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I have tried many different productivity systems in order to get organized at work. Some have worked great for a couple of weeks, but I quickly abandoned them when I hit a busy season. Some have helped me get through the day-to-day work, but haven’t helped me keep the bigger picture in mind.
In experimenting with systems I’ve learned that (a) no system is perfect and (b) every different job requires different variations of systems to support it.
There are, however, key building blocks that can be arranged and organized to create a system that will set you up to be successful time and time again.
Those building blocks are:
- Goal Clarity
- A Master To-do List
- A Schedule for Taking Action
- An Information Management System
- A Clear Mindset
These building blocks can take many different forms but are an important component of effective and fulfilling work. If you want to get organized at work, you need to develop your skills in each of these areas.
These components flow together in the following way:
Before you start doing anything, clarifying your goals is essential to your success.
The next step is to translate your goals into smaller steps, which form the basis for your Master To-do list.
Your goals and lists are just words on paper until you create a Schedule for Taking Action.
Every day, you have a huge of information coming at you. You will quickly drown in paperwork and emails unless you have an Information Management System.
You can have the perfect mechanics of a system, but it will not come alive until you have a Clear Mindset.
Combine these five components and you will have a working productivity system that you can rely on. A couple of thoughts on productivity in general to keep in mind as you build your system:
- To me, the goal of a productivity system is not to get the most amount of work done as possible. You are not a robot and your value does not come solely from completely many tasks. However, if you are going to invest your time and energy into work it feels a million times better to do so and actually be effective and realize your time is creating value. If I am going to work eight hours a day anyway, it feels much better to me to know that I am proactively using those hours the way I choose to and seeing real results in support of my goals. This builds a sense of accomplishment and confidence that can help propel your career and life in the ways you want to. Also, working productively helps protect your time when you are not working. Knowing I have either completed everything I need to do or have a plan to complete things in the future helps me to really clock out after work.
- The perfect system is not the goal, working effectively and accomplishing your goals is the goal. It’s dangerously tempting to obsess over the system you use and miss the real meat, the actual work you want to accomplish. I’ve spent time and money on many different tools but ultimately, having a sustainable and low maintenance structure that covers the key areas I’ve listed above is what really makes the difference for me.