What method? How to find a productivity system that works for you (Part 3)

ActionMethod stationery featured here

So there are a few productivity methods out there. Some are really simple, other’s are more well-thought through. There are likely good things to glean from all of them. I’ll summarize a few here:

Getting Things Done (GTD)

This is a pretty well thought- through process (it’s kind of scary). I read half the book and started trying it. It’s got a lot of really good ideas. According to WikiSummaries, the book is divided into three parts. “Part 1 provides an outline for getting control of your life through the five stages of mastering workflow: collection, processing, organizing, reviewing and doing. Part 2, which is well over half the book, repeats a lot of what is said in Part 1, but provides much more detail on the application of Allen’s methodology. Part 3 explains why Allen’s methods work and the benefits to be gained from using his approach.”

The part I find most helpful from this book is his underlying philosophy: “Allen’s philosophy is that to be one’s most productive self, one must be able to think clearly. In order to think clearly, one must have completely downloaded from one’s short-term memory or RAM (like computer RAM) all the “open loops” — unfulfilled commitments one has made to oneself. This frees the mind to do naturally what it does best — think about things rather than of things” (WikiSummaries).

Collecting: putting everything that comes to your mind to do in an Inbox. That could be a FieldNotes book that is always in your back pocket like the way my brother does it. It could be an Evernote note called “Inbox” or note on your smartphone. It’s the place you write down everything that you will ever need to do, might need to do, want to do even if it’s sometime in the future.

Processing: the regular time you take to review the things in your inbox and do them/process them. When processing your inbox, if the next item on the list will take less than 2 minutes you do it immediately before moving it. I was actually angry when I started doing this because it was causing some serious cognitive dissonance. My heart wanted to procrastinate but my brain wouldn’t let me!

If you want to know more you can read the WikiSummary, check out this article on 43Folders.com, read anything LifeHacker.com has to say about it.

Action Method

The Action Method is made by creatives for creatives so if your mind is less systems oriented, this might work for you. Or, if you just like pretty things, you’ll probably like this one too. It operates on the same principle of GTD as having to-do items connected to different projects. You can read more about it/see the apps or paper goods here.

Getting Sh*t Done (GSD)

This one is a stripped down version of GTD. Bill Westerman was sick of his Palm Pilot stilus and too overwhelmed by GTD method and the pretentiousness of Moleskine (and the hipsterness of the hipster PDA) that he accidentally developed his own system using a grid journal and pen. He starts by dumping all of the things he needs to do that day onto the list. Then he refers to the previous day’s list and adds what hasn’t been finished the day before. He then processes the list by adding markings to indicate priority. You can see a more detailed (including pictures) explanation here.

SuperFocus

Two columns of to-do items, the left column is regular tasks, the right column is urgent. See more here including pictures and find all his posts about it here.

Dave Lee’s Productivity System (for creative/innovators who get bogged down by GTD)

Taken from his post explaining why GTD sucks for creative work:

“Most task/to-do software is based around the concept of projects and tasks. It’s really too bad. The tendency is to fill up your task software with dozens of projects and tasks under each project. But the more you look at your projects and tasks every day for the next few weeks, it gets discouraging. It feels like a never-ending river of stress.

The most important thing for the creative innovator is not a ton of tasks to do but rather the ability to see what’s important to focus on and to focus on that deeply. The creative innovator needs to go deep on a feature or issue, and the deeper they go the more creativity they unleash.. thus creating lots of value to the end user.”

  1. He breaks down his week into daily focuses that are the same each and every week. He’s chosen the five most important areas in his business and focus on them, one per day.
  2. He chooses his three most desired outcomes for that week. This gives him a goal and vision for his week.
  3. He chooses his three most desired outcomes for the day at the beginning of the day. All three outcomes should be related to your focus of the day.

He has a bunch more steps on that page if you want to know more, and a few more other posts that explains in more detail how it works.

Overwhelmed?

If you’re a real beginner I’d suggest GSD or SuperFocus. If you want something more robust, then start looking into these other ones. Remember: it takes practice and time to develop the habit of putting your system in place. It can take a few years of trying and evaluating to get it right, that’s OK! Three years right now can serve you a lot more in twenty-five years than if you never try anything.

So out of this list, which methods have you tried? Which ones are you interested in trying? Or do you now have enough ideas to figure something out for yourself? Leave a comment here and let me know!

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