Building simple productivity system

Solar system

photo by  Ernst Vikne

Why/What you need

Before you can start building anything you need to know why are you doing and and what do you need it for. Simple answer to question why is to be more effective, to be more organised, to get the right things done, to have more time. You might have other reasons but above would be most common.

What you need in your system will depend on the methodology you’re subscribing to. Perhaps like me you may be a practitioner of David Allen’s Getting Things Done method or you might prefer Steven Covey 7 Habits of highly effective people, maybe Mark Forster’s Do it tomorrow has a greater appeal to you.

Regardless from the method you choose there are certain elements that are mentioned in every approach. They may appear under different name or in different combinations yet they all are referring to the same. The key categories include following items.

– actions/task list

– projects and project plans

– reference material

These three categories cover full spectrum of tasks you may encounter. Simple one off items get added to task list. More complex thing are broken down on project list. This way it’s keep stuff in control and don’t loose those multistep items. Once you are done and want to keep a record of your process and achievements you can save them in reference files along with interesting articles, ideas  etc.

There is a great number of applications used for managing this type of content.I’ve decided to use following services and programs.

  • Remember the Milk – tasks and lists that I use on regular basis.
  • Freeplane – project list, project action plans, goals, multi-step endeavours.
  • Evernote – reference material, project support documents.

Why I’ve chosen these products?

First off all they are simple to use and setup. Because they are good in their particular areas I can get better amount of focus. For example if I’m in Evernote I know there are no tasks for the to look at as any active action/task gets logged to Remember the Milk.

All applications come for free and provide enough features to make you a very productive person. If you want to support developers you can go pro and add couple more features which make the products ever better.

All programs are completely cross platform is some shape or form. This means I can access my tasks, reference material on my Android phone when ever I need. If I have new idea I can always add it to one of my lists. Remember the Milk and Evernote have great mobile clients. My Freeplane maps are compatible with ThinkingSpace application on Android which makes my projects fully accessible from any where.

What’s also important for me is the information flow between these application. Although there is no sync between these services thanks to email I can push some data from one service to another. Alternatively I can take snaps of my mind maps and add to my project files.

These there relatively simple applications allow me the create a system that’s simple, accessible anywhere and free*.

If you use different setup or can recommend other applications please share them in the comments section.


[*Just a little note of disclosure: I’m using a pro version of Remember the Milk and will be subscribing to Evernote Pro in next couple of weeks. I’m paying for both on my own.]

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