I used to be a big follower of Leo Babauta’s blog Zen Habits. Several years ago, the site used to be a great place to go to for simple productivity advice. I honestly believe that the advice I picked up from that, and his book ‘Zen to Done’ has helped keep me sane in the workplace. However, now that Leo has changed track somewhat and is happy to throw away the productivity advice, it feels right that I should reconsider what I’ve learnt and look at how I want to continue going forward.
I’ve been following the advice in Zen to Done for about four years and have a list of 3-4 ‘Most Important Things’ to do each day. This has been great as it allows me to focus on tasks that will add value rather than tasks that will keep me busy.
The weekly review is the checks and balances part of the system. Once a week, I look at my goals, my tasks, my notes, and get things ready for the week ahead. This is a good time to be honest and evaluate whether the work I’m doing week in, week out, is contributing in a positive way to my goals.
The most important tool in my productivity arsenal (not sure if that’s good, that I’m using military metaphors), is undoubtedly Remember the Milk. This task logging website has been at the core of my work for over four years. Essentially just a way to create tasks and organise into lists, its beauty lies in its tagging system and the flexibility to use whatever system you like to manage your work. Although free, I’ve been a paying pro member for the last couple of years just because I value it so highly. Whatever productivity system I choose to go with (or not), there’s always going to be a place for Remember the Milk in my day to day life.
So, am I happy with my productivity system or should I throw it all away like Leo suggests and follow a simpler path? My system with Remember the Milk is anything but simple. If I tried to explain to anyone what I was doing with it, they’d be confused by the second sentence. But it does work well for me. Would I like it to be simpler? Yes. Would I like to throw away the productivity system completely and just follow my passions? Yes.
But, I live in a world where that simply isn’t possible. I have a job that demands that certain tasks get done by certain dates. I’ve got a busy family life that’s only going to get busier as the children get older, and I’ve got dreams I want to see fulfilled. My overriding concern through life is to be happy. And right now that means having some control over my day, whilst giving my dreams the attention they deserve.