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How Tiago Forte Changed How I See Productivity

How Tiago Forte Changed How I See Productivity

Sharing my personal experience on how Tiago Forte change a reckless person into a productive person

Juan Christoferson
Juan Christoferson
Takes 7 minutes

Your file is missing. You forget what the agenda or the next action after the meeting. You forget to whom you have to follow up. Remember that big idea that will change the world? Gone.

You think your day is a complete mess, you feel pissed off, and your so-called productive day becomes binge-watching Netflix for 12 hours straight to finish “How I Met Your Mother” season finale. How do I know this? Because that is me.

Credit: iStock/RyanJLane

I am a klutz. Everything is messy, disorganized, and cluttered, to the point that I lost my important, innocent, childhood photos.

I want to change.

I want to be more productive.

So, the search begins…

I watched every youtube video, read every article, listened to every podcast that has “productivity” tags in it. Nothing works for me. Everything that I consume only helps for the current day, but not for the everyday issues. Like building a house on beach sand, which will be swept away by a raging high tide during the night.

I need to solve the “everyday issues” that linger every time I wake up in the morning. I searched, searched, and searched, until I found articles of Tiago Forte, which changed my life for at least twenty-one days. Tiago Forte changed my life.

Who is Tiago Forte?

Tiago Forte is the founder of Forte Labs, an online education company, producing content in a variety of different media with the purpose of radically transforming people's productivity.

His notable methodologies are: (i) organizational system, P.A.R.A; and (ii) personal knowledge management, Building a Second Brain (BASB).

He teaches people to be more productive, by tackling the fundamentals. The idea is to make people think about productivity in a completely new way. Improving what they're able to execute, and ultimately producing consistently, like a Coca-Cola factory producing cokes for people to drink globally.

He creates a simple system, yet it can tackle even the most complex thing. It will give you the best of both worlds: the consistency of centralization, with the adaptability of decentralization.

For me, his methodology is one of the best. By imitating his system, knowing his mind, reading his works, and applying his principles, I metamorph from a lazy caterpillar into a productive butterfly! I am now more organized and more diligent in managing information overload.

From Chaos To Order

You’ve got your work cut out for you.
Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster / Unsplash

Okay, I know. Being productive, organized, and diligently managing information are not my favorite words. But Tiago Forte changed my perspective and saved my career.

Let me share my personal experience.

My company was in the process of fundraising. The founders gave the chance to be the person-in-charge to handle the due diligence process. I was ready, excited, and pumped. I responded to every email, attended every meeting, and delivered the deliverables as quickly as I could. I thought everything was going according to plan.

I was wrong.

The investors were complaining. The due diligence process that is supposed to be done within 1 months, stretched into 2 months. The founders were furious and blamed me for my incompetence. They told me if I didn’t get my shit together, I was going to be fired.

I was devastated. I thought I had done the best I could do. Turns out, I was failing hard. I was slow in responding to any requested documents as it is hard to find the documents. I forgot to follow up after a meeting because I lost my notes. I never knew the timeline because I never planned it.

I needed a solution. As I was brainstorming and reviewing my mistakes, I remembered Tiago Forte. I remembered his methodologies that I never applied. I acted and applied his methodologies to my project.

I turned any ambiguous task into an actionable task, took meeting notes and saved it digitally, planned and scheduled each task, and organized the company’s documents. It was a chore at first, but the result speaks to itself.

The fundraising closed within weeks afterwards.

Why His Method Works For Me

Actionability and Essentialism

Tiago is all about actionability and essentialism. Cut the noise, find the signal, and produce results.

We have a busy life, and we will feel productive when we are busy. But, what if this busyness you feel is a “noise” that distracts you from finding your “signal”? Busy does not mean that you are productive, it just means that you are busy.

I try to find the most essential thing to achieve my goal. By constantly asking the question “is this important for me to achieve my goal?”, I can eliminate the noise, and find my signal. I use this prompt to finally launch my legal startup.

I wanted my legal startup to solve a specific problem; helping consumers to find a good quality lawyer, with an affordable price, for their day-to-day operations. Assisting their legal department for company incorporation, applying license, and drafting standard agreements using our platform.

