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A bit of confession as I start this week’s blog post. I’m a time-management junkie. A few years ago not only did I discover my leanings towards being slightly ADD; I also discovered that my lack of list making (and keeping) was seriously distrupting my productiveness. As I started to take the time-management plunge I suddenly realized it’s a never-ending cycle of: “Ohh, I like this. This will keep me on track!” to “Oooh! This is better than what I was using – time to switch everything over!” Those of you who have been bitten by the time-management bug know exactly the cycle to which I am referring. In my next post I’ll share the system that works best for me. But until then, here are a couple of things to consider.

Find a system and stick with it. You’ve got Getting Things Done, Zen to Done, Superfocus, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People system, and more online to-do applications than you can count. They all have their pros and cons. But, here is the bottom line. It doesn’t matter if you have the slickest online application or a simple legal pad. The point isn’t to have coolest system. The point is a system that helps you get stuff done. Period. If you are spending more time researching for the “perfect” system or constantly tweaking the system you have, then you aren’t fulfilling the ultimate goal of a time-management system. The ultimate goal is to be productive. Find something you like and then work that method. If it absolutely does not help you be more productive then, and only then, switch it up. Trust me. I’ve used far too many applications/notebooks/binders/calendars only to shift to something else that is supposedly more hip. This is a poor use of your time because you ultimately aren’t being more productive. You’re just having fun with the next thing. It’s a blast to think about how to better organize your time but when you are spending too much time fiddling with your system you aren’t meeting your goals.

Technology isn’t always better. I love my iPhone. And when I had an Andriod phone I loved that too. I like updating my calendar and the cloud disperses it to my iCal/Google Calendar. I can set reminders to ding at me to help me avoid missing an appointment. My phone is always with me so it’s the perfect portable notepad. But, here’s the thing with my iPhone. I always have to push the slider over and open up any to-do app. My paper planner sits on my desk at work and is always open. I can glance over and scan what’s coming up next without having to scroll though various screens. It takes a bit more time to get to the input box in any to-do app compared to grabbing a pen and writing something down. I’m more engaged in meetings when I’m not staring at my iPhone. I know… there are giant benefits to keeping your system in the cloud. And if your system is online, and it works for you, then that’s awesome. But I’ve found that my simplified pen and paper approach keeps me more focused on cranking through my tasks.

So which system should you use? I’m not going to touch that one. We all work a bit differently so what is helping me may not facilitate more output for you. Additionally, our personality types have a significant influence on what system will prove most beneficial. Jonathan Milligan at states that effective time-management can really be summed up in 4 words. I think he’s right on track. Whatever system you end up using should incorporate these 4 components:

  • Collect
  • Process
  • Do
  • Review

You need a way to collect all of the stuff in your brain, process that stuff by importance/need, get stuff done, and then review your progress. If you’ve never used a time-management system the New Year is a perfect time to start. You can begin with pen and paper with this system to get you started:
A quick note: Don’t let the simplicity of Autofocus underwhelm you. It’s an incredibly powerful system.

If you prefer an online approach I recommend these (these are all free to start and require payment to unlock advanced features – which you may not need)

Good luck as you commit in this New Year to be more organized and make 2013 your most productive year yet!