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.
Digital systems started to become a black hole for me.
There were no limits on how much I could put into the system, which made things difficult to manage.
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.
Switching back to a paper-based system might prevent me from tinkering with digital systems, but could it scale to the volume of tasks and pace of my life?
Next I realised I was managing projects and tasks in two different places:
- My task management system
- The Company CRM System
My work involves two distinct tasks – building and managing relationships, and ad-hoc or creative projects.
Selecting the correct tool for each job meant moving relationship based tasks to the corporate CRM system and getting them out of my task management system.
It would mean I would need to check what I needed to do in two different systems, but this trade-off was worth it.
Moving relationship based tasks to the CRM system instantly reduced the volume and complexity of tasks in my task management system.
I could then use my task management system to focus on the other aspects of my work and life, such as strategic planner, content creation and other projects.
Having 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.
It was difficult initially to envision what a new paper-based tool would look like and what format it would take, so I 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.
Further detailed research showed that bullet journalling can be very flexible in how the page layouts and system can be setup, giving the flexibility that I needed.
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 set up 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.