Hacking My Productivity

I have a three-month-old and a four-year-old, and that means I don’t have a lot of time to myself after I come home from work. Most days I only get about two hours to myself, so I have a real need to stay focused and organized, or I’ll never make progress on my personal and business goals. I’ve tried lots of things over the years, but this is what I’m attempting now.

My Habits

I think most productivity flows and setups benefit from knowing how you work habitually. It can be tempting just to blow everything up and start a new system, but there are probably preferences that are worth preserving.

In my case, I don’t have a problem keeping tasks, but I do have a problem seeing them. I like to see things in a few different ways. One is to see everything I’ve decided is necessary, and the other is to see what I have to accomplish in a day.

I know most tools will alert me, but that is an interruption to me. While I’m happy to use reminders to help me warm up to a task or adjust priorities, I do better when I mentally know what I need to focus on for the day first. So I need a way to see my day.

I also tend to get a lot of my ideas of what to do from sources like email. So the easier it is to take an idea from a source like an email and get it into whatever tracking system I need, the better.

When designing my current set up, those are the things I was most interested in. Seeing everything, seeing my day, and getting things quickly into my list from other sources.

The Setup

I’m using three tools at the moment:

  • Gmail
  • Trello
  • Calendar

Gmail

Managing an inbox is a pain, and I recently started using a system by Andreas Klinger that has worked well for me. With that system in place, I can focus on quickly addressing emails and moving them into my task system or calendar.

Here’s a link to his system. I’ve been using it for nearly a month, and I keep my inbox at zero almost all day.

Trello

There are a billion task managers out there. I like Trello for how simple it is and flexible it is in how I organize things. In the past, Trello became another thing I had to remember to look at to stay organized, and that didn’t work. I’ve finally conquered this issue as well.

I installed a power-up that represents my cards in a calendar. This way, I can use my pre-existing preference to see things lined up across days. I can also set up a Trello email address that I forward things to from my Gmail. These two features keep Trello integrated into how I already run my life.

Now, in terms of my lists that I’ve set up, I have a few. The first is a list of Goals. I keep them there with a card to represent my goals. I want the things on my board to force me to ask the question, “Will this help me get to my goals?” If the answer is no, then I should consider getting rid of it.

Next, I have a list of ideas. These are where things arrive when I email items, or I brainstorm up something that I need to figure out where it sits in my priorities.

Then I get to my workflow. I use a PDCA style board. So my lists are Plan, Do, Check, and Act. In Plan I order the cards, decide how I’ll know my task is done, and clarify what I won’t do. When a card moves to Do, it means I’m actively working on that one now. I try to keep as few in this column as I can. Then when it moves to check I’m seeing if it’s finished according to what I said in Plan. I also do any measure or analysis that I’ve identified. Finally, moving it to Act prompts me to reflect on the results and what I should do next.

My Days

I run around in my day, looking at email and my calendar. Those habits are built-in, and ones I’m not going to shake. I needed to create a workflow that keeps me focused with the little time I have that leverages my habits.

I manage my email, forward them to Trello. In Trello I organize and pull a few items into my work for the day. I can tell what I have to focus on in my calendar thanks to the integration between Gmail and Trello.

So far, this is working well for me, and I’m accomplishing the tasks that I’ve identified that will get me to my goals.

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