If your productivity routine has begun to feel a bit stale (or your productivity's just not where you'd like it to be), spend some free time setting up a new system to get ahead on work next week.
So you've jump started your productivity to get into work, and maybe you're realising that your productivity system isn't as refined as it could be. Whether you'd like to check out a well-known methodology like David Allen's Getting Things Done or a mix-and-match of other productivity styles, here are some things you can try to integrate into your routine to keep your productivity level up.
Find the Right Tools
If your current calendar isn't doing it for you, check out our hive five on the best desktop calendaring applications. You could always go the traditional paper method, but digital calendars have so many advantages over paper, we highly recommend checking out something like Google Calendar.
When it comes to to-do lists, you've got a lot of choices. Again, though, you can't go wrong with one of the services from our hive five (and their mobile counterparts, for you smartphone users). If you want something simpler, you could always use our very own Gina Trapani's Todo.txt CLI, organise your desktop icons with a new wallpaper, or even turn Gmail into the ultimate GTD inbox. Note that the Gmail route isn't for everybody -- many people recommend strictly separating your email from your to-dos.
Organise Your Calendars
We're big advocates of using multiple calendars to balance your work and personal lives, but it can go much farther than that. The more you schedule on one calendar, the more you get confused, so consider splitting it up into a bunch of different calendars to keep the clutter out. That way, you can schedule just about anything -- from scheduling your daily work, to eating and sleeping, to a possibilities calendar that helps you use free time productively.
The other big advantage of digital calendaring is the ability to share your calendars with other people. That way, you can keep track of each other's schedules or even find the perfect time for that meeting. And, if you need a little motivation to get things done, you can share your to-dos with Producteev. Speaking of to-do lists...
Effectively Manage Your To-Do List
The most important thing you can do as you craft your to-do list is to make sure you make each item doable. If all you're giving yourself is vague instructions, you're likely to never look at your to-do list, let alone get anything done. If you're having trouble with that, try breaking it down into "For Dummies" level instructions. You'll also want to prioritise those items and separate them into categories, when necessary, so it's not to cluttered.
Keep a separate list of your big projects, and make sure you're fulfilling your own goals as well as others. Sometimes, adding a mood-based context to your tasks can help. Remember, also, the things you don't want to do, and finish off those unpleasant-but-necessary tasks first thing in the morning to make sure it gets out of the way. And, if you've got a specific tasks that's sucking too much of your time, know when to quit so you don't waste all that time. Photo by Courtney Dirks.
Reflect, Review and Revise
Of course, you probably can't perfect a calendaring and to-do system in just one weekend. After using it for a week or two, it's time to go back and see what worked (and more importantly, what didn't). Take stock of what you accomplished that week, or better yet, keep a daily log of everything you get done. And, when work begins to pile up and your to-do list starts overflowing, set aside a "mind sweep" day to get yourself back on track. If you don't analyse your to-do system as well as your to-dos, it'll just get as useless as it was before.
Got any of your own favourite tips that have helped beef up your calendaring or to-do system? Let us know about it in the comments.