Up until a year ago, I used to simply have a journal, where daily, I wrote down what I had to do, crossed out what I got done through the day, and then recreated a new revised list the following day.
Whilst at some level, it felt like I had a handle on things, I was risking simply forgetting some pretty important stuff. It also was a bit time consuming, particularly when I had a lot on.
The next iteration of managing my to-do list was popping everything on Evernote, which is a cool web-based note app. But there were challenges with synching between my phone and app and there was no real structure to it.
I finally feel that I have got it nailed…
and now, Iike an ex-smoker, or someone who had dropped 15 kilos on Paleo, I just want the world to know, because it has seriously changed my life for the better!
Actually, I was quite happy to continue with my manky to do list practices, but the wonderful Glenn Williams from Nliven coaching called me on it, and got me to see that I needed to act on this sooner rather than later. Before I even knew it, we had shifted the paradigm, like super quick (three of my fellow thought leaders who are also just amazing in this space are Simon Waller, Dermot Crowley and Paul Worth). Glenn got me to approach this conundrum of to do lists as follows
1. Find a productivity framework that suits
2. Choose a productivity platform that suits
3. Set up your to do list accordingly
This has just made so much sense to me! The productivity framework I chose was Dave Allen’s Get Things Done (or GTD). I know that there are more sophisticated frameworks available, but for me, this was perfect.
1. Get everything out of your head, and on to a list. This supposedly really helps our stress levels, particularly when we are are awake at night, and worrying about stuff. Just keep thinking of what you need to get done.
2. Chunk them into an overall pattern that works for you, including projects and tasks. For example, ‘write a book’ is a rather massive (and overwhelming) task. Better to assign it as a project, and then have sub headings like ‘book overview, title name, decide publishing route etc underneath. Dave Allen talks about a ‘someday/maybe’ folder which is really good for those bigger ideas which you come up with, but don’t want to lose sight of.
3. Think about ‘what is the next action moving forward?’This just means that you don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of something, and focus instead on what you need to do next.
4. Use the two minute rule for small tasks. If sending someone an invite to a meeting (eg while they are on the phone with you) is going to take 30 seconds, then don’t spend 20 seconds adding it to your to do list, just get it done!
5. Schedule non negotiable time for a weekly review. This is brilliant, you simply look at your plan and think about what you can add, delegate, defer or delay. Last thing on Friday is a cool time to do this because you can kick into the weekend knowing you have things handled!
Once you have done this, (and believe me, it is not that onerous a job, I am thinking two or three hours and SO worth it), then find a productivity app that works for you. Some of the apps available (including on iPhone and Android) are Todoist, Asana and Nozbe. I have chosen Nozbe, and I love it!! It synchs beautifully with my phone and I can keep short term stuff that doesn’t need to be assigned a project to my inbox. There is a wonderful priority system ( you just click on the star for top priority and it shows up in your priority list) and the time scheduling and collaboration elements (I have a very clever virtual assistant in the Philippines who I assign tasks to) are super slick.
Does this all sound a bit too hard? Like so much in life, I delayed getting around to implementing a productivity system that works, but seriously, this has just changed my life so much for the better. These apps cost a few dollars a month, but give you so much control over your life, and literally give you more time in your day and week.