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Since my children have returned to school, I’ve had time to get to my to-do list — which, after 5 months of online school and 10 weeks of school break, has grown to be enormous. How does one tackle a to-do list that has gotten out of control?
I’ve tried many tools for productivity over the years. Kanban, Getting Things Done (GTD) just to name a few, as well as many other things which probably have a name that I don’t know but also served as a way to keep me sane. Writing out every single thing I can think of that’s on my brain and then getting completely overwhelmed is one example that I probably wouldn’t recommend. In one book I read, Do More Better, I was encouraged to use an app like Todoist to get organized. I tried it for a while, but I could easily go months without using it, so I considered it mildly helpful but not essential. However, on Day 1 of the new normal, as I was clearing out my inbox (usually step 1 of my Procrastination System — step 2 is to file all my bookmarked webpages and step 3 is to sort through a year’s worth of iPhone photos), I came across an email sent from Todoist with this simple quiz entitled ‘Want to find out which productivity method is right for you?’
I completed it and was recommended Systemist, the productivity method created by the creator of Todoist. Basically this system helps those who are overwhelmed by the number of things they need to do and keep track of (8 months of to-do is quite a lot!) The basic premise is that sticking to a system of keeping a note of absolutely everything, but then breaking things up into actionable tasks, prioritizing, checking things off your list but allowing yourself to reschedule (getting to to-do list zero is important and satisfying!), and celebrating your progress, will keep your mind clear and help you stay on top of things. Reading through the detail, I saw a lot of sense in what it was suggesting, but, being somewhat skeptical – do they want me to pay for a Premium subscription? (answer: they don’t) – I did want to know what it would recommend to others, and whether they would find it particularly helpful.
I forwarded it to a colleague, my sister, and my husband, the first two of whom were recommended the Pomodoro method, while my husband was recommended Time Blocking (which is what I could tell he was already doing without even knowing it.) While some of them felt like they didn’t feel they should be limited to one method, the general feeling is that the quiz was able to recommend something fairly close to each person’s needs. I did the quiz again with a slight change in my answers (perhaps I had moved on from being overwhelmed!) and was recommended The Commitment Inventory. The Commitment Inventory helps you prioritize what you need to work on, and helps you make sure you don’t neglect anything that has a lower priority but still needs to be done. It even helps you work out where you have over-committed. When I read Jackie Ashton’s write up on The Commitment Inventory, I felt like between the two (Commitment Inventory and Systemist) I could probably craft something that would work for me.
To some degree, I find that all the different Productivity Systems are saying the same things but packaging them slightly differently. I’ve also noticed that people often fall into a productive workflow described by a Productivity System without even really knowing it — maybe they’re just intuitive. But intuitive or not, my biggest challenge with Productivity Systems is that I usually only manage to keep at it for about two weeks, and then I stop. With an 8 month backlog, 3 meals that I need to get on the table each day, 2 cats that need lots of hugs, a new role I’ve started at work, and most importantly two kids and a husband, I think it’s going to be in my best interest (and my family’s!) that this time I give it my best shot. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.
How do you balance it all? What’s your secret to maintaining productivity? Did you try the quiz and if so, did you discover a new productivity system that works for you?
to get to something: v phr. to have the time to pay attention to something, especially something you have had to keep putting off (delaying), eg “I’m sorry, I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to get to reviewing the minutes yet.”
to-do list: n. a list of things that need to get done
to tackle: v. to attempt to complete a task or solve problem that is difficult
mildly: adv. (synonym) a little, implies a fairly insignificant amount
premise: n. idea on which a theory is based, different to premises (land or part of a building)
actionable: adj. able to be acted on, one of the characteristics of SMART goals
to forward something: v. send something on to someone else, usually something that has been sent by a third party, eg an email or message but also commonly used in regards to sending a link, or contact card
over-committed: adj. in a position of having promised to do too much
to keep at it: v phr. to persevere, to continue working at something
in someone’s best interest: something that brings the most advantage to someone
to keep someone posted: v phr. indicating someone will update someone else on a certain issue. eg, “Keep me posted on the progress of the Shenzhen account.”