Remembering what Productivity Really Means and How to Get There

This is a guest post by Daniel Gold. He is a productivity author, keynote speaker, and consultant. Daniel is the moderator of the GTD Virtual Study Group podcast, co-host of The Productive Life Show podcast, author of Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done and Official Springpad eBook. You can read Daniel’s posts on the official DEG website, or join him on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

GTD ImageProductivity is not defined by the system we have, the lists we can make or the apps that we have on our smart phones. Being productive does not mean you are a pro at creating lists or checking your e-mail every thirty seconds. To truly be productive we must redefine how we’ve come grown accustomed to viewing productivity.

We must be able to redefine our own and others expectations so that productivity is recognized as being experts at single-tasking, in order to really get things done, and not multitasking, which inevitably distracts us from our focus. 

At the end of our days, we have only ourselves. And, hopefully, our loved ones around us. In our eulogy, nobody will ever comment on how often we checked your email, nobody will speak lovingly as to how often you were absent even when you were present. Being productive does not mean being absent from those whom are most important to you. We must redefine productivity and treat our system for our tasks for what it really is - a means to an end. What is that end? Spending time with ones you care for and being mindful of those beautiful moments.

Creating this new sense of what it means to be productive, however, does require the use of a system. Importantly, once that system is defined, it must take a presence off-stage and not front and center. I have been asked how often I think about where I’m supposed to put information to be processed and the answer is simple - I don’t. I don’t because my system is at a point where it’s rote, automatic and second nature.

For me, and millions of others, that kind of system we use is defined by David Allen’s Getting Things Done time-management methodology. Whether you are familiar with the system or it is your first time hearing about it, the idea is simple: gather all of your physical and electronic inboxes together and process them down until you are at zero. Then, organize the information into either actionable or non-actionable piles. All of your non-actionable items should be filed away in a central repository that you can quickly access without really thinking about where it is filed (i.e., A-Z filing system).

For everything that is actionable, break those down even further into single action item lists (i.e., “Go to dry cleaners”) or into projects requiring several action items(i.e., “repair the roof” requires getting a ladder, getting materials, climbing, etc). Organize your action items into lists by where you need to get them done (i.e., Calls, Computer, E-mails, Errands, The Office and At Home) to better ascertain what you can get done no matter where you are. 

From there, when it is time to review your lists, pick two or three things that must absolutely go right in order for you to feel successful. This gives you greater power over your day, your inbox, and your to-do lists. Importantly, you must balance these two to three things against your calendar to ensure that you actually have time to get those things done!

But, of course, the question becomes what app do you use to accomplish this sense of nirvana? There are thousands of apps between the iTunes and Google Play stores and several different kinds of paper-based calendars. Ultimately, the answer is that it depends upon what you feel will help you become more productive.

Millions of people, like myself, leverage Evernote, an agnostic note-taking application, because it is you can literally store anything at all in a note. Evernote is extremely flexible, agile, and you can do just about anything with the program, including linking your notes together with “copy note links”. Many, like myself use it to manage tasks and create a link between next action items with project related materials.

While this article certainly just scratches the surface on how to get started with the Getting Things Done methodology and Evernote, it should also provide you with a foundation to begin thinking differently about how you define productivity and whether you are managing your system or your system is managing you.

Your next actions: Take the time to understand how you work, what time of the day you are most productive and then apply some of the ideas in this post to help you become more efficient and spend more time with those you care about most in your life!


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