Thursday, May 16, 2019

Getting Things Done with Google Keep

An updated post about my GTD methodology using Google Keep, focused on the setup instructions. This is just my setup, feel free to customize.
  • Set up labels for high level categories. I use emojis to make my labels more fun. I have labels for:
    • "Todo" for todo lists, including a monthly list, a future list, bucket list, new year's resolutions, and project lists like packing for a trip, grocery shopping, weekly chores, etc. Basically anything with checkboxes. For recurring todo items (weekly chores, birthday planning, etc.) I set up a recurring reminder in my calendar.
    • "Travel" with travel plans, notes about trips, etc.
    • "Recipes" with cooking recipes (with pictures!).
    • "Work" with misc. work related notes.
    • "1:1" with my checklists for things I need to talk about with people who report to me or with my manager.
    • "Personal" with misc. personal related notes.
    • "Focus" is a duplicate label for the following key notes. Using the Focus label lets me focus on what's important and not be distracted by the clutter of other notes that aren't important right now. If warranted I can add other notes to the label for things I'm working on.
      • Monthly (current) todo list
      • Monthly journal (personal)
      • Monthly snippets (work journal)
    • "Journal" contains my monthly personal journal note (a note with one entry per day of what is going on in my life) and my work snippets (notes about what I'm doing at work, for sharing with my manager).
    • "Projects" contains one note per big project that I work on, to track what is going on, meeting notes, etc.
  • Set up color coding. I use:
    • Red for work notes
    • Blue for personal notes
    • Purple for a mix of the two (I try to avoid this but sometimes lines are blurry, like for my todo lists)
  • Set up main notes. The minimum that I recommend is:
    • A todo list for the current month.
    • A todo list for the future (these get moved to the "current month" list each month)
    • A journal note to track daily goings-on.  I use one note per month, sometimes two, depending on how much I write.
    • Project notes: I set up one note per project I work on, both for work and personal. Projects might be big work projects, or fun things like a vacation I am planning.
    • I make my notes fun (and easy to find) by putting a relevant image on each note. Usually just some image I find on Google search, like an image of a checklist for my main todo list, or a picture of a bicycle for my biking to work prep checklist.
  • Archive frequently. Whenever a note is no longer "current", it gets archived. That keeps my Notes section clean and current.
  • Pin the important stuff. My current todo list, current journal, bucket list, and new year's resolutions are pinned.  If I go on a trip, I'll pin that note as well for the duration of the trip.
    • Android Widget: On my Android home screen, I put the Google Keep widget and specify the "Pinned Notes", with my current todo list as the top note, so that I have easy access to the note, and can see at a glance of my phone what I need to work on today.
    • Pin vs. Focus: I use my Focus label for a subset of Pinned notes.  Pinned notes are notes I want to keep at the top of my mind and not forget about (e.g., bucket list, new year's resolutions) but aren't things that I need to actually "Focus" on a daily basis.  I scan over my Pinned notes at least once a week to see what is relevant, but I use my "Focus" label daily.
  • I keep a flat hierarchy, using only the labels above. I can search for anything and find it easily, and the color coding helps keep work and personal separate.


I think podcasts are one of the best ways of learning new things, keeping up with trends, and making use of otherwise dead time (like while driving to work).  These are the podcasts I subscribe to (note: I don't listen to every episode, I pick and choose what interests me to listen to). Favorites are bolded.

