Last week on my Productivity Mastery Video Series, I talked about why your to-do list is not going to do the work for you and sometimes you just need to get the work done.
This is something I see all the time. People spend so much time reorganising their to-do lists, playing around with the settings and changing colours and view options and not doing the work. Then they complain they are so busy they have no time to do the things they really want to do.
This is one of the reasons why I don’t recommend feature-rich productivity apps. There is always too many things to play with and this playing around is often at the expense of the work that needs doing. These apps, while on the surface appear to give you everything you could want in a productivity app, very quickly become a procrastinator’s heaven, sucking you in on a never-ending quest for the perfect set up and preventing you from getting the work done.
Collect | Organise | Do
My to-do list manager collects all the stuff I need to pay attention to, it is a place to organise all that stuff at the end of the day and it tells me what work needs doing next. That’s it. My ratio of work to organising is in the region of 95% of my time I am doing and 5% I am organising the stuff I collected. I feel there is still a few more percents I can squeeze from the organising side of the ratio. If I could get it to 2% organising I would feel I have a perfect balance. The less time you spend inside your to-do list manager, the more work you get done. That is the mindset you should be adopting.
Output -V- Input
Becoming more productive is not about the tools you use to be more productive. Becoming more productive is about your output. What to-do list managers and other productivity tools do is tell you what needs doing next and the fewer steps it takes to tell you that the better.
Just because your to-do list manager can maintain a dashboard of all your current projects, can automatically assign dates to your tasks and prioritise things for you doesn’t mean you do not have to do the work. No matter how feature rich your to-do list manager is, it is never going to do the work for you. To become more productive, you are going to have to increase your output. Productivity is your output measured against your input. So if you are collecting everything and spending too much time organising what you collected, then your output will suffer and you are not being productive. To be more productive you have to reduce the time it takes to collect and organise your stuff so you can maximise the time you spend doing the work — the output.
Set up for speed.
Make sure the way you collect stuff into your system is as easy as it can be. Set up keyboard shortcuts, learn the fastest way to collect on your mobile devices etc. When it comes to organising, set your system up so moving tasks and commitments into their right placeholders takes as little time as possible so the time available for output (the doing) is maximised. When you place your focus on maximising the doing, you create a system that works for you and a system that takes your productivity into areas you have always dreamed of.
The more time you can find to do the work and the less time you spend organising your work, the more productive you will be. If you can spend ten minutes or so the night before deciding what you will work on the next day and start your day with those tasks, you will find you make a great start on improving your output. Too often when you don’t plan the day before, you spend far too much of your most creative time (the morning) trying to decide what to do. That’s not a good way to become more productive. That’s just wasting valuable creative time.
The ‘perfect tool’ does not exist — everyone is different.
App switching, playing around with settings, colours and layout of the productivity apps you use is not doing the work. It is time wasting. Maintaining a simple system of lists of things to do, a calendar that shows you where you have to be at the right time and a notes app that allows you to find your notes when you need them is all you need. The simpler these apps and systems are the more productive you will be.
Focus more of your attention on your output and less on the tools and you will very quickly see fantastic results in what you get done.
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