4 systems for managing and mastering your productivity

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Do you struggle to organize and complete your daily tasks?

Think about it, how often do you still have a ton of tasks left on your to-do list at the end of each day? Is this a recurring problem of yours?

If so, then you need to know that the problem isn’t having too many tasks, nor is it having too little time.

The truth?

You don’t have an effective productivity system in place

Why is it that we all share the same 24 hour periods yet only some of us can maintain a productive lifestyle?

It’s all about the system we put in place, because for every task you fail to complete there’s somebody out there who’s system lets them do two tasks for your every one.

You never developed a strong productivity system

Maybe your system use to work, but today’s reality is different.  If you struggle with basic task organization and completion, then you need to find something more effective to work with.

The question is – what?

4 productivity systems guaranteed to improve your task management

Luckily for you, I’ve found 4 well-established systems that have already given thousands of people success in regards to productivity.

These systems are designed to give you great results. They take the guesswork out of managing your tasks, which is the exact problem you’re having.

To make it easy, I’ve labeled which ones might work best for certain people, so feel free to skip around till you find one that works best for you.

1. Getting Things Done (GTD)

Do you have a ton of small tasks that you’d like done? Do you frequently work in different locations (a.k.a. contexts)? Do you want to use a system with immense flexibility?

Then GTD is for you.

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GTD can be one of the most complicated productivity systems out there. Luckily, I don’t think it’s necessary to read the entire book to put the lessons into practice (though many hardcore GTD fans may disagree).

I’lll do my best to break down the important aspects of GTD for you.

  1. Create a master list of every commitment you can think of (all of them!)
  2. Go through that list and put non-actionable commitments in either:
    1. A filing system (might need later)
    2. A garbage (won’t need later)
  3. Break down “projects” (i.e. multiple step commitments) into several concrete actions
  4. Separate each task into different “contexts” (i.e. the environments you work in such as work, home, and computer).
  5. Focus on doing tasks only when in the proper context (e.g. do work tasks when at work, do computer tasks when at the computer, etc.)
  6. Perform a weekly review of the entire process, adding and removing tasks as necessary

As you can see, the focus of GTD is to free the mind of lingering tasks and commitments. Once their out your head, you only go back to them when you’re in the proper context.

So when you’re at work, you focus on work tasks. When you’re at your computer, you focus on computer tasks. And when you’re at home, you focus on at-home tasks.

You’re free to use any method and tools you want to accomplish this, so long as you follow this “mind like water” philosophy.

Now, there are many, MANY, ways to implement GTD. So here are a few links to help you develop your own GTD workflow:

GTD is good for people who don’t work in one place or need to be in multiple places throughout the week. That’s precisely why the context aspect is utilized at all. It really lets you go with the flow in terms of task completion, so if that sounds good to you then give this method a try.

(If a more structured version of this is something you’d like to try out, then skip ahead to the last productivity system listed).

2. Personal Kanban (PK)

Do you want a simple, no non-sense task management system to work with? Do you want a way to easily visualize all the tasks you need to do?

Then the personal kanban method is for you.

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Unlike with the GTD system, the PK method can almost be explained with the image above alone.

Here’s the basic format:

  1. Create a 3 part group
  2. Put all tasks in the first group
  3. Transfer in-progress tasks to the 2nd group
  4. Transfer completed tasks to the 3rd group

That’s it.

It’s simple enough to implement right away and can done both electronically and with pen and paper (or it’s equivalent, e.g. whiteboard).

If you wanted to get more fancy with it, it might look like this:

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This one implements an urgency category, this helps you decide which tasks to do while maintaining the simplicity of the PK.

If ease and simplicity is your aim, then give this productivity system a shot.

3. Seven Habits Method (Franklin Planner)

Is it important that your tasks are aligned with the important roles and values you have? Do you want a system that makes sure you focus on the important (i.e. long term) goals you have?

Then this is for you.

The Seven Habits Method works by starting with your “mission statement.” The mission statement is a set of principles that guide your actions.

From there, you decide on the important roles you have in life (e.g. parent, spouse, blogger, runner, personal-development enthusiast). And then for each role, you assign the specific tasks that maintain those roles, which you then add to your weekly planner.

In this way, your highest principles trickle down into your daily to-do list.

Here’s a weekly template you can use for this.

This approach is good if you aren’t swimming in tasks and want to focus on the important roles in your life. It’s also good if you have a somewhat unstructured day, which lets you focus on the daily priorities you have.

4. Time Buckets

Do you want a system that combines your major life areas with the many tasks you’d like done? Is the idea of GTD interesting to you but have no use for the “context” aspect or simply dislike its lack of structure?

Then this is for you.

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Here’s where I got the idea. It’s basically a more structured version of the GTD process, but uses “major life areas” instead of “contexts,” let me explain:

  1. Create a master list of all your tasks
  2. Create a list of 5-10 major life areas (e.g. friends, drawing, work, etc.)
  3. Assign each task to a major life area (which serve as our “buckets”)
  4. Schedule out the major life areas (buckets) so they have their own blocks of time throughout the week
  5. Fill up each “bucket” of time with its relevant tasks (e.g. work tasks are done during work buckets, drawing tasks are done during drawing buckets)

 

You can also make an entire day focus on a single bucket as well.

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So days might look like this:

  • Mondays – “Creative” bucket (e.g. drawing, writing, etc.)
  • Wednesdays-  “Friends” bucket (e.g. hang out, call on phone, etc.)
  • Fridays – “Spouse” bucket (e.g. romantic dinner, watch a movie, etc.)

And so on. You just focus on the specific tasks that “fill” that bucket up to manage your productivity. Not every day needs a bucket of course, this is simply a variation you might like.

So, if you like the idea of having theme based days or are looking for a semi-structured productivity system, give this one a try.

Over to you

What kind of system do you use? How does it work? Leave your answer below because I’d love to see what makes you so productive 🙂

Photo Credits:  Rintakumpuorcmid, stargadenerJeffrey Simms Photography and dclmeyer.

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1 Comment

  1. Great post. I like you pictures.

    The 7 Habits is a helpful if you want to get more from life as a whole. And Kanban is useful for teams.

    I still use GTD today to organise creative projects and so on.

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