  • 1A from NPR
  • 99% Invisible
  • American Scandal
  • Amicus
  • Ben Greenfield Fitness
  • Body Science Podcast
  • Broken Brain
  • Bulletproof Radio
  • Commonwealth Club of California
  • Crimetown
  • Criminal
  • Embed
  • Every Little Thing
  • Freakonomics
  • Fresh Air
  • Heavyweight
  • Hidden Brain
  • How I Built This
  • Invisibilia
  • Lore
  • Make Me Smart
  • Nancy
  • On The Media
  • Planet Money
  • Pod Save America
  • The NPR Politics Podcast
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • Radiolab
  • Reply All
  • Reveal
  • Science Vs.
  • Serial
  • Money with Felix Salmon
  • Snap Judgment
  • StartUp
  • Talks at Google
  • TED Radio Hour
  • TED Talks Daily
  • The Manliest Podcast
  • Doctor's Farmacy
  • The Dream
  • The Indicator
  • The Lighter Side
  • The Moth
  • Tim Ferriss Show
  • The Upgrade
  • The West Wing Podcast
  • This American Life
  • This Week in Google
  • This Week With George Stephanopolis
  • Valley of Genius
  • Making Sense
  • 40+ Fitness
  • The WW Bro Podcast
  • RichRoll
  • Model Health
  • Inside HQ
  • Fat Burning Man
  • The Dropout
  • Wendalicious At Goal
  • Diet Doctor Podcast
  • Dr. Berg's Healthy Keto & Intermittent Fasting
  • The Intermittent Fasting Podcast
  • Good Girl Gone OMAD
  • The Warrior Health Show
  • 2 Keto Dudes
  • Intermittent Fasting Stories
  • Obesity Code Podcast
  • Good Life Project
  • The Daily
  • The Pen Addict

What Is My Why?

What is my "why" for wanting to stop binge eating?
  • Health: My fasting blood sugar levels are in the prediabetic range
  • Health: Extending my healthy functional lifespan
  • Happiness: Being happy with my body aesthetic
  • Relinquish mental anguish, anxiety, and preoccupation with food for other more enjoyable pursuits
What is your "why" for the changes you want to make?

Attempts At WW

I have tried several approaches to weight loss (keto, intermittent fasting, whole foods), but I kept coming back to Weight Watchers because that was the only method that actually resulted in me losing weight. I have made several attempts at Weight Watchers over the years.

Attempt 1: Five Days to Failure 

In 2016, I tried WW for the first time. I lasted five days. On the fifth day, I exceeded my points for the week, got discouraged at my failure, and cancelled my membership.

I later learned that this type of “all or nothing” view of diets never leads to success: The goal is not 100% compliance; the goal is progress.

Attempt 2: Achieving Goal, Failing Maintenance

A year later, in March 2017, having reached an all-time high weight, I gave WW another try. Mostly out of desperation to find a program that would work for me. I was attracted to the gamification of weight loss (daily points! weekly points! points to earn from fitness and spend on food!), integration with my FitBit, and the prospect of eventually using the more lenient Simply Filling plan (now discontinued) to achieve a successful transition from weight loss to weight management. I was hopeful that the points system would help curb my bingeing and sugar addiction.

WW taught me how to lose weight, still eat good quality and tasting food, and achieve my fitness goals. My first month I lost 10 pounds, my clothes got looser, my belt needed to be tightened another notch, and I could see the change in the mirror. And although I had a few bingeing episodes, I ate much less sugar, junk food, and fat than I had been before. By my second month, my total cholesterol had declined to a significantly healthier level than I was able to achieve with prescription statins. I managed to lose twenty-five pounds and came within one pound of my goal weight. Then I sabotaged my success.

By July 2017, I relapsed. I had nearly achieved my weight goal, but my old habits crept back. I felt the points system to be too restrictive. By December 2017, I had regained all the weight I lost, plus more.

Attempt 3: Work In Progress

By March 2018, I set a new weight high. I realized once again that sugar was the key part of my problem, and tried various attempts at low-sugar diets (including keto), with limited success.

By August 2018, I returned to WW. I was exactly the weight when I started WW the first time in March 2017. This round took a bit longer for me to reach goal (which I achieved in November 2018, losing 32 pounds), but I eventually made it and entered the six-week maintenance window, and then achieved lifetime status (maintaining my weight at or below goal for 6+ weeks). I credit the Freestyle food plan, which was introduced for 2018, as helping me stick with WW and not feel that SmartPoints was too restrictive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


When I go on vacation, I do my best to stick to my weight loss plan. But my goal on vacation is to maintain weight, not lose.

Having said that, I have gone on vacations that are food-heavy, where I did not want to feel guilty about indulging in delicious foods, and for those I put WW on pause (I stopped tracking). I resumed upon my return from vacation, guilt free.

I have gone on cruises while on WW, and found that the cruises offered WW-friendly foods, like egg-based breakfasts, vegetables, chicken breast, and fruit desserts.

Now that I am following a Food Plan, I will always maintain that plan while on vacation.