C.O.R.E. Guiding Principles For Increased Productivity

C.O.R.E is modification of David Allens GTD system. I found GTD overwhelming for newbies and had to find a way to simplify it and make is usable right away, to someone who was never exposed to the productivity systems.

I didn’t have confidence in the systems myself for a very long time. Often I’ve doubted their usefulness and I thought it took too much time to maintain them. I was so wrong. First time I encountered a benefit of task management was in college, when we applied time management systems for planning and organizing projects. I got addicted. After years of practicing writing things down and pushing them through the organized system, not only I lowered the stress levels, I also increased my output, to the level, that I can’t imagine myself working without a system.

It’s extremely beneficiary for people who love to procrastinate. Once the task hits the system, suddenly it materializes, it’s not a distant thing in your mind, it’s not a should, it’s something that is visible, and in front of your eyes. If it is too complicated task, requiring multiple actions, you can and will break them down, into smaller chunks. How would you eat an Elephant? Bite by bite.

4 Actions are the starting letter of the name of this system: Collect, Organize, Review and Eliminate! It will help you to remember the system, without thinking too much.

Collect

Collection is the starting point of any productivity ecosystem. Even though I am fan of not writing literally “everything” down, I consider this action of critical importance, because it’s giving physical form to the tasks that you want to complete. Something that is in your mind, equates to thin air. Putting it down on paper makes it more real.  There are various different methods of capturing and collecting information. Keeping it on pen and paper can be impractical and takes too much time, but if you don’t have fancy technology available, focus on having anything that works. Get the system to work for you, RIGHT NOW, as opposed taking a lot of time to set it up. Setting up a system and investing too much time into it is a form of procrastination. Avoid lying yourself that you are productive, if you are just messing around in non elimination phase.

Currently the fastest possible way of capturing information is my iPhone. It’s always with me, it snapshots pictures instantly, and can create audio notes that I can take while driving. If you don’t have an idea of your own, I recommend that you check out powerful ways to manage your to do list if you need ideas. It covers quite a couple of variations, I am sure you will be able to come with a couple ideas of your own.

Collection process occurs at all times, except during your time boxed moments, where you should only focus on work. Every time you have a moment and something crossed your mind, record it.

Organize

This part of the system needs to be completed as soon and as quickly as possible. If you are going to use Evernote as your C.O.R.E. system, tag quickly and move to appropriate notebooks. Don’t think twice, don’t think too much, just tag and go. For OmniFocus users, put into projects and contexts, prioritize and get with it done quickly.

Always include 4th action during organizing. Eliminate! Always reexamine the necessity for a task. Do I need to complete this task? If not, just press the “DELETE” button. If task requires a couple of minutes to complete, do it now, don’t leave it lingering in your memory. If it takes longer than 5 minutes, tag it, and reschedule it for later.

Try batching tasks, especially tasks like phone calls, emails, laundry,  reporting… You will be thankful to yourself when you notice how much time you’ve saved. Avoid these tasks until the batching point makes those tasks require you 30 minutes, not less. Yes, even if it takes a week to accumulate. Grouping tasks will stack up your time, like compound interest stacks up your money.

Tagging – After a while, you free tagging policy may lead to too much redundant tags. You might want to consider going through them on occasion and deleting those tags that aren’t used as frequently and finding more appropriate tags to set those tasks into. Having your task manager clutter free will keep you coming back to it. Than again, you shouldn’t do this far too often, because it’s low value activity. Once a month is suffice, but batching rules can be applied in this case sa well.

Review

GTD from David Allen prompts you to weekly reviews. CORE system is critically relying on review. Review is yet another chance to reexamine the tasks that you’ve set for yourself and reconsider them. Another chance to eliminate unnecessary tasks. Once you decide that you don’t want to do something, it vanishes from your mental memory RAM. Clean your mind, daily. Batching rules still apply, review once you know you have at least 20 minutes of tasks to review.

