“Productivity is not about Getting Things Done, the goal is to increase your happiness and decrease Stress in Your Life.”– Physician Zen
The first question that might cross your mind is: What the heck is a “Productivity System” and why is it important?
So, whether you know it or not, you and everyone around you already utilizes a productivity system. A productivity system is simply the use of your daily habits and tools that allow you to process all of the ongoing projects and tasks in your life.
Everyone has a different personality so a productivity system for one person may be very different from another person’s. However, most people do not actively work on improving their productivity system to optimize their days. Many people start their days, just hoping everything turns out okay.
I was in a similar situation, and as life got busier, I started to feel that I just ended my days unhappy and more stressed. I was doing so many things, yet I felt nothing was actually getting done.
That’s when I started looking more into improving my own personal productivity system. There are many productivity systems out there and I have personally implemented things I like from many resources. For a list of books that I would recommend: Click Here.
As medical students, physicians, and healthcare professionals we are extremely busy. I have found that individuals that even just TRY to improve their productivity systems do very well.
If you would like steps of exactly how I formed my own personal productivity system, click the subscribe button below for a free PDF detailing the 12 Steps I personally use.
1. Simplifies Your Life
“Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity” Henry David Thorough
The most important thing about a productivity system is that it is simple enough that you are able to consistently follow through with your daily actions. However, it must also be complete and allow you to miss performing important tasks when needed. If implemented correctly, your life will become more simple and complete.
I love the completeness of the Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity method by David Allen. However, some people are unable to fully adapt this method because it is not simple enough for them to consistently maintain.
Leo Babauta wrote a book called Zen To Done that simplifies the GTD method and has helped many people be more realistic about the commitments they are willing to put into their productivity system.
I would recommend that you implement a productivity system as complete as you can handle and simplify it to your needs. I personally try to integrate the best ideas from many productivity systems into my own daily life.
2. Clears Your Mind
A great productivity system clears your mind by placing all necessary tasks and actions out of your head and into the physical (i.e. moleskin notebook) or digital (i.e. smart phone or computer) environments.
You can only hold a certain amount of information in your mind and you will eventually forget to prioritize or perform certain tasks if you only use your mind to manage your tasks and actions.
Many times, a new thought may come in your mind that could be useful such as an idea for work, a birthday present, activity you want to do with your family, etc. How often have you had such a great idea and then 1 minute later just can’t recall what it was except knowing “it was a good idea.” You might then spend 4-5 minutes afterwards just trying to recall what that fleeting amazing idea was.
With a great productivity system, you would not risk leaving that idea in your mind to be forgotten. You will immediately transfer that idea to an external (either physical or digital) environment. Your productivity system will safely store and set up a time for you to review these ideas at an appropriate time. Whether you want to use that idea or not you can decide later, but at least it is taken out of your mind and safely stored for later.
The ultimate benefit to this is that it always allows your most precious resource, your mind, to not to be tangled up in low level work. Instead with a clear mind you will have endless space to come up with amazing ideas. Or if you are working on important tasks, your clear mind will allow you to have 100% deep focus.
3. Makes Your Life LESS Stressful
Some people have commented to me that having a productivity system makes them even more stressed out since it adds more things for them to remember to do during the day.
A great productivity system should not make you more stressful. If you are feeling this way, then you really need to reevaluate all of the elements in your productivity system and see which ones are not working and need to be changed.
Not having a productivity system OR not have an appropriate productivity system can both increase stress in your life.
Here are some common reason I see peoples’ productivity systems failing:
- Most Important Tasks and Shallow tasks are not prioritized and completed appropriately.
- They do not trust their system because it is incomplete
- They equate productivity system to a checklist
- Productivity is not a priority in their life.
A productivity system can absolutely make your life less stressful. However, just like any other skill, some energy and time must be spent into building a productivity system that works for you. In addition, productivity must become a priority in your life if you want your system to work.
4. Allows you to Live in the Present Moment
As mentioned above, a great productivity system should clear your mind. Once you have full trust in your system and don’t need to rely on your mind to assign and prioritize tasks and actions, you will be able to live fully in the present moment.
When is the last time you held a conversation with someone where you had absolutely no other thoughts on your mind except for the subject at hand?
During conversations, many of us will have fleeting thoughts about things we forgot to do or things we need to do in the future. We may also be thinking about checking our emails or social media accounts. Sometimes we may even be answering emails on the smart phone while trying to talk to the person in front of us!
A productivity system should allow you to live in the present moment and not focus on any other tasks because your productivity system will let you know the Righttime and place to perform those tasks.
With the advent of the smartphone, the line between our personal lives and work is getting blurred. A productivity system should help you separate the two and allow you to perform optimally in both areas.
5. Makes You Productive, Not Busy
A great productivity system will allow you to be productive by prioritizing and completing the Most Important tasks (MITs) in your life. Productive people prioritize MITs because these tasks lead to the completion of life changing projects that directly enhance their lives and careers.
A productivity system should allow you to still complete as many shallow tasks as a busy person does but also allows you to prioritize and complete your MITs. This can occur by batching shallow tasks and performing them only 1-2 times a day instead of continuously throughout the day.
6. Matches Actions with correct Time and Energy Needed
After implementing Getting Things Done by David Allen, I was extremely efficient at listing projects, defining next actions, and putting context to each next action. The system was great in determining WHAT things I should be doing in my life.
However, the GTD system didn’t really advise WHEN or HOW I should be completing my tasks and actions. I then read a book by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz called “The Power of Full Engagement. Managing Energy, not Time..”
This book was the missing link for me to having a complete productivity system. I didn’t realize that certain actions and tasks should be performed when your mind and body have the correct energy needed for specific tasks.
Prior to the concept of managing my energy I would just perform all tasks with equal weight and found I was wasting a lot of mental energy on shallow tasks instead of MITs. Matching the correct actions with the correct time and energy will significantly increase your productivity.
7. Helps you Live Your Purpose
Our lives and priorities are constantly changing each day. How I looked at my lifestyle and career completely changed after I had my first child. The projects I had in my life prior to having my child had a very different meaning to me than afterwards.
A productivity system should remind you to review all of the current projects going on your life each week. You should look at your projects with your current life’s view point. Does each project that you have in your life supposed to be there right now? If not, then maybe it is time to delegate the project to someone else or cancel the project.
Conversely, maybe you perform your weekly review and notice that a few big projects have been completed and now you have time to bring in another project. Using your productivity system, you would look at the list of someday/maybe projects you have listed from before and then add it to your current projects.
8. Summary and my Productivity System in 12 Steps
I hope you found this post helpful. I believe that by constantly trying to improve our personal productivity system we increase our happiness and decrease our stress while achieving the most important things in our lives.
If you want to know how I manage my life in a stress-free way as a health care professional, check out these 12-Steps I personally used to create my personal productivity system! Also, I will be releasing a YouTube Series for these steps in the upcoming weeks, please subscribe to the YouTube Channel to not miss any videos as they come out!
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