Has someone ever advised you to keep a journal to stay productive? Toby Lester, an author and renowned historian, says that Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook was a treasure trove of remarkable ideas and a marvelous to-do-list, that is a testament to just how driven and motivated he was. It also demonstrates his passion for incessant learning and a penchant for creation, even it seemed too far-fetched at that time.
A page from one of his journals was translated by Robert Krulwich of NPR, incorporating notes such as “Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night”, “Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner”, and “Have the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.”
His notebooks are brimming over with drawings, musings, and random thoughts on every conceivable subject: water, flights, anatomy, geology, botany, and what not. His mind flitted from idea to idea faster than you could change clothes. On the same page of his notepad, you could find a draft of a letter, a sketch of a fascinating plant, and perhaps the dinner menu.
If you have always revered his ambition and genius, its high time to start admiring his to-do lists as well. If you could cultivate just an ounce of his curiosity and drive, you would be one of the most productive people around. While its not a piece of cake, here’s how you can create your own to-do lists like Da Vinci and stay productive in life and at your workplace.
Remember To Carry A Notebook
Like most successful people, Leonardo Da Vinci always carried a notebook around; you never know when a great idea can hit you. Richard Branson, Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Beethoven, and Isaac Newton, all carried a pocket notebook wherever they went.
The famous Greek shipping tycoon, Aristotle Onassis, explained the reason behind this habit. He advocated the habit of carrying a pocket notebook at all time, so that as soon as an idea strikes, you can write it down. He says that whenever you meet someone new, pen down whatever you observe or know about them so you will know if they are worth your time. Also, carrying a notebook around means that you can write down anything interesting as soon as you hear it before it slips your mind.
When you put something to paper, you are more likely to act on it. You are prone to forgetting it later if you don’t actually write it down. I wonder why they don’t teach this million-dollar lesson in schools anymore.
However, that pocket notepad isn’t only reserved for jotting down your ideas and inspirations or for remembering things; it can also be used as a daily planner where you can scribble down your to-do lists early in the morning. Remember to tick off each task after you have seen it through and once you have completed each item on her list, it really helps to rip out the page, and start afresh the next morning. This will really motivate you to stay productive.
If you want to step in Da Vinci’s feet, try to use a bullet journal like the genius artist and thinker, to keep track of your events and tasks for the day, while also recording your musings and inspirations. Killing two birds with one bullet.
Embrace Doodling And Random Thoughts
Creative minds should go by this mantra; “Let go, float free”. It can do us all good from time to time, if we let our minds wander freely instead of staying laser focused all the time. Perhaps this is why people with ADHD are super creative since their minds are not restrained or inhibited like the rest of us. Scientific American reports say that ADHD individuals often attain higher levels of creative achievement and thought than ordinary people who lack characteristics such as, impulsivity, sensation seeking, daydreaming, wind wandering, and the knack for spontaneous idea generation.
However, you don’t have to be suffering from ADHD to possess these characteristics though; you can always free your mind by doodling, expressing curiosity about every new thing, or scrutinizing random thoughts in your bullet journal and to-do lists. You never know where that journey will take you.
Never Stop Being Curious
From what we know about Leonardo da Vinci, thanks to historian Walter Isaacson, Leonardo had always kept a list of things he needed to learn and do. A sneak-peak into his journal revealed the type of close observation that a person would hardly think of, such as if the goose’s feet were always closed or always open, the bird wouldn’t be able to move at all.
Even better, Da Vinci has gone as far as to describe the tongue of the woodpecker in great details in one of his journals. Never kill your curiosity and sense of wonder, no matter you old you get. Science tells us how curiosity and a desire for incessant learning can help you become more open to new experiences, grow personally, retain knowledge, and learn. So, don’t beat yourself up next time when you feel the tingles of curiosity. Simply jot down your ideas in your to-do list so that you can explore them later.
Set Big Goals For Yourself to Stay Productive
Perhaps something like “sailing the ocean” or “conquering the Everest” sounds like an immensely ambitious goal, but what’s wrong with setting goals of this magnitude. When you set big goals, you dream, and when you begin to dream of it, it gets you all worked up about the possibility of realizing that dream. This is when you start thinking about long-term improvements that need to be made if you want to have a chance at ever realizing your dream.
You need to make the pertinent changes to make your goals a reality. In order to achieve a big goal, you need to become more resilient, and not waste time. For instance, you may not feel like working on somedays, but when you remind yourself of what’s at stake, it will motivate you to get out of bed. Setting big goals makes you confront reality as well. For instance, you might start scrutinizing yourself more closely and take stock of your actual capabilities and drawbacks.
You will start planning for what changes you need to make to reach your goals. In order to achieve big, you also need to cultivate productive habits to stay productive. You won’t be able to fulfill your dreams without effective processes and systems in place.