Does it feel like you are always playing catch up and as soon as you think you are caught up you realize there is a bigger hill in front of you that you couldn’t see before? Some of us even fear taking days off because we feel like we will return to work and immediately be buried in emails, new tasks and projects. The reality is that with the increase in the speed of change, the volume of emails, tasks and projects will not be going down anytime soon. The only way to be effective is to adopt productivity and time management systems that help you better manage it all. We all have that collogue that always seems to produce results faster and respond to emails and inquiries timely. Sure, maybe if it was for a month you can say they are not as busy but if it is month after month, year after year, then they have developed personal systems to be more effective than others. Today I’m going to share with you eight systems that if used individually, combining two or more, or in combination with a personally developed system, you can also become that collogue.
For those who are in a creative or analytical field, this system created by Ramit Sethi allows you to record information for use later on. How often have you come across information or tools that you know would be beneficial at some point but due to lack of organization you spend hours searching for it when you actually need it. This system will enable you to reduce the time spent on researching complex topics in the future.
Start by saving interesting information in a central system such as Evernote
Use tags and folders to organize your collection
Review your file every four to six weeks to see if anything is relevant to your current projects.
The goal is to get things out of your head and organized in a way that works best for you for future use.
The 2-Minute Rule
The 2-minute rule by David Allen is perfect for procrastinators or people who lack focus. It allows you to build momentum and guides you if you are unsure where to start with your list of to-dos. It involves asking two questions:
Question 1: Can the task be completed in two minutes? If the answer is yes, complete it immediately.
Question 2: Will the task take more than two minutes? If the answer is yes and it’s an urgent task, then start it immediately.
The goal of this system to generate momentum as often times the hardest part of anything is just getting started.
The 4D Technique
If you struggle with feelings of overwhelm and therefore procrastinate, this is an excellent option for you. Categorize each item into one of the below categories.
Do it: For urgent tasks
Defer it: Save it for later or pass it onto someone else
Delegate it: Pass it on to someone better suited to the task
Delete it: If there are no consequences, simply delete the task
Getting Things Done
Developed by David Allen, this is a simple and easy to implement time management tool. It can be used by anyone, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed. It’s particularly useful for freelancers, business owners or anyone that works on multiple small projects at the same time and needs to assess priority on a regular basis. It follows five easy steps:
Capture – list all your tasks and ideas
Process – review each item on the list
Organize – put them in order of urgency
Reflect – regularly review the list
Just do it!
This system incorporates personal and professional productivity and puts the focus on managing being overwhelmed by setting boundaries and is perfect for anyone who struggles with work-life balance.
It has three key rules:
The Rule of Three: Think, do, and plan in sets of three. Limiting things to sets of three allows you to manage things in smaller chunks instead of feeling overwhelmed thinking about everything
Friday Reflection: Review three things that went well and three things to improve for the upcoming week.
Hot Spots: Identify the key areas to focus on in your life. You then set boundaries to ensure you take action in these areas.
Visualization and workflows are central to this system. If you are working on multiple projects, this is a great tool to use manually or digitally by following these three steps:
Visualize your workload to help you set priority.
Create a Kanban board. TA board has 3 to 5 columns that list tasks to do, jobs in progress and completed tasks.
Manage your workload. Only have three in-progress tasks at one time to avoid burnout.
Many tools in the market offer Kanban Boards. I prefer Trello.
If you need help prioritizing multiple high valued projects what better system to use than a system developed by a former president and five start general. The Eisenhower Framework helps you to prioritize work when you don’t know where to start based on urgency and importance. You start by drawing a large box and splitting into four quadrants:
Quadrant 1: Urgent and important. Do this task immediately.
Quadrant 2: Not urgent but important. Schedule for a later date.
Quadrant 3: Urgent but not important. Delegate to someone else.
Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important. Remove from your list or postpone.
By thinking about which quadrant a project should be listed in you end up prioritizing your entire list.
The Pomodoro technique encourages short periods of intense work, to reduce fatigue and increase focus by following these steps:
Identify the task to complete.
Set a timer for 25 minutes to work without interruption.
When the timer finishes, have a 5-minute break, then work for another 25 minutes.
Every fourth round, have a long break of 15 to 30-minutes.