Over the years, I’ve realized the importance of having a good system for self-organization. My approach has evolved, greatly influenced by David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, recommended by Aaron Turon and Dave Herman. I decided to share my system, which works well for me, in the hope it might be useful or inspire others. Personal productivity is highly individual, so what works for me might not work for you. However, you might find some helpful ideas here.

Get Everything Out of Your Head

Keeping tasks in my head causes stress and hinders productivity. My top rule is to write everything down. This includes work tasks, personal chores, and even small activities like going for coffee. The more I wrote down, the more relaxed I felt.

Embrace Organization

I’ve always been organized, but enhancing my organizational skills has paid off. You can get surprisingly organized before hitting diminishing returns.

Flexible Time-Boxing

The Pomodoro technique has merit, but I found a one-size-fits-all time chunk doesn’t work for me. I allocate time based on the task’s needs, whether it’s 30 minutes for emails or two hours for focused work. I avoid strict scheduling but set goal times to prevent spending too long on less important tasks.

Finish Small, Leave Large Tasks Unfinished

Small tasks should be completed immediately to avoid mental clutter. For larger tasks, I stop midway, making it easier to resume. This approach keeps me motivated and provides a clear next step.

Practical Tips

Completeness: Ensure no tasks are left outside the list, whether in your head, emails, or scraps of paper.
Ease of Use: Make it easy to know the next step without additional thinking.
Realism: Avoid overwhelming lists by being realistic about what you can achieve.
Filing System
Buy a Filing Cabinet: An office filing cabinet at home is invaluable for organizing important documents, work notes, and miscellaneous items. Keep it well-organized for quick access and filing.
Desk Organization
In-Tray: Useful but should be managed to avoid becoming another todo list. Keep it mostly empty and move items out quickly.
Calendar
Use It Obsessively: Record everything with specific dates or times, even minor events. This reduces cognitive overhead and prevents missed tasks.
Daily Planning: Create a daily plan from all calendars at the start of each day to ensure nothing is overlooked.
Email Management
Inbox Zero: Aim to clear your inbox by deleting, storing, or adding tasks to your todo list. Use filters extensively to manage emails.
Passive Notifications: Turn off non-essential notifications to avoid distractions. Make essential ones as passive as possible.
Quick Triage
Immediate Action for Small Tasks: For tasks under three minutes, do them immediately. For longer tasks, quickly decide to add them to your todo list or consciously decide not to do them.
Weekly Check-Ins
Monday and Friday Mornings: On Monday, make a todo list for the week and tidy up. On Friday, reorganize your lists and reflect on the week.
Todo Lists System
Project and Postponed Tasks List: Use a notes app for non-trivial tasks and postponed tasks.
Specific Date Tasks: Place these in your calendar, not on the todo list.
Daily and Weekly Lists: Keep today and tomorrow lists on paper, and a weekly list in a notes app. Move tasks from the weekly list to the daily ones as needed.
Task Identification: Break down projects into specific tasks before adding them to the daily list.
Cross Off Unnecessary Tasks: Remove tasks as soon as you know you won’t do them.

Conclusion

This system might seem detailed, but it’s lightweight and flexible in practice. The key is to trust and adapt the system to ensure it remains effective and stress-free. By organizing tasks and minimizing cognitive overhead, you can enhance your productivity and achieve more with less stress.

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