The beginning of February is an easy time to fall behind on new year’s resolution. Having put forth an effort building healthy habits and the fact that it’s the middle of winter makes it all a challenge. Although this period can being trying, it is also the ideal time to do a check-in.
I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tools I use to organize my life and stay focused on my goals.
Organization is Zen
Life can get messy and the more balls that are in the air, the harder it is to keep track of everything. Yet there are a lot of productivity systems and apps that can be helpful in keeping it all organized.
The two productivity systems that have become my personal favorites are Getting Things Done (GTD for short) by David Allen and Zen To Done (ZTD) by Leo Barbetos of the Zen Habits. They are very similar but ZTD is a modification of the GTD method. Either system is great for people looking to become more productive in their personal life or at work.
Either way, these are the basics steps:
- Capture: all tasks and consolidate into one place
- Process: or make decisions on the steps needed to complete each task
- Plan: decide when the best time to do each tasks based up time allotment, priority, and due dates
- Do: the work and make it happen
Through adopting the ZTD/GTD workflow the burden of having to remember everything is place on the system instead of your memory. This alleviates a lot of stress and the chance of forgetting important deadlines. That is, Assuming you are faithful to the process.
Planning & Re-Planning
A little time spent planning can go a long way. Having studied many productivity strategies, this is one element that they all have in common. The trick is to set aside a regular time to do it. So pick a day and time to have a weekly planning meeting with yourself and stick to it!
Going one step further, it can also help to organize goals into three categories: long-term, short-term, and now. When it comes time to do a planning session, review each list, decide what needs to get done, and don’t forget to keep important deadlines in mind.
Moreover, big goals are often accomplished by breaking them into a series of tasks over the course of weeks, months, and sometimes years. Remember, the bigger the goal, the more time it will take so stay focused and be in it for the long haul.
Routine & MITs
MITs is short for Most Important Tasks. MITs should be the primary focus of any workday. These tasks are the real work that needs to gets done to make regular progress.
I have found that the key to making steady progress is aligning my daily routine and tasks with my longer term goals. Although part of the day may be spent doing regular routine things like morning yoga, checking my email, I also schedule time to focus on the weekly MITs. In this way, my structured habits include dedicated time to the important work, usually consisting of about two or three MITs per day.
In developing a structured routine always include some catch-up time. More often than not the time that it takes to complete a task is longer than expected. Thus, by having a buffer there is room to complete it and yet have room for anything else that may crop up.
Don’t forget to schedule personal time to unwind! Take care of yourself and plan time to spend with friends and your love ones.
If it’s a productivity app, I’ve probably tried it, mobile, desktop, or cloud based, you name it. Here are some of my all time favorites:
Balance: Balance is a great app to help track daily/weekly/monthly habits and stay dedicated to a routine. It suggests when to do specific tasks based upon the preferences you set for each item. It works great for habits that don’t need precise scheduling. Balance also lets you know when you are falling behind on a habit. I like to use this app for building personal health habits like running, yoga, and meditation.
Productive: Created by the author of Balance, Productive is a slightly different approach than Balance. Tasks are scheduled for specific sections of the day morning, afternoon, and evening. Tasks can also have scheduled reminders set for specific times. These features makes Productive a more structured approach to routines than Balance.
Todoist: Todist is the granddaddy of to-do apps. It has advanced project management features such as reminders, scheduling, natural language date input, priority setting, project organization, task nesting, tagging, and the list goes on! This is my go to for keeping track of my work life as a freelancer. If you also manage a lot of personal project it can come in hand as well.
Habitica: Habitica is a to-do list app and routine builder. Moreover it is unique in that it utilizes the concept of gamification. This means that when you complete tasks you can earn points to level up your avatar and help defeat bosses. It’s a fun way to stay engaged with your to-do list. You can even join forces with friends and battle monsters together.
Pen and Paper: Even though digital can offer handy features like automated reminders, nothing beats what has been used for centuries. As much as a digital guru I consider myself to be, I still use pen and paper to capture ideas and things that I need to do. Later I migrate these notes to the digital realm. The biggest advantage to analog is that paper lists do not get lost in the digital clutter, assuming your workspace isn’t a complete mess.
There are so many ways to develop a productivity plan. Regardless of preference, choose a system and stick to it for a few months. Learn as you go and don’t be afraid to modify to meet your own needs. In the end, the goal is to find a workflow that is best for you! Whatever you do, keep moving forward.