Productivity systems. / by AB Mann

I retooled my productivity/idea capturing/GTD process and had quite a few questions about how it works. Behold!  A diagram! This is a simplified outline of it but it works roughly like this: Capture ideas, meeting notes, class notes in EverNote on my phone Review stuff added to EverNote process list every morning If you can do it quickly, do it quickly If not, do you have to or want to do it? No: delegate or delete Do you need time to think about it? Yes: Chew List Is it an active project? Yes: Add to The Big To Do Is it a big project? Yep: Add to new project on Big To Do Put it on the Little To Do. My Daily Review happens in the morning when I get in to work or after my morning meditation if at home.  I check email (outlook and Gmail) and review both To Do lists. As I go through each item - a new email, a previous task worked - I run through the above process.  Stuff coming in as response or part of an active, big project gets added to the task list for that project for completion or follow-up.  Anything else I have to do that came generally needs to get done relatively soon and goes on my Little To Do. Big To Do The Big To Do is a separate OneNote notebook that holds every task related to active projects.  It includes due dates, owners, and a link to the project OneNote itself.  Details on how all that works is likely a post of its own. Little To Do The Little To Do is a docked quick note that holds stuff I want to get done in the next few days.  Anything that I need/want to do that isn’t managed by work’s internal tools goes here.   End of Day At the end of the day, everything from the Litle list gets copied into an archive.  Anything I didn’t accomplish gets copied to another day.  In the archive, anything undo done gets a little note on why I think I didn’t finish - am I waiting for someone, am I confused about what I need to do, etc.  Anything that gets pushed off a few times without any clarity coming from those notes gets put on the Chew List if I still want or need to do it.  If I don’t, it gets delegated or deleted. My daily archive template also includes a couple of questions.  I don’t answer them every day but do a couple of times a week.  They are: What good have you wrought today? What would you have preferred to do? Did you work on any of your long term systems? Testing: Management: Design: Communication: The last four or larger, nebulous “I want to be better at these” things for my job.  I don’t have specific tasks or projects necessarily by try to reflect on things I did that day that help me grow in these areas.  If I don’t do something in each for a week, I look at what prevented me from doing that and generally assess how the week went. I only occasionally plan specific things to bolster those systems but reviewing the day to day helps add perspective.  Even in retrospect, tasks I do can have an incremental effect on larger skills and all it takes is recognizing that.  You make that link in your brain when you do. TIME This all looks like it takes FOREVER to do but it doesn’t.  This system has been built up over 10 years and regularly retooled when something fails.  When my job and life were simpler, I didn’t need to track nearly as much.  Now, I’m organizing work, a business, multiple romantic relationships, and a bazillion hobbies. Much of it is second nature, like when I schedule something instead of throw it on the Little To Do. Mondays take a little longer as do end if day Friday because I review more stuff. The daily reviews take about 30-45 minutes. The Important Thing The mindful part of productivity is rarely discussed. You can not Do something. I decide not to do something and move it on a day. But here’s the important part: when I do that a couple of times, I ask why. Why am I blocked? Why am I doing this? Should I still do this? If it isn’t apparent, like if I’m waiting for someone else or don’t have a full grasp of what needs to happen, I can clear that up. If not and I still want or need to do something, I can put it on the Chew List to more consideration or thought. You are not a mindless productivity machine. Work doesn’t happen in a vacuum; expect things to have friction and figure out why. Then you can really grok it and get it done.

I retooled my productivity/idea capturing/GTD process and had quite a few questions about how it works.

Behold!  A diagram!

This is a simplified outline of it but it works roughly like this:

  • Capture ideas, meeting notes, class notes in EverNote on my phone
  • Review stuff added to EverNote process list every morning
  • If you can do it quickly, do it quickly
  • If not, do you have to or want to do it?
  • No: delegate or delete
  • Do you need time to think about it?
  • Yes: Chew List
  • Is it an active project?
  • Yes: Add to The Big To Do
  • Is it a big project?
  • Yep: Add to new project on Big To Do
  • Put it on the Little To Do.

My Daily Review happens in the morning when I get in to work or after my morning meditation if at home.  I check email (outlook and Gmail) and review both To Do lists.

As I go through each item - a new email, a previous task worked - I run through the above process.  Stuff coming in as response or part of an active, big project gets added to the task list for that project for completion or follow-up.  Anything else I have to do that came generally needs to get done relatively soon and goes on my Little To Do.

Big To Do

The Big To Do is a separate OneNote notebook that holds every task related to active projects.  It includes due dates, owners, and a link to the project OneNote itself.  Details on how all that works is likely a post of its own.

Little To Do

The Little To Do is a docked quick note that holds stuff I want to get done in the next few days.  Anything that I need/want to do that isn’t managed by work’s internal tools goes here.  

End of Day

At the end of the day, everything from the Litle list gets copied into an archive.  Anything I didn’t accomplish gets copied to another day.  In the archive, anything undo done gets a little note on why I think I didn’t finish - am I waiting for someone, am I confused about what I need to do, etc.  Anything that gets pushed off a few times without any clarity coming from those notes gets put on the Chew List if I still want or need to do it.  If I don’t, it gets delegated or deleted.

My daily archive template also includes a couple of questions.  I don’t answer them every day but do a couple of times a week.  They are:

What good have you wrought today?
What would you have preferred to do?
Did you work on any of your long term systems?
Testing:
Management:
Design:
Communication:
The last four or larger, nebulous “I want to be better at these” things for my job.  I don’t have specific tasks or projects necessarily by try to reflect on things I did that day that help me grow in these areas.  If I don’t do something in each for a week, I look at what prevented me from doing that and generally assess how the week went.

I only occasionally plan specific things to bolster those systems but reviewing the day to day helps add perspective.  Even in retrospect, tasks I do can have an incremental effect on larger skills and all it takes is recognizing that.  You make that link in your brain when you do.
TIME

This all looks like it takes FOREVER to do but it doesn’t.  This system has been built up over 10 years and regularly retooled when something fails.  When my job and life were simpler, I didn’t need to track nearly as much.  Now, I’m organizing work, a business, multiple romantic relationships, and a bazillion hobbies. Much of it is second nature, like when I schedule something instead of throw it on the Little To Do.

Mondays take a little longer as do end if day Friday because I review more stuff. The daily reviews take about 30-45 minutes.

The Important Thing
The mindful part of productivity is rarely discussed. You can not Do something. I decide not to do something and move it on a day.

But here’s the important part: when I do that a couple of times, I ask why. Why am I blocked? Why am I doing this? Should I still do this? If it isn’t apparent, like if I’m waiting for someone else or don’t have a full grasp of what needs to happen, I can clear that up. If not and I still want or need to do something, I can put it on the Chew List to more consideration or thought.
You are not a mindless productivity machine. Work doesn’t happen in a vacuum; expect things to have friction and figure out why. Then you can really grok it and get it done.