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 Mark Forster’s Do it Tomorrow Help You Get More Done?

Can Mark Forster’s Do it Tomorrow Help You Get More Done?

Do it Tomorrow

This is Week 8 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested the principles of Mark Forster’s book, Do It Tomorrow. Specifically, I declared a backlog of all former tasks which I then spent the first part of each work day on. The majority of other tasks were accomplished the following day from when they came in. Scroll to the end of last week’s post for more information about my test week. 

How Do it Tomorrow Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me accomplish more routine tasks. I did more of my planned routines this week than I did when I was specifically testing routines! The book really reignited my vision for why I have routines in the first place. I developed them to address specific problems I’ve identified. Not doing them means I have more hassles.
  • Gave me the satisfaction of being done for the day. I can’t say enough about the feeling of doing everything I should and being able to call it a night. Not only that, but I knew I had done more than a few easy one-off tasks. I was working on a variety of things that made me feel reliable and that I was progressing on my goals. I was also motivated to finish tasks because I knew if I didn’t, they’d be on the list again tomorrow.
  • Relieved stress over undone tasks. Declaring a backlog gave me immediate piece of mind and the belief that I really could be on top of my work. Can’t remember feeling that way since I was in college and the terror of failing had me working ahead on assignments.

How Do it Tomorrow Made Me Crazy This Week

  • Having two scheduled days in a row put me behind. My two busy days with little time for tasks made my perfectionism kick in. I was demotivated because I had failed to do a day’s work. I forgot what Mark Forster’s admonition was for situations like this. First, just do what you can and catch up on the proceeding days. If necessary, non-urgent tasks can also be scheduled across several days.
  • I had to think about my commitments. In order to do everything I want to do, I have to stay really, really busy. I really don’t like to admit that some of my interests will have to go if I want to get a day’s work done.

Did Do it Tomorrow Help Me Get More Done?

Without a doubt. I couldn’t be more delighted and I am unwilling to give it up this week! I will say that I’ve had more energy this week than I’ve had in a long time, but the philosophy resonates with me and that energizes me, too.

**UPDATE**

Surprisingly, I don’t use Do it Tomorrow anymore. I eventually found that it didn’t make sense to tackle every incoming task tomorrow, even though it was nice to get a head start on a lot of projects. The problem for me is that when it rains, it pours. Tasks tend to get processed in bulk on an open day that is followed by a busy day. Now, I schedule tasks for certain days of the week to batch them. I pay bills on Mondays. I manage blog tasks on Tuesdays, and so on. If I can’t get to something, it gets pushed to the following day or week, depending on the task and its deadline.

pomodoro-technique

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 9

If you’ve not heard of the Pomodoro technique, you haven’t been reading anything about productivity. But even if you’re into productivity hacks like I am, you may not be familiar with the whole approach.

The concept. I knew that Pomodoro meant working for a set period of time and taking a break. That’s all I thought it was. A Pomodoro is a 25-minute work period followed by a 3-5 minute break. After four Pomodoros, a 15-30 minute break should be taken.

The information that was new to me is that tasks to be done for the day (listed in order of importance) should be recorded and the number of Pomodoros required should be estimated. (Tasks should be grouped so they will take at least 25 minutes). Each completed Pomodoro for that task should be indicated with an X. Interrupted Pomodoros don’t count.

The Pomodoro Technique should be an excellent complement to Do it Tomorrow. Just as in Do it Tomorrow, Pomodoro requires same-day urgent tasks to be written below the line of tasks that were planned. I plan to use a paper planner and the Promodoro timer app on my iPhone to track my Pomodoros.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read about the Pomodoro Technique in the free PDF or watch the video. Decide if you will use the paper recording forms, an online tracker, or an app. Plan your tasks and estimate the number of Promodoros or just work according to the 25-5 x 4 + 15-30 minute break schedule.

To see how my test with Pomodoros went, click here.

If you’ve tried Do it Tomorrow 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

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

 

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Can Envisioning Your Ideal Day Help You Get More Done?

