they already were…

If you see any further weird things on this site (other than the weirdness you know me for), please drop me an email at gemma at this domain name.

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Last Christmas, I decided that 2016 would be a year of habits. I’ve never been a fan of New Year resolutions, but I think that January is a good time for getting back into routines after the oddity that is December. I set out a list of habits to pursue, and selected some to start with. It’s had mixed success. Some habits stuck, some really didn’t, but the habit of habits has ploughed a furrow for future habits to take.

The first habits I chose were:

  • Update my bullet journal daily
  • Inbox zero for my personal email
  • In-tray zero for my physical in-tray
  • Wash up

Habits work best with a trigger, so I chose ‘before bed’ for updating my journal, ‘before dinner’ for the admin, and washing up at 8:30pm, except on the days I was roleplaying. I found that the time trigger worked really well, and I kept up the habit for 9 months. The ‘before’ something trigger doesn’t work too well, as it often get to the something before you’ve done the habit. If the habit takes more than 5 minutes, choose a different trigger.


Fig. 1

I tracked my habits using my bullet journal. I put the days of the month across the top, the habits down the side, and coloured in each day I succeeded (Fig.1). In subsequent months, I used the standard BuJo calendar spread, but with the right-hand page as habits instead of tasks (Fig.2). (By that point I was using a different system for my to-do list). I used this method until the end of May, when I basically just stopped (I find systems get stale after a few months, so I rejigged my productivity system).


Fig. 2

In those five months, the washing up habit stuck for several more, my getting up time is now consistently early, if not exactly the same time every morning, and I eat yoghurt more often. My email inbox is overflowing though, and my physical in-tray hasn’t been touched since moving house. It’s amazing what a big change like that does to your habits. It certainly did for the washing up habit too, as the 8:30pm trigger wasn’t suitable any more, and I didn’t set a new trigger.

It’s now Christmas 2016, and I’m planning some new habits for the new year. I’m on a 5 day streak already with meditation in the mornings (just after getting dressed), and started a habit of checking my diary every morning (it has my to-do list in). I’m currently trying out Habit Bull, an Android app, for tracking them. I tried it out on my tablet, and I didn’t like it, but it works really well on my phone, especially as the meditation app I’m using is on there (Headspace, if you were wondering).

I could go on about habits, but I would probably just be repeating things I’ve read, such as¬†, and Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits (it’s hard to search as he keeps producing books of his blog content, but you can trawl the archives here:¬†

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Gemma’s gnommi gnocchi

I like cooking when I have the energy. Here’s a recipe I made up. I’ve got it down to 30 mins from scratch, 10 mins if using frozen sauce.


  • chicken, chopped (I use about 200g to feed 2)
  • gnocchi (I use 375g for 2 people, which is 3/4 of a Tesco bag. The rest gets frozen until I have enough for a meal)
  • olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 pint stock (I use chicken oxo (1 cube) or veg oxo, both reduced salt. Or home-made chicken stock if I have any in the freezer)
  • 1-2 tsp garam masala
  • 0.5-1 tsp paprika
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • some veg (I use mushrooms, spinach and/or frozen veg nuked in the microwave.
  • black pepper.

First stage Рthe Velouté sauce

Posh name, not actually scary with preparation and practice. Will turn out well even without practice as long as you don’t panic. Keep the temperature low if nervous – it takes a bit longer but won’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Best in a non-stick pan.

  1. Put 2 tbsp butter in pan, heat until melted.
  2. Put the flour in and cook on medium for about 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, make your stock from cube or frantically defrost home-made in microwave.
  4. Turn the heat down, and start adding the stock. Add it a glug at a time, and stir with a wooden spoon until consistent. The first couple of glugs will go weird and like play-dough. Don’t panic, just stir it round and then add the next bit of stock.
  5. If it looks lumpy at the end, stir some more.
  6. Turn the heat up until it’s bubbling a bit, and cook for 10 mins stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if it gets a skin on, or looks lumpy – just whack with the spoon. It’s going to taste nice anyway.
  7. This amount of sauce serves 4, so if you’re not using it all, you can freeze it in a plastic tub.

Second stage – gnommi gnocchi (pronounced nyommi nyocki. Nyommi is a made up word)

  1. Boil kettle, pour water into a big pan and put on high heat.
  2. Put gnocchi in pan, wait until they pop to the surface (about 3 mins for fresh, 6 mins for frozen)
  3. (If using frozen sauce – nuke it in the microwave for 5 mins on high. Mash with a fork)
  4. Drain the gnocchi and put the empty pan back on a medium heat.
  5. Put some olive oil in and fry the chicken until nearly cooked (about 5-8 mins depending on size of pieces).
  6. Add fresh mushrooms if using, or any other veg that needs frying. If not using fresh veg, cook chicken a bit more anyway so it’s properly cooked.
  7. Add garam masala, paprika and black pepper.
  8. Add the sauce, and give it a good stir, especially if previously frozen.
  9. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
  10. Add spinach if using.
  11. Add gnocchi to reheat.
  12. Serve up, eat. Lick plate if required.
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