Review will also give you important insight in how much time is required for completion of specific tasks. Measure your time for billable hours and or personal boring chores. Knowing the time required will make you manipulate your time better, thus leading to less stress. Questions that you should ask yourself as you go through review process are:

How long did it take me to complete this task? Is there a way to complete this task more efficiently? What would be the consequences of not completing this task? Can I delegate this task to someone else? How does this task benefit my goal completion?  Can I batch this task? Can I automate it with computers and technology? Can I hire someone to do it instead?

Review will give you powerful insight about yourself. During review process be as critical as you possibly can to yourself. Try to expose those lies that you’ve stated. Have you been really working or Facebooking? Have you been interrupted? How many times did you move away from your primary task?

Eliminate

Elimination is my favorite part of C.O.R.E. system. It allows you to liberate and manage your time, better than any other tool out there. The fact that you willingly decide that you won’t do certain tasks will generate hors and hours of free time, for things that do matter, emotionally and financially. What is elimination? Elimination is checking off tasks from your task manager. You can eliminate tasks in next four circumstances:

Making a decision not to do it at all and embrace the consequences (or advantages), Always think of this option first. Can I avoid this task altogether. If consequences are low, or non existent, make sure that you cross it out of your task manager, as well as your mental processing. Clean up your mind from all the garbage that can pile up, as well as in your task manager.

Deciding that you don’t want to do something is the most liberating thing you can do, that’s why I am mentioning it this often. Elimination process should start even before you write a task down. Ask yourself, do I really need to do this?

Having someone else do it – there is always someone who can that particular task better than  you. In order to achieve maximum level of productivity, you need to focus only on the tasks that you are absolutely necessary to complete. If you can be moved out of the equation and get someone else to do it instead, by all means do it.

Hardship of getting someone else is communication. If you aren’t a good communicator you need to become one. Communication needs to be the reliable skill that you have in your day to day business life. If you can communicate your tasks clearly, other people can perform better than you would imagine. Not always you will be able to do this, but use it as frequently as humanly possible.

Hiring someone else to do it – If you can’t talk someone into helping you out, always have your wallet ready and think about outsourcing. Being proficient in outsourcing requires awesome communication skills as well. And I am sure no other productivity guru will tell you this secret, but OUTSOURCING IS THE BIGGEST PRODUCTIVITY INCREASE that you can achieve.

Guys from Asian Efficiency explained how well outsourcing within the family works. I highly recommend reading this article, because your nephew can become your next powerful virtual assistant. Plus you get the benefit of spending time with him, while doing something useful.

No time management technique can help as much as this single tip alone. It’s just stressing the fact how important is to put yourself out of productivity equation and complete only the tasks that you absolutely need to do. Identifying these tasks is of outmost importance in identifying the C.O.R.E activities. Once you finally reach the point of tasks that you absolutely need to do, than tackle with them as quickly as possibly.

Deal with it swiftly – Once the task reaches it’s maturity point, it needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible. If you can’t complete it at this point, delay it. After you delay a task more than three tasks, give up on it. If you haven’t noticed by the third time that the task is not necessary, than after a third time your might bulb should switch. Move onto next task that will excite you more. Productivity is also about fun, it’s not about doing the things that bore you to death.

Conclusion – These are the basics of the C.O.R.E. system. It’s made so it fits your needs, you are the person in charge of it. You need to let the system work for you, not other way around. I know numerous people who got consumed by their productivity system and it’s complexity. It should be as simple as possible, but not simpler than your needs require. It’s utterly important that you feel comfortable about using it and that it brings you back immediate results. If it’s not bringing you the results straight away, you are overcomplicating and doing something wrong.

Comments

  1. colin smith says

    Very nice page
    No time management technique can help as much as this single tip
    alone. It’s just stressing the fact how important is to put yourself out
    of productivity equation and complete only the tasks that you
    absolutely need to do. Identifying these tasks is of outmost importance
    in identifying the C.O.R.E activities. Once you finally reach the point of tasks that you absolutely need to do, than tackle with them as quickly as possibly.