I have been using the David Allen Getting Things Done methodology for well over 10 years, primarily using digital task management tools on my iPhone and Windows PC.
Having spent 15 years in IT, I tended to gravitate towards digital systems, but these became a black hole, with no limits on how much could be put into the system.
Implementing a digital system that worked well on both Microsoft Windows and Apple iOS was difficult without lots of tricks and workarounds – the best iOS apps that suited my needs seemed to either come with a Mac only, or severely limited Windows counterpart.
This meant I was spending more time making the system work, than actually getting work done.
There had to be a better solution , and I thought a paper based system would be worth a try as it can be customised to work exactly how you work, but I wasn’t sure if paper could scale to the volume and demands of my life.
I first realised I was managing projects and tasks in two different places:
- My task management system
- The Company CRM System
My job primarily involves building and maintaining relationships with consultants and supporting them in their projects, this type of work is better managed from a Customer Relationship Managment system.
This one realisation instantly reduced the volume of tasks in my task management system, reducing the volume of things to manage to other aspects of my work and life, such as strategic planning, content creation and ad-hoc projects to be managed outside of the CRM system.
I had previously tried to implement “pure GTD” on paper, but found it required lists and pages to be grouped together, requiring a bulky ring-binder type system, whereas, I preferred a lay-flat notebook style format which would take up much less space in my bag.
I was initially unsure of how this new paper based tool would look like and what format it would take, and set about some research on the internet, I stumbled across a notebook based system called the Bullet Journal.
The bullet journal was created by a User Interaction Designer to rapidly collect and Log actions and tasks that need to be completed.
After looking into bullet journaling in more detail, I discovered a whole community of people, with beautiful page designs using calligraphy, icons and detailing, I was also impressed by the different ways the system could be customised.
I have never been very artistic and felt a little inadequate that my bullet journal wouldn’t look like some of the pictures found on the internet.
Nevertheless, I setup a new notebook I had at home, following the method from the bullet journal website and transferred all my projects and tasks from my digital system.
The system has now been in use since August 2016, it has been through several iterations, such as adding in some GTD Style Lists – Projects, Someday Maybe and a large “Master Task List” to capture new tasks, but it’s working well, leaving me less stressed and more organised.
What did I learn?
- While paper systems introduce physical limits, my productivity has improved – I can’t simply drag and drop 20 different tasks from a list to do today – writing out a list of tasks forces you to critically think “Can I get all these done today?”
- Writing down my tasks each day forces me to consider whether these tasks will move me closer to my goals and whether they are the best use of my time.
- My bullet journal is a task management system, not an art project. I prefer to keep my journal more basic and utilitarian, adding a splash of colour or a little sketch when the mood takes me.
Question: What do you rely on to be most productive? Let me know in the comments below.