I often see people go crazy over different productivity systems and apps, like if the simple act of studying a new system or trying a new app would make you more productive.
Other than the fact that trying something new — be it a system or an app — takes time before you can actually benefit from it, there’s one more thing which I don’t like: most productivity systems and apps add complexity and take time to maintain.
So after being one of those people for a while, I decided to give up and try to make my system as simple as possible and here’s the one thing which was most valuable to me.
First of all, out were complex GTD apps
David Allen’s Getting Things Done was the book that brought me into the world of productivity. And while I enjoyed reading it, I soon realized it would add too much complexity to my day to day life.
As soon as I saw a new app, I had to try it. I then spent a couple of days getting to know it, customizing it and finally named it the best productivity app ever. But at the on the day, it didn’t make me any more productive.
So after a lot of back and forth between different apps, I finally decided I wanted something simple. I learned through trial and error that the value for me was in using whatever app I “loved” at the moment as a brain dump, not in the 2,542 different ways I could customize it.
I settled on Todoist which for my needs is really the perfect app: inexpensive (or free, if you don’t need its premium features), simple to use, good looking and available on any device I could ever own. I’ve since stopped trying new apps. Actually, I don’t even look at them anymore.
The way I use Todoist is very simple and it’s not something I use to tell me what I need to work on: for work related stuff, I tend to have the big picture in my head, so I tend to know what’s important.
Every time an errand comes up, I put it in Todoist with a reminder. Need to remember to do something? Add it to Todoist. Any recurring tasks I don’t want to forget? Add it to Todoist. Leaving for a trip? I’ll make a checklist of things I need to bring in Todoist. My rituals? They’re in there and set up to come up every day, week or month. And so on.
I keep it lightly organized because I don’t want to waste time deciding where something goes. As soon as I have something to remember, I open Todoist, dump it there and free that memory slot.
Day to day work belongs to pen and paper
So while my less important tasks and errands belong to Todoist, my day to day work tasks, the ones which are really important to me, belong to an index card.
Every night, usually after dinner, I sit down for 5 minutes and think about what needs to be done tomorrow. In general, if you’re working on something, you know what needs to be done to move forward, you don’t need an app for that.
So I sit down and I write the date and my Most Important Task for tomorrow. Just one task. The task which if it was the only thing I did for that day, I’d still be satisfied with my work and knew I moved a little bit forward.
The card is then clipped to the cover of the notebook I always carry with me — a Midori Traveler’s Notebook Passport size, for those who care…best notebook I’ve ever had, BTW!
After I write my MIT, I add two more tasks which would be nice to complete, but not as important.
This way, when I finish my MIT, if I have some more free time and don’t feel exhausted, I automatically move on to the next thing.
If on the other hand, I feel tired or it’s late, I just enjoy myself and call it a day.
In this regard, I suggest you read Brian Tracy’s Eat that frog!.
Just commit to get started
Once you know what your Most Important Task is, you should do the smallest task possible that if completed, would move you a little bit closer to completing the master task.
This is a tip to get you unstuck, as it often happens in the morning. You wake up, go through your rituals and then it’s time to work. And you don’t know where to start from.
At that point, deliberately decide that you’re going to work, commit to it. And the first thing you should do is the simplest thing you good possibly do to move forward. You’ll often find out that that’s enough to get you started and in no time you’ll be in the zone and working on your MIT.
Allow yourself to procrastinate
As much as I try to be productive, I don’t consider myself a productivity freak. And I’m certainly not a workaholic. I don’t believe in working overtime and working all the time. (Click to Tweet)
So don’t worry if you procrastinate every now and then, it’s normal for your mind to wander when it gets tired. Just acknowledge it and go back to work.
No need to feel bad or punish yourself. To me, procrastination is part of a good productive day (Click to Tweet), it’s the best way to give your brain a break and recharge its batteries. As long as watching a video on YouTube doesn’t become a two-hour long marathon, of course!
Try this for yourself and let me know what you think. I know it’s nothing revolutionary, but at times it’s good to pick the simplest possible solution.
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