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How to Build a Productivity System

Create a personalized productivity system that works for you and achieve more in less time.

If you want to be productive, there are a lot of systems out there that will help you.

Do you have issues focusing on a single task at a time? Try the Pomodoro technique or time blocking.

Do you procrastinate on challenging tasks often? Then try Brian Tracy's "Eat the Frog" method.

No matter what aspect of productivity you struggle with, a system can help you manage it better. However, we often try productivity systems because they work for someone else without really understanding if they will work for us and in this post, we will see how we can create a system or process, if you will, to choose or even build your own productivity system.

So without further ado, let's get started.

Identifying Productivity Drainers

The first thing we need to look at while designing or building a productivity system is identifying your productivity drainers. And these are different for everyone.
For example, not everyone struggles with procrastination of challenging tasks. So, pushing the Pomodoro technique on them would not be very helpful. Instead, they need something along the lines of the "Eat the Frog" method, where you do the most essential yet challenging task first thing in the morning.

So start by first identifying your productivity drainers and then choosing a system instead of choosing a system just because it worked for someone else.

Setting up an Ideal Environment

The next aspect of building your own system is setting up or creating an environment that will make it easier to follow that system. For example, if you are into sales, your meeting with that client you dread cannot be rescheduled to be your first task in the morning. Hence, "Eat the frog" will not be of much use for you.

So, you have two options: either choose a system that works with your schedule and your environment or change the environment to suit your system. Both are viable options. Using the same sales example, you can choose "Time Blocking" as a strategy to block time on your calendar to prepare for that client meeting later in the day.

In this case, you are selecting a system to work with your schedule. The other route would be to limit your client meetings to a specific part of your day, which can be a hard sell, but it is not uncommon. In this case, you'll have all your client meetings at the beginning of the day since that's when you feel you are best equipped to handle them.

Both routes work, and what you choose will depend on the flexibility of other factors in your work and life.

Medium of Enforcement

The next aspect to consider when it comes to building the best productivity systems is the medium through which you enforce them. Most of us prefer the experience to be digital, so we opt for productivity apps like to-do lists, calendars, reminders, etc.

I knew someone who used nothing but Google Calendar for all his productivity needs, and on the other end of the spectrum, there are ones who use Notion databases or even Excel spreadsheets to track and manage their productivity. There is no wrong answer here; it is all about what works for you. However, to get started, we recommend that you pick the simplest one to manage. Hence a simple alarm on your phone to remind you to do the most important thing is a good start; you can then progress to using the calendar to schedule tasks in the short term. Or even better, you can get started with an easy-to-use tool like Routine, where you can manage your calendar and your tasks.

Kickstart the Process

So now that you have identified your productivity drainers, set up your schedule, and figured out the tools to help you, the only thing left now is kickstart the process.

And you can start by setting goals that you want to achieve using your system. A goal like "Become more productive" is a useless one; a better goal would be something like "Spend 20 hours a month working on client presentations" or "Reduce time spent managing email by 50%".

The more specific the goal, the more likely you will build a strategy to achieve it.

Specific goals = Higher likelihood of accomplishment

The next step is creating forcing functions that can help keep you on track. Forcing functions could be in the form of: 

  1. Alarms on your phone
  2. Reminders on your calendar
  3. Friends who can keep you accountable
  4. A sticky note on your desk reminding you

Use whatever works for you. Research indicates that adding a social component usually helps maintain a good productivity system.

Analysing your Patterns

Finally, the last step would be to track and analyse your patterns. If you are only following and not reflecting on your personal productivity system, you lose a lot. So, take time regularly to go back and look at how much you have improved, places where you have dropped off, things you could have done differently, etc.

In a tool like Routine, this is easy to do. You can find a list of all your past tasks in the Journal tab, and you can quickly glance over them and see if some could be worth analyzing.

You can also add notes to each of these tasks; we did this to help you add context to your tasks. This additional context will help you learn and improve on your past performance.

If you haven't used Routine already, sign up below to join the access list. FYI, Routine is free to use. So, in this post, we looked at all the stages, from identifying your drainers to maintaining your productive streak.

Feel free to come back and re-read this post if you need a refresher on some of the ideas we discussed here.

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