Can Little and Often Help You Get More Done?

Can Little and Often Help You Get More Done?

GTD, Mark Forster, DITThis is Week 40 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether Mark Forster’s concept of Little and Often could help me get more done. I used this concept in conjunction with Do it Tomorrow and Routines, deleting tasks more than 3 days past due.

How Little & Often Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Enabled me to finish projects I’d put off . I cleared my backlog of a project I’ve felt guilty about not doing for over a year. Where the Guilt Hour failed, Little and Often succeeded. There’s something about having to do the smallest thing to move a project forward that works like magic on my procrastination.
  • Prevented future overwhelm. I’m amazed by how many things I finished well ahead of time that normally came down to the wire. As I keep moving projects forward little by little, well before they are due, I know my stress level will remain low into the future.
  • Helped me establish new habits. I learned I was avoiding some of my routine tasks (especially in the evening), because I felt they had to be done completely or perfectly to count. This week, I gave myself a gold star on my HomeRoutines app if I did anything at all toward that task. The great thing is, of course, that once I started, I usually did more than one little thing. The big surprise for me is that all of these benefits made me feel better about my time usage and put me in a great mood.

How Little & Often Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Uncertainty about deleting tasks. I wasn’t completely sure how I would handle deleting (and reinstating) routine tasks when I hadn’t done them in 3 days. I didn’t know if I missed a daily chore if I had to spend three times as much time on it or if doing it once out of the three days counted. Not knowing made me anxious. I ended up failing to do any of the special chores I have assigned to Saturdays before they were more than three days overdue. I deleted them. But then I wondered what to do with them? I decided that as long as I have done a daily chore at least once within that 3 day overdue time frame, it can stay on my list. Special chores assigned to a certain day can be reassigned to the day you actually move them forward. This rule will apply to tasks deleted from my ToDoist list. If a task gets deleted, I can add it to tomorrow’s list if I do at least something on it today (which I will have to do just by remembering to do it). If I work on my deleted Saturday tasks on Sunday, I can add them to that days’ list. My rationale is that this will add tasks to the list on days when they are most likely to be done. Further, taking action should be rewarded by allowing a project to be added back to the list.
  • Can feel scattered. A little and often approach means I am juggling lots and lots of balls. Sometimes that felt a little scary. I kept waiting for something to fall. It didn’t. While I didn’t get to spend as much time focused on singular pursuits, for my lifestyle, this is a benefit. I don’t have just one hobby with a very defined job. Little and often in that situation could be quite crazy-making. But if that were my lifestyle, I wouldn’t be doing this series!

Did Little and Often Help Me Get More Done?

YES! Of all the approaches I’ve tested so far, this one has made the most significant impact on my productivity. What’s more, I love it. Applying little and often to my routine tasks has helped me get control of that aspect of my life, too. When I start to expect too much of myself, deleting tasks seems capable of keeping my life in balance. I get up every day excited to see what I need to do to move things forward and keep projects from the chopping block.

problem solving approach, GTDThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 41

This week I’ll be testing a problem-solving approach. I’ll primarily use Scott Young’s idea of writing to solve personal problems. If that doesn’t work, I’ll work through Mind Tools’ productive thinking model.

The concept. We all have unique problems to solve with respect to our productivity. Unless those specific issues are addressed, changing apps or to-do lists are unlikely to succeed in improving your time management. In fact, much of our time is wasted pondering these problems, which may have little to do with work itself. If we have a relationship problem, we may keep rereading the same paragraphs over and over as we fixate on what so-and-so said. If unrealistic demands are being made of you, using Google Calendar won’t fix things right up.

Using a problem-solving approach takes it out of the realm of the personal and the emotional. When I was in practice, I often had my clients write down everything that was bothering them. Adjacent to each problem, I would have them write down a potential action to take. Even if no action was taken, the process of writing out the problems often freed my clients up from related anxiety. My approach was similar to Scott Young’s, except he advises us to write until we feel like we have a solution. MindTools, on the other hand, would have us treat problems in a very objective way. One of the most helpful steps in their process is to get input from others. Problems that seem impossible to solve because of our connection to them, may offer easy solutions to others.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Keep track of personal and professional problems you are having. Take Scott Young’s approach and write about them until you feel like you have an answer. As a Christian, I prefer to combine this process with prayer. If you are still struggling, work through Mind Tools’ steps, taking advantage of many of the helps they offer. If you’d like a fresh perspective on the area where you’re struggling, feel free to comment here, on the Facebook Page, or on Google+, referencing me with +Melanie Wilson. I’ll be looking for advice for areas I feel stuck  in as well.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

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Can Project Management Help You Get More Done?

