The Which of STUFF

STUFF – an introduction
Getting started with STUFF

Okay so you’ve read about STUFF and you’re keen… you’ve read about getting started and know it’s app-neutral and you can do it on paper or digitally or on a whiteboard or skywrite it.

But what exactly do you put IN your STUFF list? Everything? Is it everything?

Nope. It’s definitely not everything. Please don’t put in everything!

I don’t know about you but I’m often pretty overwhelmed by my own list. Even scheduling something on a calendar makes me want to rebel against doing it. I used to think that if I could just find or develop the perfect system then I couldn’t forget about the important things…

But I could still ignore them. I can ignore anything. I’m really good at it!

So the important thing about your core STUFF list is that it’s not things you’re going to want to ignore. At least – not directly.

One of the most important items on my STUFF list is to look at my calendar. In my Treading Water gear it’s to look at and update my calendar for today and tomorrow. In my Usual gear it’s to look at and update my calendar for the next two weeks. Even if I know everything that’s on it. Even if I know it’s empty. I still look at it. And a lot of the time I was wrong about what was or wasn’t on it. And I often think of things that should have been on it but weren’t.

But the calendar items aren’t part of STUFF. Just the reminder to look at the calendar. So if I’m really overwhelmed by my calendar (or my general to-do list or housework list or anything else…) I can ignore that without ignoring STUFF as a whole. Of course, I try not to ignore my calendar because that leads to missing important things… But knowing that I will sometimes ignore my calendar at least that ignoring doesn’t ALSO lead to me ignoring everything else.

So your STUFF doesn’t track your mood (use a mood tracker!)

STUFF doesn’t keep track of your todos (use a to-do list!)

But add all of those other things to your STUFF list.

Other things on your list should be core habits or daily tasks. For me I have taking my medication, feeding the cats, making the bed, planning what’s for dinner tomorrow, engaging in a leisure activity and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Finally I have some daily goals on my list. To meat my move and activity goals on my apple watch. To meet my “karma” goal on To-doist. To check off a certain number of tasks under my housework and social categories on my to-do list.

So what’s on your STUFF list?

  • Prompts to check other lists or apps (calendars, trackers, lists)
  • Core habits
  • Regular daily tasks
  • Daily goals

What’s the difference between habits, tasks and goals? Ehhh. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think it’s important. But I hope this gives you an idea of the kinds of things that go on your STUFF list.

What’s NOT on your STUFF list?

  • Your calendar
  • Your general to-do list of once-off things
  • Your less frequent repeating tasks
  • Bigger or long-term goals
What goes on your stuff list?
YES - Prompts to check apps
YES - Core habits
YES -Regular Daily Tasks
YES - Daily Goals

NO - Calendar Events, No General ToDo, No bigger or long term goals

STUFF isn’t a task-management system. It’s not designed to do the grunt-work of scheduling or task-management. There are LOTS of apps that do those things pretty well. STUFF will be your “hub” which allows you to keep using ALL those other things at once instead of trying to cram everything into one app or system which you spend 12 hours in a row adding everything into and getting all the settings exactly right and then never open again.


The where of STUFF

Okay you’ve read my STUFF introduction and you think “this is exactly what I need!!”. So what’s next? Where do I start? No… WHERE specifically. What app do I open? What notebook do I buy? Are you giving me an excuse to go to officeworks to buy new pens or what??

A person lost in a maze

STUFF is app neutral. You don’t need a new app (although I have IDEAS for how my ideal app would work!!) or to buy a certain kind of journal. I know you’ve tried a thousand of those already and I can’t offer you anything that any other app can’t give you and you’d stop using mine for exactly the same reasons you stopped using all of those others.

So stick with the apps you’ve used the longest. Or sound the most interesting. Or seem the most fun. Or have the most features! Or gamify the way that excites your brain. Or a journal that feels nice when you touch it or fits in your bag or has nice paper or… you get what I mean. The best tool is one that you keep using.

I use Habitica for my daily STUFF. I have done for years. It’s not for everyone and it doesn’t streamline STUFF in any super elegant way. But I started using it in 2013 and… haven’t stopped yet. And I still find it kind of neat and kind of fun. So that’s what makes it the best one for me.

In Habitica I use tags to keep track of my STUFF gears. I use a tag manager tool to bulk switch tasks on or off if there are too many for me to just find and switch on and off one-by-one. I’ve seen screenshots of an app called Fabulous and someone creating Fabulous routines for each gear. You could use tags or categories in Todoist. Whatever you will keep using. Whatever is going to give you a way to view your lower gears without feeling guilty or overwhelmed by your higher gears. The first step is to use your STUFF tracker. The second step is to use it even when it’s no longer fun and exciting.

