I’ve written several posts about the importance of goal setting and of keeping a master task list. I’ve even shrared some of what is in the rest of this post at different times.
But here I have laid out a simple effective method that I have put together from numerous sources over the last 25 years. Though I no longer use a paper planner, several of the principles have been adapted from the Franklin Planning system. I have been a long time fan of experts such as Brian Tracy and Steven Covey who’s methods have helped me focus and prioritize my productivity.
My sincere hope is that many who read this post will gain some insight into how they currently plan and manage their time, and that my tips and techniques will help to simplify productivity. My mindset is that simple and actionable is how to approach success. Decide what you want. Define how you intend to get it. Then plan each step to complete your goal. While appreciate complex systems like David Allen’s Getting Thinngs Done, I find that simplicity means clarity, which leads to focus and greater productivity. My methods may not be for everyone but I offer them here for those who are interested.
I have developed a system that encompasses all areas of time, event, contact and task management. Here are five simple principles that translate across any system:
- Manage your physical presence, that is where you have to be, on your calendar.
- Manage what you have to do on a prioritized task list. The a,b,c method works great for me. I also use categories with a numerical prefix to manage projects and role based actions.
- Manage your paper flow. As digital as the world has become there is still a consistent mild flow of paper to deal with on a daily basis. I use a 45 hanging folder system I’ve adapted over the year. It looks like this:
- 12 monthly labeled folders.
- 31 daily labeled folders.
- 2 additional folders labeled as needed. I label one ACTION and the other READ.
I never handle paper without moving it forward in productivity or out into the trash.
Manage demands on your time. Avoid committing to work without considering how a request impacts your top payoff activities. I use the acronym RAFT:
- Refer it – Can I complete this by giving it to someone else?
- Action it – Schedule the request into my productivity process.
- File it – If the item is informational only, file it for quick retrieval in the future.
- Trash it – Comletion by deletion.
Use a system that fits your life style and stick to it until you master it. Avoid jumping from one thing to another never really giving the method a fair chance to become routine.
I also use Outlook to manage goals and contacts, in addition I integrate Evernote to manage notes and ideas.
Systems don’t avoid work, people do. It’s another commitment worth the time and work to become successful.
I would love to hear from you if you have suggestions that other may find helpful. Please get involved and leave a comment. If you like what you’ve read let me know. If you didn’t let me know that too.
A couple of thoughts of my own:
Previously I’ve broken up with systems. David’s system is an example of how my system used to look like to an extent. If you are a beginner, this might seem like complicated thing. If you want to try something simpler, I would advise you to check out CORE and adapt it to your needs.
That’s how I went from Omnifocus. I’ve started very small, was hitting just a couple of areas, and than I started expanding, as per need. So even if you want to grow the system, start small, and resume building from there. If you truly need a system, it will develop by itself, as your needs grow. Also remember to downsize it too, as per your need.