So I’m here to talk to you about what you need for a productivity system. But first some principles.
David Allen, in the fantastic book Getting things done says “the head is a great place for having ideas but a bad place for holding them”. That’s the key principle. We cannot expect our brains to manage every aspect of our lives but as a God given gift we can use them to develop an effective system to enable us to keep reasonably on top of all the different stuff we have.
Carl Pullein is very clear on one thing. Productivity means doing the work. You can have the most well organised system in the world and have an absolutely crystal clear idea of everything you need to do. That’s great, but if you don’t do the work, that time is wasted.
The key component of your system is a way of capturing or collecting your tasks, todos, ideas and thoughts. I cannot predict when in my day I will be alerted to something I need to do. It could come in via e-mail, or text or WhatsApp. Someone could grap me at the coffee machine and ask me to do something. I might even remember something as I’m walking through town or in the shower. In an ideal world, I would be able to note that down in a collection tool that is a part of my system within a couple of minutes.
So you need something. It could be a cheap notebook, or an app on your phone, whatever it is, you need it and it needs to be close at hand pretty much all the time. You’ve got maybe 5 minuts before that task or idea has been pushed out of your head by something else. You need a collection tool.
But what happens to those tasks and ideas once you have collected them. Do they form some random list that you refer to when you decide what you are actually going to do? Well if so, I predict that list will soon become hundreds of items long with things of varying importance and significance, all unrelated, and an absolute mess. It will take you 20 minutes each time you sit down to come up with any kind of valuable idea as to what you should be doing at that time. What a waste!
So you need some way managing your to-do list, of organising it, prioritising it and structuring it so when you do sit down to work, within a few seconds glance you know what you should be doing.
I would say that once each week, you need to go through your list and check how it is planned out and structured and make sure everything is in the right place and then you can map out what you plan to do over the course of the next week.
Over the years, I have used many different approaches to this but at its heart, my system has remained pretty unchanged, at least at the level of core principles.
So the task for today is simple, work out how you are going to collect all those thoughts and tasks. The next post will specifically be about this. Following that we will start to talk about how to plan and structure things.