This week’s Support Driven writing challenge is all about productivity. The prompt: “What tools do you use to manage your tasks and time?”
I’m a productivity nerd. I’ll admit it. I spend far too much time reading books and blogs about various workflows and testing out different apps and trackers. I’m fully aware of the irony.
Over the last year or so, I’ve started to hit a groove though. I’ve stuck with the same tools for quite awhile now, and I feel pretty sane from day to day. I’m able to get a lot done while still staying inside the normal boundaries of a workday. Here’s the current setup I use to get everything done.
I dump everything in there and assign it a priority, label, and project. For priorities, I try to balance each day so I only have a maximum of three high priority items.
I use labels to track the type of work (Reading, Communicating, Writing, Reporting, etc) that I do on a daily basis. For instance, I might have three or four internal blog posts I want to read/comment on for a given day. I’ll mark them all with “Reading” so if I find myself in a groove, I can keep on trucking with the same task.
I create projects for every different focus area that I work in. I have projects for Personal and Drink for Pink as well as Automattic and various things I work in within Automattic.
I borrowed the physical notebook setup from Cal Newport after reading his work. I create a daily plan for each day in a moleskin notebook. On the left side of the page, I keep notes from the day and any meetings or 1-1’s I had with teammates. On the right side of the page, I write out an ideal schedule penciling in the exact time I’m going to focus on the top priorities for the day.
I’ve found the handwritten schedule to be very helpful. It forces me to physically write down when I’ll be working on a given task and leads to less “What should I work on now?” thinking.
Here’s an old example from back in the day. In this example, I was still using the left-hand side to jot down tasks that now go into Todoist.
I keep both RescueTime (for general time tracking) and WakaTime (for tracking coding time) running at all times both on my iMac and laptop. I don’t review them too often, but I do glance at the reports that RescueTime sends out every week to see where I spent my time that week and how much time I was on my computer. It also helps to keep me in check if I’m working too much.
Outside of specific tools or apps, daily reviews have been the single most impactful change I’ve made to my workflow this year. I block off 15 minutes at the end of everyday to review my work for the day, clean up Todoist, and write out my calendar for the next day. They provide a much needed mental barrier between work and non-work. When I finish my daily review, I know that everything has been taken care of or is on a list to be taken care of in the future.
I’d love to see what kinds of tools you use! Write a post and shoot it over to me on Twitter (@jeremeyd) or better yet, join the Support Driven writing challenge!