I wish I knew it earlier. Especially before testing innumerous productivity apps, particularly those with a steep learning curve and high subscription fee. It’s about the process, not the tool. No tool can help you if you don’t have the right process or attitude.
If I have learned one thing about planning my work it’s this: having more than 3 priorities equals having none. If you don’t know what’s most important to you at any given moment, you keep running back and forth, trying different apps and switching between tabs all day long.
Instead, what I started to use is – a Post-it note. I write 3 things I want to get done in a day on a single Post-it note and stick it somewhere I can always see, like to the edge of my desktop computer screen. (I guess you could type it to the home page of Evernotes as well.)
How to choose the 3 things
First you have to dump your brain. You might not know what you have there unless you have it written down and visible. You may definitely forget tasks if you try to keep all in all the time. For this any text document or a sheet of paper is good.
I personally have always loved pen and paper. There have been times when I tried to replace notebooks with a digital alternative, but I’m now back to basics and embracing digital minimalism where it makes sense. Anyway, what ever is fastest works.
Just write down everything that comes to mind, no particular order, no separation between personal or work tasks. They all take time and they take space in your brain. For doing it extra fast, just pick 3 things now. Consider importance and urgency. (If I don’t do it now, what will happen? Will it in fact happen or are you just trying to be nice to everybody?)
If you have identified your goals for the longer period, this task is a bit easier. If not, just pick. You can try again tomorrow.
Write the 3 tasks on your Post-it and start doing them. Every time you notice yourself doing something not related to these three, stop it and get back to your daily tasks.
When working with other people you should have some place where you all can see the tasks, like Trello or Clickup, but for freeing some space in your brain, the first step is getting everything out. Sorting them is the next step.
A common mistake
My mistake has been skipping the prioritisation. No Post-its, just the long list as if everything was equally important or urgent. But the longer the list the less focus you will have, the less you can mark done and the less satisfaction you will derive from it.
If the task is not a priority, it has to live its own life on the background somewhere. At least it’s written down on the big task list and it will be considered again. Maybe it’s time to tackle it already tomorrow.
I sleep much better knowing that I have done the right thing for myself. And I got those 3 tasks done actually. Finished.
Clarity and results for your team
I have also realised that when I have prioritised and written the tasks down, I have no difficulty telling other people what I’m working on. Instead of going completely blank, knowing you have a million things to do and you hardly have time to breathe. People will start noticing that every time you promise to do something, you will deliver. Over time you might start learning what are the things worth committing to.
Planning and productivity is such a large topic and this hardly is a solution to all your problems. My favourite expert in the field is Cal Newport. You can easily take his podcast with you to a walk, jog or to the gym.