How Your Productivity System Should Be Working.

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I have a confession to make. Most of my big important projects are not controlled through Todoist at all. Most of my book projects, online courses and YouTube videos begin and end their life in Evernote. That is where ideas are born, developed and built. All Todoist does is tell me what needs working on.

Let me explain. My important project each year is the book I write. I love writing books and my goal each year is to write and publish a book. The planning for that book takes place in Evernote. The outline, the notes, the links to reference sources and the chapter ideas are all in Evernote. I will create a project in Todoist, but the only thing inside that project is one task — “continue writing book”.

For most of the project’s life, that is all there is in Todoist; “continue writing book”. Now writing a book is a complex project involving many resources, todos and other things, but the actual task of writing a book is writing. There is nothing else. The only way the book will ever get finished is if I write. So, the only task that matters is “continue writing book”. Once the book is finished, and the editing starts, Todoist will begin filling up with tasks. Tasks such as “rewrite chapter 6” and “find image for chapter 12” will go in Todoist. But for much of the project’s life very little is actually inside Todoist.

Many people think productivity is having a lot of tasks inside their todo list manager yet, if you have a very clear idea of what it is you want to complete/achieve, your todo list manager is not going to be much help. Your todo list manager is going to tell you what to do, but the biggest part of what you are doing is going to be kept inside your notes and reference materials. That is where the brainstorming happens, that is the dumping ground for materials and ideas. If you are working on an important presentation, your work on that presentation is going to be in Keynote or PowerPoint. Your todo list manager is not going to be much help in the actual creation of your presentation. Your notes and reference materials are going to be somewhere else.

However, one area where my todo list manager really does work hard is with commitments and routines I have to take care of every day. When I am with a student and they ask me if I can point them in the direction of some learning material for Received Pronunciation (the standard British pronunciation) that task would get entered into Todoist. Then, when I get home at the end of the day and I process my inbox, I see that task and can do a quick search and send the material to my student. Todoist also tells me what routine tasks I need to complete for the day. Things like updating my teaching schedule and preparing for Saturday morning’s business English class.

Throughout the years I have been using a digital todo list manager there has been an evolution in the way I use it. When I first started, every task started in my Todo list manager. I thought that was the right way to do it. Over time, I realised that actually having all my notes, links and other resources in my notes app meant I was working from my notes app more than my todo list manager. Today, my todo list manager only tells me what needs doing and what I have done. It acts as a kind of safety net to help me avoid forgetting something important.

An area where my todo list manager is invaluable is on very busy days when I have back to back classes and meetings. On those days I need my todo list manager to tell me what tasks need to be done and what tasks can be put off to another day. When these days happen, I find having all my tasks in one convenient list vital. I can see what I have left to do and I can make sure the important tasks are done and reschedule less important tasks for another day. I would feel lost not knowing what had to be done if I did not have this list in front of me. Again though, it is only acting as a safety net.

No matter what work you are doing, the really important projects should not need much inside your todo list manager. If the project is important enough, you are going to know what needs doing next. I am in the middle of editing my current book. I really do not need my todo list manager to tell me to edit the book. All I need is a place to sit down with my computer and my notes. Likewise, the 2018 Time and Life Mastery Workbook is another big project, My todo list manager does not need to tell me to continue designing that book. I know what needs doing the moment I open InDesign. My todo list manager is not going to be much help in getting them completed. The things my todo list manager needs to tell me are those little, easily forgettable things like arranging to take the car in for a service or schedule a meeting with my staff to do the annual staff appraisal.

When you get that and your todo list manager and notes work together in harmony, the flow of your work becomes rhythmic and your system will work seamlessly. Commitments and little tasks do not get forgotten and the really important things you are working on take priority over everything else. Your system just works, your productivity goes through the roof and you start to achieve incredible things.


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