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I can point to a sequence of events that led directly to my current hybrid productivity setup. It started last year when I attended Focus Course Academy. One of the mini-lessons nestled in the middle of the academy was a crash course in time-blocking.
In hindsight, time-blocking is so obvious. If you want to ensure you get something done, it needs to be part of your calendar.
But actually time-blocking isn’t all that obvious. Do you do the time-blocking in your digital calendar? Do you buy a physical notebook and sketch out each day?
I found Sunsama about six months ago. It’s a fantastic — albeit expensive — piece of software that combines a range of common productivity apps (such as Todoist, Clickup, Slack, etc.) and provides a daily workflow for building out your time-blocked calendar. At $20/month, Sunsama isn’t cheap, but it has easily saved (or made) me more than this amount each month thanks to the increase in my focused work each day.
Back in January, Shawn led a workshop about the four most common failure points in a busted productivity system:
- A lack of clarity
- A lack of planning
- A lack of execution
- A lack of reflection
When it comes to a lack of clarity, the solution is to take the time to get clear on what matters so you can stop spending valuable time spinning your wheels.
One of the ways to help you get clarity is to understand how information flows into and out of your productivity system. So in this post, we’re going talk about crafting your productivity workflow so that you can handle anything life throws at you.
I love it when people challenge me about All The Things, our task management course.
“I’ve tried every productivity system, app, book, you name it — and I STILL struggle with my to-do list, Shawn. WHY is this course going to be any different?”
Honestly, this is the question you should be asking about any productivity-related product before you dive into it.
There’s a reason so many “systems” don’t stick for even the biggest of productivity nerds.
In fact, there are four specific reasons.
“What’s your #1 productivity tip, Shawn?”
I get asked this question all the time, and I have a somewhat bizarre answer.
When people first hear it, they give me a weird look. But as I explain it, everything clicks.
The productivity tip is this:
Yes, I’m serious!
Here’s why this productivity tip is so powerful:
- You’re helping your future self.
- You’re setting an easy goal that you can win at (which helps you win when you set harder goals).
- You’re learning how to plan ahead and keep your word to yourself.
Have you ever finished a week feeling like your to-do list got longer with each passing day?
Even though each day was a flurry of activity, it feels like no matter how hard you try and regardless of how much you do, it seems impossible to make progress. I can relate. And there were a lot of weeks this was my reality.
But it’s been a while since I’ve had one of those weeks. And as a whole, they have become a lot less common. I would attribute much of this due to my weekly and daily planning process.
Every Monday for the past 5 years, I’ve taken the first 15 minutes to plan the week ahead.
For me, this has been my single greatest productivity routine. Before being sucked in to the myriad of inboxes and notifications, I take a brief moment to identify and plan what is truly important for the week ahead.
Part of this planning process includes accounting for the unmovable rocks in my schedule. Meetings, errands, when the kids need picking up, the things I know are going to happen on a specific day and time. These events act as guardrails in my schedule. Hard stopping points in which I know I’ll have to transition out of “get things done” mode.
With a framework of my week sketched out, I set myself to the task of painting what done or progress looks like. First, what two or three projects do I need to push forward? Second, what are the two to four tasks associated with each project? And what does “done” mean? The more specific the better.
This post can only start one way, and that’s with a confession. This article was originally going to be about how to effectively migrate your tasks and workflows from Things over to Todoist. That all fell apart a few weeks after migrating because Todoist was driving me crazy — and ultimately send me running back to Things.
Now, I firmly believe that chasing The Perfect App is a path that leads to madness, since nothing will ever totally satisfy all of your needs. It’s a vicious cycle that just leads to constant transition phases at best, and needless additional costs as you pay for more apps and services at worst. Here at The Sweet Setup, we like to figure out what great software exists, but the intention is never to have readers switch to whatever app we’re talking about that day.
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Our Must-Have, Most Used Productivity Apps
We spend an inordinate amount of time sorting through hundreds of apps to find the very best. We put together a short list of our must-have, most-used apps for increasing productivity.