Seven Powerful Productivity Systems
What They Are and How They’ve Helped Me Work Smarter
I wear a bunch of hats. I am active on three boards, consulting on two enterprises, a creator, coach, and entrepreneur. I’m literally only as good as my productivity systems. I’ve tried them all (give or take), and here are the seven most critical to my forward motion.
1. Inbox Zero: A productivity method for maintaining an empty email inbox by regularly processing incoming messages.
My mind feels scattered if my email is cluttered. If I have more than a few emails, I can’t shake the sense that I’ve forgotten an important task. I started using Superhuman a few years ago, and while it is pricey, I cannot go back.
2. SMART Goal-Setting Framework: A method for setting and achieving specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals, by creating a clear and detailed plan with actionable steps and regular progress tracking.
I use SMART goal setting for discrete many-task projects. Putting a clear, concrete flag in the future ground makes the project fool-proof.
3. The Pomodoro Technique: A time management method that involves breaking work into 25-minute intervals (Pomodoros) separated by short breaks, to improve focus, productivity, and reduce burnout.
Since most of my work is computer-bound, making sure to move the body and rest the eyes is the best long-game cheat code.
4. Don’t Break the Chain: A method of tracking daily progress by marking off completed tasks on a calendar, to build momentum and motivation for consistent work habits.
For any initiative that requires repeated, ongoing iterations — i.e., a daily showing up — this mental trick is unbeatable. I use everyday.app to track such new and/or challenging tasks that I need to make into habits.
5. Most Important Tasks (Values Centered): A productivity method that invites you start with the most important thing you have to get done.
Every quarter, I assess how I’m living up to my values and come up with important tasks for keeping those values-centered initiatives. Am I connecting with my long-distance friends? Am I playful and patient with my kids? Prioritizing and planning for these makes them achievable.
6. The PARA Organizing System: A method for managing digital information by dividing it into Projects, Areas, Resources, and Archives, to create a consistent and flexible framework for organizing and accessing data.
I implemented this a year ago, and can’t believe how much my system has optimized. I had tried so many different ways of organizing the masses of info and data in my life. Transferring to this has made all of that intuitive and at the tip of my finger.
7. Weekly Clearing: A simple 30-minute habit I do every Friday. It’s a weekly reset to avoid system overwhelm, including:
Clearing the email, Evernote, and Roam inboxes
Process the calendar (review and task out from past and upcoming weeks)
Clear computer desktop of downloaded attachments
Choose priority tasks for the coming week
Go through journal from the week and task out