Productivity Systems — Reducing the Overwhelm and Getting More Done
Today, I’d like to talk about some productivity hacks and tips I’ve come across over the years. I’m a big productivity geek! I subscribe to the philosophy or the religion of Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen. I’ve read countless things regarding productivity tips and hacks, such as Inbox Zero from Merlin Mann. I can go into a whole series of talks about productivity; but for this one, I want to talk about something that’s extremely important when it comes to getting things done and showing you’re reliable.
To begin, let me give you an example. Consider you’re in a meeting and everyone is talking about many different things, and Susie asks if you could do something for her and you reply yes, but you do nothing. You make a mental note to help, you remember later and you don’t write it down. Although you have every intention of doing this task for Susie, as you walk out of the meeting, someone does a drive-by and asks if you’re able to do something for them as well, and you reply yes, making another mental note.
When you get back to your desk, the phone rings and it’s about a project you’re working on. After spending half an hour in the zone, talking about this project, you hang up the phone. Now, you get an email ding informing you about a trouble ticket you need to fix, so you fix it. You basically get on this hamster wheel and by the time it’s all said and done, it’s five o’clock and you go home. The next day, you come in feeling refreshed and think about what you have to do today. You check your email, answer your phone, talk to your co-workers, and at that point, the mental notes you made have been cleared away.
Now, in order to get that done, Susie or the drive-by person needs to follow up with you. They ask you if the task is finished, and you inform them that you haven’t done it and you’re sorry. At this point, you come across as flighty, forgetful, and you’re not going to be relied upon about anything. You’re no longer looked upon too positively. But, there are ways to get around that and they’re all about some kind of personal project management system that you have.
A system has an input and it has an output. An input is anything you have to put into the system. There’s a lot of different ways to do this. Input would be you wanting to put in a project or you wanting to define a project and define all the tasks in the project. This is not something that you want to do off-the-cuff. In order to make sure you remember all of these things, you have to first get into the system. You want to get into the system as quickly as possible. This means a quick note containing just the minimum amount of information needed in order to remember what you’re supposed to.
Let’s consider that in the meeting, Susie asks if you can install a piece of software on a server for her and you say yes. Rather than making a mental note and not remembering, make a note on your phone. I use OmniFocus to do this. You can use notepad or whatever you feel comfortable using. That’s all it takes to remember. This is all about the capturing process. Once you capture it, have a routine or regular time to review all of the things captured. David Allen in his Getting Things Done book says it’s all about the weekly review. Touch it at least weekly.
If Susie’s request does not have to happen immediately, like today or tomorrow; if it has to happen in the next couple of weeks or something, you know you have the weekly review set aside. You’re going to look at that and then prioritize it based on all the other tasks and projects that you have. This article is all about quick input, fast, not even thinking about it. Not breaking it down into subtasks, just getting it written down.
A reminder is given by quickly writing down what needs to be done. This reminder not only acts as a reminder for later on, it relieves your brain as well. Keeping all of this stuff in your head can make you frustrated, making you unable to quantify or remember all of the stuff you have to do.
For productivity and getting things done, always have some kind of quick capture system. It could be your phone, your moleskin notebook, or your computer, it doesn’t matter. As long as you can capture something immediately and review it on a regular basis, you’ll definitely appear to be much more productive and a much more reliable co-worker.
Before I go, I did want to mention one great way for being more productive. That’s using a Trello workflow. I did an extensive post on this topic I highly encourage you to check out.