Can Project Management Help You Get More Done?

Enjoy a Saner Christmas This YearThis is Week 39 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested whether a project management approach, specifically the Christmas Countdown Planner, could help me get more done. For details, scroll to the bottom of last week’s post.

How a Project Management Approach Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me feel in control. Just getting started on my Christmas planning relieved stress. I even enjoying talking with the kids about what they’d like to eat over the holidays. In the past, it was a rushed process with little input from them.
  • Will save time. I haven’t had a chance to put it into practice yet, but I do a lot of online shopping on Black Friday (beginning Thanksgiving night). I realized I can use one of the forms in the planner to plan my online shopping. I will make note of the must-visit websites, the items I want (with prices in case I find a better deal) and discount codes. I’m surprised I’ve never done this before, but again, I didn’t approach Christmas as a project before now.
  • Excellent memory aid. One of the reasons I haven’t used a project approach for Christmas is because I think I can remember everything. Well, I can’t! I’m really looking forward to next Christmas with these forms because I’ll remember what gifts I gave, how many strands of lights I need, and what activities we want to be sure and include.

How a Project Management Approach Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Focusing on the forms. When I focused on the details of the planner that I would change, it kept me from enjoying its benefits. No planner is perfect for you, but most can be modified to serve you. The great thing about a digital planner is you can leave off pages you don’t need and print extras of those you need more of. If you realize you need a form that isn’t there, make one!

Did a Project Management Approach Help Me Get More Done?

Yes, though the real benefits of it have yet to be realized. Planning ahead and keeping necessary information and materials together has been helping me get more done with blogging, too.

**UPDATE**

I do use project management for curriculum writing and blogging and I like it. However, I do most of my work using one system –ToDoist and Skedpal.

can little and often help you get more done?, time management, organized, productivityThe Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 40

This week I’ll be testing little and often, as espoused by Mark Forster. I’ll be combining little and often with another of Mark Forster’s approaches I’ve tested previously: Do it Tomorrow. Every incoming task (that doesn’t already have an assigned day for completion) will be given a due date of “tomorrow.” When I do anything to move a task along, but it isn’t completed, it will be redated for the following day. Furthermore, I’ll be applying little and often to my routine tasks, too.

The concept. I was first exposed to little and often when Mark created the rules for Autofocus (AF). The idea was to write down everything you wanted to do, including recreational tasks. Scanning the list, you worked on the first task that stood out to you for as long as you wanted and kept working on a page until nothing stood out. Tasks that were worked on, even a little, were crossed off and re-entered at the end of the list. Pages had to be worked on in order. When you came to a page where nothing stood out, the whole thing was “dismissed.” The problem I had with the system (though I really enjoyed it) is my list became enormous. It was taking me many days to get through the whole list to the recent tasks that really needed to be addressed. (Note that several iterations of Autofocus were created to deal with this issue).

Little and often, regardless of implementation, has the potential to overcome the fear and perfectionism that create procrastination. Example: For some reason, I hate snail mailing things. If all I have to do is get an envelope, look up an address, find a stamp, or put something in my car to go to the post office, I can get myself to do it. Often, I will do more, but even if I don’t, the next time I come to this task, it’s easier to do because I’ve already started.

Little and often is also designed to help you get projects done early. That being the case, even projects which aren’t due for a few months should be added to the list to start on tomorrow. If you have a task or project that doesn’t make sense to begin immediately or that you aren’t sure you want or need to do, this can be added to a Someday/Maybe list that can be reviewed weekly. Alternately, a tickler or future review due date could be added to these items. I am currently using SmartPad for this purpose.

Explanation of the DIT/AF Approach (Scroll down if you just want to get to this week’s assignment)

My approach, which is very much a hybrid of DIT and AF, has the advantage of not letting the list become too big. Current items (typically being those that were entered yesterday) can be worked on at any time during the day. The pressure to get things worked on before they are more than 3 days overdue gives enough grace time to allow for “busy days,” with a consequence for not working on them that is entirely appropriate: tasks that you haven’t touched at all in that period of time get deleted from the list. I don’t allow myself to add these tasks back to the list, so that I have to rely on memory only. If I have a planned absence, it’s my responsibility to make sure I will have no tasks more than 3 days overdue on that day. If I were ill or unexpectedly detained for a day or two, I would put off deleting tasks for that period of time.

