I get a lot of questions about the types of apps someone should use for various different types of notes, tasks and projects and whether it is okay to keep some notes in one app and other notes in another app. When I do get these questions, I know the person asking the question will have a very complex system in place, which nine times out of ten is the reason they are struggling with their personal productivity.
A good functioning productivity system has very clean boundaries between each functioning app. Tasks are in a single task manager, notes are in a single notes app, events and appointments are on a calendar and files are in a single file storage app. There is no cross over. This means, if you want to check on the time an appointment is next week, you only need to look at your calendar. If you want to see what still needs to be done on a project, you only need to open your task list manager. If you want to review your notes from a meeting last week, you only need to open your notes app and if you want to continue working on the PowerPoint file for your appointment next week, you only need to open you files storage folder. There’s no having to think about where something is because you have very clean boundaries between the different types of work you have.
Here’s how I recommend a project is set up.
Let’s say I have a project to create a new employee training programme. My boss and I had a meeting last week where my boss told me she wanted me to develop this training programme. The notes from that meeting would be collected in Evernote. As this is a project, I would create a new notebook in Evernote called “New Employee Training Programme 2018”. Any meeting notes, research papers and such like would be collected in that one notebook.
(NB. Creating a new notebook for the project is my way of managing projects. Other people prefer creating a tag. It really doesn’t matter how you set it up as long as you know how to find all your notes when you need them)
After the meeting I would create a new project in Todoist under my work folder called “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and I would add in the very next action. I can develop the other tasks later.
I would then create a folder in my iCloud Drive under Work called “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and the documents I am writing for this project would be stored there.
Future appointments related to this project would be added to my calendar with the letters NETP2018 in brackets before the meeting name. This way I will be able to instantly recognise what the meeting is about when I see it on my calendar.
So, once set up, the project structure would look like this:
It does not take very long to set this up after the initial meeting. It takes around five minutes to set up, but those five minutes mean that when you are working on the project, there is no wasted time trying to remember where you put something relevant to the project because you will know: If it’s a task, it’s in your task manager, if it’s a file you are working on, it’s in your storage drive and the appointment for the next meeting is on your calendar. All notes related to the project will be in your notes app. Because you have a unified naming system, it is very easy (and quick) to find exactly what you are looking for.
This is why, when you are constantly playing around with new apps, tweaking your system or have too many similar types of apps, you spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to remember where you put something. When that happens, I find people complain about how “busy” they are and how “overwhelmed” they feel. The position you want to be achieving is when you want to find something, all you need to know is what it is you are looking for. If you want to find a PDF file about the old employee training programme, you will instantly know that will be in your notes app, in the notebook called “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and you can go straight to it. If your boss asks to see the Word file you are working on, you will instantly know to go to your storage drive and to the folder “New Employee Training Programme 2018” and pull up the Word file.
When you have hard edges between your productivity apps you know where everything is and you save so much time and energy. When you don’t, you create a busy, overwhelming life for yourself.
I hope this has helped clarify project set ups for you. This structure works for almost any kind of project you are working on whether it is a work project, or simply cleaning out your home. If you stick to this project setup, you will find a lot of the ‘busyness’ and ‘overwhelm’ you feel will just wash away and you will always know what needs to be done and when.
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My goal is to help show you how to live the life you desire. To help you find happiness and become better organised and more productive so you can do more of the important things in life.