Why You Must Make Your Productivity System Yours.

We all have different lives, and no one person is a mirror copy of another. We come from different backgrounds, have different jobs, and think and feel differently. So, it stands to reason that no one productivity or time management system will work for everyone.

I recently read Simon Waterston’s new book, Intelligent Fitness. For those who don’t know, Simon Waterston is Daniel Craig’s personal fitness instructor (as well as helping many other actors prepare for their roles). One dominant theme in the book is the importance of knowing what you want from your exercise programme and being clear about the results you want.

The same goes for your productivity system. Again, you need to know what you want your system to do for you and be clear about your results.

Like a fitness programme, a productivity system has some core elements. For example, warming up, having a plan, and doing the exercise. With a productivity system, you need to collect everything that may or may not be important, organise what you collect, so you can find it when you need it and do the required work.

However, how you collect and organise is entirely up to you. Like exercise, how you warm up and what exercise you do is your choice, but it depends on what result you want to achieve from your workout.

In a productivity system, the result is what you see each day on your task list and calendar. Fixed, confirmed appointments should be on your calendar and the tasks you want, or need to do, on any given day should be in a place where you will see them.

However, your choice is how all that fits together, and it’s a critical choice. It’s important because it must work for you. Elaborate, complex systems may work for some people, but that probably won’t work for you. The tools you use have an impact on your effectiveness here too.

Using a task manager that is designed as a collaboration project manager will generate so many additional steps, you will spend far too much time organising, and that will have a detrimental effect on your output. But on the other hand, if you choose a too simple task manager, your lists will be overwhelming. So there’s a balance somewhere. A balance you need to find.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want my task manager to tell me each day. My conclusion is, I want to see my high-value tasks and ‘hide’ the lower value tasks to the latter part of the day. I’ve learned that beginning the day with high-value, meaningful tasks leaves me feeling far better about the day, which means I am much more likely to have the motivation to complete some of those lower-value tasks.

I’ve also learned that the details of my work is best kept outside my task manager. I prefer the details in my notes app, so when I am working on a specific project, I have everything to hand, and I am not distracted by those easy to do, lower-value tasks tempting me every time I open up my task manager to see what to do next. If I decide I am working on a specific project, I want to be completely focused on that project.

That said, I work with some people who prefer to see tasks in a nice linear list and their projects list entirely in their task manager.

No one system is right. The right approach is the one that works best for you.

But as with exercise, you need to have the basics in place. A warm-up routine, some tools (even if that is only a pair of running shoes) and a plan of action may be the basics of an exercise session. In a productivity system, having an easy way of collecting ideas and commitments, organising those inputs and a calendar, so you know where you will be on any given day are the basics you need to have in place.

Once those are in place, the crucial task is to be consistent. Exercise programmes do not give you results if you are inconsistent, and likewise, productivity systems will not work effectively if you are not consistently working your system. That means having a plan for the day, a clear set of tasks that you will do (and not ignore) and clearing those inboxes frequently.

The key to developing a system right for you is knowing what you want to accomplish, how you want to feel at the end of the day, and making sure whatever system you choose works for you and the way you work.

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