I have already been using this approach for a number of weeks and want to apply little and often to one of the problems with it that has cropped up. My DIT / AF approach focuses my attention on the tasks appearing on my ToDoist list, leaving routine tasks that I keep in my HomeRoutines app (mostly cleaning tasks) neglected. I have determined some reasons for this. First, there is no “do or delete” deadline for routine tasks and there should be. Going three days without completing my routine means that I need to delete something from it, because I obviously can’t keep up with it. Second, I need to apply the same little and often principle to routine tasks. Rather than having to clean my whole bathroom on Monday to mark it complete, I just need to do something.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Mark Forster’s explanation of Little and Often. You could choose to complete his assignment which is to choose the project with the furthest deadline and begin working on it little and often every day. Or, you could try my approach of giving everything a deadline of tomorrow and working on each task or project to completion or using little and often as desired. If you try this approach and also deleting items more than 3 days overdue, I’d love to hear how you get on with it.

To see if little and often worked for me, click here.

Are you on Google+? Circle me here. I also participate in Mark Forster’s General Forum.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

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Can a Focus & Relief List Help You Get More Done?

Can a Focus & Relief List Help You Get More Done?

productivity hacks, reviews

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

This is Week 26 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Deven’s modification of one of Mark Forster’s Autofocus approaches that I called Focus & Relief. I worked from two lists–a Focus list with urgent and deadlined tasks and a Relief list for everything else. Up to three Relief tasks could also be moved to the Focus list. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for details.

How Focus & Relief Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Gave me a true focus list. When I tried the original Autofocus approach, I had to hunt through an enormous list to find urgent or deadlined tasks. I really liked having all these tasks on their own list plus three more tasks that I just wanted to get to–and no more. I tend to overdo it on the “want to get to” tasks being added to my focus list. Both lists were short which empowered me to get more done. This advantage likely wouldn’t be present the longer I worked the system.
  • Helped me accomplish non-deadlined tasks. Just the fact that these tasks were on a separate list motivated me to do them. It may be a language thing (calling these tasks “relief tasks”), but I also felt free to work on them whereas I haven’t before. I felt I should be doing urgent work or recreating and little in-between.
  • Gave me an alternate reward for work. When I used Autofocus originally, I included absolutely everything I wanted to do–even fun, frivolous things. I realized partway into the week that I could do this again, including them on the Relief list. I found that the system rewarded my work with tasks rather than time as the Pomodoro did. Jacq, a blog reader and friend, calls this a “task sandwich” and it was very effective. Finally, I really enjoyed the Autofocus approach of crossing off and rewriting tasks that I had worked on but hadn’t completed. This functioned as a reward as well.

How Focus & Relief Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Resisted starting with the Relief list. I understand the idea that we can get so stuck on urgent and deadlined tasks that we never get around to the not urgent, but important tasks. But feeling forced to start with that list didn’t work for me. Part of that is because I had urgent things to do that had to be addressed first thing and part of that is because I have already experienced the value of Eat That Frog. If the Relief list is used to record recreational tasks, there shouldn’t have to be a requirement to use it to be effective.
  • Resisted the other rules, too. After writing down the focus tasks and relief tasks, I usually knew what I wanted to do and did it. At other times, I just wanted to scan the list in any order to decide what I wanted to do. As before, I both liked the paper list and didn’t like it. It’s very satisfying to cross off tasks and see the list shrink, but I hated carrying it around. I did like the approach I chose for listing tasks, however. I used the front of a notebook for Focus tasks and the back for Relief tasks.
  • Difficult to identify the 3 Relief tasks on the Focus list. I didn’t use any kind of notation for the three non-urgent tasks I chose, so after I had completed a number of tasks, I honestly couldn’t remember what they were. I didn’t know if I could choose more or not, so I just didn’t worry about it. I found myself as happy to work on the substantive tasks in the Relief list as any other anyway.

Did Focus & Relief Help Me Get Things Done?

Yes, and I enjoyed it. I am starting to think that rewarding myself with a task could be even more effective than rewarding myself with time–maybe because the time feels too restrictive? I have serious concerns about using this method on paper long-term, however. I can see how it could become unwieldy over time. It would necessitate the use of stars and rules that I’m not wild about using.

**UPDATE**

I don’t use any type of long task list anymore. I now find it rewarding to work ahead and get tasks done before their scheduled time. I also enjoy the free time I have over lunch hour and after 8 p.m. That’s what I was missing before.

