This is a pretty geeky post about some underlying concepts in productivity. If you are looking for brief and practical tips, check out more of those posts here. But hopefully these thoughts are helpful as we strive to be as effective as possible.
I’ve talked before about finding a productivity approach that works for you. Everyone’s situations, responsibilities, strengths, and personality quirks are different, so ideally everyone will have their own unique tool belt.
But how do you know what’s right for you? How do you evaluate your system?
There are many things to look at: from the sustainability of a system to whether or not we have fun using it.
But today I wanted to focus on two elements: storage and movement.
The Core of Functionality
Storage is the ability of your system to contain all of your tasks (You can count your memory as part of your system in addition to lists written down).
Movement is the ability of tasks to move from one part of your system to another (such as from your calendar to your daily to-do list) until you perform the task.
A system could be as simple as just going from memory all the time (like I did in high school). It could be a paper to-do list, or it could be a complex GTD implementation.
But without adequate storage and movement, your system won’t be functional.
Streamlined and Simple
Do you occasionally let tasks slip through the cracks? Then there’s a breakdown somewhere in either your storage or your movement.
It’s not too hard to diagnose where the breakdown is. When you forget an appointment because you didn’t write it down… obvious problem and obvious fix. When an appointment was written on your calendar but never made it to your daily to-do list… obvious problem and obvious fix.
Some people go overboard here: A lot of experts throw around blanket prescriptions about how absolutely everything has to be written down or how you absolutely must spend hours constantly reviewing all of your lists.
But why? There’s no need to make things more complicated than they need to be (unless you just really enjoy the geekery).
We’re aiming for more effectiveness, not more beautiful systems.
The Importance of Movement
Storage seems to be the element that people focus on the most. We’re encouraged to write down more and more and more.
But seldom do we ever really think about movement – which I feel is just as important if not more important.
What’s so crucial about movement? Movement is where we get priorities.
Have you ever stared at your list and didn’t really know what was the highest priority task to do next? Were you ever working on something and had that sneaking suspicion that there might be something else that you should probably work on? Have you ever got to the end of a day or week and realized that you didn’t work on the highest priority tasks?
That breakdown in prioritization is due to problems with movement. Movement is what takes calendar items to your daily schedule. It’s what takes your someday/maybe items to your list of tasks you want to accomplish this week. Movement takes items on your daily to-do list and moves them to action.
Trusting Your System
It all sounds academic and frankly obvious, but think of it this way: Movement is the often overlooked key to working well in the moment and moving efficiently.
Can you look at your daily to-do list and instantly know the highest value task for you to work on right now? If you can’t do that – better movement is the solution.
A system with good movement is one that you can trust. You can look at the list and know that you are effectively moving a task from “to do this week” to “to do today” to “to do right now.”
Take some time to think about how items move from one part of your system to the next. Do these concepts bring up any ways you can improve how you do things?
Where do you still have any issues? Leave a comment – I’d love to try and help.
Photo Credit: Mike Gifford (Creative Commons)
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