If you follow my blog regularly, you know I am passionate about productivity. I taught my first productivity-related class over fifteen years ago, helping my Datatel colleagues embrace Microsoft OneNote for digital note-taking. My daily planning and email management course remains one of my most popular classes.
I’ve recently had the privilege of doing productivity deep-dives with a few clients, where we meet in person for three hours, roll up our sleeves, and implement aspects of my system, then follow up with daily check-ins and remote coaching to make sure the habits take root. These have been great fun.
This week I’m providing a compendium of my productivity-related blog posts all in one place to help you take your organization and productivity to the next level. Here are the core elements of my system.
Start (or end) your day with a short planning ritual. Use this time to plan for the day ahead, consolidate tasks into a central tasklist, and choose your #1 win for the day.
Every week, take time to “get up in the balcony,” reflect, and think more strategically. Reflect upon the prior week. Review the week ahead and identify prep tasks. Review your projects. Check progress against your goals and identify corrective actions.
To focus your efforts on the right things, set goals quarterly. I recommend the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework.
You accumulate tasks from many disparate sources – email, messaging apps, physical notepads, conversations, thoughts that arise in our heads, etc. Use a single, centralized tasklist to ensure you always follow through on your commitments. Prioritize that tasklist to ensure you work on the right tasks each day.
Remodel your calendar to ensure you have dedicated time to do productive work and think strategically.
You spend a lot of time in meetings. Here are several strategies to ensure it’s a good use of your time.
Several strategies to tame your smartphone so it doesn’t distract you when you need to focus.
Strategies to tame your desktop to eliminate distractions.
Messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams are the new email. This post includes some techniques to leverage them effectively.
My tried-and-true technique for overcoming a mood of procrastination and getting things done when you’re not feeling inspired.
When you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, this “blank sheet of paper” exercise is a great way to get everything out on paper, organize it, and prioritize it.
There are a few critical components of my productivity system that don’t yet have an accompanying blog post:
- Email – I use an adapted form of the zero-inbox system described in Getting Things Done by David Allen. I don’t think I can condense this down to a blog post, but I do teach a class on it (I’m fluent in Microsoft and Google 😊)
- Note-Taking System – Some form of note-taking system is essential to keep everything straight. I use Evernote and have also used OneNote. I’m not a fan of paper notebooks because you can’t effectively search them like you can with a digital system.
- Projects – (Update – I created a post for this in Feb 2024). Anything that can be broken down into two or more actions is potentially a project. Whenever I have a significant effort that’s hard to manage, I create a project and chunk it into appropriately sized steps. Reviewing projects is a component of my weekly planning ritual.
Putting It Into Practice
Take stock of all of the areas I listed above. Pick one area you’d like to strengthen, read the blog post, and commit to one action that puts it into practice.
Schedule time with me if you’re ready to double down on productivity with coaching.
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