Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.

creativity organization

That Most Elusive Thing

As you’re reading this, you have a hundred things demanding your attention. You’ve also got a hundred tasks to accomplish. It’s life. And this is what creates that Holy Grail, that awful buzzword: productivity. Where do you get it, what creates it, how do you get more – and is there a way to get it without becoming obsessed with it?

I overschedule, and I’m compulsively organized, so I’m something of a connoisseur of trying to become more productive. To save you time, here’s what I’ve taught myself.

First rule: find the right amount of stuff required. Anything called a “system” is too complicated. And a lot of things fall into that. I’ve dabbled in Getting Things Done . I’ve been a devotee of Franklin Covey . I know people who swear by their Treo or Filofax . Microsoft Office . Google Calendar . They work, just not for me. Oh, and the flip side of this: beware of when “simple” really means “too basic.” If it can’t fit everything in your life, there’s no point. The Moleskine or Hipster PDA approaches aren’t enough for me. I Want Sandy is somehow both complicated and simplistic. Now Do This is cute, but way too basic.

Second rule: find the right amount of thought required. There are people who don’t need to use anything to keep their lives in order. (These people are aliens.) But then there are people who overthink it. Blogs on productivity ? I appreciate the thought, but I need less stuff to do, not more.

So what works?

Third rule: realize that nothing fits all. You have to play around. Figure out what’s necessary for it to work for you, and moreover, for you to actually like using it. Mine has to be paper-based, it has to look nice, it has to be bright enough that I won’t lose it, and it has to fit into a cute purse. (I never said I wasn’t superficial.) I retain information best when I write it, I’m left-handed so my hand runs over what I’ve just written, and I’m a sucker for pretty paper. So for me, a thin, floppy planner, colored Post-Its, and a fountain pen. I do also need my phone and Blackberry – but that’s for connectivity, not calendars and to-do lists.

But your requirements are completely different than mine.

Some things, though, do seem like they’d be useful for everybody. Last month I discovered Todoodlist , and I adore it. It’s not a “system.” It’s just a little book packed solid with smart stuff. Bigger, what-are-you-doing-with-your-life ideas – and tactical, geez-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas.

What I like best is that even if all of it doesn’t fit you, there will be at least a few ideas that will help you think about how you work and how you can tackle all your stuff in a better way.

I did sign up with Todoodlist after I bought the book, so I get coin if you buy it too. I’ve never done that before, but truly, I try to rave about things at least as much as I complain. It’s more useful, and a lot more cheerful. And now, I’m even more cheerful, because I’m getting more done. So why not tell you about it, too, in case you need that as well? It’s a great big lovely cycle. (And to grow the cycle even bigger, I’d love to hear what’s worked for you, too.)

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