Can Envisioning Your Ideal Day Help You Get More Done?

IdealDayBadge

This is Week 7 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested Jason Womack’s technique of envisioning my ideal day each morning. I wrote what I envisioned using idonethis and then followed up by writing how it went. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see what I planned to do this week.

How Envisioning My Ideal Day Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Helped me become less task focused. Even though the metric I’ve been using is “getting more done,” the truth is that’s not all I’m after. I want to have peace in knowing I’ve used the gift of this day well. Thinking about my ideal day helped me consider more than just things to do, but people to love, and experiences I wanted to have. That gave me some peace this week.
  • Gave me a general guide for the day. I didn’t plan to envision my days this way, but I ended up writing down how I saw the day unfolding, step by step. As long as I kept this guide in mind, it worked well to help me recall what I really wanted my day to look like. It also helped me take all my commitments for the day into account.
  • Got me to do things I ordinarily wouldn’t have. I found this was especially true in the evenings when I’m much harder to motivate. I made time for my kids and for reading and I felt great about that.

How Envisioning My Ideal Day Made Me Crazy This Week

  • I wasn’t well. I had another week of extreme fatigue and that made thinking about my ideal day that much harder. I finished the week feeling better though and I’m hopeful to be back to normal soon.
  • Started off as an unrealistic routine. At first, I approached my ideal day list as a have-to list. That didn’t work well. I felt like I didn’t want to do any of it then. The rebel in me kicked in. But then I reminded myself that this was just a wish list–not a requisition–and it helped a lot. It also helped not referring to it, but just remembering what I’d written.

Did Envisioning My Ideal Day Help Me Get More Done?

Yes. At first I thought my answer was going to be no, but that’s because I expected to do everything I had planned. When I started seeing it as a general guide and not a must-do list, I started seeing progress. I plan to continue doing this mentally, though I don’t plan to continue recording it via idonethis for the time being.

**UPDATE**

I do this now using an app called the 5 Minute Journal. I answer questions about what would make today great. I do believe it makes a difference.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 8

“Do it tomorrow” doesn’t sound like very wise advice until you read Mark Forster’s book. I read Do It Tomorrow a number of years ago, tried the approach, and failed miserably. Having a number of years of experience in productivity, I decided to give it another try. I re-read the book and I think I understand what went wrong last time and I’m very excited to test it this week.

The concept. Most of us aren’t efficient in getting our work done, because we do things as a reaction. We attend to all kinds of requests as though they were urgent, when most of them aren’t. By waiting a day to do those that aren’t argent, we can organize them to get them done quickly. All the day’s email and paper can be handled at once, for example. The idea is that you are always completing one day’s work rather than an endless stream of tasks. Any work you have now that you’re behind on (including email) is declared a backlog. The first part of your work day is devoted to clearing the backlog–at least 5 minutes every day, and then for as long as you wish. The rest of your day is devoted to working on the tasks that came in yesterday. The idea is that you can stay on top of your work, and if you can’t, you need to figure out why and take steps to address it.

Do it Tomorrow is chock full of ideas for dealing with projects, finding time to work on meaningful goals, and addressing procrastination. It’s a great read! (The links above are affiliate links.) I’ll be using IQTell to manage my Do it Tomorrow approach, but a dated diary works beautifully, too. (Note: My past mistake that I’ll avoid this time was entering many tasks that were really part of my backlog to action the next day.)

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. 1. Put all work you’re behind on into backlog folders where it’s out of sight. 2. Collect all today’s incoming work and deal with it in batches tomorrow with the goal of completing all of it. If you take action on a project and have more to do on it, re-enter it for the next day. 3. Items that you must action today (because they’re urgent) should be written on a separate list. 4. Spend the first part of every work day clearing your backlog. If you’d rather not order the book, but still want some guidance, search the forum on Mark Forster’s website for DIT.

Click here to see how my week with DIT went.

If you’ve tried envisioning your ideal day 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

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

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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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