Tip #1: Good fences

For this reason I recommend that you keep it well partitioned away from any lists that feel burdensome or are likely to provoke any guilt or bad feelings. You might think “if I have everything all in the one place then I will HAVE to keep up with it all!!”. But friend… I have such faith in your ability to ignore important things. I know you can do it!! Don’t put your STUFF tracker in your calendar or your to-do list. Because you’ll want to avoid those things at some point: and I don’t want you to ignore your STUFF at the same time.

Tip #2: Minimal Minimum

Some days you might want to spend 10 or more minutes reflecting on your day. That is so amazing. But most days I just feel annoyed at any obligation that I HAVE to do. So I make tracking my STUFF as simple as possible. My end of day checkin is… so fast. It takes less than one minute for me to open Habitica and tick off the things I did. I have it set up in a Siri Shortcuts routine which opens my calendar and my todoist to-do list (which I ignore) and then opens Habitica. If I feel like Habitica is “too much” then I know it’s time to change gears and make it so simple that even I can’t resent having to do it. (But also sometimes I still avoid it but one of the features of Habitica is that when you open it in the morning it asks if you need to check anything off from the day before)

So that’s where you start. Wherever you’re likely to go back to day after day, week after week. And if you get bored of one app and it’s no longer exciting you can start using some other newfangled app with social or gamification features which sound fun. You can keep switching apps every month if that works to keep you keeping on with stuff… and STUFF.

I always love to see screenshots of how you’re using STUFF so if you’ve got it set up in Things 3 or TikTik or Daylio or you’ve got a Bullet Journal or whatever I’d absolutely love to see how you’re doing it!

(and if you make apps and want to hear about how my PERFECT STUFF TRACKING APP would work I’d love to hear from you too…)


STUFF – an introduction

You’re not coping.

You need a new routine. You need a new system. One that will actually work. Because if you do it right – if you build the right habits and the right routines in the right way then they’ll stick. Then you can add on to them. Then you can build up your routines and eventually get to the point where you can live your life. Am I right?

You know what you need to do. You know that you just need to eat better and sleep more and take more time for yourself and meditate and be present and keep on top of the housework so it doesn’t build up and and and and… 

So why don’t you? You don’t have the right journal. The right app. The right planner. The right tracker. Why can’t you just do it?

Because… It’s hard.

It’s not the routine. It’s not the system. It’s… the stuff. It’s hard.

It feels easy sometimes. So you start a new routine. You start a new system. It’s so easy! To begin with. And having a streak is motivating for a while. But then suddenly it’s hard again and now you’re too ashamed to look at it. And now you’re not coping.

STUFF isn’t a new routine. It’s not a system. It’s a strategy for managing your routines and your systems. A framework for dismantling your routines and putting them back together. Because you can’t keep waiting for things to get better. You can’t keep forwarding your problems to Future You.

Your Helpful Aunt tells you to think positive! Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow and be motivated! But… maybe you won’t? Because Future You is just you… but older. 

Your life won’t begin once you get through this. Once you get on top of things. Once you do it right.

This, right now, is your life. 

When things are good it feels like they’ll keep getting better. But sometimes they don’t. And the expectations that you set when things are easy will crush you when things get hard. STUFF helps you manage the gap between what you can actually do and what you think you should be able to do… and helps you adjust as that gap changes over time.

Sometimes when you’re riding a bike you change gears. You change gears so that you can keep riding up a hill… or down. There’s no “best” gear to be in: it depends. With STUFF you can “change gears” when things get hard. By deciding in advance which expectations you’ll lower (or drop) you’ll have a plan to manage yourself when you need it – and a plan to work back to where you were if and when that’s realistic for you.

STUFF. Survival. Treading Water. Usual. Fulfilling. Future.

S – Survival. Survival gear is the absolute minimum. This is crisis mode. What absolutely needs to get done regardless of how bad everything else is? Food. Medication. Sleep.

T – Treading Water. A step up from Survival, Treading Water is the gear where your priority is to stop spiralling into crisis – to stabilise ready to get back to Usual. 

U – Usual. Your realistic expectations for whatever “normal” is for you. Maybe your “Usual” looks like someone else’s “Survival”. That’s okay! 

F – Fulfilling. Stretch goals for good days. Some days you do these things and that’s amazing! But when you can’t? That’s okay. 

F – Future. Future goals and aspirations. Maybe one day your Fulfilling tasks become your Usual. Here’s what comes next. 

Okay… so where do we start?