Sparring Mind

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 27

This week I’ll be testing the Accountability Chart from Sparring MindThe day is broken up into 90-minute work periods followed by 15-minute breaks. You write down what you accomplish during each 90-minute block.

The concept. Research of masters of music suggests that those who practice for 90 minutes and then rest for 15-20 minutes achieve the most in terms of skill building. The idea is similar to Pomodoros, but allows for longer periods of work.

Research also suggests that dieters who record what they eat lose the most weight. Combining these two approaches should theoretically help us get more done. Either that or I will lose weight and be playing piano better by next week.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Sparring Mind’s article on productivity and watch the 3-minute video if you’d like. It’s one of those cool white board animations. Choose a method of timing your work and rest breaks and have something ready (notebook, white board, smart phone) to record what you accomplish during each period.

To see how I did with an accountability chart, click here.

If you’ve tried Deven’s Focus & Relief method to increase your productivity, please comment. I will no longer be including polls.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

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Can Make it Happen in 10 Minutes Help You Get More Done?

Can Make it Happen in 10 Minutes Help You Get More Done?

make it happen in 10 minutes

Are these emails ending up in your Promotions folder on Gmail? Here’s how to get them out.

This is Week 25 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Make it Happen in Ten Minutes a Day {affiliate link}. I chose a create task and a conquer task for the week and sought to spend ten minutes a day on each. Scroll to the bottom of last week’s post for details.

How Make it Happen Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Got me started on tasks that seemed overwhelming. You’d think I would know better than to make mental mountains out of molehills as a psychologist, but I still do it. I was procrastinating on both my tasks and this approach shrunk them down to size.
  • Gave me a positive attitude about the work. I love the dichotomy of create and conquer. Both are positive terms that helped me have the right mindset.
  • Time flew. I did get quite a bit done while working for each ten-minute stint, but was continually surprised by how quickly it was over.

How Make it Happen Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Wasn’t able to get into a work flow. With everything going on this week, I didn’t feel free to work beyond the ten-minute mark. Neither task was critical, so I just fulfilled the obligation. That was frustrating because I knew I wasn’t making as much progress as I wanted to.
  • Didn’t use it every day. Either I was gone, exhausted, or I forgot. After 25 weeks of these tests, it’s become clear that I have a one-track mind. I had a hard time focusing because the tasks aren’t top priorities.

Did Make it Happen Help Me Get Things Done?

Yes, when I used it. Besides being gone and absorbed by other goings on, I found myself a lot more interested in my 12 Week Year tasks. My two tasks felt like added obligations and habits I had to attend to. I did really appreciate that I started on the tasks, however. I am thinking I should use the ten minutes on my 12 Week Year tasks because it does work.

**UPDATE**

I have used this concept to good effect in organizing. I try to spend at least 15 minutes a day on some organizing or decluttering task. Using the tasks on this calendar helps.

productivity hacks, reviews

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 26


This week I’ll be testing what I call the Focus & Relief approach. Deven has modified Mark Forster’s AutoFocus approach to include two lists: a focus list composed of urgent tasks, tasks with hard deadlines, and up to three other tasks and what I am calling a relief list made up of tasks with no or soft deadlines. 

The concept. The problem with the AutoFocus approach is finding the right balance between attention to urgent tasks and everything else. In simplest terms, the Focus & Relief approach begins with the Relief List. This is what Deven originally called the Whenever list, but renamed the Main list to avoid the connotation of someday/maybe. Based on group discussion, I like the term Relief–not because tasks are always a relief to work on, but because they will provide a break from focused work. You begin with the Relief list because it will contain non-urgent tasks that you might not otherwise get to.

Once you have done something on the Relief list, switch to the Focus list and work for as long as you like, switching to the Relief list when you need a break. After EACH Relief task, you must return to the Focus list. This process keeps you from forgetting about your top priorities, in favor of tasks you could do any time.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Deven’s post on Mark’s forum. Don’t worry about all the acronyms. If you’re too confused by his extended rules relating to starring and rewriting, just use the guidelines above. I will be using paper lists of tasks as they occur to me.

To see if Focus & Relief made me more productive, click here.

If you’ve tried Make it Happen in Ten Minutes to increase your productivity, please comment. I will no longer be including polls.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s 7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

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Can a Paper Planner Help You Get More Done?

Can a Paper Planner Help You Get More Done?

