16 Workflow Strategies for Executing Modern Projects

Source by Tiago Forte

Archipelago of Ideas

“Instead of confronting a terrifying blank page, I’m looking at a document filled with quotes: from letters, from primary sources, from scholarly papers, sometimes even my own notes. It’s a great technique for warding off the siren song of procrastination. Before I hit on this approach, I used to lose weeks stalling before each new chapter, because it was just a big empty sea of nothingness. Now ==each chapter starts life as a kind of archipelago of inspiring quotes==, which makes it seem far less daunting. All I have to do is build bridges between the islands. ” Steven Johnson

Headings First

It lays out the major headings or stages of the project, giving you a roadmap to fill in as you discover what’s involved.

Headings First is essentially a very lightweight project planning technique. With nothing but a list, you gain a better sense of the timeline, how to break up the work, and which parts to focus on

Color Commentary

keep track of your own ideas, theories, and reflections, placing them in the context of the note that sparked them.

I recommend adding these personal comments directly in a note and in a different color, to be able to separate your own thoughts from those of the sources you are referencing.

Can I do that with Obsidian too? note-purple This text will be green

Status Summary

==“freeze” a project you’re working on, to make it easy to resume later.== It is the quick bout of convergence at the end of a work session needed to record the current status of the deliverable or project.

briefly summarizing, in plain language, the current status of the project for the benefit of your Future Self, including details, remaining tasks, open questions, problems remaining, observations, personal commentary, or next steps.


making a list of the tasks you’ll complete on the way to completing your deliverable, to give you a sense of progress even if it isn’t clear where you’re going. It is useful for when a full-scale, detailed plan is unnecessary, but you want a little visibility into what’s coming up soon.

I’m doing this with Asana and projects

Temporary Tags

help you keep track of which sources or notebooks you’ve already reviewed, except as you come across them, instead of upfront. Because you’ll be reviewing many separate notes across many different notebooks across potentially a long period of time, you need a way to track which ones you’ve already seen, in a way that cuts across different notebooks and even apps.

can be very effective as an ad hoc, temporary progress tracking system.

Naming Conventions

Use a common naming convention for how you title your notes.

  • Done for Journal notes
  • And working with the Johnny Decimal system too

Tag Hierarchy

Already in use for Maturity Model for my Obsidian Notes

Interlinking Notes

method for enriching and networking your second brain, by creating explicit connections between notes as you encounter them

Core aspect of using Obsidian. Currently I use:

  • working with footnotes inside documents
  • adding a linking chapter at the end of notes
  • working with MOCs Overview
  • cross linking directly in written chapters

Table of Contents

Mainly done with MOCs - see MOCs Overview.

There are Obsidian plugins too, but not sure if I need that. Currently the integrated document outline serves that purpose quite well.


method for searching your second brain, except instead of finding a specific item, you’re searching for a broad range of ideas related to a particular topic.

I guess I’m doing that with MOCs

Dial Down the Scope

strategy for staging your work as a series of short sprints, and adapting to every discovery you make along the way. It involves reducing the scope or size of the deliverable you’re working on to be able to make consistent progress.

one of the most effective ways to get started is just to pick a very small version of the thing you want to create. And there is always a smaller or simpler version of whatever you’re working on.

Context Switch

It can really help when you’re stuck to change your context, which includes your environment, surroundings, state of mind, mental and bodily state, and approach. Try reading or viewing the information on a different device, switch locations from inside to outside or vice versa, or put the project aside to return to later with fresh eyes.

Sentence Hacking

remixing the words and phrases you come across in your research, so that they suit your needs.

Quite often you will see patterns and connections that the original creator didn’t see themselves, and because this is personal knowledge management, you are free to add your own interpretation.

Sentence Hacking can include creating internal structure in the document, such as pasting phrases from different sections into a single list, or adding headings that weren’t in the original but are meaningful to you

Function Follows Form

It recognizes that often, the key to a breakthrough is simply reframing what you’re looking at.

This includes many ways of playing with the material you’re working with:

  • Chronologically: put a series of ideas or steps in chronological order
  • Prioritized: sort a list by priority, or importance, or urgency
  • Sequentially: put items in order by function, or by stages in a workflow
  • By objective: put each item in a list under its objective or desired outcome
  • By size: order items from largest to smallest, or the reverse
  • By theme: re-order a list by theme or topic, looking for patterns or groupings you didn’t see before
  • Question-answer: rewrite your ideas in the form of questions and answers
  • By shape: try mapping your ideas to different shapes like a circle, square, triangle, or hexagon, looking for any interesting patterns



  • I can do more of commenting on my learnings from documents and I can do this directly at the source of learning - idea to try with a special callout named learning
  • And I can cultivate that Reflection chapter in documents too. This shows me also that I took the stage to reflect on a document.
  • Another status indicator is also my Maturity Model for my Obsidian Notes and the form of special highlights in my document.
  • I’m hesitant extracting the highlights again and making a new document out of that for some document types - e.g. like this one. It is working well for e.g. book summarisation.
  • I do not yet have an approach to work with TODO I generate while processing documents like this. Converting to a task in the first step will allow me to extract that later.
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