The Next Leap

My personal productivity stack

How do you get things done? When I first heard of “Getting Things Done,” the time-management methodology and book, I was mystified. Surely it’s not that hard to accomplish tasks. Just do them!

Now that I’m a little older and a little wiser, I am in awe of people who are productivity machines. I’ve evolved my productivity stack over the years. Here’s how I now get things done.

Productivity tools

I almost always have a Muji notebook handy. I write in it constantly. I use one notebook every 45 days, roughly. For me, writing things down by hand versus typing on a phone or laptop helps increase recall and learning.

I like the Muji notebooks because they are simple, relatively inexpensive, and easy to customize with art and stickers. I always buy the version with graph ruled paper as sometimes I sketch diagrams and product designs.

I enjoy quality pens, too. I met Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens earlier this year, and he re-introduced me to my hibernating love of fountain pens. Now I have a small collection and a few favorite inks.

I’ve evolved my productivity stack over the years. Here’s how I now get things done.

I rarely carry a fountain pen with me, however, for reasons of convenience and because my favorite fountain inks are not water safe. I do carry an assortment of Paper Mate Inkjoy Gels and Pilot G7 Rollerballs in a few different colors. I also carry a highlighter.

From my notebooks, I transfer a lot of information to my Evernote app. In fact, I’m writing this column in Evernote. It syncs between my laptop and phone. (I’ve written about my devices at “My secret weapons — tools, groups, activities.”)

I pay for a premium subscription on Evernote. I wish there were better organization options within the app, but it works well for me as a filing cabinet. One especially useful aspect to Evernote is that I can use it offline. Once I’m back online, it updates automatically. This is critical for me since I travel often — Google Docs are difficult to access and sync in China.

I run my life by my Google Calendar. My “work” calendar contains both work and personal events. If an event is not on my calendar, I won’t be there. If my wife wants to go on a date, I put in on the calendar. I will forget otherwise.

My wife and my employees have access to my calendar. All can add events. I give non-employees access to my calendar as well, to add events, via an app called Calendly. It’s helpful for scheduling phone calls, lunches, and meetings.

I run my tasks — work and personal — through my Workflowy, which I use many times daily. These tasks are not time sensitive, generally. I use Reminders on iOS to alert me on meetings and other scheduled events. I also often set alarms and timers via iOS to remind myself to switch tasks.

As much as I love Evernote, I use Google Docs for collaborative word processing. Evernote’s collaboration tools are not as intuitive. For collaboration — such as a team collectively writing operating procedures — I allow full edit access to everyone. Allowing full edit access has never been a problem for me in the decade that I’ve been using the tool.

We use Slack for communication at FringeSport. I try to Slack more than email. I can give direction much faster via a short-form communication tool versus writing an email, which requires a greeting, a signature, and some degree of protocol, grammar, and spelling.

We are moving project and task management company-wide onto Asana. We’ve tried Asana before with decent results. I am now making adoption mandatory.

Priorities

To prioritize my time, I use the Eisenhower Matrix (also called the Covey grid), which has four quadrants.

  • Quad 1: Important and Urgent
  • Quad 2: Important but not Urgent
  • Quad 3: Not important, but Urgent
  • Quad 4: Neither Important nor Urgent

I spend as much time as possible in Quad 2 — the magic quadrant!

I try to create. Most people are consumers. Be a creator. It almost does not matter what you create, just create. Be in the arena.

In short, I get quite a bit done. But I have a few Achilles’ heels that I could address.

  • I am bad at email and getting bad at texting.
  • I get a ton of calls each day since I supply my cell phone number easily. (It’s 512.423.6275.) I try to answer those calls.
  • I do not return voicemails. I hate voicemail. It’s the new fax machine. My voicemail greeting says, “I check voicemail infrequently, if ever.” And I still get voicemails. Every. Single. Day.
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