Planner Photo 1Paper Planner 2

This is Week 4 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested the ability of Ann Voskamp’s daily and weekly planner to help me get more done. Scroll to the end of this post to see my plan. I was super excited to use my new folder/clipboard (from Target) with the pages. I even bought new pens to use with it! Pretty nifty, huh? Here’s what I learned in my week of using these paper planners.

How a Paper Planner Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Reduced my anxiety about the upcoming week. I had quite a bit of anxiety at the beginning of this last week. I had the feeling I was forgetting important things. I printed out the weekly planner page and looked over my Google calendar. I started adding events  to the planner. I then printed the daily pages and dated them. I could easily decide to put certain tasks on these pages because of my weekly plan.
  • Gave me a focus for the day and week. My favorite part of the daily planner, possibly because I hadn’t done anything like this before, was the relationship focus. I realized that I was focused on all the to-do’s prior to an event this week and the relationship focus helped me to realize WHY I was having the event. Very powerful and made the event much more satisfying. I also really liked the Scripture focus. I memorize Scripture with my children, but I liked having a personal Scripture to focus on for the week.
  • Paper gave me a sense of control. For some reason, the paper planner and even the notebook inside my binder gave me a feeling of having it all together that I haven’t had since I’ve been using digital task lists. I suspect it has to do with a limit on the amount of information I see.

How a Paper Planner Made Me Crazy This Week

Unfortunately, I think I would have been crazy no matter what this week. By Tuesday I was absolutely exhausted and just wanted to lie on the couch watching Biggest Loser and eating fatty snacks. I didn’t, but I didn’t get much beyond the “musts” done.

  • This particular planner encourages too many habits at once. I wanted to get more done, not focus on keeping a food log and recording how much water I had. Even though I don’t think I have a problem in these areas, I felt compelled to add these habits. When I didn’t keep doing it, I had that all-or-nothing toss it out the window effect going. That was related to the next problem.
  • Too many task options. Whereas the simple paper list didn’t pose a problem for me if I didn’t get a day’s work done, this planner really bothered me when I didn’t. I think subconsciously I pictured Ann Voskamp dutifully completing all her tasks and her workout and water drinking and her relationship focus and housekeeping tasks and Scripture memory and I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t do it. I also really disliked writing my daily activities down every day, especially when they’re already in my HomeRoutines app.
  • The draft didn’t work. I loved the concept of the draft. Research suggests that planning when we’re going to do something dramatically increases the likelihood that we’re going to do it. But guess what? The research always focuses on ONE task. One lousy task! I could decide when to do one thing and do it. No problem! But when I started planning all the things I would do in the morning, the afternoon, and evening and when I didn’t get some of those things done, I became discouraged and gave up.

Did a Paper Planner Help Me Get More Done?

In terms of overall productivity, no. However, I absolutely didn’t forget the important things and had a much better sense of control because of using the weekly planner. I liked the weekly planner so much that I plan to keep using it.

**Update**

While I still find myself drooling over this paper planner and others like it, I don’t use them consistently. I do love having the big picture in front of me, but I quickly stop using them in favor of digital planners. I did a Periscope broadcast on using paper planners that you may enjoy.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 5

Mark Forster simplest method

I’ve written before about Mark Forster’s unique productivity methods. I’ve tried Do It Tomorrow and AutoFocus and plan to test them again in the coming year. But while Mark has continued to make modifications to AutoFocus, I haven’t been interested in testing any of his new approaches until now.

First, the rationale. He suggests that people like me may create huge to-do lists as a method of avoiding what they know they really should be doing. I agree! That’s why I quit using a to-do list for quite a while. To keep a long to-do list from obscuring what you know you should be doing, Mark suggests:

  • Choosing three tasks in the order in which you plan to do them.
  • Working on the first two as little or as much as you like in order.
  • Adding two more tasks to the list and continuing on.

Like Autofocus, these tasks can even include routine things like “take a shower” or free-time activities like “get on Facebook.” I plan to continue using my morning and school routine and planning the week using Ann’s planner. I will send reminders to my phone via IQTell for tasks that I must do that day. Everything else will be worked on using Mark’s method.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Mark’s simple explanation of the method. He recently added a statement that the method is not recommended for other people. Ignore that and carry on. You can use paper or a simple to-do application.

To see how my week with Mark’s Simple and Effective Method went, click here.

If you’ve tried using a paper planner to increase your productivity, please vote in the poll below.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

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