There’s a lot written about PKMs these days — Personal Knowledge Management systems, yet precious little about the one thing that could transform your life: a PPS — a Personal Productivity System.
Having a place to manage your information makes sense, but I’m not convinced you can manage “knowledge”. Knowledge is just something you know; the fact that you have it stored outside your brain, to me, suggests it’s not knowledge, it’s information, and we’ve been keeping and managing information for centuries.
We solved managing information years ago. In business, companies solved it with a humble filing cabinet and an alphanumeric system. We had the Dewey Decimal Classification or Universal Decimal Classification for the more complex organisation such as library books. Most of these ways of organising information have transported to the digital age perfectly well. So do we really need another way?
Perhaps I’ve got lost in the semantics there.
With that said, rather than focusing so much on how we store our knowledge and information, managing the work you do is more important. Your information can be stored in a simple notes application or file folder and retrieved with rudimentary search skills. Unfortunately, managing your workload is an entirely different game and one so few people appear to have mastered.
A good PPS shows you what needs to be done today, and that would be a balance between your commitments at work and your areas of focus — the things that are important to you as an individual. In many ways, this is the holy grail of personal productivity systems because it is a system that is balanced and in harmony with who you are and what you want.
I suspect one reason why PKMs are trending is that they are easier to develop. A PMS requires you to do some deep thinking about what it is you want out of life. What your goals and career ambitions are. In my experience, many people don’t want to do that. It’s uncomfortable to think about the future. It’s a lot easier to think about the past and present.
When your productivity system is in balance with your personal and work life, you feel happier; you feel more in control of what’s going on around you. Knowing what you want to accomplish each day and week gives you a sense of accomplishment and progress.
What are the features of a PPS?
A PPS begins with your life goals and dreams and then your areas of focus. The daily and weekly tasks needed to turn these from goals and dreams into reality are put into your system first and are set to recur when they need to recur. If blocks of time are required, these can be blocked on your calendar and set to recur.
A good example here is fitness goals. If that is a goal, your exercise time would be blocked out on your calendar. Another one is writing a book. Books don’t write themselves. So time for writing must be blocked out in your calendar.
Once you have these in your system and are all set to recur when they need to recur, you would add in your regular work tasks. These are the individual tasks that come from your projects and errands.
This then gives you the basis for planning out your work for the day and the week. All you need to do then with a PPS is spend ten minutes at the end of each day to review how your day went — did you get your priority tasks completed? — and plan out the next day.
At the end of the week, you go through your projects, decide which ones need your attention next week and plan out the week.
And that’s all you need to do to build a solid, effective productivity system.
When you have a system in place that works for you, if you begin to feel lost, anxious or worried about something, you will always have a place to go that will quickly put you back on track. It will give you a clear indication of where you are with your work and tell you what you can do next to move things forward. Your highly developed and time-consuming PKM will not do that for you. It’s just more information on top of more information. It exacerbates the problem, not solve it.
When developed properly and maintained, so you keep your task manager clean and tight, you won’t be distracted by unimportant tasks. Instead, what you see each day are tasks that move everything forward, keeps you focused on what’s important, and leaves you feeling satisfied knowing what you accomplished that day moved the right things forward.
PPS’s only work when you begin with your bigger goals and plans. They fail when everything in there is urgent, noisy and move very little forward and is bereft of anything important to you. When that happens, your system leaves you feeling overwhelmed and uninspired.
The most important thing about a PPS is that whatever you create, it must work for you. It’s no good copying a system of your favourite YouTuber or blogger (I’ve been down that road. Trust me, it doesn’t work). They work in an entirely different field to you, likely have other dreams and goals, and think differently. You need to see the things you want to see in the way you like to see them.
For some people, that could be a list of all their tasks arranged on a board (Trello). For others, it could be they just want to see their most important tasks each morning so that they can focus on those.
The wonderful thing is you get to experiment, discover and build it into your daily life. After a few weeks, you find you have a solid structure to each day and a sense you are making progress towards bigger and better things.
Now, that’s when you know you have a PPS that works for you.