People can only handle at most 7 items in any one list. Anything more than that and they will need to use tricks or other methods in order to remember them. It’s why we are amazed when people remember the names of all the members of a classroom when they have just heard their names for the first time. Keeping all the different items that could be involved in a productivity system is the same.
That’s why knowing the three key elements of any productivity system is a crucial step when creating your own system. Whether you have codified it or not, the system you currently use contains these three elements. They may or may not be effective in helping you meet your goals, but they are elements in your system.
Every system needs a way to process the material it receives. Even if your system is to ignore everything that comes in, or to leave it in a big pile, that’s a process. If you have multiple locations where you keep the things which come into your life: That’s a part of a this process.
Another key element of any productivity system are the tasks themselves. How you store them, how much detail you keep associated with them, the supporting material for each task. All of these are an important part of this element of your productivity system. Your personal needs and the resources you are willing to spend in order to meet those needs are what will determine to a great extend what this part of the system looks like.
For example, if you are a housewife, then your needs are going to different form a elderly businessman. It’s possible that you both may use some of the same tools, but the things you do on a daily basis are going to be different and the gentleman may get pay with just a legal sheet of lined paper while the housewife may need a full blown electronic organization system just to keep track of the paperwork that flows through the house on a weekly basis.
Finally, the last element of a productivity system is the process through which you complete the tasks. Do you schedule them to be completed at different times throughout the day? Do you periodically check you task list and pull one off when you have the energy to do it? Do you just do the task the moment it comes up before you?
These are all ways we can process tasks, and in some cases you system may employ one or more of these processes.
Once you have identified what elements are a part of your system, you will be better equipped to make adjustments to the system. And when I talk about identifying the elements of your system, I’m not talking about the system you claim you are following, but the one you are actually following. More often than not we think we are doing thing in one way, but when we take the time to reflect we will realize there are variations or that the processes and elements are completely different.
I would encourage you this week to review your actual productivity process and write down what it is. Write down how you get things done throughout your day, how you get tasks into your system and where they come from, and then review how you capture and store the information related to the tasks themselves. You’ll find it eye opening.
When you do this, I’d love to hear how it is going. Drop me a line in the comments below and I’ll response within a couple days….once I get it into my systems and get it processed, of course.