Life is busy and seems to keep getting busier. We have meetings, events, projects, tasks, interests, and much more. How can we better manage our productivity and time more effectively and efficiently? Two tools that work for me are my calendar and my to-do list, specifically I love my Google Calendar and Remember the Milk (RTM). I prefer using online tools, but the good old fashioned paper and pencil method work very well too. The key is finding what works best for you.
There are also processes or methods you can use to work more productively. GTD or Getting Things Done has a huge following. With GTD, the goal is to free your mind to focus on important things by externalizing your tasks. How often do we walk around trying to remember that one thing that we have a feeling we just have to get done? Another popular technique is called the Pomodoro Technique where tasks are broken into pomodoro increments. In this method, you set a timer for 25 minutes and completely focus on a task for that time, then take a 3-5 minute break and continue the process until the task is done. Both of these can be started with just a pencil and paper (and a timer for the Pomodoro Technique).
Back to what works for me! I like Google Calendar and RTM because I can access them anywhere online and because I can integrate them. I need Google Calendar to keep my life, my work, my family, and even the library hours in order. I use RTM to get things done because I too often walk around trying to remember things.
I read an interesting article a while back that said what we really need is a goal calendar and not an appointment calendar. While I agree with a lot of what the article says, I disagree with part of it. It’s probably more due to the nature of my job, but I’m in the business of helping people, so people need access to my calendar and my time. That being said, I do borrow a bit from what he says and will block out some time on my calendar that are merely appointments with myself to focus on a particular task. For me it helps me stay focused. Granted, there will always be distractions and interruptions, which is good because those often result in other interesting projects.
So, get out there and explore a few of these tools. By the way, another cool to-do list tool is LazyMeter, which contrary to its name is geared to show you how productive you are and can be. Explore these tools, try a few, and then pick what works best for you and develop your own productivity process.