I pitched this idea to others, and have received positive feedback. They also requested many additional features to enhance the platform. The features were awesome, and we tried to incorporate their feedback before we launched the platform. However, what seemingly a good feature, grows into a supermassive black hole, sucking our team’s time to develop.

We step back, and look into the mess we created. We returned to our original premises, and started focusing on our initial solution. After a complete makeover, we finally launched our platform.

Tiago teaches me an important lesson. To live by design, not by default. When we know our intention, set our goal, and do the essential thing to achieve the goal, we will eventually achieve our goal one step at a time.

Paradigm Shift

Everything I do now has a purpose in mind. His methodology convinces me that I can be a productive person. Shifting productivity from a ‘goal’ into a ‘lifestyle’.

When you see productivity as a goal, productivity will fall apart. Like wanting to get six packs in an instant.

Previously, I wanted to have a six-pack and I want it fast. I only ate unsalted boiled chicken breast, with unsalted boiled egg, and unsalted boiled broccoli 24/7. After two weeks of torture diet, I gave up and start eating junk food again. What started as wanting to have six packs, now turns into six layers of fat.

What did I do wrong?

I see six packs as a goal, not a lifestyle. For you to be consistent, you need to reframe it as a lifestyle and enjoy the journey. That is why the secret of having six packs is to radically change your lifestyle. No shortcut, just be consistent.

The principle applies to productivity as well. Before, I always think being productive is like doing chores; unpleasant but a necessary task. I procrastinated all my tasks for one day, and after checking off all the to-do lists, I felt very productive. But, the habit does not stick because I never live the productivity lifestyle.

When I learned Tiago Forte’s principles, my paradigm shifted. I start seeing productivity as a lifestyle. I learned how to create a workflow, I start doing my weekly review, and start forming a habit until it becomes strange when not doing it.

It is a simple solution, but it is so powerful that it brings order to chaos.

A Helpful Hand for a Reckless Person

I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but his methods really work. I really recommend at least giving it a try. For anyone who is interested to use and apply his methodology, here’s where you should start:

General Overview

This article portrays the skeleton on how to get better or be more productive in this digital era. He covers 5 levels of skills on digital productivity: (i) digital fluency; (ii) task management & workflow; (iii) Habit formation & behavior change; (iv) personal knowledge management; and (v) Just-in-Time Project Management.

System

PARA is a method to organize your digital information. PARA stands for:

  • Projects
  • Areas
  • Resources
  • Archives

The methodology is to have a similar organizational system, between all sorts of digital places, to create a frictionless experience. Whether it is in the to-do list app, note taking app, and a cloud storage system. The main principle is to organize digital information based on actionability. Projects are the most actionable, and Archives are the least actionable.

By organizing your digital information using the PARA method, you will know where everything should go, and eliminate the noise of other information that may distract you from what is important.

Building a Second Brain is a personal knowledge management methodology, and Tiago Forte’s bread and butter. A system to capture, organize, and share knowledge using digital notes. By having a ‘second brain’, you will remember the things that are important to you, connect your best ideas from your curation, and use the information for productive work.

Progressive Summarization is a method to distill the noise and find the signal in your notes. Compressing digital information, summarizing what is important, and extracting the fundamentals of digital information.

Workflow

A sample workflow on how Tiago processes emails and reaches the holy grail “Inbox Zero”. The workflow portrays his methodology on how to be more efficient on handling emails, not getting sucked into a rabbit hole. A notable quote from the article:

"making a decisive decision about what needs to be done about each email, without actually doing it, and then immediately sending each email to an appropriate place where it will be dealt with at the right time."

Fun fact, Superhuman email workflow is heavily influenced by this article!

An example of how a BASB system can act as a serendipity vehicle. Using Evernote as a medium to assist our brain as a thinking tool.


Tiago Forte is an inspiration for me. His principles really reframed my way of thinking. He won’t change you to be a productive person if you don’t try to take action, but he can give directions for people who want to embrace the productivity lifestyle.

You can learn more about Tiago Forte here https://fortelabs.co/